A Beautiful Terrible Love
Olivia Jones

Chapter 1

Every time I entered my room, I saw him.
His startling emerald green eyes stared at me, his wild red hair in a carefully planned disarray. His jacket, perfectly tailored, was a dark brown color, complimenting the perfectly clear complexion that he seemed to wear effortlessly. His dark blue jeans rested low on his hips, and a hint of skin was showing right where his tight shirt and jeans met. The muscles he had were straining against his shirt, and his cheekbones, very defined in his masculine face, were slightly red. His full red lips only accented his perfectly proportioned facial features.
I walked past him to my cluttered mound of paperwork on my desk. It was my senior year, and I had tons of homework, not to mention college applications.
I drew out the rickety swivel chair, it making a soft squeak in submission. I plopped down on it, sighing in exhaustion. Every move I made was amplified here in our former attic, right down to the deep, relaxed breaths I was taking.
I was bundled up in a warm woolen jacket, shivering still from the cold temperatures. When I breathed out, a little white cloud flew out of my mouth, reaching to the heavens, vanishing after only a mere second. Up here, it was as cold as the Arctic. Ice crystals crept slowly up the leg of my desk, and my drink I had brought up here a day ago was completely frozen. I turned on my small mini-heater, basking in the meager warmth, wishing for more of that heavenly goodness. It embraced me, dancing along my face, tickling my nose.
I peered past my desk to him, then quickly looked away. My head tilted as if I had committed some sort of crime. In a way, for me, it was.
For he wasn't real. Every laugh I saw him make was frozen on a page. I could hear his sweet, soothing voice, but only from a CD or the computer. Every smile he gave was to an audience, a mob of ferocious teenage fans. The whispers that normally swirl around a popular figure weren't in existence, everyone awed by his perfection. Really, he defines perfection.
His name was Dex, and he was the most popular guy in America.
I contemplated tearing down the shiny new poster so I could actually work. He was distracting me, tearing me like a Band-Aid from my goal. He taunted me, whispering sweet nothings to my unwilling ears, trying to enchant me.
Well, I was NOT going to fall for him again.
"Sadie!" I roared down the steps angrily. I could hear the soft patter of footsteps as my sister came to meet me in our new room. Yes. Ours.
"Yes, annoying twin?" she asked sarcastically. She was wearing a cute running suit, with strands of purple racing down her clingy T-shirt and yoga pants. I winced at the surplus of skin she bared.
"How are you not freezing?" I demanded, my eyes narrowing.
"Well, whenever I stare at that guy," she nodded towards the shiny poster on the otherwise bare wall. "He takes away the cold," she joked. I frowned.
"Can you take it down please?" I pleaded. She chuckled at my obvious discomfort.
"Why should I?" she asked airily, laughter lacing her words.
"It's distracting me!" I complained, "I can't work."
She laughed. "Little Eve falling for Dex again?" A touch of crimson graced my lightly tanned face. She walked closer to me, slinging a small, athletic arm around my shoulders. She whirled me around to face the poster.
"Sadie. Stop," I said, discomfort mounting in my chest. She waved off my numerous complaints.
"Look at this dimple right here," she pointed at a spot just above his mouth, noting the small crease that he had in his cheeks. I had noticed that the first time he smiled to the cameras, posing for People magazine. "And look here, at this beautiful, spectacular ring. See that ruby?" I did not reply. I was NOT going to play Sadie's game. I reached up to grab the top of the huge poster, ready to rip it apart. I couldn't look at him anymore.
Sadie forced my hands away frantically.
"Mom!" she wailed, "Eve's trying to tear up my limited-edition five star life-size thirty dollar poster!"
"Yup," I muttered, trying to barrel my way towards the poster.
"So you ARE starting to like him again!" Sadie laughed as she pushed me away from the monster of a poster.
"No I'm not!" I shrieked, "MOM!"
"It's okay," Sadie reassured me as she pulled me far away from the poster. "It's normal to have a celebrity crush, and even MORE normal to have a Dex crush. Look at me! I have this brand new poster of him in my room so I could admire his hotness everyday when I wake up."
"No! I will NOT STAND having a poster of him in my room!" I boomed. I was just starting to recover. Why did Sadie have to ruin it now?
It all started when I was nine years old...

Mom had just turned on the television, and a little boy of ten trounced on the stage of American Idol. He was so adorable, graced with a naturally clear complexion and red hair. Everyone “oohed” and ‘ahhed’, awed by the boy's cuteness.
"What are you going to sing for us, little boy?" the hostess asked. She smiled at the little boy, and he stood perfectly still, with an elegance and grace people could only hope to mimic.
"I will sing ‘Love Me’ by Justin Bieber." His voice had an alluring musical lilt to it.
The piano began to play, and so did his voice.
His voice was toying with us, leaving us on edge, and drawing us in faster than lightning. We were hanging on his every note. This boy seemed to be meant for an audience, and at that minute, all of America, agreed to be his. We were unexplainably bound to this one boy. He had captured our hearts in one simple song.
"All I have to say is... WOW!" The hostess said, eyes widening at the boy's incredible talent, "you will surely have an amazing career from now on," she informed him.
That year, the boy, named Dean Letterman, won American Idol.
Soon after, he changed his name to Dex.
I remember seeing his angel-like face and instantly melting under his bewitching smile. I was in love.
Sadie, my twin, was not as obsessed as I was.
"Wow," little Sadie had commented on my masterpiece, or so I called it. We were eleven at the time. I glanced at her, then felt my eyes tugged towards the paper once more.
It was a drawing of Dex on a piece of my valuable thick sketching paper. However, I felt like my "beautiful" drawing didn't do Dex justice, so I began to cry. Tears slipped down my face in rivers, splashing onto my dress and bare arms.
"Wow," Sadie repeated, rolling her eyes.
That wasn't even the worst of it.

When I was twelve, I was best friends with the cutest guy in school, Peter. On a cold winter morning, he came up to me in the hallway.
"Eve," he grabbed my hand as I was about to go to class, "please wait. I need to talk to you,"
"Yes, Peter?" I was a little annoyed, if he kept me here I was going to be late for class. Peter seemed nervous, looking around anxiously. I softened at his expression and touched his warm hand, "What is it, Peter?"
“Will you go out with me?" he rushed, words tumbling out at once. I was stunned. Peter LIKED me? But...
"Peter..." I said, uncomfortable, "You are the best friend I've ever had, but I don't like you like that,"
Peter's eyes crinkled. He seemed to be in pain.
"Eve... you are so weird!" he blurted out, "You don't LIKE like anyone. I thought you might like me since you talk to me all the time but I guess I was wrong." He reached forward and grabbed my shoulders, "I don't understand Eve. I know you would tell me if you really liked someone, but I've never heard anything from you. All my other girl friends talk about guys all the time. Eve, do you like someone?"
"Yes," the dooming word escaped my mouth. Peter looked like he had been slapped. Not saying a single word, he walked away. I raced to him, tears streaming down my cheeks.
"Peter!" I cried. He turned slowly, his face like stone. "Can we still be best friends?"
"Don't you get it?" Peter said sharply, "That's not enough for me anymore,"
He left me in the hallway, a flood of tears cascading from me.

It was Dex's fault.
I had never noticed Peter as a guy that I could go out with. To me, he was always just a friend. I hadn't really looked at any other guys either. Why was that?
It was my obsession with Dex. He had obliterated all of my possible love interests, only leaving him to dream about. I knew that if Dex didn't exist, I would have probably gone out with Peter. He was a very handsome guy, with dark brown hair and blue eyes. All the girls liked him, so I would probably be really popular also.
Now, all because Dex existed, I lost my best friend and a possible social status, and for what?
A crush on Dex that would come to nothing. At that very instant, I hated Dex for ruining my life. Instead of love, disdain filled me, blossoming in my chest.
That was the end of my celebrity obsession. It was still there, though. I could feel it, biting and kicking to be let out of its shell. Some part of me still liked Dex. No matter how much I had tried to suppress and smash that part, it had endured for over five years. I had managed to not sneak a single peek at Dex for that time.
I guess that's why Sadie's poster bugged me so much. It was Dex. Sadie didn't even love Dex like I used to. I bet she only got that poster to bug me.
“Sadie, why did you get that poster?” I asked sadly. She twirled her hair around her fingers nonchalantly.
“What do you mean? I got it for me!” Sadie replied, a hint of a smile at the corner of her mouth. Sadie was so pretty. She had dirty blond hair and huge brown eyes, which complimented her heart shaped face. Her body was toned, shapely and muscular, and her nose was cute as a button. I was insanely jealous of her. She got the pretty genes, and all I got was mousy brown hair and a super skinny figure. The only thing I liked about myself was my eyes. They were even bigger than Sadie’s, which was saying something, and they were blue-violet.
“I know you didn’t,” I accused. She groaned.
“Okay, okay,” she nodded, “I’ll tell you. But first, here’s a present for you.” She handed me a small silver box. I opened it eagerly, first tearing off the ribbon then ripping the top from the bottom...
It was tickets to Dex’s concert here in town.
“Ugh! Sadie!” I angrily slapped the tickets in her hand, “That’s not a present!”
“Yes it is,”
“NO IT’S NOT!!!” I screamed.
“Look, Eve. You have been in some sort of depression for the last five years, and you’re not popular like you used to be because you’ve been hiding behind sadness and a mountain of homework. At first, I thought you might be suffering because Grams died,” she noted, “but now, I think it’s because of Dex.”
“NO!” I yelled. Sadie grabbed my arm and twisted, making me moan in pain.
“Hear me out!” she said, pinning my arm behind my back. I screeched in protest. “I think you’ve been missing Dex. You haven’t had a single date in your life, even though I know Peter, our SCHOOL QUARTERBACK, is pining for you. Has he even asked you out yet?” I said nothing, and she frowned, but continued on. “I think this would solve all of your problems. Go to this concert with Delilah and me. Act like a crazed fan, which shouldn’t be hard for you,” she joked. I gave her an evil glare, “and I think by the end of the night you’ll be all Dex-ed out. Then you could go out with Peter!” she grinned triumphantly.
That’s true. Maybe if I go crazy this one time... I’ll finally be able to look at Peter and be satisfied. I would realize that Dex really isn’t the ideal guy. Maybe, at this concert, I could find a flaw that would let me out of the trap he’s caught me in.
I smiled slowly, and linked hands with my beautiful twin.
“Let’s do it,”

Chapter 2

“You heard me,” Sadie and I stood in our closet, me shrieking in terror and her smiling. “I will NOT have you looking like a pathetic slob at the concert. You need to wear this.”
Sadie held up a tight fitting purple dress with tiny sequins. It had a V-neckline, and a gorgeous necklace to go with the stylish dress. It was short, about mid-thigh, but not too bad. It would make me stand out, for sure.
I could not imagine wearing such an attention-grabbing outfit.
“I’m not sure, Sadie,” I said nervously. “What will you be wearing?”
“This,” Sadie held up a casual red dress which was plain and simple, except for a small slit in the side.
“Why can’t I wear that?” I asked angrily.
“He’s YOUR crush,” she pointed out, and I quickly fell in submission. Do this for Dex, I told myself fiercely, because tonight was the night. I was finally going to cleanse myself from him. I was finally going to be free.
I slipped on the dress, awed at how the dress fit me, marveling at the way the necklace was perfectly coordinated with the dress. I twirled, happily glancing at myself in the mirror.
“Okay, you can stop now, Cinderella,” Sadie said sarcastically. She grabbed my face and started to powder it, leaving me sputtering and gasping for breath.
“Sadie,” I coughed, “let me breathe!” She released me temporarily.
“We don’t have much time. The concert is in two hours!” she said hurriedly. She pushed me to a chair.
“We’re going to make you beautiful like me,” she murmured, grabbing my hair and the Straightener.
“Arrogant much?”
“Yup,” she laughed, “I’m just kidding, Eve. You’re much prettier than me. How else do you have a total hottie wanting you to be his girlfriend, when you dress like a total slob?”
“Not true, Sadie,” I protested.
“True,” she argued.
“It IS true, and SHUT UP,” I shut up. We spent the next thirty minutes in complete silence. I could feel my eyes slipping, and I fell through the darkness into dreamland.
A few minutes later, I could feel arms shaking me. “Eve! Wake up!”
“What?” I groaned, yawning.
“You’re done, and just in time too. Delilah’s here!” She pulled me up. “Look at yourself. You’re gorgeous!” I looked in the floor-length mirror, stunned. Was that beautiful long legged girl really me? “Not that you weren’t pretty before,” she added quickly.
I hugged my twin. “Thank you Sadie!” I felt light, and happy. I was beautiful.
I glided down the steps and out the door, Sadie trailing behind me. We entered Delilah’s car, a pretty BMW that was shining, without a single flaw. “Wow,” Delilah commented, “You look great, Eve!”
“You do too, Delilah,” I replied. She really did. The name Delilah really fit her, with the way she wore heavy golden jewelry and gypsy-like clothes. Her makeup was always flawless, and achieved the smoky look models couldn’t even get. Her hair was super thick and a dark brown that was almost black. She was amazingly tan, also, leaving many girls jealous. Today, she was wearing thick golden hoops and a dark purple dress that was shorter than mine. That was one thing about Delilah; she was a little... more inclined to show cleavage or leg. We both still loved her though.
We drove along, and the radio switched to Dex’s hot new single, ‘I Believe In You’. It was a slow song, and we softly sang along, careful not to drone out Dex’s beautiful voice. I however, didn’t sing.
“Why don’t you ever sing?” Sadie asked me, still rocking along to the flowing music.
“I don’t know, Sadie,” I shrugged, “I guess I get a little embarrassed to sing in front of people. You know how I am,” Sadie nodded. She knew what lengths I would go to, to avoid getting up in front of a classroom. Those prying eyes, the unending stares... I shuddered at the thought. I hadn’t gotten up in front of the class since seventh grade.
“You might want to think about breaking out of that, you know,” she said softly. “Even I haven’t heard you sing. How do you think that makes me feel?” Delilah quietly switched off the radio. The car was filled with silence.
“I don’t know, Sadie. I guess I’ll sing for you soon,” I said reluctantly, “I just hate the idea of people staring at you, judging you based on your appearance. I hate the possibility that someone will have a bad opinion of me...” A single tear ran down my cheek. I’m sure Peter hated me, and he was one of the people I needed to like me the most.
Sadie pulled me in for a hug.
“There, there,” she soothed, “that’s just going to happen, Eve. Some people are not going to like you for who you are and that’s something you’ll never be able to change. But, I promise, for someone as likable as you, the people that like you probably far outnumber the ones that don’t,” Delilah nodded in agreement.
“Look, we’re there!” Delilah shouted. It was a huge dome-like building, crowded as could be. We eased to the front where the doors were. A huge sign saying Valet was there, deliciously tempting us. We wouldn’t have to search endlessly for a parking space. But right underneath the alluring word...
“Twenty-five dollars!” We shrieked in unison. I quickly searched my pockets.
“I have fifteen,” I announced.
“I have five,” Delilah said.
“I have...” Sadie murmured, “four.”
“WHAT!?” Me and Delilah screeched in dismay. Now, we were going to have to drive all the way back to the parking lot and….
“Ty,” she finished.
“You have forty dollars?” I asked wonderingly, “Wow, Sadie, you’re a lifesaver,”
“I know,” she said smugly. We paid the handsome valet guy, who was obviously enchanted by Delilah.
“Here,” Delilah slipped him a pink note, and quickly joined us inside the big double doors.
“What did you give him?” we asked.
“My number,” she said slyly.
“Wow,” I said, awed by Delilah’s ability to bewitch any guy she meets. Delilah touched my arm.
“You could charm anyone you wanted to too,” she noted. “You have the looks. Did you see that other valet man staring at you?”
“I gave that guy her number,” Sadie said triumphantly.
“Just kidding,” Sadie laughed at my furious expression. “Come on, let’s find our seats.” I followed her, fuming.
The inside of the dome was colossal; the stage in the middle of a mass of seats. People were everywhere, either lounging in the comfy plush seats or talking to a group of people. There were a ton of girls our age there, and plenty below.
“Wow,” I said, “this place is big.”
“Dex has a lot of fans,” Delilah said simply. We continued in silence until we reached our seats. They were really close to the front, only a few rows back from the stage.
“How did we get these seats?” I wondered.
“Dad,” Sadie smiled. I knew what Sadie meant. Dad tended to order tickets and reserve rooms WAY ahead of time, therefore getting us the best seats or room.
“Wait, so you knew about this for... how long?”
“Three months,”
I was inches away from slapping her. “Sadie, how could you?”
“I was actually proud of myself for keeping it a secret for so long, but you HAD to ruin it,” she muttered sarcastically. I flopped in the seat next to her, not saying a single word. True, she DID do me a favor by not telling me about this escapade, but that didn’t mean I had to be happy about it.
“Come on, guys. Enjoy this!” Delilah said, trying to cheer us up. “It’s DEX. The most popular guy in America. Can’t you both be a little happier about it?”
“I guess,” I sighed.
“Okay,” Sadie agreed.
The lights dimmed, and the show started. Smoke filled the dome, flashing blue and green from the bright spotlights. Music started, pounding, stinging my ears. Bright sparks erupted spontaneously from around the room.
“Wow,” I whispered.
Then, a circle of fire shot up on the stage, awing the audience. It was over 6 feet tall, magnificent, the colors astounding. The fire changed gradually from red to green to blue, leaving us wondering. It was spectacular.
Dex rose above the fire, guitar in hand. He smiled, and waved to the fans. From this close distance, I could see the crinkle near his eyes, the warmth in his expression. His grin was genuine.
I smiled back.
“Let me hear some screaming later on, okay?” Sadie joked, obviously amused by my expression.
“Shut up, Sadie,” I said impatiently. Dex raised his hand to the crowd in greeting, then immediately launched into his song ‘Killer’.
I hummed along to the song, smiling at the way his voice and the music seemed to tango, always in perfect harmony, never doing the same exact thing. He was a talented artist.
The concert passed by blissfully. I soon found myself pulled to my feet by Delilah and Sadie, joining the thousands of others that were doing the same. We jumped to the music, laughing and smiling. This was wonderful. I had never felt so happy in the five years I had tried to get rid of Dex.
The concert came to Dex’s last few songs, and one of them happened to be ‘Release Me’, my favorite song of his, because it was a duet. He sang it with Richy Charles, who had a beautiful melodic voice. Their voices sounded amazing together.
“For this last one, one of my associates are going to pick a girl out of the audience to sing the duet with me,” The crowd’s roar grew as teenage girls screamed. I stayed silent. I didn’t want to be picked. I shut my eyes, waiting for the girl’s name to be announced...
A hand tapped my shoulder. “What, Sadie?” I asked in exasperation, opening my eyes. It wasn’t Sadie, but a man dressed in black. “Oh, sorry,” I apologized. The man had a nervous expression to him, and he was skinny and short.
“Please,” his unexpectedly deep voice startled me, “come,” Sadie and Delilah looked at me, wonderingly. I felt like I was in a daze. I followed him, and he led me to some steps leading up into the stage. “Walk up these,” he commanded.
I finally realized what the man was doing. “You want... ME to be that girl?”
“Duh,” he said sarcastically, “Didn’t you realize that?”
“I don’t want to!” I said angrily.
“You have to now,” he replied, calm and collected, “You could’ve said no when you were still in your seat,”
“I didn’t know!” I protested as he pushed me up the stairs and into the blinding white light. I blinked, having to adjust to the brightness. All the people! I felt dizzy.
It was then that I realized that Dex was standing next to me, holding a microphone.
“What’s your name?” he asked me softly, drawing me in with his green eyes. I couldn’t believe I was actually standing there. Meeting Dex.
I tried to regain my composure, “Eve,” I said into the microphone. I shuddered as my voice was amplified a hundred times over, washing over the crowd. I could see some girls seethe at me, angry because I had taken their much wanted spot in the spotlight.
“Are you ready?” he asked, taking in my pale hands and face. A small associate handed me a microphone. I turned to face him. I was, for the millionth time, struck by his handsomeness. “I’ll be right here,” he comforted me, taking my hand. A jolt of electricity shot through me. Everything was going to be alright, Dex, the boy of my dreams, was with me.
The first few notes began, and I started in, my voice starting out small, then growing as I gained confidence. Dex and I were facing each other, still holding hands, and I could see his eyes widen. We sang, voices in perfect harmony, I, feeling energized, actually powered by the crowd instead of feeling suppressed by it. Energy pulsed through the song, pulsed through us. Our voices did flips and turns, a renegade of sorts, but still always in perfect harmony. I felt proud of myself. This was my moment to shine.
The song slowed, and we sang the last few notes, each reluctant to stop. It came to a gentle close, then a huge roar of applause followed. I could see Sadie and Delilah jumping, screaming my name.
Dex looked at me wonderingly, not saying a single word. Then, he nodded, and flashed me one of his heavenly smiles.
And just like that, the moment was over.

Chapter 3

I watched the beautiful girl walk away, the alluring way she walked grabbing my interest, her singing even more so.
Her voice was the best I’ve ever heard, and clearly the audience felt that way too. The teenage fans roared with excitement, instead of seething with disgust at her for being by me, cheering with happiness. I had never seen any group of fans react so positively to any of my songs! I knew it was because of that pretty girl. Her voice was even better than mine, like an angel, sweet but powerful.
And if I was voted the Hottest Man on Earth by People, she would DEFINITELY be voted Hottest Woman on Earth for sure. It was just the way she looked, with beautiful brown hair and sparkling blue eyes, and not to mention a killer figure.
I ended the concert to the loudest deafening applause I had ever heard. I had to bow several times to appease the crowd. This was incredible... an unforgettable experience.
I searched the endless crowd of fans, searching for that one girl, who so easily stood out from the crowd. I had told my associate to get that girl, because I had seen her from the start. She didn’t blend with the crowd, but shined as if under a constant spotlight.
Also the fact that she was wearing a shiny purple dress with sequins that caught the light and flashed it on my face didn’t hurt.
I quickly left the stage and headed towards my manager, Penny Connor, who’s heavily lip-glossed mouth was formed into a perfect “O”. She looked at me, amazed, eyes widened in surprise.
“Dex, that was incredible!” she gushed, energetically grabbing my hand. “That girl you had with you had amazing chemistry. For a few seconds, I thought she was Richy Charles in disguise!”
“She was much better than Richy Charles,” I pointed out.
“Yes, she was,” Penny amended.
“Can you check up on her?” I asked hopefully.
“Yes,” Penny said, a little less energetic than before, “but what are you going to do when I have all of her information?”
“I don’t know,” I shrugged, “I might ask her to sing some more with me,”
“You can’t just do that, sir!” Penny said, “Think about it. This was ONE performance. How do you know she can sing well on a regular basis? You know we cannot invite her to sing with you just because of a whim of yours. Think of one bad performance would do to the ratings! I-”
“Just look her up,” my voice was firm, resolute. She nodded slowly, then walked away, five-inch heels clicking on the cold, hard floor.
I walked slowly to my designated seat, my name was embroidered on the back, and plopped down, pondering over the current situation. Penny was right. I couldn’t just ask that girl to drop everything to go with me across America to record a song together. She would have to want it, desire it with every fiber of her being. For all I knew, she might have a life back at her home. She might have... a boyfriend.
I did like her, with her beautiful light brown hair and big blue eyes as clear as the sky above me. She was tall and leggy, like a model, but a bit too short. That was okay, though. I personally was only 5’10, and any decent model would tower over me. I could envision me and her, walking down a crowded street, sipping lattes and just talking, while we posed for the dozens of cameras. We would make a good couple...
Whoa, stop thinking so far ahead, I told myself gently. I just wanted her to record a song for me, and on strictly business terms. At least that’s what I tried to tell myself.
I thought and thought about it, confusedly looking around the room, searching for some sort of clue, something that would lead me to the answer. Nothing gave me any leads though. I sighed. What did I expect? A newspaper or something lying around giving me the answers to all my problems?
I soon spotted a poster hanging around, a giant one, with an American Idol picture on it. “Do you think you can sing?” it screamed, a huge display of words splashed on the colorful paper.
That was it! I will have a contest. I could picture it now, a huge sign saying “DEX: THE SINGING CONTEST,” and that new picture of me displayed on the front. The prize would be a record deal with me. If that pretty girl, Eve, was serious about singing, she would definitely come.
I rubbed my hands together, a habbit I always did when I was excited about something.
“Penny!” I called, rather seductively. I always had to get a bit... persuasive around Penny to get her to do something.
I don’t even know how Penny got to be my manager. She started when I was seventeen, my previous manager recently died in a car accident. I never liked her from the beginning, but she was the daughter of the owner of the record company I usually dealed with. I couldn’t fire her, or else she would go crying to her daddy and they would cut off everything from me. Penny was really quite young, only 27.
Penny opened the doors to my room energetically, holding a stack of papers. She quickly laid them down on the settee, then crossed the room over to me.
“What is it, Dex?”
“Penny,” I grabbed her and gave her a nice long hug. She hugged me back, and as I pulled away, I knew she was so enchanted she would do anything for me. “Penny,” I repeated, “I have an idea,”
“What?” she asked, dazed, “Oh, that. What is it?”
“I think we should have a contest.” This was the point where it became all or nothing. I was sure Penny would think it was an atrocious idea, so I held her close as I talked. “If we have a singing contest, I think she would come, and all our problems would be solved,”
“I don’t know...” I could see her eyes becoming a bit more focused, a tad more alert. I had to do something!
I leaned in and kissed the top of her forehead. Her breathing became more relaxed, and she swayed a little.
“Could you set that up for me?” I asked. She nodded, hanging on to me. I gently propelled her out of the room, and she walked off, stumbling a little. Good work, buddy! I mentally high-fived myself. I knew I could always fall back on my charm when something didn’t work out.
I leaned on the settee, leafing through the papers she forgot to bring with her. They were filled with info on the girl, “Eve Valencia”. I looked at the pictures with interest. One was of her at school (from the school’s security cameras), one was from her house (facebook), and one was a headshot (I don’t know WHERE she got that).
At school, I could tell she dressed sloppily, but what amused me so much was that I could see a handsome guy staring at her, lovesick, forever frozen on the page. I laughed. Wouldn’t that guy be happy to know I saw THAT?! I chuckled. I made a mental note to check up on that guy later.
Her headshot was absolutely magnificent, striking me into silent amazement. At the concert she wore makeup, which really took away from her natural beauty. I felt that it made her look a bit more artificial. In the headshot, though, she looked dreamy, with her big blue eyes and a gorgeous expression on her face. She looked like a movie star.
I imagined myself, once again, by her side, us holding hands. In my fantasy, I leaned in and kissed her, her wavy brown hair tickling my face. I laughed and held her face in my hands, kissing her once more...
This was weird. Why was I thinking about her so much? The question surged through me, hurting my head with the possibilities. I came, slowly, to the realization that I liked her, maybe even loved her. But how was that possible? How could I like, or love, someone I don’t even know?
That can’t be right. It must be... infatuation! That’s right, I quickly assured myself. It was simply not possible. There was not one freakin’ chance I was in love with her.
Little did I know Eve felt the same way.

Chapter 4

"I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU WENT UP ON STAGE AND MET DEX!!!!" Sadie screamed. "AND EVEN SANG WITH HIM!!! AND SOUNDED AWESOME!!!" We were driving home, slowly, because the traffic was absolutely awful. It seemed like everybody went to the concert. The smell of gas thickened the air, mixed with the stench of smoke and booze that plagued the drunken passengers and drivers surrounding us.
"Yeah," I said plainly, without expression.
"You finally got to meet your dream boy," Sadie teased. Delilah raised a delicate eyebrow.
"Dream boy...?" she inquired, her ears perked towards some juicy gossip.
"Nothing," I muttered quickly, looking away from them both. I began to feel little prickles of being uncomfortable, and getting the disgusting taste of hiding something from my friends in my mouth. The rough and scratched seat rubbed against my back, making it itch annoyingly.
"Eve, why aren't you happy? Come on, sing with me! Your voice is incredible!!" Sadie squealed, starting in on her prey this time; Justin Bieber's song called ‘Pray’.
"You have no idea what I'm feeling like right now," I whispered, too softly to be heard over the booming music and Sadie's annoying singing voice.
Inside, I was trembling with emotions I couldn't even begin to explain. Love, hate, regret, and.... something else I couldn't possibly fathom. All my love for Dex had been revived full force, and pinning it back down was harder than I thought it would be. Just one night, I had told myself, and then I'd be free.
Too bad nothing was so simple anymore.
He smiled at me! He talked to me, and grabbed my hand. I could feel the electricity still surging through me, tingling through my being. He sang with me, and was not ashamed to stand with me on the stage. I could vividly recall the startling greenness of Dex's eyes, the hypnotizing way he flipped his hair back... I couldn't stop thinking about him, and that was what made it so scary.
"Eve?" Delilah asked, twisting around in the drivers seat to look at me with her piercing eyes.
“Yes, Delilah?”
“Do you have a crush on Dex?” she probed, her eyes drilling into mine. The feeling of being uncomfortable returned, and a blush rose to my cheeks.
“N-no,” I stuttered, feeling hot with mortification.
“If you just thought he was hot, you wouldn’t be so embarrassed,” she laughed, “You must be REALLY in love with him,” I hopelessly nodded. You can’t lie to Delilah. “You probably went to this concert to get over him, right?”
I nodded again. How does she predict things so easily?
Silence filled the air, each one of us deep in thought.
“You know, I saw him looking at you as you left the stage,” Sadie noted, “and he seemed fascinated. I think he likes you,”
“Don’t be silly, Sadie. He doesn’t like me,” I said nonchalantly, “He’s a rockstar and I’m just a love crazed fan.”
“You’re a beautiful love crazed fan who just happens to have the best singing voice Dex probably has ever heard,” Sadie countered.
“That’s not true,” I looked down at my feet, watching them, wishing they weren’t so incredibly big.
“Stop thinking so down on yourself!” Sadie punched me in the arm playfully. “You are gorgeous, an amazing singer, and have a great personality! What more could Dex want?!”
“He also smiled at you... and he doesn’t do that for just anyone,” Delilah added. Sadie grinned.
“See? Dex likes you,” Sadie said triumphantly.
“Not true,” I said softly, “and even if he did, it wouldn’t matter. We live in completely different worlds. I’m sure he’s not going to try to look for me, and it’s not like we’re going to bump into each other at the supermarket. There is no way we’re going to meet up ever again.”
Sadie touched my hand gently, “You can always hope, Eve.”
“You don’t understand, Sadie,” I leaned my head against the deluxe leather headrest, closing my eyes.
“I have hoped since I was little that Dex would somehow, in some way, be with me,” I shook my head regretfully. “Look where that’s gotten me.”
I surrendered myself to sleep, hoping that my slumber would wipe the misery away.

I was floating on a wish. Nothing could hold me down... I was dancing among the silver stars, embracing the moonlight, spinning circles around the farthest planet. I was untouchable.
Something that couldn’t be tarnished or sabotaged. I was a precious jewel, and I was lighting the whole world. Every person adored me, the Earth itself singing praises to me, glory from all over, almost suffocating me with it’s force.
I jumped over any obstacle, I climbed to the goal, awing my competitors into submission. There were no strings to hold me down. I was free...
Except, I could feel a slight tremor through the Earth, a quick intake of breath, a terror I couldn’t imagine. It was a phenomenon, a destructive whirlwind, a monster with endless power. I took a step back from the creature that appeared before me. Strangely, though, its presence terrorized me, but it also comforted me, made me feel like a princess. It invigorated me, energized me, and was something I could always count on. It was something... that loved me.
And I loved it back.
It was hiding in the shadows, barely a whisper in the deathly night. I called to it, my voice soaring to him. It cautiously stepped out to meet me...
“EVE!!!” Sadie shook me awake. I groaned in protest, wanting to shut my eyes and feel the dream wash over me, soak my soul again in the richness of the land that humans can’t touch, but feel.
The worst part was I didn’t get to see the monster’s face.
My monster’s face.
“Please, Sadie,” I sat up, “Don’t wake me,”
“I just did,” she smirked, “I’ve been trying, and unsuccessfully, to wake you up for the last five minutes. Now that I’ve gotten you awake, I’m never letting you go back to sleep.”
I shrugged, a little angry at her for interrupting my dream, “Whatever.”
“I bet you’ll scream when you hear this,” Sadie said excitedly. I perked up.
“Will it make up for the fact that you destroyed my dream, smashing it into one million shards of sharp glass?” I wondered. She ignored that comment.
“Dex is having a CONTEST!” she screamed, waving around the newspaper. “Whoever wins gets to have a record deal with him!”
“Looks like you’re the one screaming, not me,” I replied coolly. She frowned at me.
“Why aren’t you excited?”
“I don’t like Dex anymore,” I said. That couldn’t be further from the truth, but I wanted to believe it was true. I wanted to believe that I didn’t shiver every time I hear his name.
“I don’t believe you,” Sadie stated firmly.
“Whatever,” I said again, “Get off my back.”
“You HAVE to enter this singing contest! Don’t you find it a bit odd that Dex would have this singing contest right after you sang with him? It’s being held in our area too! I think he’s looking for you, Eve.”
“I don’t want him looking for me,” I said, although, inside, fireworks were erupting. He was actually... looking for me? No.... he couldn’t be.
That’s not possible.

“No. ABSOLUTELY not,” I stated firmly as Sadie tried pulling me towards the car.
“This is an opportunity you can’t pass up!”
“I said NO!”
“If you do, I will never bother you about Dex again,” she said.
“And take down that poster?” I asked.
“All of that, AND I’ll delete his songs off my iPod.”
“Deal,” we shook hands, Sadie eagerly, I a little reluctantly. I felt that I was getting the worse end of the deal. I would have to sing in front of everyone by... myself.
It was different when Dex was with me. He comforted me, his presence the only thing keeping me from running off the stage. Now, I’m not sure I can do it.
I guess I’ll never know until I try.
We drove for a little while until we reached a brick building. It loomed before us, casting a shadow on our bodies. The sun, even, seemed to be blocked out by this monstrous place.
“Are you sure this is the right place?” I wondered.
“I’m sure,” Sadie looked around, “Where’s the parking?”
“Over there,” I pointed. Sadie stared, stunned, at the incredible mass of cars across the street. A policeman was directing the traffic, because there were so many cars and so many people.
“Oh,” her mouth was widened. “Wow.”
“What did you expect, Sades?” I laughed at her stricken expression.
“Have... to... find... PARKING,” Sadie whispered.
I put a hand on her shoulder.
“You can do it,” I said, smiling. “I believe in you.”
Sadie timidly started the long quest for a parking spot, I, staring out of the window in utter fascination. There were a ton of girls, all about my age, that were incredibly beautiful. They looked like they had a marvelous singing voice. I could easily find a license plate from every state in the country if I wanted to, and every possible age-of a person-under the sun. There were even old people in wheelchairs heading towards the brick-like building. I shuddered, thinking of what their voices would sound like.
“Hey Sadie?” I asked, still watching the interesting clumps of people.
“Yes?” she asked, engrossed in the search for one meager parking space.
“What makes you think I’m going to make it out of all these people?” I wondered.
Sadie turned around to look at me, “Eve, your voice is the best I’ve ever heard, even better than Dex’s, and you’re really pretty. It’s a combination that could lead to incredible popularity. Look where it got Dex,” she winked. “Eve, I know you have what it takes. The way you sang with complete confidence on that stage really showed. Every single person in that dome knew that you were going to be a star. Even Dex did! You should’ve seen the way he was staring at you in utter disbelief. You were absolutely incredible!”
“SADIE!! A PARKING SPACE!” I screamed. Sadie quickly turned her head, just as a small Volkswagen Bug parked in the spot I had found.
“Look what you did!” Sadie said angrily, “Now I’ll have to find another parking spot! And all because you got me all worked up...”

I walked towards the brick building with Sadie, admiring the clear blue of the sky.
“Today sure is beautiful,” I whispered. I could hear the faint chirping of the birds, the whispers of the softly blowing wind, and the chattering of the people surrounding me. If I closed my eyes, I could get lost, dreaming of faraway lands and stories with happy endings.
However, the place snapped me back to reality. Sense started to take back over, previously shoved into the corner of my mind. What am I doing? Why am I bringing my hopes up, only to have them crashing down in the end? This is not me.
“What, Eve?” Sadie asked, exasperated.
“I don’t want to do this,” I stopped short in front of the doors, people barreling past me. Sadie visibly growled, a snarl curling at the corner of her delicate mouth.
“Don’t care,” she grunted, grabbing my hand, forcing me through the throng of people.
I felt anxiety well up within me. What was this audition going to be like? How would they weed out the people who were just here to meet Dex?
We entered the long sprawling line of people, waiting to enter through the big double doors that led to my doom. Well, not my doom, but that’s all I could think of right then.
A beautiful girl with shoulder-length blonde hair walked out of the double doors, crying. As she passed by me, I grabbed her arm.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, concerned. Mascara was running down her porcelain face in rivers, her clothes splotched with black.
“They hated me,” she sputtered through her torrent of tears, “They told me I would never have what it takes to be... a star.”
“They said that to you?” I was shocked. How could they say such a mean and harsh thing?
“Yes,” she whispered. “Beware of the lady with the dirty blonde hair,” she struggled out the door, knocking down several people in her way furiously.
“Wow, that was creepy,” Sadie commented amusedly.
“I’m scared now!” I gripped Sadie’s arm, squeezing it tightly. Sadie lightly pulled my hand off her.
“You were scared before,” she joked.
“Just to let you know, you’re not funny,” I muttered. She just smiled, staring off into space. I was soon lost in my nightmare, or should I say, daymare, of a dirty-blonde haired lady tying me up and beating me with a silver switch.

When I entered through the double doors –finally-, I gasped in awe at the glorious auditorium, I now realized what it was. It had a beautiful mural along the sides, and a big stage, empty looking and vacant. However, one girl was standing, microphone in hand, on the colossal stage, singing her heart out.
“To-MOR-row, to-MOR-row, I LOVE you, to-mor-row!” she squealed. Everyone was holding their hands to their ears in horror.
“Compared to THAT,” Sadie whispered, “You’ll pass with flying colors.”
The girl finished to a scatter of forced applause. The three judges, one an elderly man, one a young, handsome man, and the last a middle aged dirty blond haired woman, conversed together quietly. Then, the lady opened her mouth... and spoke.
“Lindsey, I think you need to leave. Now.” Her voice was very harsh and abrasive, a barking noise even the dogs couldn’t match. Lindsey, an adolescent with enough pimples to last a lifetime, ran off the stage, bawling. “Now,” she said, a little sweeter, a little sugar mixed in with her whip of a voice, “Who’s next?”
A plethora of people went on the stage, each singing their own song they had perfected. Many were magnificent, with an angel-like voice and heavenly looks. The lady, however, seemed to be unsatisfied with them all. She commented on everything, from the color of their hair to the brand of boots they wore. If you had the slightest slouch, she called you out. If you made the smallest mistake, she would slam you into oblivion.
“Next?” she called, having just tortured the girl with shockingly pink hair. I stepped up onto the stage, staring at the sea of faces before me. The lady smiled, and that seemed to scare me more than her frown. “What will you be singing?”
The shakes began to overtake me. I could feel every eye on me, sensing the whispers. I searched for one face I recognized. Any face.
Sadie was nowhere to be found.
“Well?” she asked impatiently. I realized I hadn’t answered her.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I apologized quickly to appease the witch. “I’ll be singing Release Me,” I suddenly gained confidence, a warm fuzzy feeling taking over, winning the fight I waged with my extreme nervousness. This was mine and Dex’s song, and I was going to sing it the best I possibly could.
For Dex.
As I sang, I began to feel invulnerable, like no one could stop me. Energy flowed through me, shocking me like bolts of lightning. Everything seemed to vanish away, leaving just me and my music. I forgot my troubles, my dreams, myself even. Dex’s presence seemed to be with me, comforting me, erasing all. This very second, I felt that it was Dex that gave me the power to sing like this, pouring my heart out for the world to taste. All my burdens were lifted, my head reaching the clouds.
“Release me... from this pain.” I finished softly, barely a whisper. A wave of applause followed, but I didn’t notice barely a thing, still lost in my trance.
The judge’s voice snapped me back into reality, “Come here and get this,” she said simply, not a trace of emotion showing on her face. I walked to her, anxiety showing through my face. The two other judges smiled and nodded at me as I reached their table.
“Thank you, ma’am,” I quickly took the packet from her outstretched hand. Still showing no emotions, she waved me away, barking, “Next!”
I stepped out of the building, still a little dazed. Sadie ran up to me.
“I knew it, I knew it,” she danced around me, laughing.
“What??” I regained my composure quickly under Sadie’s amused glances. “She didn’t like me.”
“Yes, she did!” Sadie said.
“But... she didn’t say anything about me!” I protested, still a little confused.
“That’s a good thing, Eve,” she sighed. “That lady can’t say anything good about anyone. A compliment from her is impossible to achieve. The fact that she couldn’t find a single flaw to comment on is amazing! Eve, you’re going to be famous!” Sadie grabbed my hands. “Eve, you HAVE to introduce me to all the hot movie stars when you’re uber-popular, okay?”
“Why do you keep insisting I’m going to be famous?” I asked, a little wearily.
“Because you are!” Sadie said. “Here, I’ll prove it to you.” She snatched away my packet and leafed through it.
“HEY!” I whined. She shoved a single piece of white paper into my face. I grabbed it, confused. It read in block letters: IF YOU HAVE RECEIVED THIS PACKET FROM A JUDGE, YOU HAVE MADE CALL BACKS.
“You made it, you made it!” Sadie laughed, a whirlwind of joy.
I just stood still, shocked. I made it. My dream might actually... come true. It felt like a miracle. How could something like this happen to a small urban girl like me?
Blackness suddenly took over, my consciousness being sucked away until only I was left.

Chapter 5

Sadie was laughing still when we got back home.
"I can't believe it, Eve!"
"I can't believe you're still talking about this, Sadie."
"Well, I guess I can believe it," Sadie amended. "You were the best singer up there."
"No, I was not!" I smiled, a little overwhelmed by all that's happened today still. Miracles were happening left and right, but why me?
Why was all these things happening to an average, run-of-the-mill me?
As I ran to my room, I was once again halted by the beautiful poster of Dex. It stared at me, making tingles run through my skin, terror striking me still. I thought to all the times he had hurt me, from embarrassment, betrayal, and rejection. I still felt anger towards him, surprisingly. Another poster we had received laid on the ground, thrown by my hands. I crossed over to it, brushing my fingers across the cover.
In a flash of anger, I ripped the poster of him into a million tiny slivers. Instead of feeling satisfied, however, remorse filled me. Why was I feeling so regretful towards Dex? Because he ruined my life, I told myself angrily. But truly, I didn't know why. He ruined me, but it wasn't his fault. I, however, couldn't find myself to forgive him.
"Now's the time to make amends," I whispered to the air, my voice dwindling on the swish of the wind.

When I walked downstairs, the first thing I saw was Sadie frantically answering the phone.
"Yes? Oh yes, her name is Eve Valencia, oh, can you stay there for a second? I have to put you on hold- Hello? Yes, she is here. No, she can't answer questions right now. Please wait- Yes? No. Sorry, you'll have to wait- Hey again, what were you asking?"
I reached over and pressed the red button. Sadie looked at me, embarrassed.
"Who were they?" I demanded.
"It must've been somebody."
"Um-no it wasn't. I was just-um-talking to myself! Yes, that's right! I'm going crazy, aren't I?"
"Sadie!" I grabbed her hand and squeezed, "WHO WERE THEY?"
"Reporters," she squeaked. I dropped her hand, shocked. Reporters?
"They all want to know about you, Eve," Sadie continued, "One of the girls that made the top ten."
"WHAT?" I was growing beet red from embarrassment. Sadie grinned.
"You're going to be on TV, you know," she handed over the thick packet the mean lady had given me.
"Oh no," I gasped in horror, staring at the dooming page. I was going to sing... in front of America.
"Come on, it's not THAT bad," Sadie tried to cheer me up. I pushed her away.
"Yes. It is."
"Think of it as an opportunity."
"No, no, no," I murmured to myself, "this isn't happening." I put my head in my hands.
"Come on, Eve," I felt a hand on my shoulder. "Now's the time to forget the past, and look towards the future,"
There was more truth to Sadie's statement than she realized.
"When?" I choked out, unable to look at the packet anymore.
"Um-you don't want to know," she stuttered.
"WHEN?!" I asked furiously.
I left her, stomping to my room in utter disgust. Scattered around was the remains of the poster, and somehow, that seemed to mirror the image of the scattered pieces of my bruised and broken heart. Flopping on the bed, I considered why I had even auditioned, why I had put my whole heart into ‘Release Me’.
Our song.
But all that came to me was nothingness, an empty whole of darkness that swallowed me up at every turn. Why couldn't I understand? Why couldn't I be happy, for once? I guess I should be happy, joyful even. Miracle after miracle has been bestowed on me, giving me reason to believe. It was hard though, somehow, to toss aside my qualms about being in front of people and sing in front of MILLIONS of people. Everything I thought was true about myself has turned out to be dead wrong.
But on the plus side, I've discovered parts of myself I've never noticed before.

"Today's the day!" a giant marshmallow fluff smashed into my head, making me wake up anxiously. Turns out, it was a pillow. I glared at the over eager Sadie, who was beaming at me in happiness.
"Come on, Miss Grumpy!" she laughed. "We got to get you to the TV studio to get all dressed up."
"What time is it?" I groaned, turning over in the bed to avoid Sadie and drift back into my slumber.
"Time to go!" she grabbed me, forcing me to the garage.
"Don't I need to change clothes?" I yelled over the rumbling of the engine, as Sadie hurriedly started the car.
"Not really. I got you some jeans, but you can keep that T-shirt on."
"Don't I need to eat?"
"Here," she handed me a plastic bag filled with cereal and milk. I shook it, and it sloshed around. I looked at it in disgust.
"What is this?"
"Cereal in a bag, baby!" she screamed along to the song she was playing in the car.
I sighed, and started to eat, drink, the mess Sadie called cereal. Honestly, it looked like a cross between slime and jello.
We zoomed along the highway, the sun beating on us, weighing on us like a thick blanket. The air was a thin fog, blocking my view of the glorious outdoors surrounding me. I laughed at the small tinkling of the birds I heard around me, utterly enchanted. Sadie looked at me, confused.
"What's the deal, Eve?"
"The birds," I grinned. “They sound so... light and carefree! I wish I could be like them."
Without another word, Sadie turned her head back to the front. I frowned. Sadie was not like me. She didn't enjoy the forest, the beach, or the sun. Our personalities couldn't be any more different. Sadie could speak in front of a huge crowd, dressed fashionably at school, said all the right things, and did everything the right way.
I was the opposite. At school, I’ve blended into the background so long, I've long since felt like a piece of furniture. Peter has ignored me ever since that awful day in seventh grade, and it seemed like the whole world ignored me too. It's not like I wanted to be anything other than a piece of furniture though. I suppose if I wanted to, I could become popular. However, it never interested me, never really crossed my mind during those five long years. I had basically no friends, always eating in the library, maybe once or twice eating with Delilah and her posse-Sadie always sat with the popular group, and I wasn't willing to step within five miles of that table.
Strangely, no guys ever talked to me. I never thought myself to be ugly, but they never spoke a single word. However, I could feel their glances, and it made me wonder; what's holding them back? What repelled guys from me like mosquitoes and bug spray?
"Hey, Sadie?" I asked.
"Huh?" she mumbled, mouth full of poptart.
"Why don't guys like me?" I asked. She was sure to know, maybe a rumor was being passed around about me or something.
Sadie laughed. "Eve, you're the most wanted girl at school."
"What?" That can't be true. That makes absolutely no sense.
"They're just afraid of Peter, that's all." she added.
"What do you mean, AFRAID of Peter?" I asked suspiciously.
"He's so lovesick that he's called dibs on you. You should SEE Peter when you occasionally go to the lunchroom to eat with Delilah. He starts to drool, I'm telling you." she smiled at the memory.
"I've never noticed," I said.
"Eve, you are the most out-of-it person I know. You wouldn't realize a guy liked you until he asked for your hand in marriage."
"True," I agreed. Sadie smiled.
"When this is over and done with, I am going to give you a complete closet makeover, and lessons on how to be normal. You're going to say yes when I persuade Peter to ask you out, and you're going to be the most popular girl in school. Got it?"
I nodded. I would do almost anything to get Peter back, and if going out with him was the only way, I guess I would have to do it. But Peter…. staring at me? Calling dibs? That didn't sound at all like the Peter I knew.
"Has Peter... changed since 7th grade?"
"Sure," Sadie said, "Everyone does."
"He has no right to call dibs though," I gazed off into the clear blue sky.
"Eve, if you knew how lovesick he was, then you'd understand,"
I watched the birds fly over the horizon, wishing my life was that simple.

I entered the studio, knees shaking in my shoes. Sadie laughed.
"Don't show them that you're scared!" Sadie whispered, "Those knees are a dead giveaway."
"Lay off!" I snapped. She sprang back.
"Someone's angry..." she tut-tutted.
"Whatever," I muttered. I didn't want to be doing this. I didn't want to have to shed my shell and sing in front of a ton of people. Then why am I doing it? Ugh, this is so complicated...
"Hello?" Sadie pulled me to the lady standing impatiently in front of us. "This is Eve. She is one of the ten contestants."
The lady said nothing for a few seconds, evaluating me. Then she nodded, not totally disgusted with me.
"Come this way." I clutched Sadie's arm as I walked, the only sound I could hear was the deafening noise of the woman's five-inch heels clicking on the cold, hard floor.
"Here," she led me to a small room, throwing open the door magnificently. Light dwelled from within, entrancing Sadie and I.
We entered, ushered in by a slightly overweight lady. Her eyes were a huge magnificent green, and she had a round baby face. She had a truly wonderful smile, with cute dimples. A grandmother type, I told myself.
"Hello! My name is Jenni, and I will be your makeup artist. Who are you?"
"I'm Eve," I answered. Sadie looked at me in surprise. Until now, I had always let her do the talking. However, I really felt comfortable with this lady. "This is Sadie, my twin."
"You both certainly look like twins!" she smiled, "But not identical."
"We're paternal twins," I told her.
"Okay," she brought me over to the middle of the room, I stared at it in awe. It was a gorgeous room, with pale peach walls and a light yellow ceiling. It reminded me of a light summer day. The furniture was a glossy oak, a delightful change from the granite trend. As soon as I walked in, I realized this was my favorite room in the whole world.
On the tables was an incredible number of hair accessories, ranging from rubber bands to big, giant clips. A few girls were lounging casually by the wall, and another woman was standing in front of the huge mirror doing a girl's hair. Jenni led us to her.
She was a skinny pencil, with twig like arms and long, long legs. Her face could only be described as cute, with adorable brown eyes and sweet little lips. She smiled at us, measuring us, than quickly turned back to her "client".
"Wendy, this is Eve and Sadie."
"Hello, Eve and Sadie. I'm guessing..." she stole another quick glance at us, "You're the one singing?" she nodded at Sadie.
"No ma'am," I informed her, "That would be me."
"I see. Well, you don't really look like the outgoing type, with your hair dangling in front of your face. Usually shy girls adopt that hairstyle. We will change that,"
The girl in the chair turned to look at me. She was absolutely beautiful, with straight brown hair and milky brown skin. She was slender, and had very big eyes.
"My name is Serena. I'm one of the top ten also." She got up quickly from the chair to go to the girls by the wall. She beckoned to me. "Come."
Serena seemed to be judging me, looking me over, almost... trying to find fault with me. Her eyes narrowed as she took in my drab appearance, dull in comparison to the other girls', their shimmering dresses catching the light and shining it across the room. Under her criticizing scrutiny, I began to feel inferior, shrinking before her eyes. I hated girls like her. Why couldn't I measure up to their standards?
"Hello." I shook off my annoyance and greeted them when I walked closer. None of the girls were as gorgeous as Serena, but they were all pretty.
"Hey," a girl with light creamy skin and blonde hair said. "I'm Lexi,"
"I'm GiGi." GiGi was a very tall girl, model-like, with long brown hair that flowed to her waist. Her hair was absolutely magnificent.
"I'm Donna." A girl with red hair and chocolate brown eyes nodded at me.
I started to hear a flurry of names.
"I'm Felicia."
"I'm Ginny."
"I'm Jane."
"I'm Deanna."
"I'm Zelda." I stared at the last girl, taking in her beauty. I hadn't noticed her before because she was hiding behind Donna, but now, I saw her pimple-free tanned skin and her dark, enchanting eyes. She was very curvy, not skinny, but definitely not fat. She really reminded me of Delilah.
"I'm Eve." I introduced myself, "This is my twin, Sadie." They crowded around me, barely giving me room to breathe, asking about where I lived and what school I went to. Their piercing questions were not much unlike Serena's glare, inquisitive and nosy to the maximum. I was about to die from their bombardment of inquiries when Wendy pulled me out of their group.
"Time to do your hair, sweetie!" she smiled and winked. Then she leaned down and whispered. "Those girls are a bunch of piranhas. There were trying to find out anything about you they could make fun of. I've seen it before. Remember, show them you're not a pushover and they'll leave you pretty much alone."
"Thank you for telling me this." I said, smiling at her. She emanated a friendly feel that wasn't present among the other contestants.
"You're very welcome, dear." she surveyed my hair, feeling it. "You have wonderful hair. A bit mousier than I would like, but it has great volume and, shall I say, curling potential. We're going to start here..."
I listened to Wendy's melodic voice as she went over the steps to curling my hair and then pulling it up. It was actually very easy, and it looked gorgeous when completed, a spectacular display of simple twists and designs.
"You think you can do that at home?" she asked.
"Yes, ma'am," I assured her quickly. Hair was one of my specialties... it was just that I never had the time for that sort of stuff at home.
"Call me Wendy, honey," she laughed. "You make me sound real old." Wendy waved as I got up from her chair and started walking towards Jenni as she beckoned for me.
"Hello, Eve," she pulled me real close to her so she could study my face. Her bright green eyes narrowed in concentration, she examined every aspect of my face. It didn't feel strange and uncomfortable, like Serena's scrutiny, but kind and helpful. Inspecting every inch, she soon let me go.
"Wow," she said in utter amazement, a beautiful smile stretched across her face.
"What is it?"
"I actually feel you'd look worse with makeup on than you would without. I can't believe it!" she told Wendy who was walking towards us. "She doesn't need a makeover."
"I thought so too," they both stared at me, wonderingly. At that moment, under their generous adoration, I truly felt beautiful.
"You are very blessed." Jenni smiled at me.
"Come on, let's take you to the changing room." Wendy placed a hand on my back and guided me out the door. Before I left, I managed a look at the girls' mouths dropped in surprise and laughed softly. Serena most of all, her jaw hitting the floor almost. Her expression was of surprise, but her eyes held carefully veiled fury. I guess she didn't like having to listen to someone besides herself be called beautiful.
The changing room was huge, and about twice the size of the makeup and hair room. It was stacked from the top to bottom with clothes. Was I in heaven? I gasped in wonder, Wendy dragging me in my daze over to a tall, gawky man with a goatee and earrings.
"I'm Jacques," he smiled and winked at me.
"Hey," I said, "I'm Eve."
"Wonderful, wonderful," he clapped his hands. "I have the perfect rack of clothes for you." He brought me to a huge rack, and grabbed tons of clothes to put on it. "This is YOUR rack. I have one for each of the ten girls," I nodded quickly. This was going to be fun!
"Today, you'll wear this," he handed me a petal pink dress. I walked into the changing room and slipped it on, almost moaning with delight. It melted like butter onto my soft skin, lacing down the front, petal soft straps laying carefully upon me. A thin bow snaked around the waist of the dress, tying in the side, the hemline ending at mid thigh. I looked in the mirror quickly, and winced at how it clung to my body. I liked T-shirts because they were big and bulky, and no one would stare at me when I wore them. I guess I'll have to wear this dress though if I want to look pretty, I told myself.
Walking out of the changing room, Jacques smiled at me. "You look smokin', Eve,"
"Thanks," I smiled, although, inside, I felt queasy. What was everyone going to do when they saw my body hugging dress?
Wendy and Jenni's eyes widened at my entrance.
"Eve!" Jenni ran to me. "Wow! I didn't know you had such curves." She smiled wistfully, "You remind me of me when I was younger."
Sadie came up to me next.
"I've been your sister for close to two decades, and I just now realized that I've never seen you in a dress until now. Why is that?" she tapped her foot angrily.
"Well... I just don't like dresses."
Serena walked up.
"What kind of girl doesn't like dresses?" she asked. Her eyes were aflame with... jealousy? Serena was envious of me? I had to be wrong. No one was jealous of me. I was a miserable little girl who lived in the country and had no friends. But, strangely, envy was plainly displayed in her face.
I straightened my posture in anger.
"Umm, I do. I JUST said that." I knew I was snapping, but I really didn't have any patience at this time for girls like her.
Sadie looked at me in surprise, Serena in newfound hate.
"Whatever, loser." She practically snarled, striding away from me, joining her cronies in the corner of the room. All of them glared at me, except for the few contestants who stood off to the side, like they didn't know what to do with themselves.
Just then, a rivalry was born. I was determined now to go through with this singing contest, like it or not. All I wanted to do was to beat Serena.
“Showtime!” Jacques strolled in. “You all ready?”
We walked out in a single file line, ready to show America all we had to give.

Chapter 6

"America, what did you think of these beautiful and amazing singers?" T he host asked energetically. A load roar followed, and I glowed with excitement. This was incredible. I felt so energized, invigorated by the people's appreciation. This was similar to when I was singing with Dex, although I was too nervous to realize that until now. The crowd, the lights, the booming waves of sound... it has started to comfort me, even.
"I'm sure you all loved them, but now it's time to pick the top two!" he smiled. In his hand he held a small rectangular card, showing it plainly for the world to see. Tension was searing through each of our bodies like fire, our nervousness plainly displayed for the world to see. Each of us wanted it badly, but with different reasons. Serena wanted it, I could tell, because she wanted to be a star. I could see how her eyes were hoping for glory, filled to the brim with amazement. Zelda wanted it because she needed the money, as she told me earlier, for her family.
I wanted it so I could beat Serena. At least, that was what I tried to tell myself. I refused to even think about Dex, denying that maybe, just maybe, I was going through all this for him. It couldn't be true.
Or was it? The unspoken question gnawed at me, eating at my heart.
"The first of the two is..." he squinted at the small card. Anxiety rippled through the audience, affecting us the most. I stared at my stilettos, trying to think of anything BUT Dex. Dex was a forbidden territory, an off-limits guy. Not to mention a playboy. He's broken so many actresses' hearts that he's been sued seven times. Why did I even feel the tiniest of sparks in my heart for him? Why couldn't I forget this hot rockstar bad boy?
"Eve Valencia!" My name was uttered from the host's mouth, and the room immediately erupted in ovation, people clapping for... me. I felt my heart jump, a tingle of warmth flowing through me. I stepped forward, my hair perfectly still, my hands clenching and unclenching instantaneously. I found... that I was happy.
Amazingly happy.
"And Zelda Waters!" Zelda stepped forward, her straight brown hair reaching her waist, her eyes brimming with tears. I felt really happy for Zelda, my eyes filling up with tears also. I knew how much she wanted, needed, it.
Serena shot me a death glare with her laser-like stares as she trumped out of the room with the other grief stricken seven. I somehow knew that I would be seeing her again soon.
Real soon.
I walked closer to Zelda, and grabbed her sweaty hand. "Congratulations," I whispered, smiling.
Zelda, however, started to frown. She pulled away, her voice tight and strained.
"You'll win, definitely. I don't need to be friends with you." I could sense the pain in her voice, the longing, and the defiance. "I just want to let you know that I will fight you to the end, and I will never give up. I need money for my family, and the only one standing in the way is you,"
"I guess this means war," I said sarcastically, annoyed at her. However, I felt sympathy towards her plight. I knew she was not usually like this, but the pressure... it could change anyone from a sweet and lovable kitten to a ferocious tiger.
"I have a surprise for you!" The host walked back on the stage after conferring with a little lady dressed in black. "It turns out that Dex..." the sound of girls screaming pierced the air and my unwilling ears. The host patiently waited for the love struck girls to stop, then continued. "Will be here in just a moment to conduct the final round."
"I'm here already," a musical voice floated to our ears, dancing around us enchantingly, leaving us hanging on his every word. Dex walked on the stage from the shadows, smiling at the overeager audience, which let out a roar that people could probably hear a mile away. He looked so incredibly handsome, with rugged jeans and a tight t-shirt that showed off his impressive muscles. Casual clothing never looked so good... what am I thinking? I quickly shooed away those troublesome thoughts and stared straight ahead, determined to not look at him, to not fall for his deadly charm. "Hello, guys and girls," he put a slight emphasis on the girls, making them stare at him and sigh in appreciation for what they saw. "For the final round, I will sing a song I plan to release to iTunes in a couple of weeks. Both of these girls," he motioned to us with one hand, not looking at us. "Will try to sing it back to us, with their own little spin added to it. Whoever does the better job will be picked as the grand prize winner. Kerry?" He signaled to the piano lady, the lights dimming, the spotlight focused on Dex's majestic figure.
There was dead silence, and then a voice.
He wove through our defenses, leaving us just as vulnerable as he was while singing his song. We were all equals, all pining for love just as he did in his song. I closed my eyes, hearing an angel, my love for Dex temporarily resurfacing, my reasonable side arguing with me to lock it away, and this time... to throw away the key. After he finished, the audience gave him a standing ovation. He bowed, his hair mussed up even more than it normally was. Every set of eyes were glued to his triumphant form, and I thought, how many times can you be amazed by Dex? It seemed endless, that we would be cheering for him forever.
I reached up to my face, and felt a single tear running down my cheek.
"Now, they will have thirty minutes to prepare." Dex said, still not looking at us, eyes only for the crowd. I walked, no, practically ran off the stage, an emotional mess. How could he do this to me every time I heard him sing? I was furious at the way he just ripped my defenses in half like it was a piece of paper, always being able to wedge through the tiniest crack in my stone wall. Sometimes, his voice would not slither in, but barge through, leaving my stonewall as rubble on the cold, hard floor. Why does it have to hurt so much?
I walked into the piano room, led by the lady I had met when I first came here. She glared at me as I walked in the room. I guess she was a desperate fan of Dex also.
"Sorry, I'm not out to steal your guy." I whispered in her ear. She blushed, then quickly left the room.
It was a very nice piano room, with rows and rows of seats, and a gleaming grand piano at the end of the room. I glided over and sat on it, touching a single key. Sound reverberated around the small room, a taste of amazing power. It seemed like this piano was for kings.
I started thinking about Dex's song, the way he sang the song, with such hope and longing, feeling the emotions he was trying to convey. His energy glowed around him, his voice stunning.
What would I have to do to be like that?
I glanced at the top of the piano, where a single piece of white paper was laid. I picked it up and glanced at it. On it was the music and lyrics.
I tried to feel Dex in my mind, tried to understand him, his voice.
"Here goes nothing," I whispered softly, and began to sing, playing the melody on the piano.
I could immediately feel myself in Dex's position, his pain and suffering in singing this song. It was a song of complete and utter heartbreak, and as I sang it, I began to feel empathy, compassion even, for the guy that broke my heart. I could easily relate to it, putting my soul in it was not hard, but I felt that the pain was even more intensified with me, for Dex did not know.
He couldn't know what it was like to be in love with someone who couldn't possibly love you back.
I heard clapping at the doorway, and I turned, beet red from embarrassment. Who discovered me?
Leaning on the door, smiling, was Dex.
"Good job,"
I couldn't say anything. Dex was talking normally. TO ME. It was truly a lot to take in.
"Thanks," I managed to choke out. He started walking towards me, and I got off the piano, my hands shaking, my heart rate jumping a mile high. What was I doing? I completely lost all my composure, watching him walk over.
Wait, I told myself, he broke your heart, Eve. Why are you going to trust him now?
I truly didn't know the answer to that question.
I stiffened a little as Dex finally reached me, tension ripping through my body. He looked at me, his red hair messy, his green eyes piercing through me.
"Eve," his voice made my name sound luxurious, like it was special. My name had never sounded so good. He took my hand gently, and raised it to his lips, kissing it softly.
WHAT DID HE JUST DO?! I whipped my hand away from him, my eyes ablaze. "Are you crazy?" I asked, furious.
"No," he said, "I'm a gentleman."
"Who just goes up to somebody they don't even know and kisses their hand? That doesn't sound very gentlemanly to me." I reprimanded, "and how did you know my name?"
"I looked it up," Dex laughed at my angry expression. "Wow, I had no idea you would react like this."
He continued. "When I kissed Zelda's hand, she practically fainted." He grinned at the memory.
"And that's something to be real proud of." I muttered sarcastically.
"Sure it is." He leaned against the piano. "You should be proud I kissed your hand. You can brag to your friends about it." What friends? I mean, I could tell Sadie or Delilah, but that would be weird. And his arrogance... it annoyed me to no end.
"When I leave, I'm going to wash my hand a million times to get your smell off." I declared. "Your kiss isn't as special as you think." I added quickly, trying to leave the room. Before I did, though, Dex caught my arm.
"What's the deal?" he searched through me, eyes electrifying.
"Look," I looked at him full on. "I'm just going to tell you straight. You are a rockstar. I am a normal human being who minds my own business and doesn't think that their kisses are worth a million dollars. We DON'T MIX. So just leave me alone." I ran out of the room and into the bathroom.
I had told him off, expressed my anger, like I had dreamed about, for him ruining my life. Well, kind of. I was stunned that I actually did it, thinking I didn't have the guts. I guess that comment about the kissing thing really bugged me. But anyways, I had finally done what I had always wanted to do.
Shouldn't I feel happy?
I sat against the wall, raising my knees to my chest. Putting my head in my hands, I wondered just what I was getting into.

"Eve, singing Heartbreak," the host declared. The lights abruptly disappeared, and one bright white light shined on my face. I opened my mouth and sang my soul to the audience. While I was singing, I noticed Dex's face, still baffled and a little angry from my rude comments. I guess I really need to apologize. I didn't mean what I said, but somehow... I felt that it was more than that.
The applause shook me out of my trance. I realized that I had already finished the song without thinking about it, so deep in my thoughts. But, according to the applause I was receiving, I'm guessing I sang pretty well.
I crossed over to Dex's side. He turned away, irritated. "Dex," I whispered. He said nothing. I grew desperate. "Dex, please.”
He again said nothing.
"I'm sorry," my last attempt at forgiveness. He slowly turned to me, his hair glinting in the fierce white lights.
"I forgive you," he said. "But I don't understand. Why did you say that?"
"I'm sorry, but I can't tell you." There was no way I was telling him of my love. Zero. Zilch.
"Why?" He touched my arm, sending shocks through my body. This time, I said nothing, but stared straight ahead. Dex smiled. "I'll find out from you later," putting slight emphasis on the word later. What did that mean?
"Eve and Zelda, come out here," the host declared. We walked out anxiously onto the stage. "The winner is..." I felt like the world could hear my heartbeat thumping in my chest, "Eve."

The crowd roared, a deafening wave of noise I couldn't escape from. I could see Dex grinning at me, and Sadie screaming. I could feel the whole world's stares, some approvingly, some... not.
But most of all, I could sense Zelda's tears.
I found that I couldn't really feel happy unless she was too.
I turned around to face the host, my microphone on. "Is there any way I could let Zelda win instead of me?"
"What?" he looked at me.
"Zelda needs it," I turned, facing the audience. "Zelda entered this contest so she could have a chance to get money for her family, and I am not going to stand in her way. Zelda, do you want to be the grand prize winner?" I asked her gently. She stood up shakily.
"Eve, I appreciate what you're doing, but I can't possibly take something I can't deserve. Thank you for... thinking of me." She ran off the stage, leaving me saddened.
Why did it have to turn out like this?

Dex walked up to me, "Guess what?" he asked me excitedly.
"You get to spend six full months with me recording our songs!"
"Oh joy." I mumbled. He punched me in the arm.
"Don't be so unenthusiastic! We'll have a ton of fun!" he winked.

Sure we will...

Chapter 7

"WHAT???!!!" I let out a high-pitched scream, my breathing accelerating, my eyes bloodshot. There was no way... no way...
"Dex WILL be staying with you at your house for the six months that both of you are going to be singing together." Dex's evil-in my opinion-manager glared at me. Then her expression changed from a scowl to a smile. "I have no idea why you wouldn't want to be with Dex in the same house as you for SIX full months." She said dreamily.
"It's improper!" I protested, still defiant, although my heart shook at that prospect.
"It will be just like having a brother." His manager shrugged.
"No it won't!" I whined.
"Just deal with it," the manager turned away, obviously through with me. Well, I wasn't done with her.
"Look, Polly-"
"Penny," she corrected.
"There is no way I'm going to allow Dex to stay in my house when there's a perfectly good hotel a few blocks away..."
"Ahh, but it's not YOUR house." Penny grinned, obviously knowing something I didn't.
"Yes it is! I-"
"It's your mother's house, and she signed this paper." Penny waved a thick document at me. "Stating that Dex could stay at your house for the six months."

I sat, my head leaning back against the back of our cushy sofa, waiting for Dex's arrival. The fireplace, steamy and warm, coughed up heat, which tickled my toes delightfully. The carpet, stained with juice, soda, and who-knows-what-else, seemed to smile up at me, familiarity oozing between us, the old and cracked walls, with a plethora of stick figures decorating it, just as much so. My breath resembled cigarette smoke, my upper body not nearly as warm as my feet. The furniture, comfy but unstylish, suited this grandmotherly type room, with a wooden rocking chair and table that was more suited to be out west than here near Hoover, Alabama.
I wonder what Dex will do when he sees my home.
Will he want to change it? Make over the whole house, even, replacing the ugly furniture and disastrously stained carpet?
Would he... laugh?
I shook those thoughts aside, and squinted out the huge window that overlook Lake Penn, the sun trying desperately to block my view. The cloud, huge and heavy with rain, floated over the clear blue waters, birds quickly landing in haste to escape the coming storm. Reeds thrived near the lake, hosting probably thousands of little bugs, the wind brushing past them gently. A peaceful duck and it's crew swam near our house, quacks flying through the air, reaching my ears, even, through the thin glass. They wobbled through our humble garden, a paradise of apples, grapes, pears, and oranges, obviously looking for a snack. I made no move to try and shoo them away, rather, watched them "window shop" as they surveyed the rows of delectable fruit.
Our house stood about a few miles away from Freland Jr. High School, an average public school you would see anywhere, and a small, family-owned, grocery store about the size of our puny house. If we wanted to, we could drive a little farther on to Hoover itself and eat at a fast food restaurant, which we didn't do very often.
How I loved my home. I always take a daily swim in the invigorating-usually ice cold-lake water, shower, check the garden, and always had time to fix those nice, homey biscuits I was so famous for before school. Sadie, on the other hand, always woke up about fifteen minutes before it was time to leave, scrambling to eat her biscuit and pull on her shoes at the same time. We often shared outfits, having the exact same size, although I felt that they looked better on Sadie, which made it a lot easier on Sadie when she was rushing to pick out clothes.
When I got home, I would usually jump right back into the lake, plowing like a motorboat through the water, birds flocking closer to me because they knew I would give them a tasty treat when I was through. Then, I would come home to the scent of mom's home-style cooking, always layered with butter, syrup, and a ton of salt. Yes, we had a simple life, but...
It was a beautiful one.
How would Dex fit into my world? Would he be swimming with the fishes? Or be sitting in his room texting? Sleeping in like Sadie did so well?
I honestly didn't know anything about Dex's lifestyle, although I knew it to be glamorous. He supposedly had a giant mansion with fifty servants and a personal cook, also housing a bowling alley, theater, roller coaster-I know, I know-and a four-poster bed the size of a room...
I wonder if he shares any of his generous blessings from God with anybody. He must be lonely, in that huge house all by himself.
I felt a touch of pity for Dex, at the way he had so many things, yet so little, but strangely, although I had this simple life, with nothing materialistic in it, I had more than Dex did... for I had love.
Disastrous, devastating love, but it was still love.

A long, sleek limo snaked its way down our gravel road, tearing through any underbrush that stood in its way. The majesty of it astounded me, shook me to the very core. It slid up to my door, a man in black, huge and muscled, stepping out. I walked to the door, listening for a knock that was going to come soon.
Sadie rushed down the rickety stairs, followed by Lou, my mother. Sadie's hair was pristine, a mass of curly perfection that suited her face perfectly. Her dress, of mid-thigh length and a halter neck, was beautiful, and…. a little sleazy. I had never seen that dress before, EVER.
"Eve, I TOLD you to dress up." Lou said sternly, wearing a dress similar to Sadie's except long sleeved and modest. At the ripe age of 37, her eyes were still vibrant, caked in makeup, and her body slim. In other words, gorgeous.
I was wearing a t-shirt and jeans with not one bit of makeup.
"I forgot," I mumbled, although in truth I had never even heard her, engrossed in the duck's rendezvous around our lawn.
A booming knock echoed through the house, making the door rattle in its sockets, and us shake in our boots -or converse. I timidly reached with trembling fingers to the door, my arm hesitant, I more than willing to run away and never come back.
I threw open the door to complete and utter glory.
A man with dark red hair, stunning green eyes, and a clear complexion stood in our doorway, wearing a comfy sweater and jeans, and utter amazement in his eyes as he took in our home. He stepped inside our rustic house, not saying a single word to us, his huge bodyguard following silently.
"Wow," he whispered, his attractive voice tingling inside my soul, and his straight posture assuming overflowing confidence. I tried to mimic his confident pose, straightening up like a pencil. Sadie took a single look at me, and tried to hide a giggle.
"This is incredible," he looked over the room, noting the stick figures on the scraped and battered wall, the ceiling fan that missed a blade, and laughed. My heart sank, replaying his laugh in my head, searching for the sarcasm and mocking that I knew had to be there. Dex turned again to face me, his expression of excitement.
"You all own a lake? All of this?" He gestured to the houses around us. "Can I pick what house I want to stay in?"
I laughed, the tinkling of bells. So he didn't understand. "We just own this house, and we don't own this lake, although we can use it."
His expression dimmed a little. "So I can't have my own house?"
"You can buy one." I offered, still a little ticked off that he had to be staying HERE instead of some hotel.
Dex's eyes raked over Sadie and Lou, then he crossed over to them eagerly. "Madams." He said, taking Sadie's, then Lou's hands and kissing them. They reeled in excitement, Lou blushing terribly, Sadie totally frozen with shock. Dex looked at me, how I was looking in shock at their reactions, laughing softly at me.
"That was how you were supposed to react." He smiled, eyes not crawling over me as they did on Sadie and Lou. He just kept his eyes on my face, which, strangely, comforted me. I guess, though, it was because I was wearing a t-shirt and jeans while Sadie was wearing a short dress that showed off her legs and shoulders. "You want to try again?" he asked, and I shook my head.
Dex grinned. "So where's my room?"
I pointed to the sofa, where a single pillow and blanket lay. He looked at it and looked back confused.
"This is your bed." I clarified, and all the confusion left his face, leaving disgust.
"Are you being mean to me again?" Dex asked, his face contorted in displeasure.
"I'm being serious. Our other two rooms are taken,"
"Okay," he paced around the living room, "Just a bit of the lake, I can deal with. Only one house, I can deal with. No bowling alley or flatscreen TV, I can deal with. But no BED??!!"
"I'm sorry." I apologized.
"I demand a room." He looked around, as if a door with a king-size bed would magically appear in front of him. I rolled my eyes.
"If it means that much to you, I can sleep on the sofa. No big deal."
Dex froze, not saying a word. Then, after reflecting on what I said, he dumped his stuff down on the coffee table, the legs trembling with the effort of holding its load up.
"Wouldn't want to make you sleep on a sofa," he muttered, shuddering. "I guess I'll man up and sleep... here."
I smiled. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad having Dex stay here after all. He had some good in him, at least. Also, he didn't seem super snobby, and his celebrity air around him kind of vanished when he agreed to sleeping on the sofa.

I walked to the kitchen, getting out the pots and pans, trying to get that feeling of amazement that Dex was actually sitting... in my living room. Sadie was out of her trance by then, chatting eagerly with the bodyguard, who was also obviously a bodybuilder.
Lou walked up to me, and whispered, "I approve."
"What?" I pretended that I didn't know what she was talking about.
"You can go out with him." she nodded, smiling.
I laughed, a little shakily, noting that Lou's eyes still seemed to be dizzy and unfocused. "I bet you wish you were younger, right?"
Lou grew red as a tomato, "Well, I think he's cute, yes, but-"
"Do I hear some people talking about me?" A voice interrupted Lou's embarrassed explanation. Dex was lounging by the kitchen wall, focused on Lou and I.
"Not everything is about you." I muttered as I hurriedly began to "get something" out of the pantry.
"No." Dex had suddenly whirled right next to me, his minty breath dwindling on the back of my neck, his word rushing to my ears, "but most everything is,"
I didn't say anything, just began to open the box of noodles I got. Dex smiled, leaning close to me as I started heating up a saucepan full of water. "You'll see when I take you to one of my concerts."
I knocked the pot of water over, spilling water over the floor. I angrily glared at Dex.
"Look what you made me do!" Water was running across the floor, rushing towards the many cracks in our house.
"Hurry!" Lou cried. Sadie, Lou, and I grabbed a hand towel and ran towards the places that needed it the most. I hurriedly wiped off the chairs, and then saw what I never expected to see.
My precious magazines laying in the water, soaking wet.
I ran to them like the wind, soaking my jeans when I kneeled down to get them. I hugged them to my chest, standing up quickly, grabbing a towel.
Dex raised an eyebrow at me as I tried to wipe them off frantically, not caring about anything else. The colors were beginning to blend together, a mess of red, green, pink, and blue that shook me to the bone. I ran to the stairs until out of sight, then, just out of curiosity, stopped to listen.
"What's so important about those magazines?" Dex asked Sadie.
I heard a little sigh, then.
"Those magazines are where Eve got her short stories published. It is her pride and joy, so expect her to be angry and bitter when she comes back."
"Are they good?"
"Umm..." Sadie thought, "well... they're sad. I don't think sad stories are all that great, really, but Eve's is good. I mean, it has to be good. It's published, right?"
I laughed silently, then trumped to my room, ready to conduct a mass revival.

"Dex is WHAT?!" I screamed for the second time that day.
This time it was my mother breaking the dreadful news instead of that Polly girl. "Dex will be going to school with you, starting tomorrow."
"Will he be disguised?" I asked worriedly.
"No." Dex answered for Lou, shooting her a smile in apology. "Everyone knows that you won the contest, so everyone will also know that I will be with you a lot... it would never work, anyways. I'd have to watch you have all the fun." he grinned.
I suddenly remembered that my fellow students watched TV also, and they probably saw me sing. Suddenly, I felt dizzy. I sang... in front of... the whole... school...
"Don't faint on me." I heard Dex's voice, feeling strong, manly hands lift me up from the ground where I had fallen. "What did you expect? For them NOT to watch?"
"I guess," I mumbled softly, still shocked.
"Now, I wish you had that sort of reaction when I kissed you." He whispered in my ear.
I whacked his face with my fist, and stood upright. Dex held his face in pain, moaning a little.
"I'll be fine." I assured Mom, grinning.
"Eve!" she accused, obviously implying that I shouldn't be so violent.
I faced Dex, and shrugged, "Sorry."
"No you're not!" he laughed and gasped at the same time, making a little choking noise that made me seriously wonder if I really hurt him. I stepped closer, touching the little red spot above the right side of his lip. Dex stared at me, and I, at him, us moving even closer...
"You're right," I grinned and stepped away. "See you tomorrow, Dex!" I practically skipped to my room, exhilaration shooting through me for some reason. All depression had left me, I realized. I wasn't excruciatingly sad or unbelievably angry. I had Dex, so, strangely, I felt okay, better than okay. I felt like a whole new person.

Chapter 8

I walked out along the beach, the sand tickling my toes, the wind brushing through my long, flaxen hair. The ocean, an oasis of blue, seemed to calm me, my nervous spirit quelling as the sea spray danced around my nose. I looked down, to discover that I was wearing a long, clingy dress, pure white in color, with a necklace made of the finest seashells.
A man walked up to me, wearing shorts and a loose white t-shirt. He had beautiful green eyes the color of a blade of grass, and a perfectly clear complexion without a single freckle in sight. He had a carefully combed mop of hair, ruby red, that suited the bright green of his eyes. He had the slightest hint of a smile gracing his flawless face, his eyes focused on me, never wavering.
He walked to me, grabbing my hand, pulling me close. We stood together, my dress waving in the breeze, his shirt rippling in the wind. We never said a word, just started walking next to the ocean, the little crystals rising up in small puffs around our feet. I grasped his hand, the warmness a pleasure, his hand engulfing mine.
We suddenly stopped, the man coming to a halt. He turned to me, his eyes urgent, his lips pressed together in longing. He grabbed my shoulders and pulled me close, my eyes alight with excitement. We inched closer and closer, until we were inches apart. He reached to close the distance...

I jerked up from my bed, my alarm clock beeping, furiously pressing the snooze button. Just a few more minutes... I was having the most wonderful dream. I angrily banged the alarm clock, wanting to turn back the time, to experience that pure bliss once more.
Finally, after a bit of tossing and turning, waiting for the dream to return, I wearily got up, slipping downstairs, sleepily walking towards the refrigerator for a drink.
It was then that I knocked into a huge, hairy arm.
"Wah?" I shakily asked, still not focused, hanging onto the arm like it was my last hope for survival. Everything was a little dizzy, and I felt the world rock beneath my feet.
"Eve?" A deep voice alerted me, and I stood straight up, suddenly remembering who this arm belonged to.
The most popular guy in America.
"Oh, I'm sorr.," I backed away, turning beet red from embarrassment. Dex raised his perfectly sculpted eyebrows in confusion.
"It's 4' O clock," he informed me gently. "You need to be sleeping."
He obviously thought I was sleepwalking. "Dex, I get to decide when I wake up and fall asleep."
"You're not sleepwalking?" he asked, eyes widened.
"No," I walked past him, grabbing a bottle of Gatorade. I gulped it down, barely stopping for breath, as Dex watched, amazed.
I placed the now-empty bottle of Gatorade in the trash, and headed towards the door, being careful to not step on any loose floorboards. Dex looked at me, puzzlement etched across his face.
"You know, you're different from any girl I've ever met."
"I definitely know that." I assured him, stepping outside to greet the dark beauty of the world around me.
The sky, a deep black, twinkled with stars, their light illuminating on my form. The moon, a silver crescent, dwelt among them, the brightest of them all. The grass, now a dark, forbidding green, covered the area, the wind violently blowing. My hair flew back, the force of the wind nearly overwhelming me. A nearby rabbit rushed into its hole, waiting for the storm that would soon come.
Like THAT was going to stop me.
I strode down to the quiet, calm lake water, the blackness a mystery to me, intriguingly inviting me to swim where the sun was not present, only blackness. It was like virtually swimming through darkness. Just the way I liked it. I shed my shirt and shorts, my swimsuit on underneath. My toes, nearly frozen in the icy air, wiggled in a feeble effort to get warm. The dirt, smeared on my feet, was comforting. It was now or never.
I dived into the eternal blackness, wincing as the water burned my skin with its coldness -ironic, right?-, enjoying the alertness that it graciously gave. At moments like this, when I was completely under the blackness, my vision clouded by the water, I felt at peace. Even when I was depressed, and Dex was the bane of my existence, I could always feel free when swimming below the surface. I felt a tiny fish rush by, tickling my leg as it swam. I giggled inside, my heart escalating in joy. I broke the water, gasping for breath, wishing I could stay below the surface forever. The freezing air swirled around me, chilling me to the bone. The moon smiled at me from above, directly over my head. The silent beauty of the whole area delighted me, invoking a sigh from my lips.
I then spotted a figure standing on the shore, his silhouette outlined by the moonlight.
"Dex, what are you here for?" I asked exasperatedly. He shrugged, shooting me a dazzling smile.
"I wanted to see what you were doing outside at 4' O clock in the morning on a cold icy day." He shivered just a tad, which emboldened me.
"Why don't you join me?" I asked. "I triple dog dare you."
"Okay." He began to take off his shirt.
I held up my hand, anxiety mounting in my chest. "Stop."
"You don't want to see me without a shirt?" Dex asked, astounded. His voice, normally cocky and overflowing with confidence, was filled with amazement, and a little bit of insecurity. I widened my eyes at the peculiar tone to his voice I had never heard before, on television, in his music, or when we were face to face.
"I'd prefer not, Dex." I apologized. "I get uncomfortable around shirtless guys." In reality, I would be uncomfortable with HIM shirtless, any other guy would be fine.
The brief moment of surprise passed, and he smile., "Eve, you really ARE way different from every girl I've met."
He dove in the lake, the water nearly frozen by now. He surged above the waters almost immediately, shivering. His teeth, chattering from the cold, matched his trembling body. "Why didn't you tell me about the coldness?"
"Sorry, I didn't notice." I said sarcastically. Dex scowled. "Haha, I'm just kidding!" I grinned, "come here."
Dex swam to me silently, seething. I reached my hand through the ice water and found Dex's. I felt a little surge of... excitement, smiling at the way Dex didn't let go. I tugged him underwater with me, laughing at Dex's confused expression.
When both of us were under the water, I opened my eyes slowly, wondering if it was a dream, that Dex was swimming with me, that I was holding his hand. A slender, handsome man with eyes the color of emeralds and hair like blood returned my glance, sending tingles to my brain, making me shiver, not from the cold, but from amazement and absolute wonder.
I then remembered how Dex had hurt me, ripping me away from my best friend, destroying my social life, tearing me away from my goals, and my heart hardened.
Just before I rushed out of the water, the thought crossed my mind that maybe Dex could make amends. With him near me, maybe I could repair my battered and bruised life. Maybe... I could recover what was lost.
"Hey." I called to Dex, who was splashing around in the water still. He raised his head, searching until he found me dripping wet on the shore in only a bathing suit. What surprised me so much was that he still, although my legs were on display, kept his eyes glued to my face. I felt a tinge of gratefulness, thinking once again that he might not be so bad after all. "I'm going to go inside and shower."
Dex smiled. "Okay, Eve. I'll come soon."
He dived into the purple lake water, his majestic form sliding beneath the shiny surface. I chuckled silently, and headed towards our house. Maybe, today, I'll fix my famous flaky biscuits.

"Mmm, what is that smell?" Dex asked, excitedly peering around, looking for the source of that delightful aroma. I stood at the oven, waiting to take out the yummy biscuits.
"What you're smelling is my famous flaky biscuits." I laughed at Dex's hungry expression. The oven dinged, a beeping sound that shook Dex. I opened the oven, taking out the delightful treats, Dex resembling a starved wolf. "Easy tiger." I held them away from Dex as he lunged towards them, "I'll let you have them in a while."
"No, I want them NOW." he whined, a begging expression on his face that made the cute puppies pale in comparison.
I tossed him a crumb. "Enjoy."
He glared at me, "Stingy, aren't you?"
I didn't reply, just sticking out my tongue instead.
Dex put a hand over his heart.
"That got me, Eve. That got me real deep." he started staggering and fell to his knees. I punched him in the arm.
"Very funny," I said sarcastically, "now please go get ready for school, and by the time you get back I'll be done,"
"Whatever," he ambled off, savoring the scent of the delightful biscuits every second he could.
I began to take the jelly out of the refrigerator, when the song ‘Dynamite’ by Taio Cruz suddenly blared in my mind. I began to hum it as I squelched the delicious strawberry jelly onto each biscuit, happiness flowing through me. I looked out of the window, seeing immediately the beautiful robins flocking around our trees, singing their own special song. The sky was clear, the sun bright and relaxing. The grass was as stunningly green as Dex's eyes, and the moon was faintly visible, a little crescent about the size of a single seed floating high in the sky.
"You seem different today." A voice accused me. I whirled around to face the speaker, and there Sadie stood, wearing a suspicious look and my beloved khaki pants.
"How so?" I glared at her, wondering what on earth possessed her to decide to wear my pants that I've told her NOT to wear a million times.
"You're happier." she stated plainly, not moving a muscle.
"So?" I shrugged, turning my attention back to the window, enjoying the view of the purple flowers I had planted yesterday...
"That's not you."
"Whatever, Sades."
"Is it because Dex is here?" She pried, opening a can of worms that I'd rather she didn't.
"No." I denied, although I felt a flush of red creep along my face, giving the truth away.
Sadie grinned, "I knew it."
I decided to ignore her, spreading the jelly on the now lukewarm biscuits, reaching for the plates. Sadie said not another word, but instead smirked and walked away.

"Yes!" Dex yelled when I informed him that the biscuits he wanted so badly were ready to eat. He ran to the table, plopped down in one of our rickety chairs, and stared at the plate in front of him.
"Do you expect me to serve you?" I asked in utter disbelief.
"Um, yeah," he admitted. I walked over to him, irritation shown on my face, and yanked his chair away. He fell to the ground, yowling with surprise and pain.
"While you're living here you will serve yourself."
"Whatever." he growled, glaring at me. He stood up, shaking the dirt off his stylish vintage jeans, and walked over to the biscuits. "Can I just grab one?"
I couldn't believe he actually ASKED that question.
"Look." I grabbed a plate, balancing it on one hand as I got his cup. "I'm only going to do this once." I showed him how to place everything on the plate, telling him to get fruit and the jelly he needed. I taught him where every jar, drink, and article of food was, and how to wash the dishes when he was through.
"Like this?" He grabbed the washrag, scrubbing the pan.
"Yes." I leaned in. "But don't forget to wipe that spot right there." My hand found his, and gently led it to the slight brown stain just beside the handle. Together, we wiped it off. My heart was beating uncontrollably, nervousness welled up within me.
"Eve?" His voice danced across my name.
"Yes?" I replied, not looking up, trying to focus on anything except Dex.
"Look at me." I felt a hand leave the now spotless pan and touch my face, gently propelling it so I had to stare into his intense eyes. My heart seemed to explode, nervousness, anxiety, love, and hate rolled together into a spicy enchilada of overload. My eyes closed as he leaned closer and closer in, reminding me of my earlier dream... but this was real.
It was actually happening, and that was what made all the difference.
But memories of my loss, regret, and pain started to flood my mind, introducing an overhaul of its own. I had lost my very best friend because I was so terribly in love with Dex. I had lost my very soul for those five years, even, whisked away by the awful truth-back then-that Dex would never love me, that I would be pining for him for the rest of my life. It suddenly flashed through my mind also that Dex was a well-known playboy, a guy that broke every heart in Hollywood.
Suddenly, kissing didn't seem all that great to me.
I began to squeal a little, trying to back away from Dex's death grip. He remained oblivious to my protests, closing the distance between us. He was going to steal my first kiss... when I didn't want to BE kissed.
"What are you two doing?" My mother demanded, standing barely five feet away from us, tapping her foot in displeasure. I sighed with relief.
"Nothing, ma'am." Dex flew away from me, rushing to Lou. "How was your morning?"
"It was fabulous." She laughed, then grew stern. "No kissing in the house, understand?"
"I understand, Lou." He shot her a heart-breaking smile.
"Okay, then." She huffed past him, and walked to the dishes. "You're welcome." she whispered to me along the way.
Mothers. Gotta hate 'em, gotta love 'em.

"This is our school." I gestured to the block like building before us both. Sadie had caught a ride with a friend, probably gossiping about Dex as soon as she got in her friend's car. So, I was stuck with Dex, and as I walked with him, admiring the flowers and the trees, I ended up thinking it wouldn't be so bad.
"That sure is an ugly school." He commented, noting the ivy covered walls, the gigantic, out-of-control bushes, and the patched sides.
"Well, this whole area is a little on the poor side, and this building is old." I explained.
"At my school-"
"Yes, I know your school has two swimming pools, a hot tub, and a buffet." He had told me twice before on our meander to school, and truthfully, I had begun to think he was more than a little homesick.
"Yeah." He said sheepishly, embarrassed.
"May I ask you a question?" I asked, looking at anywhere but him.
"Sure, anything."
"Why are you hanging out with me? Why are you at my house when you could be at a hotel? Why are you even here when you could be at your special school where all the swimming pools, buffets, and hot girls are?" I felt a tiny tear slip out, dwindling on my face before dripping off into the cool grass.
"There's a hot girl right here." He said jokingly, elbowing me in the arm. "And I guess I... just wanted to get to know you better." He admitted, and my heart practically melted.
I said nothing and walked on, although the hint of a smile appeared at the corner of my mouth. This whole thing, it seemed, was a miracle. It seemed impossible, that all my hopes and dreams could come together at once, forming a reality that was laughable to me, a reality I never honestly thought possible.
I wondered when the good things would end and the bad luck would begin.

When we reached the lawn of the school, I stopped, hearing a faint noise. Dex continued on, having heard nothing.
I grabbed his arm. "Stop. Do you hear that?"
He halted, listening intently. I spotted two dots in the clear blue sky. "Look at that!" I pointed. Dex followed my gaze and finger to the spots that were growing ever bigger in the sky, and his eyes widened.
"Oh no, no, no, no." He said, frightened, "Not now."
I realized that the dots, now huge, were helicopters. LANDING helicopters.
"The paparrazzi!" Dex yelled, grabbing me and running. I strode behind him, half dragged, half pulled, my face contorted in confusion. Then, as the doors to the magnificent helicopters opened and a flood of cameras, people, and microphones broke forth, I finally understood.
I started sprinting, and we together reached the doors of the rickety building, the reporters following close behind.
"Hurry!" I yelled, opening the door hurriedly. Dex glared at me.
"YOU go in first."
"Go in." He grabbed the door.
"Since when did you decide to be the gentleman?" I muttered, finally giving up and walking in. Dex ran in and slammed the door, breathing hard. He then turned towards me, a smirk on his face.
"I've always been the gentleman." He leaned towards me. "I've told you from the beginning." My heart started to beat faster, heat rushing towards my face.
For the whole school was watching.
Everyone, standing in our lobby, was watching what was transpiring between us. I quickly stepped a bit away, feeling the harsh glares of all the female students-and some teachers-and the appraising ones from all the guys. Many girls had a pad of paper and pencil in hand, wearing their best makeup and clothes, clearly wishing to get close to Dex.
He raised an eyebrow at me, confused as to why I took a step away. Then, he saw the audience, and was immediately transformed from guy to... something a little bit more.
The fans crowded around him, wanting to see his brilliant smile, feel his bright red hair, and get a glimpse of his emerald eyes. That was not the thing that surprised me. What DID was that the guys flocked to me.
"Hey Eve." Florence, the school's player smirked at me. "Have you kissed Dex yet?"
"Hey beautiful." Louie laughed, a jock that had –seemingly- never shown interest in me before.
"What was it like being on TV?"
"Hey EVE!"
I couldn't take this much longer.
"Guys, please." I said, exasperated. "Back away so I can answer y'alls questions." They surprisingly complied, letting me stand in front of them and talk. As I answered their numerous questions, I glanced over at Dex, still being mobbed by a plethora of willing fans. He was looking at them, but staring at me at the same time. He gave me a little wink, my heart fluttering, then returned his gaze to the crowd. Louie followed my gaze to Dex, and grinned. "Smart chick, huh? Going for the guy with the money?"
"No I'm not!" I protested, although my words were quickly drowned by the guys' jeers.
"You like him, don't you?"
"Ooh, Eve and Dex, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G..."
"Wow, you have high hopes."
"Good luck."
"Come on, why can't you like a guy like me instead?" I was beginning to feel frustrated. How did Dex deal with this... madness every second of his life?

There suddenly was a loud bang on the old door, the sound echoing around the room. Everyone fell silent, even Dex, who looked on in surprise.
I knew who it was going to be.
The door slowly and creakily opened, taking its sweet time to reveal what was behind it. A figure came into view, a man with tan skin almost as dark as peanut butter, big chestnut eyes, and luscious apple red lips a supermodel would be lucky to have. He also had gorgeous brown hair with hints of natural blond highlights, perfectly swished to one side, a set of straight, snow white teeth, and a swagger that screamed importance, all combining to make one beautiful guy.
Peter, my former best friend.
He stood in the tiny doorway, his form big, intimidating, and had an alluring way about it that seemed to attract all the girls in school. He even attracted me, his best friend, although I was somehow immune to it, like I noticed it, and I realized that it was there, but I never really paid attention until now. He was just as good looking as Dex, in a more rustic sort of way though, for Dex seemed exotic and exquisite, but I had somehow been able to withstand his charms and looks. I guess my love for Dex blinded and robbed me at the same time, yet fueling my hopes for the day that came in reality instead of in my dreams.
Peter's big chocolate eyes immediately turned to mine, then mysteriously became the tiniest bit vulnerable, resembling a puppy when they're begging you to do something. I felt my heart crumble a little, wondering just what had I done to Peter, and how badly I had hurt him. His eyes quickly regained its hardness, and he brushed past me, emotionless, seemingly having not a single care in the world. Peter... I felt a single tear form in the corner of my eyelid well up, ready to release a downpour of sadness, fury, and regret.
"Wipe it away." A voice whispered. I turned to face Dex, his voice tinged with concern, although his face was blank. I opened my mouth to speak, but he quickly cut me off, saying. "You never let the audience know how you're really feeling. Pretend you're a whiteboard. You may have feelings and emotions that are flowing through you like a tornado, so powerful that you believe you can't stop, but as soon as you see an audience, wipe the board clean and show no emotion, and just a single smile will do after that." He grinned. "Never forget that, and you'll be a good star."
"I'll never be a star." I mumbled, as the bell rang and the crowd dispersed.
"I wouldn't be so sure about that." Dex whispered, sending tingles through my brain like a wildfire, rushing to all the parts of my body at the speed of light. He affected me alright, making me feel special and loved, doing everything I dreamed he would.
Then where does Peter fit into all this?

Chapter 9

As I walked down the badly mistreated hallway, I wondered why Eve didn't seem to want me in her life. Every movement I made to be by her side resulted in her moving away from me. What had I done to make her so... cold? Tossing me aside like a dishrag, glaring at me with her big, beautiful, piercing blue eyes. I really wanted to be close to her. Somehow, she was different from all the gorgeous Hollywood stars I dated and dumped. She was VERY different.
Would she lose that enticing quality when she became a star?
For she really will become a star. The media wouldn't ever let such good talent go to waste. I shuddered a little, imagining Eve as a materialistic, plastic-surgery enhanced actress, as the rest of them were. It didn't really fit.
Eve did show some signs of warmth towards me though, and I think that side of her was the part that made me fall headfirst into her trap. She would push me away, then pull me close. She was spinning a web around me, leading me on, making me believe she liked me also, then crashing my dream into a million tiny pieces. Then the cycle would start all over again. It was as if she was doing it unknowingly, though. She would be nice and sweet, then it was as if she suddenly realized she was being friendly, and freeze up like an iceberg. I've seen her eyes, sparkling with laughter at one of my jokes, suddenly widening with the realization that we were getting along, then shutting down like a computer, with no hopes for recovery.
What was Eve's true feelings? Did she love me or... HIM?
He was truly a handsome guy, as good looking as me, even, without all my special face treatments and hair styler. His body, rippled with muscles, just screamed strength, and although my body had plenty of muscle also, it just didn't compare with this beast. His voice seemed a bit gruff, like a bad boy's would, and his swagger was a bit more showy than mine. All in all, a completely different man, with a completely different kind of allure.
I could see some of the girls near me inching away, heading towards the mysterious guy, taking some of my enthusiasm with it. I don't really care about just a couple fans, but they symbolized something that could be big. Would I blend in here? Would I not stand out like I thought I definitely would, leaving that guy in the spotlight?
When he walked over to my clump of fans, he intentionally brushed past Eve, shoving her just a little. My eyes flared a little in anger, although I also noticed something strange with Eve also. Eve seemed to not have any reaction to Peter's arrival like the other girls did. Her eyes stayed exactly the same the whole time, not widening, or softening, or anything else. However, I spotted the smallest amount of tension rippling through her, her hand clenching a little.
It was then that I realized Peter and Eve must have something going on. It was so obvious to me once I thought about it. Of course the most beautiful girl and guy in school would notice each other. That's what happens with celebrities also. I dated all those materialistic superstars because they were pretty, not for their personality. It also boosted my fame, which was a definite plus. However, none of them really appealed to me like Eve did. I guess it was because I had never met a girl like Eve. A god-loving, beautiful, nice, and not to mention humble girl with miles more of common sense than all of my airhead girlfriends really seemed like a fantasy to me, not something that really existed. Until now.
That aside, they didn't look like they were on good terms with one another. For the briefest moment when they looked each other eye to eye, I caught Peter's eyes turn vulnerable. His whole being had frozen a little, his muscles tensing, his leg shaking a bit in barely seen anxiety. I could plainly tell he had been hurt by Eve. But how? How could Eve hurt anybody? I puzzled over the question laboriously. However, after a few minutes, I realized that there was no use in even trying. It seemed impossible to make sense of, even becoming rapidly MORE confusing as I dived deeper in the question's unforeseen depth.
The bell rang, a shrill blast of nearly unprecedented sound that pierced my ears, making me wince in unseen pain. What is wrong with their bell? The only sound I had heard in my life louder then this terrifying bell was when I was listening to my iPod and the volume accidentally got stuck on the maximum. I shook my head in sorrow at the sudden decrease in my hearing. Oh, how I hate school.
I felt a soft, comforting hand on my arm, and immediately relaxed. I, somehow, knew it was Eve. I had memorized her feather-light touch that always shook me to the core. I knew the texture of her long brown hair by heart, and could picture her soulful deep blue eyes in my mind. I had no idea what was coming over me. I felt like I was beginning to sink into Eve's pool of admirers, almost to the point where I could never escape. It excited me, but at the same time terrified me beyond anything else.
"Dex." The way she spoke my name was even mesmerizing, with the way she made it seem intimate, like my name was special and precious. She squeezed my arm a little, sending tingles to my brain. "This way to the office." She started pulling me to the tiny wooden door in front of us. I wondered if the "office" was the size of a janitor's closet.
I wasn't far off the mark.
The office was basically a card table, two chairs, and a computer mashed into a room the size of a matchbox. The walls, made out of cheap wood, had several cracks along the sides, and was vandalized in several places by bored and rather mischievous students. However, the secretary was a beauty, with dark red hair, ruby red lips, a youthful face and figure, and sparkling green eyes similar to my own. I looked at Eve, and decided to give her a taste of her own medicine. It's not like I didn't have charm, right?
"Hey." I cracked my million-dollar smile, my eyebrows raising a quarter of an inch, my eyes shining. I had practiced it a billion times in the mirror, so it came to be natural for me, and it sure was helpful, especially now.
The lady swiveled around in her rickety, old, wheeled chair, a look of disgust on her porcelain face. She seemed bothered by our presence, like we weren't supposed to be here. However, she caught sight of me, and gasped.
"What in the name of-" she exclaimed, her face twisted in confusion, then suddenly alive, her voice turning bright and cheerful. "Hey, Dex. I am one of your biggest fans!"
I never knew a girl could be so bipolar.
"I appreciate that you love my music." I told her gently. Most girls, when they said I was their idol, fainted or cried when I told them I had no idea what their names were. Somehow, I didn't think it would be a good idea to ask for hers. She seemed like the...
The pretty lady whipped her hair back seductively, and quickly brought a cute pout to her lips, her eyes bright and cheerful, almost like a little puppy.
...Desperate type.
"I never knew a secretary could be so breathtakingly beautiful." I winked at her. Actually, that was kind of a lie, but there was no WAY I was going to tell her about that former supermodel secretary in New York City.
She laughed, like the chiming of sleigh bells, soft and delicately. "Why, thank you."
Eve rolled her eyes just a little, her countenance adjusting the slightest bit, her mouth tightening. I fought the urge to laugh as I continued flirting with the secretary. Eve was affected alright... and it was downright hilarious.
Finally, Eve couldn't take it anymore. After about ten minutes of our exchange, she hiked out of the room, disgust emanating from her, suggesting that maybe, just maybe, I had gone a bit too far.
"Sorry." I apologized to the lady, which, by the way, was putty in my hands. I smirked at my obvious charm, my charisma that just could not be ignored.
Eve just happened to be the exception.
Eve really wasn't widely different from the rest of my teenage fans. She wasn't too interested, but many of my fans feigned disinterest, just like what they saw in movies and read in books. For all I know, she could really be a crazed fan who was also a good actress...
But I guess it seemed to me that that could not be true. Eve's personality, no matter how good of an actress she was, could not be hidden. The girl who spiked my interest like a spark igniting a wildfire could not be a facade.
For if that dreadful thought was true, then I wouldn't trust the world anymore.
I thought of Eve's smile, her delicate lips tempting, her eyes shining with its brightness. Her cheeks apple red from embarrassment, her hair making me want to run my fingers through it... her whole demeanor inviting and completely innocent. She didn't have the tiniest streak of impurity in her whole being, and I think that's what made her so incredibly special.
She was like a perfect little lamb, without a blemish, that could easily be led to the slaughter. I wondered how many people she had been tricked by, how many people had been only been her friend for her looks. The guys were rather superficial, here and really everywhere else, looking for the girls that were gorgeous and also gave them what they wanted, and not the ones who could really make them happy and were not necessarily beautiful.
I'm a prime example of that. I've dated all the actresses and supermodels, and I can tell you this; they have no morals whatsoever. Most of them throw themselves at me, and the few that don't do so because they're conceited and have a colossal ego that would never let them be so desperate. Actresses and supermodels aren't really beautiful bimbos, just spoiled rotten teenagers, and adults that ACT like teenagers, that may be geniuses.
For you have to be smart to make it big time.
I felt kind of dirty after mingling with those stars. Although I didn't do anything with them, I was "polluted" by their bad language, attire, and attitudes. They introduced me to a world I had never know, from the very beginning of my teenage years to the current date.
At first, it was interesting.
I drank just a little, took a few puffs, let the forbidden words so commonly spoken escape my lips. Why not? It wasn't like my parents could stop me. My father was dead, and my mom very well knew that I could cut her off my money when I turned eighteen.
But I was smart enough to know the things I was doing was dead wrong.
That was what separated me from them.
Eve, I felt, has never had one of those times. Where you are swallowed by the peer pressure, compelled to do wrong, temptations pulling you like a magnet... where the whole world seems like their joining you. Like there's not one speck of good to be found.
I had finally found my speck of good, and I wasn't letting go anytime soon.
I was incredibly worried, though, about Peter. No matter how handsome he was, danger lurked within his depths, his want clearly shown... for Eve. She was his prey, his delicacy, the jewel of his feast, his fantasy. He did not seem at all like a good person, and I was afraid Eve didn't see that.
For I understood the difference between wanting a person... and loving one.
I exited the office that gave me side-splitting laughter, only to bump into Eve. She gave a short gasp of exclamation as she collided into my form, losing her footing, falling into my grasp. I placed my hand around her tiny waist, giving her the support she desperately needed before she fell flat on her face. Eve looked at me, thankfulness in her kind expression, and a strange, unfamiliar, warmth flooded into me. It was an alien feeling, alerting my body, making me stand up straighter, my brain confused.
I realized that it was a sense of need. Eve NEEDED me just then. And I was there for her. I know, I know. Not really a knight-worthy act. In fact, I was the one that caused the collision. However, Eve didn't seem to care.
"Thank you." She backed away from me a little, I realizing that I held her for way too long. Her smile was in full force, her pleasure evident. Then, the smile quickly evanesced, my high spirits disappearing with it, and a frown came into view.
"What were you DOING in there?" She asked angrily.
I stretched a little, my arms reaching above my head, giving off a careless impression.
"What did it look like?"
Eve scowled. "I can't believe you would do that to our secretary. You are so selfish! You don't think about anyone else's feelings other than yours. Can you imagine how she feels right now? She actually thinks you're interested in her, when in truth you're just toying with her emotions, leading her on. She will only get hurt more..." A small tear ran down her cheek, and she quickly looked away from me, embarrassment from such an outburst showing in her blushing cheeks.
She called me selfish.
Am I really that self-absorbed? I suppose that was a little cruel, but I can't be HONEST and face the possibility of losing my fans. What would that do to my popularity, the things I've worked so hard for?
"They want it, Eve." I dropped my hands, a serious expression showing. I hadn't given it much thought, but it seemed like the logical thing to me. "They want me to acknowledge them, to give them attention. It's not like they have serious crushes or anything. It's all for fun."
The next expression she shot me was supposed to be void of emotion, but I could see the pain in her eyes. "No. You're wrong."
She immediately turned, after taking my schedule, walking down the hallway, her heels clicking on the tiled floor. I followed, wondering about her expression, her look of complete agony and affliction as I spoke. She seemed completely unguarded then, vulnerable, the emotions entering her plain for anyone to see. I couldn't help but feel... like I did something wrong. How was I selfish? How can I hurt someone by speaking a few nice words?
"You're in all my classes." A barely audible whisper reached my ears. I smiled.
"Yeah. I arranged it so you'll never be able to escape me."
She laughed a little, and slowed down so I could catch up to her, letting us walk side by side. Silence was taut between us, each of us holding back the things we wanted to say. Why were things always so difficult with Eve? It was a challenge to even be her good friend, and if I wanted to be something more... it was almost impossible. The strange thing was that other people didn't seem to have this problem.
She spoke first.
"I'm sorry for calling you selfish."
"I'm sorry for being selfish," I apologized also, tension temporarily relieved.
"I..." She started to say something, then abruptly came to a halt.
"What?" I probed.
"Nothing." She shook her head. We walked together to our first class, the silence between us now comfortable. I, however, was agonizing over her unsaid words.
For some reason, I thought they would've been the words that changed everything.

Eve opened the doors to my new classroom, and I nearly choked in shock.
The classroom was U-G-L-Y.
With dirtied floors and cracked ceilings, I worried that the roof would fall in, not to mention the walls with hair thin cracks and pencil marks along the side. The kids, uh, my CLASSMATES, didn't even seem like they cared about clothing, baggy T-shirts being the most common thing I saw. The desks weren't connected to the chairs, and made of that dreadful plastic.
I realized my mouth was wide open, and everyone was staring at it in confusion. I snapped my jaw back into place, sending the students a stunning smile.
"This is Dex," Eve needlessly introduced. Many of the students in there had seen me earlier, and the gossip probably spread like wildfire.
They didn't say a single word, just... stared. And stared. And stared.
"Um, hey guys," I said, rather awkwardly.
"Hel-ll-lo Dex," stuttered the teacher, a young, youthful lady with voluminous blond hair and a skinny form. How can this whole school have such beautiful people in it? I asked myself, noting that nearly all the administrators and faculty had looks above average. "I'm Miss Reyes."
... And they're mostly single.
Eve walked in, bombarded by the-inappropriate-gaze of the guys and the jealous looks from the girls. When she was here, her swagger that appealed to me so much disappeared, instead taking meager steps, not wanting to attract attention. I wanted to scream at her, YOU WILL BE NOTICED NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO, STUPID!!!!!! But I held myself back, a little annoyed by her lack of selfconfidence.
Her converse squeaking as she crossed the room, Eve finally reached her destination, a desk mutilated beyond belief. It was a catastrophe, a barrage of gum, pencil scrapings, dents, and graffiti with a small, plastic chair by it. She delicately, like a queen, sat in the chair, not bothered. She seemed like she really couldn't care less.
"Would you like to tell us anything about yourself?" Miss Reyes questioned.
"Just look in tabloids or on the internet," I shrugged a little. "Some of it is true."
"So..." A beefy brown haired boy with a handsome face and a deathly skinny form said. "You did it with Henrietta Stratton?"
Did he really just ask me that? The nerve of some teenage guys.
The whole room erupted into whispers, muffled laughs heard. Miss Reyes frowned at the mischievous boy disapprovingly. "You don't ask something like that!"
"He said to look in the tabloids!" he protested, laughingly.
I frowned a little at his frowning form. "You should know that's not true."
The boy didn't say anything else, consumed by laughter.
"QUIET, class," Miss Reyes said, her voice in a dangerous whisper, her body rigid, as if she expected them not to obey. However, they heeded her words, until the tapping of a pencil could be heard across the room. "This is your desk, Dex," she smiled, and rushed to the closet, pulling out a brand new, shiny desk. Now THAT was how a desk was supposed to look.
Wowed by the sudden splendor, I plopped down in the chair, my head leaning back in enjoyment. With a plush seat and a shiny, clear desk surface, this desk was like the ones back home.
Eve, across the room, stared at the board where Miss Reyes was writing complicated equations down, a tsunami of number, variables, and who knows what else. No one but her was listening and looking really, just chatting with their friends instead.
Two girls right next to me were exchanging whispers. "Louise, isn't this class boring?"
"It always is, Margo." Louise was a short, rather stumpy girl with long, flaxen hair the color of sunshine and eyes like chocolate, who was also blessed with a magnificent smile.
Margo was a tall, leggy girl with short brown hair and crystal blue eyes that could pierce through you, like ice. She had a pretty smile also, but didn't have a face as pretty as Louise, with a crooked nose and cheekbones that jutted out. They were both sitting right in front of me, but I could hear their every word, for it seemed like they didn't know how to whisper.
"Don't you think Dex is much more hot in person?" Margo asked excitedly.
"Yeah, I just about fainted when he entered the room," Louise replied. I smirked.
"It's like he's royalty, though."
"Yeah, like how someone had to give up their desk so the school could sell it and buy a thousand-dollar one for him."
"And the twins made Eve do it," Margo sighed. My senses were alerted, my ears tuned to the sound of Eve's name.
"Poor Eve," Louise agreed. "Although she got more than enough to make up for all the bullying. She looks like a movie star,"
"Sometimes, I wonder if she would give up her looks to stop being bullied so badly."
"She's so shy."
"She always has this sad expression on her face."
"I guess looks aren't everything."
I couldn't stand it any longer. I nudged on Margo's desk, who’s was directly in front of me, and they both turned to me. "Who are the twins?" I demanded.
"I can't believe Dex is talking to us!" Margo exclaimed.
"Yeah, me too."
"A real celebrity." A smile emerged on Margo's lips, a dreamy expression worn. I realized I wouldn't get anything out of the dazed Margo.
"Who are the twins?" I asked Louise, who was chewing her lip in nervousness.
She pointed, a little shakily, to two identical girls sitting next to each other, surrounding Eve. They both emanated some sort of possessiveness over Eve, seemingly screaming, She's mine to bully! Don't touch her!
They certainly were gorgeous, both Asian, with long black hair and killer figures. Their faces were pretty, but it was their bodies that snagged all the attention. However, they slighted in comparison with Eve, who possessed a gracefulness and a kind expression that the twins could never achieve. I wouldn't doubt that they had both had plastic surgery. They were always whispering to her, threats I imagine, stroking her hair, patting her face, and grabbing her hands. I angered at their contact, imagining the terrors they must be whispering of, the touches symbolizing torture and humiliation.
"Ooh, looks like the rockstar likes Eve," Louise whispered, a playful expression on her lips.
"Yeah," Margo agreed, finally out of her daze, smiling at my being unconfortable.
"And he's living with her."
"I wonder what they've done..."
"Nothing!" I told Margo angrily, but she just smiled.
"It's what everyone would say if you guys went out."
"Don't let that stop you though," Louise quickly said. "They would only be rumors."
"I'm jealous," Margo sighed.
"Eve always gets the good guys."
"What?" I inquired.
"Well," Louise explained. "In seventh grade, Peter, our school quarterback and a total hottie, asked Eve to go out with him. She said no, and he's been pining after her ever since. You should see him drool when she walks in the room," she smirked. "But anyways, Peter has never had a girlfriend, but instead has one night stands."
"I think he can't forget her," Margo observed.
"Duh," Margo was obviously a little slow.
"Oh," I said. So that's how Eve hurt Peter.
"Nobody can figure out why Eve said no, though," Louise added. "He has everything a girl could want, and on top of that, they were best friends."
"I think she liked someone else..." Margo said.
I wondered who that lucky guy was.

After class, I got up and walked straight over to Eve, ignoring the numerous shouts of "Hey Dex! Love you!” and "Your music is incredible!". However, those two terrorizing girls were still standing next to her.
"Hey Dex," they purred.
"Hello," I said awkwardly. They seemed to view me rather as a thing than a person, looking me up and down obviously, considering me.
"I'm Ayako," the girl on the right smiled, pearly whites shining.
"I'm Akemi," Akemi swished her long, black, shiny hair alluringly. I smiled politely.
"Nice to meet you," I replied. "Now Eve is going to take me to my next class. Goodbye," I grabbed Eve's hand and tried to tug her away. However, I heard a small yelp of pain, and turned to see Akemi's fingers nearly cutting into Eve's arm, a pained expression on Eve's face.
"I'm sorry, Dex. We're not done talking to Eve."
Eve's face grew deathly white. She seemed helpless in Akemi's grip and under Ayako's death glare. Then, she took a single look at me, and a touch of red graced her cheeks.
Was it... embarrassment?
Eve was so different from when she was just around me or her family. Now, she was a wimp, and I have a feeling she didn't want me to see that side of her. I wondered why she was so wimpy here, so quiet and... soulless.
Suddenly, Eve changed. Her soft blue eyes grew hard, her hand clenching. She ripped her hand away from Akemi, Ayako's eyes wide with amazement.
Eve walked out of the room without looking back.
I caught up with her quickly, and grabbed her shoulders, whirling her around to face me. "Are you really being bullied?"
Eve looked away, not willing to meet my eyes.
"Please tell me."
"Leave me alone," a whisper escaped her ruby red lips.
"What made you stand up to them just now?" I ignored her last comment.
Eve came to a halt, confusion and puzzlement gracing her perfect face. She seemed to be trying to find a reason for her sudden bravery, just like I was. Then her angry expression disappeared, and a small smile came into view. She raised her head to look at me, her expression timid. "Dex, I think it was you."
"Oh, really?" this was getting interesting.
"You make me want to be myself," she smiled softly. "Just like when I was friends with Peter."
I was starting to hate Peter's name.
"Don't leave me, okay?" she grabbed my arm. "Don't leave me like Peter did."
She started swaying, her form shaky, her eyes turning cold, the softness rapidly leaving. What was going on? Why was she swaying?
"Don't leave me," she repeated, holding on to my arm with a viselike grip, slumping suddenly, crumpling to the ground, and laying prostrate on the cold floor. Good thing there were no students in this hallway. Where was the nurse's office? An emotion flooded through me, burning like liquid fire, scouring my bones, hurting horribly. I realized that I was scared.
Very scared.
She looked dead, with her voluptuous hair spread out, her eyes closed, and her skin pale. She was like a beautiful ice queen, coldness spreading through her body rapidly, and a deathly pallor reaching her cheeks.
I scooped her up in my hands, enjoying the feeling of her against me, even though she seemed dead. It just proved how desperate I was becoming. I ran for the nearest classroom door. I have to get you to the nurse's office, I thought over and over. Eve's words were ringing in my head, leaving me no space for logical thinking. I barged into the room, not knowing where I was or where I should be. Eve was the only thing occupying my mind. Eve, I thought, don't die.
"Where is the nurse's office?" I half asked, half shouted, my eyes bloodshot. I could barely make out the outlines of all the students, staring at me in amazement. I didn't care about anything. My reputation didn't matter. My singing didn't matter. My appearance didn't matter.
All that mattered was Eve.
A small, petite woman, obviously the teacher, hurried over to me.
"What happened?" She seemed comforting, like a grandmother, with gray hair and dark blue eyes, wrinkles sparse but nevertheless there. She had a slender form, no fat to be found, and moved really well, her legs not withered away like other old ladies. All in all, an attractive elderly woman.
"She fainted," I barely choked out the words. Her eyes widened.
"Come right this way," she led me to hope.
Hope that Eve would be okay.

Eve's eyes fluttered, a small sign of movement that set my spirits real high. The lady that helped me, Mrs. Lorena, stood by my side, speaking with the nurse.
"Do you know what happened to Eve?" she inquired. I sneaked a glance at them, and tuned my ears, curious as well.
"I believe it was some sort of stress thing." The nurse said. "But that's just a wild guess. I don't really know for sure."
Could she really have been that stressed when she stood up to Akemi and Ayako? I guess if she had been living that way for years, a change of her attitude towards them would be stressful. I really don't know how dangerous they could be, or how much of a death wish she could be asking for. Is that what inspired her to say those things to me? I was confused, not understanding practically anything that had happened. I hoped understanding would eventually come.
"What are you doing?" a musical, entrancing voice cut through the silence. I looked at her, and found her staring at me.
I realized that I was leaning over her, and backed away quickly. Mrs. Lorena quickly covered her mouth to hide a laugh.
"Are you okay?" I asked anxiously.
"I'm fine." She swung her legs off the bed and stood up easily. She froze for a minute, pondering, then asked. "What just happened? Why am I here?"
"You fainted," I told her gently.
"Well, I SEE that," I see Eve's sarcasm is back. We walked out of the room, I effusively thanking both ladies, Eve dazed a little, confusion easily seen.
"You stood up to Akemi and Ayako," I said, and she brightened.
"I know," she smiled, "wasn't that great?" I could see a little bit of forced happiness, the tension rippling through her a dead giveaway.
I decided to tease her. "Do you remember what you said before you fainted?"
"What?" blankness entered her porcelain features.
"So you don't." Disappointment entered me.
"I remember walking out of Mrs. Reyes classroom, and then nothing."
"Okay, I guess." Why did she have to forget those crucial words she spoke? That's no fair. Why do things have to work out this way?
I grabbed her hand, and turned her towards me, completely serious. "I just want you to know that I will protect you."
She said nothing, but the hint of a smile appeared at the corner of her mouth. Without letting go of my hand, she walked with me towards our next class, no students to be seen.
I felt like this was one of Eve's warm moments, her unguarded self. This Eve was full of love, caring, and humor. This Eve was the one I liked so much. And I believe she liked me also, unless her eyes were lying to me.
I wish this happiness could continue forever.

Chapter 10

"I just want you to know that I will protect you," Dex said, his voice serious and full of caring. He didn't know, and I wasn't about to let him, how much that meant to me. I pretended not to care, to not be affected by his words. I tried to keep an expression that hid the turmoil beneath the facade.
The unseen tears of happiness I was crying.
I remembered every word I spoke to him before I fainted. However, it was not something we needed to talk about. What I said was THERE. I wasn't taking back anything, or adding to my embarrassing words. I wanted Dex to be by my side so badly for so long, with every fiber of my being, and everything was finally alright. He was standing by me, comforting me.
I loved him.
But how do I know I won't be rejected? Hurt beyond belief? I was just like one of his fans. When I asked him to not leave me, he didn't reply, only stared at me. Maybe he just saw me for what I was, just a girl who can sing and will make him millions of dollars. Maybe he's just being polite, trying to connect a little with me so our songs will be better.
The uncertainty was ripping me apart, leaving almost nothing left.
But I couldn't worry about this. I had to bottle up my emotions and save it for a later date. Dex was an extremely good face reader, so I had to not feel any sadness, or he will find out the truth. Sooner or later, I would say the three words that would either doom me or bring me to eternal happiness.
But why would Dex ever return my colossal feelings for me? He was a superstar, for one thing, with plenty of admirers and many beautiful ladies at his beck and call. He could always pick one of them for a one night stand. He had all the money he could ever want, also. He had popularity, faith in God, and a musical voice that amazed everyone.
He didn't completely know me either. We met about a month ago, for about three minutes, then after that we've been together for about eighteen hours. He didn't know anything about my obsession, my passions, or my heart.
He also was a playboy. I must take account of his many escapades with beautiful women, the countless broken hearts, and the endless tears. He has had a wild life so far, and a wilder life to come.
He might not want me in it.
I meandered along the school corridors, previously told Mr. Locke I felt faint. I was milking this fainting thing for all it was worth. However, I was really just walking around, trying to come to a decision.
Would I tell Dex that I love him?
No, definitely not. I couldn't. I had to content myself with being his friend. Being friends was better than being strangers, right?
I know now how Peter felt, this awful torture, nervousness overtaking me at his presence, this feeling of absolute... shame. Like I was putting up a pretense, a desperate facade to hide him from the truth, the truth that could shut me out of Dex's inner circle forever.
I walked to the door of the classroom, imagining Dex, sitting in the middle of the cluster of desks. His radiance shining, the students amazed by his bright light, his presence undeniable. My unattainable love.
I tried to rack my brains for anything that made him different from someone like Peter or another hot guy. Practically nothing, honestly, both guys with incredible features and special talents. But, strangely, no matter how accomplished Peter was, Dex always had that little "extra." That little bit, an indescribable "presence", was the thing that attracted girls like moths to the light. I didn't want to think anymore about Dex. He was depressing me too much.
I weakly opened the classroom door, all eyes suddenly flying to me. I felt like a spectacle, a monkey in a cage. I felt my nervousness returning, insecurity kicking in, and familiar pangs of sorrow felt in the pit of my stomach. Akemi and Ayako were fueling it, their identical smiles ripping through my gut, terror invoking.
Also, there was Peter.
Sitting high and mighty in the front desk, he elegantly fingered his Ticonderoga pencil, his poise magnificent. A piece of his brown hair hanged over his eyes, his expression of pure relaxation. As he swiveled his head to see me, I looked away, only to meet the eyes of Dex.
Green as emeralds, his gaze didn't feel uncomfortable or forbidding, but sweet and concerned. He seemed to see right through me, into my soul, even, unveiling my secrets until there was nothing to hide.
Well, he wasn't going to discover THIS secret of mine.
I carefully guarded my soul and met his stare evenly, offering a timid smile his way. Out of the corner of my eyes, I spotted Peter staring at me in amazement, as well as the rest of the class. Why were they baffled?
I realized that I had never truly smiled since seventh grade.
It was so clear to me now, Peter begging me, I refusing, the memories returning to me rapidly. My last real smile, I could still remember, was in the few minutes before Peter delivered the dooming question, caused by a joke uttered by Peter himself...
I quickly dropped my smile and headed to my seat, not willing to start any rumors. I could just imagine them... whispers about Eve's love, why she refused to go out with Peter, details the public never should've uncovered. The ugly truth.
Once I thought about it, this class, World History, was the only class I had with Akemi, Ayako, Peter, and Dex all together. After that, Peter was in none of my other classes, Akemi was in one, and Ayako was in two. Dex was in all of mine, which, by the way, made me deliriously happy.
So this class was going to be very... interesting during the year.
I listened to Mr. Locke drone on, trying to engross myself in his lecture, but my thoughts kept drifting away, to Peter, Dex, back to Peter, Akemi, Ayako...
"Now, I will let you get partners to compare notes with," Mr. Locke said, his voice grainy and gruff. "I know this is hard stuff, so I'm giving you all time in class to get it all in your head before the quiz tomorrow." He trooped to his desk. "So you all better use this time well!"
I just sat still in the desk, knowing what would come next. There was an odd number in this class, so everyone would get a partner but me, then Akemi and Ayako would get me in their group to make a threesome. A torturous threesome. It's happened several times before, Mr. Locke thinking us three were the best of friends, never suspecting the truth.
Not moving, I awaited my dreaded fate.
A light, airy touch shook me out of my trance, "Eve?"
Too nice to be Ayako or Akemi. I twisted around in my seat to see Dex peering at me. Relief flooded through me. I had forgotten about Dex.
"Would you like to be my partner?" he asked. Was that... a touch of NERVOUSNESS, a slight quiver to his voice? I never knew such a confident rockstar could have that quality to his tone.
"Of course," I grinned, smiles-real ones-coming more easily to me now. I wasn't going to be in the torturous threesome this time.
I slid out of the chair, following him to a secluded part of the room, between two rows of desks. I could feel the burning stares of Akemi and Ayako, and the appraising glances of the others. Somehow, I was not bothered by their gazes, the previous insecurity receding. Everyone else seemed to just fade away, their forms blurring, my senses only alerted to Dex. I could feel the extreme softness of his sweater as I touched his arm, smell the alluring cologne, hear the multitude of musical notes come together to create Dex's enchanting voice.
And right now, it was all for me. He wasn't looking at anyone else, only gazing at me, his eyes gentle and caring. His voice only reached my ears, hands only touching mine. He WAS mine. For now.
"So..." he smiled, "what do you not understand about World War 1?"
"What?" I shook myself out of my trance, confused.
"That's what Mr. Locke was talking about in his lecture," Dex's hands skimmed over my arm playfully, causing me to have goosebumps, my heartbeat shooting up like a rocket. I was immediately distracted.
"Really?" I murmured, not really thinking, consumed with Dex... his smell, his voice, his touch, his everything.
"Just have my notes," Dex placed a piece of paper in my hand. His perfect calligraphy, a mixture of cursive and print, was easy to read, displaying the information in a logical way.
I stared at it in amazement. "This is YOUR handwriting?"
"Yeah," he shrugged. "I have to have good handwriting for autographs."
"And why are you giving these to ME?"
"Because you have no notes. And I know this already."
"How?" Stupid question, I know, but at the time it made sense.
"I have a tutor for when I'm on tour and stuff," he smiled knowingly. "She’s awesome."
I felt a little nag in my stomach, then immediately a sense of shame. Why would I be jealous of a tutor?
"Cool," I lamely replied. Dex seemed to notice my change of expression, and laughed.
"Jealous?" he grinned playfully, seemingly like a schoolboy.
"No!" I said defensively. I was growing beet red, desperately trying to somehow hide my blushing cheeks from Dex's sight.
By this time Dex was in tears from laughing.
I soon joined him in uncontrollable laughter, giggles taking both of us over. I felt really comfortable with him, like we were best friends.
Just like with Peter.
We laughed the whole period away, discussing the most random things, I having more fun than I have ever had at school... ever.

"Wait up!" I yelled, running after Dex. We were both at gym, on the track, and Dex was running way too fast for my liking.
He didn't oblige, instead speeding up, spiking my annoyance. Oh, so he wants to play this game?
I reached him in a couple of seconds, having only enough time to whisper, "Bye, loser," before my legs carried me farther. I used to run track from eighth to tenth grade, so I was a seasoned runner.
I looked back to see Dex with his mouth hanging wide open.
"Come on!" I shouted, "Let's race!"
Dex's eyes squinted a little, forehead creased with determination, running to my side where I was patiently waiting.
"I'll have you know that I exercise every day, and these muscles," he flexed his muscles, "are here for a reason."
I scoffed. "Those muscles aren't much to speak of," In truth, they were very MUCH to speak of, but I wasn't about to tell him that.
I suddenly noticed his tanned, muscled legs, a little on the skinny side, but nevertheless strong and handsome. He was wearing a rather tight t-shirt and gym shorts, a combination only he could perfect. Beautiful, I thought. A beautiful guy was standing next to me. A beautiful guy wanted to be my friend.
I felt really lucky all of the sudden.
We lined up next to each other, adrenaline running through us, like liquid fire coursing through my-and surely his too-veins. We could feel each other's energy, power in each of our countenances, ready to fight.
We started to run.
I was clearly in the lead, my legs seemingly speeding a mile a minute, my breath in short gasps, wincing with the effort. However, I saw a flurry of movement, and Dex was then by my side, matching my pace, both of us overexerting ourselves. He passed me, barely, us only a few feet apart.
I had to win!
Our "finish line" was ahead, a white line that loomed ever closer. I took a few extra breaths, then closed the distance between us.
I don't know what it was.
A skid.
A trip.
A collision.
But somehow, my feet suddenly gave way, and I found myself flying through the air, time slowing. I closed my eyes, braced myself for the coming fall.
Instead of a crash, however, I heard a THUMP.
I had fallen on Dex.
I knocked into him, his eyes widening with surprise, his arms immediately reaching for me, protecting me. My force blew him to the ground, our arms interwined, hearts thumping. We rolled into the grass speedily, both of us nearly stunned by our rough contact with the rock hard ground. Finally, we stopped, in the middle of the field, capturing the whole world's attention.
I realized Dex's hands were on my back, grasping at my shirt. His eyes were closed, still shocked.
But he was smiling...?
I realized that I was laying on him, and quickly jumped up, embarrassment showing on my face. Obviously, THAT was what he was smiling about... that creep.
"That was one awesome hug," Dex commented, standing up slowly, no embarrassment in his face, laughter in his voice. There was a small bruise on his leg, but nothing serious, I concluded. "But," he added, "you could've just asked for one instead of jumping on me."
"I didn't jump on you!" I protested feebly, although I knew that this argument I wouldn't win. Maybe I HAD kind of jumped on him. I was so desperate to win...
"I never knew you had such an animal-like side to you, Eve," Dex laughed.
I didn't join in his chortles of amusement.

We walked around the school together, happily surveying the courtyard during free period. I was having so much fun, Dex being amusing and attentive to me. He was so gentlemanly, with the way he paid so much attention to me, holding my arm gently, engrossed in my words. He was so clever, quick witted, and caring. I learned that he gave over five million dollars to charity-on a whim.
"That's amazing!" I was wowed by his escapades, his interesting tales.
"Yep," he put his hands in his pockets, looking to the sky. "But being famous is not so great either."
"How?" I didn't know how he could be troubled by stardom.
"Well, think about this," he lowered his gaze to meet mine. "I can't go in a mall, a grocery store, or even Disney World without being disguised. And even then there is a chance of recognition. How would you feel if you couldn't even step outside the door without reporters swarming over you like mosquitoes?"
"Lonely life," I realized. He nodded.
"It's like you're selling your privacy," I observed.
"A little bit," he looked away. "Although I would buy it back in a second if I could."
"Then why aren't they swarming you now?"
"They are," he shrugged. "You just can't see them. I sued them a couple weeks ago for harassment, so they won't be getting within five feet of me for a while."
I looked in the trees interestedly, looking for a camera, a microphone, or even a person, but I spotted nothing.
"You know," he interrupted my search. "You have it lucky."
"Huh?" that was the last thing I expected to hear.
"You have a beautiful home, a mother and sister that loves you, a pretty face, and an amazing voice," he looked at the ground, a little disconcerted, red gracing his cheeks.
He said I had a pretty face! My heart seemed to pop out of my chest, joy rising within me. It was amazing how words could affect me so much.
I didn't say anything, flustered by his compliments.
"Count your blessings," he sang softly, out of the blue, "name them one by one..."
"That's my favorite hymn!" I lit up.
"Mine too," he smiled. "It always makes me feel good inside."
The sun, emitting golden rays, winked at me from behind a couple white marshmallow fluffs, contrasting with the rich green blades of grass. A single bird, dark and spooky, darted like a bullet through the air, the moon faintly seen in the light blue sky. The trees, swaying in the gentle breeze, stood tall and firm over our slender forms, flowers blooming aplenty in the garden. Then there was Dex, a beautiful sight himself, humming the hymn, looking off into the distance. His red hair ruffled in the wind, clear complexion without a pimple to be found. His profile was absolutely stunning... how could one guy be so perfect?
"Beautiful," I whispered.
"I agree," Dex's voice dwindled on the wind, flowing to my ears, "you certainly are."
"What?" I asked, confused, "I was talking about the sky and trees." And you, I mentally added.
"Okay," he shrugged. "Well, I was talking about you."
"That's not true," I whispered into the cold air, hoping that my words wouldn't reach his ears. That he wouldn't discover this dreadful insecurity half forced upon me by Akemi and Ayako, half inflicted on me by myself.
Dex walked for a few paces, turning away from me.
"Dex?" I asked anxiously. The whole mood had changed suddenly. I pulled on his arm, and he turned to me, pain and anguish showing on his face.
He grabbed my shoulders, shock flooding through me, "Never say ANYTHING like that again. It distresses me." He pulled his arms away quickly.
"Whoever told you that is a liar," he snapped. Anger was showing on his face. "And if you are the one that told yourself that, than you are lying to yourself."
He walked out of the courtyard, leaving me staring in shock.

I quickly regained my composure, his words striking me like a switch. I had no idea he would react so strongly to my words, let alone hear them. But I had no time to ponder over his words. In fact, I was sick of mulling over any of Dex's words. That could wait until later.
Right now, I had to find Dex.
I raced into the school, bumping into many students, trying to make my way through the throng of people. Where would Dex go during free period? He didn't know where the study hall was, or the library...
I caught sight of the bathroom and grinned. Of course he would go in there. I'll just wait for him. I walked slowly to the wall, leaning against it slowly. Many people peered at me in amusement, wondering why I would ever wait by the guys’ bathroom.
And then I heard voices.
"Hey Dex," a slightly familiar baritone voice could be heard. "Tell me something."
"What?" Dex's voice chimed.
"What was it like to be so close to Eve?" I recognized the impudent guy as Sydney, a cute but rather perverse jock. "You know, on the track where she practically jumped on you."
"It felt nice," Dex admitted, a little shamefully, "but..."
"Will you make a move on her?" Sydney pressed. I pressed my ear closer to the wall in interest.
"Nah," I could sense the carelessness in his voice.
"Why not? She got the perfect-"
"I'm not interested in making any moves on her."
"Are you a GUY?" incredulity filled Sydney's voice.
"Um, yeah," Dex was clearly bored. "You know what? I gotta go."
"Whatever, dude. I wish I was in your shoes."
Dex really was a gentleman. I felt an extreme happiness fill me.
"Count Your Blessings" echoing in my head. But what... if he really WASN'T interested? In me?
I heard the shuffling of feet, and Dex emerged from the bathroom, I quickly pulling away from the wall.
"Hey," he said sharply.
"I won't say that stuff again," I agreed to his previous request. He nodded slowly.
We walked together, each thinking about the other, wondering how we were going to say what we wanted to so badly. But strangely, I felt content, walking with him, being his alternative to loneliness. Dex also seemed to feel it too, his countenance comfortable with me, a little different from when he was around others. I had my perfect friendship back, almost like when Peter was my best friend.
The only difference was that I wanted something more with Dex, and with Peter I was the one holding back.

Chapter 11
"Come on, Eve! We have to go!" I called, my musical voice awakening many from their dazes. They all raised their slender necks to hear my words, alertness shocking them.
"What?" Eve raised her head from her mangled and mutilated desk in annoyance. "I was having a perfectly good nap." Her eyes, blurry and unfocused, were baby blue as the sky above me, yet dark as the deepest of the ocean's depths. Her hair, mussed and wild, was a multitude of gold, wheat, and hazelnut hairs, a natural color only the professional hairstylists could hope to mimic on their subjects. Her face, heart shaped, was pale and smooth, like a baby's, with no freckles or birthmarks to mar it. All these features all came together to produce a beautiful sight, a mirage of divineness, a spectacular display of what God could create. In other words, Eve.
At least, that's how I felt.
Every time I glanced at her, I was struck by amazement. How could she be possible? She was absolutely perfect, with her perfectly proportioned face and body, a sweet, innocent personality, and a faith that matched mine. She seemed like the perfect girl for me also, fame-wise, because of her stunning voice. Whenever we sang together, it seemed like a serenade, a waltz that only we knew, an incredible amount of chemistry I couldn't create with anyone else.
Did I love her for her face? Her slender, attractive form? Her personality? Her voice?
I had no clue.
But one thing I knew for sure was that she sent sparks up my spine whenever we touched, releasing flames throughout my body, casting a spell on me, making me fall deeper and deeper into her clutches. Even getting a happy glance from her made my heart escalate with joy. Every word she directed my way made my senses enhance around her, trying to capture her very presence in my mind where I could call it up at will. It was as if she was trying to enchant me, with her timid words and shy looks that always managed to melt my heart.
I knew it was unintentional, of course. I could tell she was trying to avoid me, to ignore my wily charms, building a wall around her I could barely penetrate. However, her voice, like a song itself, always betrayed the truth. She was nervous around me, a slight quavering quality to her words. I knew she was affected by me. Maybe she even LIKED me. I didn't know for sure though, her actions encouraging me, then making me doubt myself, to feel like dirt. Like that time when she said I was selfish, alerting myself to the fact that I WASN'T perfect, like I used to think I was.
She was casually changing me, as if it was a game to her, with her completely different ways of doing things. I went to a restaurant, she grew a garden. I slept in until ten, she woke up at five. I had a huge, empty mansion, she had a small, vibrant home that was full of family and life. I had everything, yet I had nothing compared to her. And I was starting to want her everything and despise my nothing.
In fact, I was starting to want her everything AND her.
Eve stood, her thin, graceful legs straightening, her muscles tensing. Her mussed up hair, stood in a bun on the top of her head, miscellaneous strands of hair sticking out on all sides. She was as natural as could be, with no makeup or smile, only a thin, taut line where her teeth should have been shown.
She walked over to me, her hips swaying, her eyes cast downwards. Mr. Allen stared at us both. "Why are you two leaving?" he accused.
"We have to meet with our manager to discuss the songs we will be singing," I informed him. Eve lit up, her eyes shining, her smile finally accenting her pretty face. I had no idea why she did that, considering that this was my least favorite stage in making an album, but I decided to entertain her-mysteriously concocted-fantasy and shot her a smile.
We walked out the door with twenty-two stares weighing on our backs.
"Wow, they never give up, don't they?" I laughed, although inwardly unsettled at the way these beautiful students just stared at us, like they didn't have a life of their own. They were rather unnerving spectators, gossipers who were as skilled as dogs when it came to sniffing out a bit of juicy information. I'm sure as soon as we left the room, the whispers would start, an eruption of laughter and giggles, or sharp, directed insults.
And by beautiful, I mean overly attractive, like movie stars. Seriously. It was incredible, the amount of drama filling these stuffy halls, the long, perfect hair every girl had, the clothes to match their body shapes perfectly. It was like a TV show, like they were on a set, with the way every person acted. They had their own groups and they stuck to them like glue, not associating with others. This was really evident at lunch, however, with their special tables and seats.
One group, however, stood out from the others. In the old, small, rather gross lunchroom, one table stood on a small ledge, a platform, that I'm sure was previously meant to be a stage. Now, it was a stepping stool, a little extra lift that boosted the lucky sitters above the others. It was the perfect spot for observing, and…. insulting. When your voice is above the others, every word you say is easily audible to the unwilling audience. No matter what you say, people from the lower tables will hear you. So when you insult someone... it doesn't turn out well for the insulted person.
This luxury, a ledge that earns you immediate and lasting respect, was reserved by the popular people, the people Eve both feared and hated.
I mean, except for Sadie, of course. Eve couldn't hate a special part of herself.
The popular group, as I could tell at lunch, consisted of only five people. Akemi and Ayako, of course, were sitting at the table, accompanied by Sadie, Peter, and Jared, a-I hate to admit it-hot player who broke every girl's heart in school, except for Eve, of course. Peter was by far the-how I wish I didn't have to say this!-hottest though, having a much better face and more appealing demeanor. Peter was not only a player, but a bad boy who could melt your heart then stomp on it for fun in only ten minutes. If Jared was a cougar, Peter was a mountain lion. If Jared was a plane, Peter was a rocket. In fact, Jared was like a mini-Peter in several ways.
Eve didn't fit in anywhere.
She had no group, not a single friend in the world. Besides Sadie and Delilah, of course. But they had their own group of friends, and they had obviously given up on convincing Eve to come sit with them. I really didn't understand why she didn't go sit with them, honestly. Was she fond of her solitude?
I couldn’t figure out Eve at all. She confused me, led me on, left me hanging. She was like a Sudoku, one of those awful puzzles that I never managed to solve. However, I think that was one of the reasons why she intrigued me. Eve walked beside me, glowing. She had a lift to her step, a cute smile on her porcelain face, her eyes filled to the brim with excitement.
I wish I was the instigator of this beautiful sight.
"What's up?" I asked her softly, my whisper intended for her and her alone. "Why are you so happy?"
She just shook her head, her hair waving with it, her smile growing even brighter. There seemed to be a glow around her, a cheerful aura that brightened even me, making me want to enjoy what was coming more than she did. I hoped her hopes would not be dashed, her dreams destroyed, her expectations not met when we stepped in that planning room. She deserved it.
We walked out of the school, her, a bubbly enigma, I, energized by Eve's presence alone. The crisp grass crunched against our weight, the air blowing around us furiously, the sun glancing at us through its cloudy spectacles. My limo, a sleek, shiny, coal black vehicle, was waiting for us both, rather impatiently, I might add. It growled and whined, the tires squeaking, similar to a dog's yap when it wants to be let go from its leash.
Eve glanced at me, excitement in her expression. "I get to ride in your limo?!"
I laughed amiably. "Yeah." Her facial countenance was priceless, pure amazement and happiness etched into her beautiful features. It was genuine, not a single bit of it forced, and had a purity to it, an innocence that was not much unlike a kid's.
I felt lucky, just then, standing next to such a beautiful, demure, happy woman. I swung the door open, displaying the splendor that loomed inside.
"Ladies first," I took her hand, leading her inside the vehicle.
It truly was the best of the best, sporting plush seats that you could sink into, reclining, by the way, and had jewels running down the seat belt. A huge, twenty-inch widescreen TV was placed in the middle, with 3D capabilities. There was a mini-fridge, with all the drinks you could wish for, and a snack bar. Finally, to top it all off, there was an actual aquarium, filled with fishes, crabs, and turtles, built into the wall. I chuckled at the amazement on Eve's face. She crawled in, laughing at the way she sunk into the seats, ogled the sea creatures, and tried on the sleek 3D glasses as if she had never seen this sort of stuff before.
Of course, she probably hadn't.
"This is incredible!" Her gorgeous face lit up like a lightbulb, her cheeks rosy red, and her lips plump and inviting. I felt myself staring at them, my eyes unfocused, hypnotized by the movement of her lightly glossed mouth, naturally red and pouty. She looked at me, her eyes wide, obviously surprised by my sudden change. But I didn't care. The door was shut behind us, the driver had started taking us to the studio, and she was just so beautiful today.
I wanted to kiss her.
I think, subconsciously, she realized it too, leaning in slowly, her hair waving from the breeze of the integrated fans. As we grew closer, her eyes, blue as the sky above us, closed, her hands clenching slightly. I leaned in to close the distance...
There was a blur of movement, and I suddenly found contact with the lobe of her right ear. I jumped back, confused. How did I aim for her lips and get her ear?
I realized Eve must've turned away.
My heart pounded ferociously, red flowing to my pale skin, wondering just how stupid I had to be to think she actually liked me. I was conceited, as she never failed to remind me, selfish, and greedy. All I had was my voice and looks. I guess I don't appeal to her like I do to other teen girls.
However, when I stole a look at her, she was smiling.
"Dex..." her voice was barely above a whisper. "You have no idea how much I want you to kiss me."
I grew eager. It wasn't rejection? Joy escalated in my heart. "What's the deal, then?" I tried to act casual, like I didn't really care, although fireworks were bursting inside of me.
Eve turned away, looking out the long, tinted glass windows. The scenery was magnificent, a beautiful lake, with swans cruising on the crystallized surface. The sky was a violent blend of purple, orange, and a rich magenta stripe that seared through the horizon. I could tell she was trying to put her raw emotions into words, making it so I could understand.
"I am not a toy," the words escaped her lips, chilling me to the bone.
"I don't understand," I was completely thrown off by her remark. Is that how she saw me? A cold, heartless, player who treated his girls like dirt? I guess...
That was once true though.
I used to be the guy with ten girls on his arm at the same time. I had movie stars bowing at my feet, supermodels beckoning to me, temptingly, and all wearing suggestive attire. I allowed myself to be swayed by them, forgetting what it meant to be a true Christian. I did several things I shouldn't have, and one catastrophic thing in particular.
I paid-and still am-for that horrendous mistake dearly.
But that doesn't make who I am. I have changed. I am not the playboy I once was, and never will be again. That one mistake I made changed me... probably forever, and will affect me for the rest of my life. But that one mistake, and several other minor ones, doesn't define ME. I am I, not my mistakes.
I try to remind myself of that constantly, but the media and all of America, tell me otherwise.
"Don't kiss me if you don't mean it," her voice, edgy and sharp, startled me. "For I might take it the wrong way."
What?! I have no idea where this conversation is going...
"I might think that you love me," she whispered, turning towards me, her blue eyes sweet, though filled to the brim with sorrow. Moisture in the form of a tear gathered at the inside corner of her eye, redness flooding through her.
So she was mad at herself, not me?
This is SO flip-flopped.
I looked straight at her. "That might not be so bad," I said, not smiling, keeping my face as blank as could be.
It was incredibly difficult, considering how Eve slowly smiled, understanding lighting her features. I wanted to smile back, but I wanted to let her know I was serious.
Dead serious.
There was a sharp sound; the brakes whistling as the limo pulled to a stop. I jumped back at the noise, colliding with the window, my head snapping backwards. I suddenly realized how close I was to Eve, how we were both, subconsciously, closing the distance.
I was so close to kissing her.
"Ugh," I moaned, holding my head in disappointment.
"What is it?" Eve concernedly questioned. I ignored her, the pains of sorrow echoing over and over in my head, almost as if it had a real voice. Do you know what this sorrow seemed to say?
"Dex, you got so close... but you failed."

We entered the meeting room, Eve gasping at the opulence displayed before her. It was beautiful, with shiny platinum floors cleaned to the point where it became an effective mirror and a sublime chandelier hanging from the ceiling. It was a masterpiece, a glorious addition to a wonderful room, crystals catching the white light and distributing it everywhere, it's size alone enough to astound. There was a table, lengthy and white as snow, accompanied by red, luxurious seats. A guitar and piano, in absolutely pristine condition, stood in the corner, both serving as a decoration and a tool.
The most stunning aspect of the room, though, was the vast aperture that stretched from wall to wall. A glass window so translucent that you could only glimpse when it caught the light, it stunned its observers, showing them ravishing tableaus of tall mountains that seemed to touch the sky, and a beautiful lake that reflected the sky above.
"Wow," she murmured, taking the sight in. I just smiled, having seen this room and plenty prettier ones several times before. I couldn't have been happier for Eve, though, and her amazement started to affect me, making me notice more than I did before.
A lady stood in the far corner of the room, as regal as a queen, with a perfect posture to match. She wore a trim and proper red turtleneck sweater, a modest gray skirt, and a black belt that tied the whole look together. Her face, though marred by wrinkles, was beautiful, her pale skin contrasting with the deep red of her lips, her eyes ice blue, and her nose perfectly straight. Her hair was black, treated perfectly well by its owner, reaching her shoulders then curling in at the ends. Not a hair was out of place, or a single flaw in her appearance.
Her name was Nancy, and she was my music advisor. She was also my agent, but only for concerts and public appearances. Penny handled everything else.
Two young, youthful men accompanied her. The one on the right was very handsome, with blond hair that seemed to catch the sunlight, enhancing the rich golden tones of it. His eyes were riveting, green as a meadow, and his arms were ripped with muscles. The other man was slightly nerdier, with big, black glasses on that covered half of his face, and a somewhat geekier body, slim and short.
Eve smiled at them, crossing over to where they stood. "Hello, my name is Eve," she offered.
"Greetings," Nancy curtly replied, startling Eve a little with the dismissal in her tone. Nancy was always like that to people except to her big clients, which, for now, was I.
"Darling!" Nancy swiftly glided to me, a wide smile stretched across her face. "I haven't seen you in sooo long! I missed you, dear."
"Uh, yes," I felt embarrassed by the attention Nancy was giving to me, not Eve, but said nothing about it, choosing to bear with it.
Eve quickly recovered and started talking to the men. "Hello," she said energetically.
The nerdy guy smiled shyly, "Hey, I'm Nick."
"And I'm Flinn," the golden guy beamed, flashing her a view of his perfect pearly whites. "I saw you on TV, and you were amazing! And not to mention..." he paused, "gorgeous."
Eve blushed. "Well, thank you," she stammered.
"Look at that, Nick!" Flinn elbowed him in the ribs, leaving him nearly gasping for breath. "She's embarrassed to be called beautiful." He turned to Eve, laughing, "that won't last long."
No it wouldn't. Not in this world I was bringing her into.
Somehow, I felt like I was going to miss that naivety Eve currently has, it being an essential part of her. It was kind of my fault too, I being the one bringing her here. I had to ask myself, was I bringing her here so she could have an opportunity, or just for selfish reasons?
I tried to avoid the answer.
"Let's start," Nancy told us, obviously eager to cut to the chase. She pulled out a stack of papers covered with notes, lyrics, and words, displaying them out before us. I hated this stage. We had to pick our favorites, the best ones, and believe me; it's harder than it looks.
Eve, however, didn't even look at the papers, instead staring at the wall, as if she didn't know what to do with herself.
"What are you doing?" Nancy finally inquired. Eve jumped, eyes refocusing on Nancy.
"Oh, sorry," she apologized, "what am I supposed to do with these papers?"
"These have songs on them," she explained to Eve like she was a kindergartener, "and you're supposed to pick your favorite."
"Do I have to?" her voice was loud and clear, reverberating around the huge, airy room.
Nancy narrowed her eyes. "Why would you not want to pick the songs you sing?!"
"Because," she reached into her tote, pulling out several sheets of paper, "I already have."
"WHAT?!" Nancy's face grew red. "You just can't pick the songs out without telling me! Who wrote those? Ugh, I'm going to have to get the writers permission... and..." she trailed off, muttering to herself in undistinguishable tones.
"I wrote them."
I looked at Eve in amazement. She sings, is beautiful, and WRITES MUSIC?! Talk about multi-talented.
She turned to me, her eyes questioning. "Don't you write your songs?"
"No," I admitted. She laughed.
"That's okay," she smiled and pulled out a few pages from the stack and placed it on the table. "This one is called Breathless. My very favorite."
Nancy quickly scanned it, then shoved it back. "If you can play it good, you two can sing it."
"Okay," she agreed. "I'll sing one of the two parts." She gathered the papers in her hands, and headed to the gorgeous piano in front of her. Setting it on the stand so she could see it, she placed her form on the long, slender bench... and began to play.
It was beautiful right from the start, an interweaving of melodies, a samba, a reggae of trips, twirls, and turns. Her voice was marvelous, adding a touch of spice to the already perfect song. It held a note of eternal happiness that kept reappearing throughout the song, maintaining a mood of complete joy and ecstasy that one might experience when in love. It brought up your buried memories of first love and hope, leading you to remember the good times, the dates when time seemed to stop, when you wanted that one moment to last forever...
I was too stunned for words. It was absolutely the most beautiful thing I had ever heard. Nancy's eyes were wide as saucers, and Nick and Flinn, both writers, bowed their heads in defeat.
Eve stood up gracefully, and bowed.

"You are incredible!" I told her energetically, my turn to be the enigma. She just laughed modestly.
"You are way better."
"No I'm not."
"Yes... you are."
"No I'm not."
"Yes you are."
"NO I'm not! And don't you dare argue with me." My angry face was showing, making Eve drown in tears of laughter.
"Yes, Mr. Rockstar," she bowed to me. "Whatever you say."
"Okay," I slowed, and she soon matched my pace. "So then, why don't we have dinner tonight?"
Eve's face clouded. "Why? Is this a date?"
"Maybe it is, maybe it isn't," I shrugged offhandedly, though I was screaming in my head, YES! IT IS!
"Um," she pondered. "Okay. Let's home so I can change though. I look ratty in these clothes."
No, I thought, you don't look ratty in whatever you wear. But I chose to keep this thought to myself.

An hour later, I stood in the kitchen, wearing a light and loose plaid button down, accompanied by nice slacks and shoes. I had to wear a wig, my hair a dead giveaway, and used eyeliner-I know, I know-to create freckles. I wondered what was taking Eve so incredibly long.
"Are you up there?" I called impatiently. "The reservations are at 6!"
"I'm coming!" She huffed, her voice echoing down the stairs to my listening ears
First, a foot came into view.
Encased in green sandals with an adorable flower placed delicately on top, the foot soon was accompanied by a long, slender leg, then her torso. She was wearing a breathtaking ensemble consisting of a halter top, light blue in color, with a multi colored skirt that reached mid thigh. Her hair was tumbling past her shoulders, sparkles in it catching the light and reflecting it on the walls, meager amounts of eyeshadow and lipstick applied. Her outfit was mostly modest, yet... appealing. She was somehow more tempting than a girl in a bikini, yet also added an edge of innocence.
The innocence that I was determined not to lose in her. I am NOT going to be the one that introduces you to another world, I thought, a deadlier one.
Eve walked over to me and laughed. I realized, suddenly, that my jaw was hitting the floor. I reconnected my jaw to my face quickly, determined not to be embarrassed any further, Eve's mother chuckling quietly. I felt inferior to this spectacular beauty, a first for me.
Ever since the day I met her, Eve has been introducing me to a lot of "firsts".
"Shall we go?" I held out my hand, and she graciously took it.
"Of course."
I led her out the door, my heart pounding furiously in my chest.

Chapter 12

I peered out of the doorway, my loose, wavy hair falling in rivers down my slender back. I was dressed casually, with a beautiful blue halter top that I always believed fit Sadie way better than me, and a short, puffy, multicolored skirt that always took my breath away whenever I looked at it. I had never tried these outfits on before, except at the store when I bought them, because I always thought, somehow, I wasn't fit to wear them. It was too beautiful for me, a truly marvelous choice of attire that rather suited someone gorgeous like Sadie, Akemi, or Ayako.
But when I met Dex, everything I knew, or thought I knew, about myself proved to be wrong. When I first met Dex, I began to feel beautiful.
From the very start, Dex has had some sort of admiration for me that I could never understand. I could see it in his eyes, how he regarded me, like I was a precious jewel that could break at the slightest touch. I don't know why, but he thought me to be special. One of a kind. Beautiful.
And being the persuasive rockstar he is, I began to believe him.
Starting with the events on that very first night and leading to this afternoon, I had begun to increase in self-esteem, his encouraging words and approving looks sending me even higher. When I needed him this last week he was always right there beside me, an encouraging enigma, a gorgeous silver knight that would always come to my aid. He paid me an amazing amount of attention, more than he SHOULD give me, really, while almost ignoring everyone else.
Dex's behavior angered Akemi and Ayako the most out of all of the crazed fans in our school. They were vicious to me, even more than usual, but this time behind my back. They couldn't do anything to my face for fear of Dex getting angry at them. I could hear their whispers, though, as they polluted the rest of the population to their side, yet still had the nerve to flirt with Dex right in front of me. Their charm had no effect on him, though, his cool and calm demeanor politely brushing them off, paying no attention to their wily allurement. He only had eyes for me, a strange thought, honestly, and that confused me more than anything else.
He was the perfect gentleman, always opening the door for me, sticking to my side like glue. He was reliable, a brilliant tutor, teaching anything I didn't understand. He supported me with whatever I did, offering suggestions. He was also really funny, a comedian, who possessed just enough immaturity to say the hilarious jokes instead of the polite, reserved ones.
Everyone, I could tell, was jealous of me, which only served to fuel Akemi and Ayako's horrible rumors. They all seemed to want to believe it, those whispers of my "broken home life" and "she's just with him for the money" infecting them like a virus. Dex only sat with me at lunch, which was the instigator of even more sharp bitter words directed towards me, Dex too "popular" to be talked about. The popular table invited Dex constantly to sit with them-well, Akemi and Ayako at least, I don't think Peter was too interested-, but he refused, choosing instead to pull me from the library to a circular table in the lunchroom set for two. It was not that Dex was not amiable towards the other students, it was just that he didn't spend much time with them, choosing instead to be by my side. He seemed to understand that I needed it. Needed him.
To fill that empty gap Peter had left vacant so many years ago.
I guess that is why I suddenly felt whole, like the missing piece to the puzzle had finally been found... the heart finally mended. That is what made me decide to shimmy into the gorgeous clothing and wear it for the world to see, no matter how badly it might suit me.
A flash of insecurity rose in my chest as I surveyed myself once again in the hall mirror, observing, with a critic's eye, watching for anything out of place. Everything had to be perfect. I had spent over an hour stressing over my hair, makeup, and clothes, and I was not going to let it go to waste. I felt like I was about to enter an examination, and Dex was the-amazingly hot-judge. I couldn't fail this test.
I wondered what made Dex's opinion matter so much, how a single word that he speaks can lift me high with joy, or drag me to the darkest depths in sadness. He was honest, for one thing, but that wasn't the thing that made me so susceptible to his words. It wasn't that he was a rockstar, for I actually tended to forget he even WAS one. It wasn't even his handsome appearance, for I was not THAT superficial -yes, Akemi and Ayako, I'm talking to you.
It was just... him. His personality. His uniqueness. The way he devoted almost all of himself... to me. I felt extraordinary, and it was all thanks to him. I didn't want to fail him. I wanted to be that special someone, that person he admires.
The person he might love.

I stepped to the top of the stairs, my whole body shaking a little in anticipation. Maybe I should change to a plain skirt and a t-shirt, something a little looser. Yes, maybe that simple dress that's much more modest and won't attract much attention. I turned in the direction of my room, opting instead to change into a less "beautiful" choice of clothing. That would be better...
I stopped in my thoughts, alerted by Dex's agitated, melodious voice. "Are you up there? The reservations are at six!"
"I'm coming!" I called, anxiety laced through my words. No time to change then. I would have to deal with my current outfit. I took a deep breath, and took the first step down the long flight of stairs that would lead me to judgment.
What I did expect was Dex standing by the bottom row of stairs, looking up at me, a smile gracing his handsome face.
What I didn't expect was his jaw dropping to his knees.
His look of utter admiration amazed me. How could he possibly be enamored of me? I was ceaselessly surprised by his reactions, his kind words. But this? This open adoration was well undeserved.
I smiled timidly, my eyes crinkling in happiness and delight. This was beyond a fairy tale. Beyond a fantasy.
For this was more than I ever dreamed of.
From the very beginning of my crush, my obsession, I never expected to see him, meet him, or even talk with him. He was always that "unattainable someone", that person I couldn't help but regard with reverence. He was that dream boy, that ideal guy that everyone wanted, the pinnacle of the social pyramid. He was too important to be with someone like me. Supermodels wanted to be his girlfriend, rockstars wanted to be his best friend, and everyone in general wanted to BE him.
And this "it" guy was standing in front of me, staring his eyes out.
Dex was very deserving of his dream boy status tonight, his eyes green as a meadow, sparkling with amazing depth. His whole face was chiseled, his cheekbones jutting out slightly, a tiny cleft in his chin adding to his masculine appearance. He was wearing a button-down shirt, light green in color, paired with khaki pants and Italian leather shoes that were obviously expensive. He looked like he walked right out of a fashion magazine, his attire accenting the rich tones in his red hair.
Dex seemed to realize that his jaw was hitting the floor, and reconnected it quickly. My mother giggled from her perch, her chestnut eyes winking in appreciation us both.
"Reminds me of when I was younger," she nodded at me. "When I was dating your daddy."
Dex gave a start at what she said, confusing me. What had disconcerted him?
"Shall we go?" his musical, manly voice erupted from his mouth, disarming me. His voice was so beautiful.
"Of course," I replied softly, and we headed to the car, together, I almost drowning with overwhelming happiness. Dex was perfect and, for now, he was mine.

"You look beautiful," Dex commented softly, his breath tickling the nape of my neck as he leaned in.
"Oh... so THAT'S why your jaw was hitting the floor," I laughingly joked. It was fun to tease Dex, for he wasn't very good at comebacks, leaving him with a blush on his cheeks.
"Duh," his eyes crinkled with amusement, his mouth curving upwards in a grin. "If you didn't realize that already then you must be stupid."
"Ooh, I'm hurt," I put a hand over my heart, sarcastically. "That hurt me real bad."
"Yup," he agreed.
An awkward silence followed, each of us unsure of what to say. Dex seemed to have something on his mind, his eyes unfocused, his lips pursed in thought.
"Say it," I said softly, reaching forward. I brushed my finger across his cheek, softly, as if he was a fragile sculpture, a wondrous beauty. Once again, I felt incredibly lucky, my heart thumping in my chest.
My breath caught as he grabbed my hand, refusing to let me pull away. He turned to face me, not a problem in the spacious limo. His eyes pulled at mine, an irresistible force that always managed to melt me into a puddle of goo.
"I don't know if I should," he murmured, releasing my hand, finally.
"Go ahead," I felt comfortable, like I could share anything with him. He was the perfect confidante, a good listener, and was blessed with a mouth that wasn't disconnected from his brain. I couldn't imagine him asking any question I didn't want to answer.
But then he did. "Where is your dad?" he inquired softly, as if his words, if spoken quiet enough, would not affect me as much.
I looked to the black carpet below us, my mind churning with sorrow and pain not caused by Dex himself, but his words. The memories that resurfaced were painfully vivid, making me wince.
"I'm sorry, Eve," he caught my stricken expression and hurriedly put his arms around me. "You don't have to tell me anything."
His eyes searched for mine, regret searing through him. I smiled weakly, reassuring him. "It's okay. You would find out anyway soon enough."
Dex slowly leaned back in his seat, releasing me, closing his eyes. I felt comforted by the loss of the sharp intensity of his eyes, somehow enabling me to pour out my soul to him.
"He's dead," I couldn't withhold a sharpness to my tone, a bitter agony pricking me like a thorn. Dex, however, didn't budge, no reaction at all showing on his handsome features. "He died in a car crash two years ago," I choked out. "He lost control of the car, and ran into a tree. I... I told him not to go that night." I could feel my words flipping, twisting, melding together in sorrow. Why did I have to break down in front of Dex, of all people?
A single tear flew out of the corner of my eye, sniffles taking me over.
"Please don't cry," I heard a melodic, masculine voice, dripping with concern. Dex's hands brushed across mine, his eyes flying open. "I don't think I can take it if you cry." He said gently.
I suddenly felt an overwhelming thankfulness that he was here with me. He listened to my sorrow, and comforted me a little, making me feel special. I wasn't deserving of his kind manner, his devoted attention.
I smiled softly. "Don't worry, Dex. With you, I won't."
It was the only thing I knew for sure right then.
He grinned back, his pearly whites flashing in the dimly lit interior of the luxurious vehicle. "That makes me very happy," his eyes, intense as always, drilled into mine, and somehow, I didn't feel any discomfort.
I took his hand, and we sat in silence the whole way, his presence alleviating, soothing my nerves.

Once we arrived, I jerked my head back; suddenly aware of the way my head was precariously close to falling into his lap. I had gone off into a daze, and everything had temporarily gone blurry.
Dex looked at me, amusement in his eyes. His face was close to mine, smooth as marble, and the slightest of red giving life to his rather pale complexion. His lips, plump from the use of chapstick, were curled in enjoyment as he surveyed my form, splayed out before him, my head on his shoulder, like he owned me or something.
"It's okay," Dex said quietly, teasingly. "I enjoy having your head on my shoulder."
"Yeah, but..." how was I going to explain to him that that was something couples did? How close we were getting to BE a couple? Would he want that... or would he scoff at the idea?
"Come on," Dex said, a little sharp, wary of my hesitation. I could tell he was hurt, though only slightly. He stepped gracefully out the door, and offered his hand to me, like a prince. He was a prince. My prince.
I smiled as I gracefully wrapped my slender fingers around the palm of his hands, feeling the soft creases, obviously not callused by hard work. He pulled me, gently, out of the limo, his hand suddenly flying over my eyes. "You can't look," he said.
I kept quiet as he led me a couple paces, some backwards, some to the sides, some forwards, until I was truly dizzy. I heard Dex's muffled laugh as he spun me around, obviously enjoying the puzzlement etched across my face.
"Stop it!" I pushed his hand away, my mouth curved upwards. Then, I took in my surroundings in complete and utter amazement.
"What do you think?" he inquired as I gazed, mesmerized, at the marshmallow puffs of flowers, scattered on the emerald green meadow we were standing on. As green as Dex's eyes, thin blades of grass pointed directly upwards, not yet creased by footsteps. Weeping Willows surrounded this abode, the thin green ropes waving in the meager breeze. It was a cliff, kind of, cutting off at the edge of the meadow to display a spectacular view that wowed its audience. The sky was a blend of purple, pink, orange, the night sky coming upon it in a rush, rapidly fading into a pure black. A lake stood before us, it's crystallized surface reflecting the turmoil above, a fountain erupting in the middle. It was absolutely...
"Beautiful," I finished my thought out loud, barely above a whisper.
"I thought you would say that," he didn't turn to look at me, still surveying the wonder before us, a smile gracing his handsome face.
"I thought you said we had reservations."
"I lied," he said softly. "I was impatient to see your look of amazement." He turned, and so did I, and we met each other's gaze.
Suddenly, to my dismay, my stomach grumbled. I wrapped my arm around my stomach in embarrassment. "Did you bring food?" I asked weakly.
Dex laughed, a wonderful sound, a million melodies blending to create one voice, "Of course," he gestured to a little blanket splayed out before us, something I hadn't noticed before. A basket, filled to the brim with delightful delicacies, sat temptingly in the middle of it, exciting my hungry stomach.
We sat down, cross-legged, said a quick blessing, and began to eat.

"That was absolutely delicious!" I exclaimed, my hands propped up behind me, I surveyed the wondrous scenery.
Dex nodded in agreement, "I had my personal chef from Hollywood make it."
"You had it shipped from Hollywood?" Did I hear that right?
"Wow," I simply said, overcome by incredulity. I guess Dex truly does get whatever he wants.
Silence filled us both, though not awkward, but comfortable. I watched the moon as it came into view, the bright colors receding, swallowed by the night.
"I... I..." Dex started, his voice stuttering almost, anxiety rippled through his tone.
"What?" I inquired softly.
His eyes seemed frightened, nervous, as if the words he was about to say would doom him forever. He seemed to give into this... terror though, shutting his mouth as quickly as he opened it. I smiled, knowing, somehow, what he wanted to say.
I wanted to say it too.
But we had time. We didn't have to rush anything. I was not going to press him, and Dex would never push me to say those three fated words. We had about six months, and that was more than enough.
I pushed the basket, now empty, to one side, leaning my head against his broad shoulder, sighing with delight. Once again, I was consumed with delight. Dex was here. With me. Mine.
Dex seemed to be happy too, his expression as dreamy as mine, mutual love flowing through us both. He seemed to know exactly what I was thinking, like we were on the same wavelength.
I wanted these moments, tender and sweet, to last forever. Where everything was perfect. Beautiful.
Suspended in time, we sat by each other, watching a shooting star dance across the horizon, knowing exactly what we both were wishing for.

Chapter 13

The boiling sun glared at me as I clicked my fire engine red heels down the sidewalk, accompanied by Dex.
Dex was stunningly handsome today, with his beautiful, startling green eyes sparkling even more than usual and his ruby red hair waving in the wild breeze. His Hollister shirt stretched across his amazing muscles, baring some tanned, clear skin right above his rugged jeans. He wore his jeans like no other, a swagger to him, a sway, even, to his hips that seemed to make him special. Finally, to top this hotness off, his Hollister shirt was short-sleeved, allowing us a view of his fantastic biceps, huge in size, a marvel that no other rock star could even hope to mimic.
I, on the other hand, was wearing a loose, light shirt that was rather see-through in the back (not in the front, luckily). It was loose on the sleeves, which came to my elbow, but tied at the shoulders. It also tied at the waist, making it not completely sack-like, adding that little feminine touch to it. I was also wearing shorts, around mid thigh, that were white and stuck to my legs like glue. The heels? That was just so I could be almost as tall as Dex.
From far away, we looked like the perfect couple. My light brown hair was waving in the breeze, my sunglasses softening the sun's death gaze, my hand brushing across his, my lips stretched into a wonderful smile. He was matching my pace perfectly, his smile also evident, his expression of admiration for me shown in his face and his form. It was not a ruse either. Tuesday night, almost two weeks ago, was enough to guarantee that. The way he treated me, like I was worth something to him, made me feel almost like a precious jewel.
But, as the viewer would get closer to us, they would notice our faces, though smiling, were holding back, each not willing to risk the relationship we had to shoot for something more. We had both danced along the edge, walked around the subject, but we never reached the destination I so desperately wanted to go.
The grass, green and crisp like small emerald blades, stood high and mighty in the huge lawn. Small, black birds zoomed through the stuffy air, clouds trying, unsuccessfully, to block their way. A small brook ran through the side of the park, zigzagging through the wild underbrush that the park officials had not attempted to tame. We were standing in a serene, quiet place, surrounded by the ferocious trees that towered almost fifty feet above us.
But that was the beautiful thing about this National Park. It showed you two sides at one, the wild and the calm.
"Let's go!" I exclaimed excitedly, pulling at Dex until he was forced to follow behind. I weaved my way through the huge trees, stepping on roots, cautiously walking AROUND the poison oak, until we reached the creek.
The water itself flowed way beneath us, under a small mini-canyon, almost, of rocks and dirt. Steep and slippery, it looked like danger waiting to happen.
I took off my bright red heels and placed it on the pointy grass.
"What are you doing?" Dex asked me, fright in his voice, as I put one foot daintily on a huge rock that sat right on a steep ledge. I slipped down farther, catching my foot on a tangled root, and then recovering by using my hand to grab a ledge in the cliff.
Dex peered down at me from the top of the ledge. "You aren't going to...?"
A laugh escaped me as I almost fell into the clear water, consumed with delight. I had never felt this sort of... daring before. Adrenaline coursed through my veins, my heart rate accelerating to crazily high numbers, this thing called fear almost taking me over. But it was rather addictive, this fun sense of danger, so I didn't stop my navigation to the brook.
"Stop!" Dex looked at me, a sense of fear shown in his face and form. "Please," he said, "please stop for five seconds."
I obliged him, and he disappeared from my sight. I wondered what he could be doing. Maybe he left me. No. He couldn't have.
He returned, his handsome face appearing over the ledge, and I scolded myself for harboring the horrible thought that Dex might leave me.
He swung a leg over the cliff, and I smiled, aware of his intentions. With a happy grin on his face, he swung to the bottom, just by the narrow creek, in all of about two seconds.
I seethed with envy. Gritting my teeth, I let myself drop, almost five feet, then narrowly caught onto another ledge. My feet touched ground, and I wobbled upright, away from the cliff.
I bumped into something big and warm, hands grabbing my shoulders, his voice propelling me back to reality. "Eve, are you okay?"
I stepped out of his grasp and stood to face him.
"Yeah, I'm fine," I said, brushing myself off. A smile danced across my flushed face, my eyes sparkling just like his from the sweltering heat. The running water splashed onto rocks, dashing over and between them, leading who-knows-where. We stood, staring at each other, wondering just when it was going to be just right for one of us to say those three words that would make everything perfect.
A tall, gaunt man appeared over the top of the ledge, calmly surveying us. He was clean-shaven, with black hair that was slicked back, and a rather large nose that poked up at the end. He was wearing a gray suit that looked one size too big for him. My heart rate spiked when he asked, "What are you doing?"
I quickly called, "Sir, we-"
"Can answer a few questions if that's what you want," Dex interrupted me in my frenzied rant. I then realized he was a reporter and shut my mouth.
"Perfect," the man grinned widely, his set of white teeth sparkling in the sunlight. He stood, keeping his eyes on us. He reminded me of a vulture, with the way he scavenged for loose tidbits of juicy gossip. "First things first, Dex, when did you and the beautiful Eve Valencia get together?"
"How do you know my name?" I nearly shrieked. This was getting a little creepy.
"Everyone knows your name, Eve. Everyone watched that contest that you won. You are People's hot new thing, you know."
"I didn't know," I whispered. No reporters had swamped me, probably because they didn't want to get within five miles of Dex, and nobody at school really said that I was famous. I guess it was because we only have one grocery store and they only sell the collector's edition of People.
"So could you answer my question?" he asked Dex politely.
"Sir," Dex said respectfully, "We are not going out."
A sudden pain, like a lance, stabbed through my heart. The man raised a thin eyebrow.
"Are you sure?" he asked.
"Yes," Dex said firmly and without hesitation. He didn't spare a single glance at me, staring straight at the reporter.
I winced. It was like Dex was taking my heart and jumping on it.
"Okay," the reporter gave in to Dex's claims. "But not for long, right?" he shot a wink at me. I blushed a little, Dex finally looking at me in alarm.
"We don't know," Dex quickly said, drawing the reporter's attention away from my blush.
"Can you answer some more questions over here?" he gestured to a rock Dex could easily climb up on, closer to him, and he obliged, not brushing past me like he normally did, but coldly walking past me. My shoulder felt icy from the touch he didn't give. Then, he walked over to the man, and quickly started conversing in low tones.
I couldn't breathe, my throat suddenly constricting, my lungs folding under the pressure. Dex didn't want to be seen with me.
I guess that would be reasonable, for him. He didn't truly do anything wrong. So what if he decided that he didn't want his reputation to be dashed by me? I guess I really was a "spring fling", and I shouldn't have been gullible enough to fall for him.
Scratch that. I fell for him a long time ago.
I slowly edged towards the top of the ledge, taking short steps towards a ledge that would lead me upwards. For some reason, I didn't feel comfortable just standing there, looking at their forms in agony over Dex's behavior.
In truth, I was sick of worrying over Dex.
I reached for a rock, hoisting myself up higher, Dex paying no attention to my escapade, and climbed like a monkey towards the top of the ledge. I guess sadness and anger really does do a lot towards your determination and ability to do things. I was almost flying up the tall wall that loomed before me, my hands whirring with activity as I got closer...
After about five minutes, Dex's head appeared from the cliff, his eyes focused on me. I was exhausted from the trek up the ledge, so I was lying, back to the ground, on the cool, green grass. Out of the corner of my eye, I could spot him swinging his muscled and fit body over the top, truly a sight to see as his shirt rose above his belly button in mid-swing.
I said nothing to him, staring at the white, puffy clouds that rose above me. They were beautiful, little blasts of snow-white smoke, that moved with the breeze, floating along happily. He, sensing my sadness, laid down beside me, his ruby read hair mingling with mine, his hand touching my own.
I shook a little as a blast of energy flowed into me from that single touch.
"Look at that turtle," Dex pointed, his beautiful arms waving in the air, directed towards a certain cloud. It was a biggie, a colossal Columbus cloud, that resembled a turtle.
I laughed as the cloud thinned a little, making it look more like a skunk. "No, it's a skunk! See that little tail?"
"I think it looks more like a squirrel," he insisted, staring at it intensely. It shone, the sun behind it illuminating the sides.
"I think it's a skunk!" I countered. "You can smell that nasty gas a skunk is so famous for." I sniffed, my nose wrinkling in the summer air. "You know what?" I turned to face him, my face lying sideways in the grass, the tiny blades poking at my cheek.
"What?" he asked softly, his green eyes temporarily disarming me.
But I quickly regained my trace of thought. "I think it's you, not the skunk up there," I laughed at the sheer incredulity of what I said. His scent was actually the mix of strawberries and mint, a fantastic aroma that delighted the senses and made me sigh with awe.
He laughed also, joining me in my pleasure.
"Yeah, probably so," he whispered. Then, a cocky grin reached his face, his splendid features breaking into a grin. "But you like it," he said teasingly, one of his eyebrow raised.
"No I don't!" I pretended to be alarmed, although we both knew I couldn't truly lie to him.
"You're the one that keeps sniffing me, Eve," he laughed even harder, causing my sense of humor to continue on its chuckling rant.
We abruptly stopped laughing when we realized we were alone. There was no one around, the family we had seen earlier gone without a trace.
I stared at him, awkwardness rising within us both.
Then, Dex smiled, and reached with one hand to brush my hair away from my face. Slowly, he began at my forehead, and brushed his finger lightly down my cheeks, over my plump lips, and down to my collarbone. "Has... anyone told you, you are beautiful?" he tenderly asked, taking a strand of my hair and stroking it slowly, "because you are."
I didn't say anything, mesmerized by the movement of his lips, the way he said everything so deliciously. I desperately wanted to suck the words from his lips to get a taste of their smoothness. We were impossibly close, unable to tell from which one of our breaths came, my nose close to his. We stared at each other, dreamily, my eyes nearly closed. Was this a dream?
If so, I wish dreams would last forever.
"You know that I only wanted to protect you," he whispered, breaking the silence.
"I said we weren't going out, because if we were, all my fans would want to kill you," he grinned. I smiled back, my hair flying around me, waved by the whirl of the wind.
"Does that mean we are? Going out, I mean."
Silence greeted us next, my blood running cold.
His eyes grew urgent, tugging at me impossibly.
"Eve, could I-" his cell phone rang, a beeping noise that was impossible to ignore. "Sorry," he apologized, digging for it frantically, and then raising it delicately to his ear. After a few minutes, his eyes grew wide, and he nearly growled at the phone.
"When?? Now?" I could hear yapping on the caller's side, and a violent crackle that most phones had in their connections at one point or another.
He banged his expensive phone in the dirt, anger showing on his face. The coldness I had seen before returned, his face in absolute disgust. He stood up, lifting me up with him.
"I have some unfinished business to attend to in Hollywood," he said, his voice resigned. "I'm so sorry, Eve."
In HOLLYWOOD? He's going to... go?
He looked deep into my eyes. "Do you have a ride home?"
"Yeah," Sadie was in this area, and all I had to do was call her. But I didn't WANT to. I wanted Dex to take me home.
"I-I-I'm sorry," he stuttered again, pain and anguish showing in his features. He turned away, walking a few paces towards the entrance, then quickly whirled back to face me. He rushed to me, our bodies meeting, sparks flying between us. Our mouths met, lips in perfect sync, as he quickly kissed me into oblivion. His kiss was so sweet, more delicious than anything I had ever dreamed of...
"I have to go," he quickly pulled away, running towards the entrance again where a limo sat impatiently. I watched, spellbound, frozen in my place, as the limo doors shut, the engine starting. The limo quickly became a speck in my vision, until even it was no longer visible.
It was the right time for the words to be said, but that stupid phone call ruined it. It ripped everything I knew about Dex, his kindness, his sweetness, apart. When he left, I wasn't sure of anything. What if Dex was only faking his kindness, masking his true self? That last second, before he disappeared into the sleek, black limo, he seemed... far away. Distant. Like my dream was finally fading away into reality.
I recalled, from a couple of weeks ago, when I had said to him, "Don't leave me." I had meant what I said, and I knew that he heard me. He didn't promise me he would, but he acknowledged my words. I thought he wanted to be with me. I could understand business matters, but this sudden departure?
Why did he have to leave now, when everything was finally so perfect?

Chapter 14

I could still picture perfectly in my mind Eve's stricken, pained expression as I travelled farther and farther away from her, the intense terror and regret piercing through me still. I had finally, after years of being under the constant spotlight, met someone who shined just as brightly as I did, enchanting me instead of the other way around. She was a beautiful girl with an incredible voice that completely disarmed me from the very beginning. She was special, one of a kind.
I reached with a tender hand to my lips, recalling her impossibly sweet lips as they collided with mine, an unforgettable experience that made my heart beat even faster every time I thought about it. Her hand was warm and soft as it brushed against my cheek, delighting me, symbolizing that maybe she was feeling exactly what I was. It was pure ecstasy, an incredible few seconds that I would remember forever.
Even when I was just around Eve, I felt comfortable. Happy. She, somehow, made me want to care for her. She made me want to be by her side.
The piercing ring of my phone still echoed in my head from those few seconds where everything was perfect. I remembered how desperately I wanted to quell the cell phone's cries, to throw it away, even, so I could have more time with Eve. But the dreaded caller ID alerted me to the fact that throwing my phone away was not an option.
It was the owner of the record deal company, RACE, that I work with. As I flipped open the shiny phone, I had immediately switched to a business tone. RACE controlled practically my whole life, so I couldn't disrespect one of them.
"Dex?" the low, raspy growl of Mr. Benjamin Klein seared through my mind once again.
"Yes, sir?" I had asked respectfully. My whole being had gone numb from anticipation, frightened at what he might demand.
"We need you in Hollywood," his clipped and measured tone drove the blade of words into my chest.
"What?" I nearly screamed, all respect forgotten, "Now?!!" Eve had looked at me in total alarm, terror in her features. Just then, I had felt the urge to grab her in my arms, to tell her over and over again that it was okay.
"A limo is waiting, and the plane flight is at seven o' clock pm," Suddenly, the vibrating phone went dead in my clammy hands, alerting me to the dreadful circumstances I was in. I was going to have to leave Eve.
Maybe that was why I thought a kiss from her would sustain me, carry me on through the wretched days I would have to endure without her. And for a few seconds it was pure perfection that made me the happiest I've ever been. But in the seconds and minutes afterwards, leading until the present, I discovered that one kiss wasn't enough.
I wanted more.
I longed, once again, to feel the overwhelming joy Eve seemed to bring with her wherever she went, her happiness elating me also. I wanted to look in her sapphire eyes again, be mesmerized again and again by their depth, their beauty. Most of all, I desired to feel her lips on mine, experience that total euphoria once more. A couple seconds wasn't enough for me.
I craved a lifetime of seconds with Eve.
Why couldn't I say that I loved her when I had the chance?

As I stepped off the plane, I was once again greeted by the warm, summer air of Hollywood, California. It was a beautiful summer day, a day full of laughter, beaches, and teenagers getting drunk. How I used to love these days, sometimes even joining teen stars in their wild escapades.
But now, I realized, I was different. I wasn't as crazy as I was before. Eve was still affecting me in ways I thought was impossible, even when she, herself, was not with me.
The breeze danced across the horizon, blowing wisps of my ruby red hair to the side, my green eyes hidden under Aviators. There were people surrounding me on every side, the airports and streets filled to the very maximum capacity. From a distance, I could make out a tall, weed-like man with dark skin and big brown eyes, and immediately walked over, joy in my features. He was one of the few people I was happy to meet here in Hollywood.
"Hey Mark," I smiled, giving him a smile reserved only for those who were close to me, "How are you doing?"
"I'm doing great," he nodded in return, joy also evident in his features.
I grabbed his arm. "How is she doing?" I asked in low tones.
He just nodded, "she's doing perfectly fine. But Dex, you need to go see her before you leave."
"I promise I will," I couldn't speak another word about it for fear of a reporter's curiosity, so I quickly got in the car that was parked near Mark, and we both headed to RACE headquarters, the silence stretched taut between us. How I wished this could be over, that I could speak about her normally.
But right now, that wasn't an option.
People stared as the Lamborghini zoomed past them, an expensive car even for movie stars, parking into a prime parking spot reserved for the very car. RACE was very rich, holding almost a monopoly on super popular singers, offering the best service and quality for the lowest price (although all record companies are expensive). They held the cards, and they knew it. I was theirs.
Without a word, I flung the car door aside, not caring about wrecking their prized Lamborghini. They were the ones that prevented me from being with Eve right now after all, and I was NOT happy about that. That was one thing about RACE, they sure as crap cared about inconveniencing me.
The automatic doors flew open without a murmur, inviting me in to see the gleaming white lobby, the polished floors, the beautiful windows that shined under the glare of the fierce sunlight. Countless people were walking around the premises, wearing business attire, the buzz of conversation and movement clearly evident here. Ancient, costly, artifacts were everywhere, whether it would be a golden teacup or even a giant fossil, displayed around the luxurious abode. The magnificence, though, was only to be expected of one of the richest businesses in America.
I brushed past several people, not at all distracted by the splendor surrounding me, eager to reach the heart of the commotion, the head of the monster that imprisoned me with its manipulative contracts and conditions. I knew the way by heart, having walked down it several times before.
The brilliance soon faded into red carpet, soft white lights, and black walls, as if I was descending into a movie theater. Every step I took was illuminated by the lowlights, even though I couldn't even see my hand. This was my favorite part of the journey.
The anticipation of what was coming next.
At the end of the tunnel, a small light shone, the opening getting closer and closer as my feet brought me to it. It always amazed me how it was so separate from the rest of the building, the tunnel bearing no people or any commotion at all. It was just... completely still, like even the air was frozen. I felt a few chills as I approached the bright light, although I knew it wasn't from the cold. I was truly afraid of the beast I was about to meet.
It was so unique for me to be scared of anybody.
As the light touched my form, I wholly embraced it, swallowed by the brightness that strained my eyes. It was exactly as I remembered it, this office, the sudden, resplendent atmosphere, and the complete contrast from the tunnel to the opulence before me. A huge TV, about half the size of a movie screen you would see in a theater, perched on the light gold walls, almost translucent from its thin, slippery surface that was obviously top-of-the-line or even ABOVE it. A desk, made of gleaming oak, sat complacently in the center of the wondrous room, almost pure magnificence in itself. Decorations lined the walls, a huge glass chandelier a tiny bit smaller than a Volkswagen Beetle swinging from the top of the curved ceiling.
A huge swivel chair, which I knew held the monster, had his back facing me, watching some football show on the screen. There was a crackle as a pale hand sneaked into my view, crinkling a piece of paper then throwing it away. My heart rate soared at that single movement, the sudden horror shocking me.
A squeak was emitted as the chair turned, the human terror turning with it. It took its time, swiveling slowly, the suspense nearly killing me.
A middle-aged man, with shockingly blue eyes and creamy white skin, surveyed me silently. His hair was blond, although he had a few gray and white hairs to spruce it up, leading me to believe he was probably the golden boy in his age. His handsomeness nearly worn away, he seemed tired, gaunt, the hollows under his eyes dark and puffy.
"Dex," he uttered, his raspy voice nearly cracking as he said my name. He coughed once, the sound reverberating around the office, and then shot me a timid smile. "Sorry about that," he said softly, "my voice is hoarse today. I have a cold."
"That's okay, sir," I replied. Oh, so he gets colds also like any other mortal man?
"Thank you for understanding," his words were icy cold, yet impossibly polite. He stood up, brushing something off his pantsuit. He was very tall, about six foot and seven inches, his shadow swallowing me. "So why are you here?" he curiously questioned.
"Sir," alarm showed plainly on my face, "you called me!"
"No, I most definitely did not," he firmly stated, his eyes narrowing slightly.
"Just this morning I received a call from RACE headquarters," I showed him my caller list on my phone quickly, his eyes widening as he processed the information.
His tone was angered, "We didn't-"
"Papa, I did," a shrill voice rang through the air, alerting us both. A young girl stepped out from the shadows, her chocolate brown skin nearly making her blend in with the rest of the furniture.
At first, she reminded me of Penny, with the way her voice had a natural commanding tone to it, but then I noticed how physically different they were. With long, stick straight brown hair and big, beautiful eyes; this girl sure was a knockout. However, Penny was graced with blond hair that tumbled past her shoulders, skin as white as the man before me, and a much taller figure. This girl was short, but graceful, like a ballerina. The only thing the two girls shared physically was their eye, both as dark as could be.
Recognition seared through me as I looked at her again. She was the girl from the competition I had! What was her name...?
Oh, what's the use? The only girl I cared about knowing was Eve, the others just fading into the background.
"I'm Serena," she said, her crisp voice alerting me, "your new girlfriend."
"What?!" I asked furiously. There was no way RACE could control that aspect of my life also. I... couldn't let them do that to me.
The man was also staring at her strangely. "Serena, dear, maybe you should go back to the mansion and let daddy do his work. Maybe, if you're good, I could get you a date with him."
"Stop treating me like a baby," she spat at him, anger laced in her tone. She turned to me, her eyes ablaze. Coming towards me, she grabbed my hand. "We are going to talk alone," she told her daddy slowly, as if he was the baby instead of this spoiled brat. Shoving me into the hallway, she shut the door to the office, leaving only us in the vast tunnel.
I shot her a hate-filled glare, and wished with all my might that looks could kill.
"No need to do that, sucker," she said carelessly, "I won't die."
How did she know?!
She laughed at the confused expression on my face. "What you were thinking was clearly displayed on your face."
"What do you want from me?" I asked, cutting to the chase.
"I want to be your girlfriend."
"But what if I don't WANT to be your boyfriend?" I asked angrily.
"Tough luck," she picked at her nails.
"Why do you want to be my girlfriend?" I pestered.
"That's for me to know, and you NOT to know," she paused. "Oh, and I need you to cut off all contact with Eve,"
"WHAT?!" I screamed with anger. There was no way I would ever agree to stop talking to Eve. Eve was my everything.
I remembered, once again, the feeling of her lips against mine, the way we both sizzled with chemistry, and felt a tiny sliver of that elation just from the memory. I had to experience that once more, or I would honestly just break down.
"Or," she flipped a thin, silver key that was hanging on a chain around her finger, "I will tell everyone your secret."
My breath was suddenly taken away as I processed her words.
"How did you find out?"
"Penny is my sister," she said plainly, as if that explained everything.
"No," I whispered, horror racing through me as she continued,
"I will tell everyone, starting with People magazine, then USA Today, and after a slew of other magazines, Eve herself. Wouldn't she be surprised when I told her that you have-"
I quickly placed a hand over her mouth. My expression resigned, I said softly, "please don't say it."
It was too terrible.
She smiled, clearly knowing that she had the upper hand. "It won't ever leave my mouth if you cut off all contact with Eve and go out with me."
Serena stepped closer, looking deeply into my eyes. But, instead of admiration, intimidation was in her expression. "If you speak one word to Eve, send one note, give her a sign or ANYTHING at all, then your secret will be halfway across the world in a matter of seconds."
I opened my mouth, waiting for the words to come, but nothing came out. She had won. There was no way I wanted the world to know my secret.
Eve least of all.
"Think about it," she smiled, brushing a hand against my cheek, "I'm sure you will make the right choice."
She turned away, her high heels clicking on the floor as she exited the tunnel. I watched her leave, my mind completely blank. Everything was over. I reached up to touch my cheek, shuddering at the prickliness Serena had caused. How could a girl be so harsh? How could she not even want me to tell Eve goodbye?
I reeled as I finally realized the hopelessness of the situation. Serena had caught me in a web, one that I couldn't untangle myself out of, for once.
If only I hadn't done it. If only I had not made that major mistake. If I was free from my burdens, Eve would be in my arms right now, smiling as we enjoying a bright summer day. We would be kissing, talking, murmuring in each other's ear. We would be sharing a life together, or at least until the record was completed.
I would've been in complete ecstasy.

And now, I could never speak to Eve again.

Chapter 15

Silently I waited for the limo to fade from my sight.
I turned, my body tickling still from the shock of a rock star tearing my heart into a million pieces. The whole forest of the beautiful natural park became dizzy, swirling in my mind. I could taste the bitter betrayal in the air, feeling it swirl around me until it nearly swallowed my skinny form.
I knew that, eventually, he would leave me, but I didn't expect it to be so soon. The record was far from over, we still had a bunch of collaborations to learn and sing, and I honestly just thought that, somehow, he would find a way to stay with me. I trusted in him enough to believe that he would always be there for me.
Look where that got me.
I must be overreacting. He probably had some sort of event or meeting he had to attend and would be back by the next day. I tended to forget that Dex was a rock star sometimes, and the whole country wanted him just as much as I did. He was their idol. Every move he made was plastered on the front of their magazines, his face stretching from cover to cover. They all desired for a taste of Dex's life, all the while wishing they too had something more. Almost every single person in America knew Dex's name, and most want to be him, or date him. They considered Dex to be a fantasy, a light that kept them hoping for the best.
Who was I to think that Dex was mine and mine alone?
I sluggishly dragged myself to a nearby park bench, fighting desperately to hold the tears back. It was surprisingly hard not to let the tears show, the watery drops fighting just as hard as I to be released from their cage. Quickly, I checked my watch, it saying 4:30 pm. I lied when I said Sadie could bring me home. She wouldn't be back from her date until 10, and I wasn't about to interrupt her exciting renegade with her handsome man. I would want the same if I were her.
But how would I get home then? I suppose I could start walking, but my home was around five miles away. Also, my foot hurt terribly, and I would probably get lost along the way, thinking back unconsciously to the beautiful kiss that made me dizzy, delivered by the most popular man in America.
It certainly was beautiful, his lips pressed against mine for a fraction of a second, but somehow making it last an eternity. He was incredibly gentle; with the way he cupped my cheek, his lips' softness taking me over. I had never felt so... prized as I did in that one moment. It seemed that he considered me to be precious, like a diamond, the way he was holding me almost cautious. It was as if he was holding back, like he was trying desperately not to break me.
The best thing about that kiss, though, was the emotions it conveyed. In that one kiss, his thoughts became mine, likewise with me, us both vulnerable because our innermost feelings were so blatantly displayed.
In that one kiss, I found that he loved me.
But for how long? When he was surrounded by the young starlets and singers, the girls infinitely more beautiful than me, would this love last? I had no idea if this was a love that would prevail until he saw me again.
My eyelids were falling, consciousness threatening to leave me. I had not had much sleep for several days, consumed by self-conducted happy fantasies with Dex as the main character and I as the heroine. I fought to stay awake, waging a war I knew I wouldn't win.
I decided, quickly, to stop worrying about Dex. It was not to me to decide if this love would last through tomorrow, or the next day, or even a month. That was up to him.
All I knew was that I was hopelessly in love with him, and MY love was the type that lasted forever.
The sleep quickly overtook me, and I faded away into the black void, my thoughts vanishing, and darkness taking its place.

"Eve?" a gentle hand, rough from hard work and misfortune, lay on my shoulder. Slowly, I cracked an eyelid open a tad, peering around me as the hand rubbed my shoulder in a delightful way that almost made me moan with satisfaction. It was soothing, a comfort that seemed to made me feel better. Did this hand know how I felt right now?
I soon noticed, as my thoughts became more oriented and focused, that the beautiful hand was connected to an arm. Strong and wiry, it indicated that he worked out a lot. It was also tanned and freckled, with little hair, and was so ripped with muscles I almost gasped.
The arm, as all are, was connected to a body. Just as strong looking as the arm, the man's body was tall, not stocky, yet was built incredibly. His shirt, tattered to an end just above the belly button, revealed stellar abs that put Dex's to shame. His jeans hung low on his hips, his stomach even more accented because of this fashion. I felt my gaze tugged towards the impressive sight, towards the body that snagged my interest so.
A blush rose to my cheeks when I had realized I was staring at his body, and I tried, unsuccessfully, to wipe it away as I examined the glorious figure. Then, I yanked my eyes away, bringing them upwards towards his face.
The first thing I noticed about his face was the eyes. Chestnut, with hints of dark chocolate, his eyes were huge, set into his face handsomely. Instead of giving off the bug eye impression, though, it added a puppy dog look to him that was just as enchanting as his muscles. They seemed to be the type of eyes that tugged at you endlessly, the type that most people hated because it never released you from it's grasp. I, personally, loved the depth of them, their everlasting richness, and their mesmerizing, hypnotizing quality. Streaked with flecks of pure gold, it truly held your attention until you were absolutely determined to move your focus to something else.
The eyes’ enchanting quality faded slowly, giving way to an impressive accompaniment. His nose was bridge straight, the kind that you didn't give much attention to, but nevertheless perfect. His ears were the same, the kind of perfect you didn't dwell on in your thoughts. However, his lips were truly magnificent, plump and desirable, enviable by even the supermodels. It was manly, of course, but hypnotizing all the same.
His hair, brown with drastic blonde highlights, lay shaggily over his forehead, swished aside. It was the kind of hair that immediately compelled you to run your fingers through, to feel its softness, its amazing grandeur that wowed anyone and everyone. All the features immediately came together to create a person I knew, and was not particularly fond of.
"Peter!" I exclaimed in recognition, jumping back into the bench, nearly falling off from fright. Quickly the hand snaked off my shoulder, my eyes crinkling with despair as I realized that I wanted the hand back, rubbing me until my insides stopped hurting.
"Yes, it's Peter," he said, his rough and grainy "bad boy" voice causing a flutter inside my stomach. Dex never spoke so dangerously.
"Why are you here?" I queried, my voice shaking a little as I realized I was thinking about his body and face too much.
"Well, I WAS here for a walk. Now, however, I suppose I need to take you home." Although his words indicated resignation to the task, his tone revealed barely hidden excitement.
I checked my watch, gasping as I discovered that it now read nine o' clock. I had been sleeping for that long? Four and a half hours was an eternity for me. I got in around five hours of sleep each night, and that wasn't far off from a night's worth.
My hair was a mess, as I could tell from the reflection of my watch, so I quickly released it from it's bun, the soft waves flooding down my back in rivers until it reached my lower back. Peter just stood there, watching me, his face devoid of expression.
"Okay, thanks," I finally replied to his declaration. He smiled in return, his flashing white teeth releasing a fluttering butterfly in my stomach. What was I doing?
What was I thinking?
I felt a blur of movement, then incredible warmth as he suddenly swung me into his arms, holding me close to his heart. I could sense his eagerness, his body's excitement at my closeness. This was unlike anything I had experienced with Dex. Dex always seemed to be holding back, not releasing his true emotions unless I was able to unveil them, which was very hard to accomplish. Peter just blatantly showed his emotions, not caring about the effect it might have on the other person.
Which, in this case, he wouldn't have needed to worry about anyway. It was amusing to notice how his heart rate shot up in my presence, and oddly comforting. It was new and exciting, the opposite of Dex's caution.
It wasn't that didn't like Dex more, but this was a welcome change.
He effortlessly carried me, as if I was as light as a feather, into the parking lot, the seconds lasting almost minutes, dragging on, endlessly slow. I tried not to be affected, but I could feel my heart rate escalate, shooting high as my nervousness began to show.
This was strange... I had never felt this sort of awareness at Peter's close proximity before.
Maybe it was because Peter was acting like the perfect prince. Looking at him from my perch in his strong arms, I could see his determined expression, him wanting to carry me safely to his car and deliver me home. It was so sweet, his caring.
Also, there was a carefully hidden desire Peter tried to conceal that I easily picked up on, not frightening but amusing.
We both reached a silver car, gleaming, without anything marring it. It was a convertible, the top down, and obviously expensive because of its pristine and innovative features. I immediately recognized it as a new BMW convertible, the top model, with so many perks that it made even rich people's eyes pop out with amazement. I had seen it constantly on TV, proclaimed to be the "best car on earth". And now, here it was, standing in front of me.
I wondered, suddenly, if I was still in dreamland.
Peter swung the door open with his foot, placing me carefully in, as if I was as regal as a queen, then walked to the driver's side. He got in, starting the car even without a key, scanning his finger through a tiny compartment by the steering wheel. It quickly roared to life, the powerful engine preparing for a drive.
"Wow," I whispered softly as it purred through the parking lot and out into the road without a murmur.
"I know," Peter said softly, "it's a dream come true for me."
"It's a dream come true for you to have to take me home and not take a walk like you wanted?" I teasingly questioned. I expected him to groan and say no, telling me exactly WHY it was not a dream come true.
So I guess that was why my jaw dropped to my knees when he said, "Yes."
"Oh, really," I murmured, although my insides were tumbling and turning with excitement. A guy, besides Dex, had never said something so sentimental to me before.
I was surprised to find that his words almost excited me more than Dex's did.
Peter said nothing, just continued weaving his way through various roads until my house loomed before us both. He drove the shiny car on the dirt pathway until we were close to the door, my heart rate descending when I realized we were already there. I wanted a few more minutes to sit in the beautiful car, feeling the air rush past my cheeks, sense the comforting presence of Peter right beside me.
We both sat there, Peter making no move to unlock the car doors, I making no move to ask him.
"He... he left you, didn't he?" he finally asked after a long period of silence.
He seemed to understand what I was trying to communicate through my silence.
"That jerk's not good enough for you, Eve," his words hung between us, the truth evident. He looked at me, his gaze comforting. The tension wasn't there, only us.
Former best friends, current standing unknown.
My memory flashed to earlier events, when Dex said the awful words, "I have to leave." They still seared through me, like a poisoned barb, a whip of words that caused terrible pain.
Peter leaned closer to me, his hypnotizing lips dwelling next to my ear. My breaths suddenly became shorter, almost in frenzied gasps. "Just remember, Eve," his voice dropped to a whisper. He paused, then took a deep breath and said, "I'm the one that never left."
I was still frozen with shock when he pulled away, his gleaming car roaring, leaving me in the driveway staring after him.

Chapter 16

I dragged myself through the door, weariness showing in my slow walk. Lou was sitting on the couch, her magnificent raven black hair splayed among the pillows, contrasting sharply against her snow white skin. She was leafing through the TV channels, her expression of pure boredom, most likely trying to hide the worry that boiled underneath her facade.
She shot up at my entrance, crossing over to me with concern. "What took you so long, honey?" she queried, her voice worried. She had obviously been spending hours fretting about my tardiness, wondering just exactly what Dex and I were doing at such a late hour.
"Mom, I'm okay," I said softly, my voice barely above a whisper.
"He didn't... do anything to you, did he?"
"NO mom."
All he did was ditch me without saying when he was coming back, kissing me into oblivion, then leaving me in the dust as his limo sped away.
"Okay, sweetheart," her enchanting brown eyes stared into mine, "but if he does... would you tell me?" her voice wavered slightly, her expression of hope as she peered at me.
"Probably," I murmured, disconcerted under her all-knowing gaze. She shot me a relieved smile.
"Goodnight," she propelled herself, her plump red lips coated with lipstick, towards my forehead. She delivered a simple, sweet kiss, her minty breath wafting into my nostrils, and then glided away.
I smiled a little at Lou's kind gesture, the caring feeling she rarely expressed showing through. She was the sort of parent that didn't shower her love generously upon us. But I was fine. I could cope.
I glanced for a few lingering seconds at the sofa in the den. It was immaculate, not a trace of anything remotely Dex. The soft surface looked groomed, no stains to be found. He must have had it cleaned out earlier or something, the couch even better looking than when he arrived here.
It was suddenly hard to believe that Dex had slept on this very sofa. All I had left of him was a memory, a memory that was getting even more surreal by the minute.
Emotion starting to overtake me, I ran to my room, coughing as I fought back tears. The comforting aroma of my cinnamon candle greeted me as I slipped through the door, shutting it quietly behind me. The shaggy carpet, white as snow, crumpled under my footsteps, the ceiling fan whirring the air directly onto my form. My bed, a queen-sized one I had to share with Sadie, sat begrudgingly in the center, its covers rumpled and thrown aside. With walls as thin as paper, I could hear every word muttered in the house, not a good thing when you want to go to bed when your mom is watching TV.
I went to the small berth, sliding my form on it gracefully. I pull my knees to my chest, leaning back against the headboard, my eyes looking at the cracked ceilings, the fan that was dangerously close to falling, and the vent.
This, to me, was home. It was my secret place, the place I could just... be me in. It wasn't a lot, but it was enough.
I let the tears flow, finally, them racing in rivers down my cheeks and spilling onto the comforter. Why did he have to leave me?
Will he ever come back?
A million other questions zoomed through my mind, all of which I had no true answer to. It agonized me, the terrible feeling of being without answers or hope. Both were incredibly important to me, and only when I was without them I would panic.
I dragged the covers over me, my form shaking from my strong emission of emotion. The tears were blinding me, blocking my vision until all I could see was light, unable to distinguish specific forms.
The light quickly faded into blackness as my breathing became steady, my eyelids slipping to a close with a soft thud.

I woke to the sound of breathing. I quickly twisted in my position to see Sadie beside me, her beautiful eyelashes pointed downwards, sleep overtaking her form. She had a dreamy, satisfied look to her face, her cheeks blushing flame red. What could she be fantasizing about?
In that one moment, as I examined her serene face, I envied Sadie. Her looks were one of a kind, her complacent expression invoking the green monster inside my chest. I would love to be able to talk to people like Sadie always did.
But most of all, I wished my life was as simple as Sadie's.
I get up, swinging my legs off the bed, walking over to our chest of drawers. There was an awful creak as I slid it open, a groan that made me shudder. Quickly, I picked out a red, two piece tankini, with intricate designs down the side, gathering at the waist. Holding my breath, I slipped it on, knowing all the while that if Sadie cracked open one eye, it would be over for me. This swimsuit was one of Sadie's favorites.
I rushed down the stairs and out the door, gasping as a wisp of icy wind blew across my form, embracing me, the cold shaking me to the bone. The grass was green and crisp, the thin blades stick straight. Flowers bloom, a iridescent array of green, purple, red, blue, and yellow, splayed throughout the yard. The sky was still pitch black, illuminated only by the lustrous moon, its pure light shining upon my form. Another pretty, freezing cold morning.
I meandered over to the lake, marveling at it's beauty. It was crystal clear, the dark waters reflecting the night above. There seemed to be no turmoil beneath the surface, the pure serenity suspended in time, for these few meager seconds that nearly made my heart burst with happiness. Dex did not have a beauty such as this over in Hollywood.
To hide the sound of my sniffles and tears, I plunged into the perfect water, creating the first ripple of the morning.

I scrambled for my shoe with gusto, wanting to find that one specific pair that I loved. A bright green sandal with a huge flower on the straps was suspended in my left hand, dangling by its own leash. Before me laid a mountain of shoes, a true terror that frightened me to death. I knew that shoe had to be in there. I remembered the last time Sadie wore them a couple of days ago, leaving them in this disastrous pile.
l don't know what came over me to dress up this morning. I was wearing a light and airy chocolate colored skirt, mixed with swirls of blue and green. It sparkled, overlaid with sequins, ending at about mid thigh. My top was a plain turquoise, lace around the scooping neckline, buttons merely for decoration trailing down the front. There were no sleeves, it being a tank top, although I covered the revealing sight with a denim jacket that cut off just beneath the bust.
There was no one to dress up for, though, so why was I doing it?
I guess even the memory of Dex affected my closet choices.
I heard a banging on our thin door, and I quickly clacked over with my one shoe. Through the peephole, I spotted a wealth of cameras, microphones, and people. Not again, I thought. They had been pestering me ever since Dex left the vicinity, wanting to know the scoop between us.
The problem was, I just didn't know the scoop. I was as clueless as they were.
I looked down in fright at my bare toes. They would think I was crazy if I walked out there with one shoe. Quickly I tug a blue sandal with a very similar flower from the pile and shoved it on my feet. Who cares if it matches?
I open the door quickly, slipping out to not disturb my family, then shutting it quickly behind me. Might as well satisfy their curiosity now, when my sister was still taking a shower and not here to bug me.
"Eve Valencia, can you ans-"
"Have you and-"
"Are you going to continue to pursue a singing career?"
All I really heard was that last question.
"Please, one question at a time," I said, exasperated. My brain hurt from their frenzied bursts of inquiries. The chattering immediately stopped, a welcome change for me.
"That's a stylish outfit," a lady from Vogue commented, her eyes focusing on my shoes, "It's new and different! The shoes are cute. Would you want to be on our front cover next month?"
"Sure," I shrugged. I never got any magazines down here, because of the complete country-like aspect of this town, anyway, so it wouldn't affect me.
"Are you going to move to Hollywood or Los Angeles?" a thin reporter with a curly mustache prodded.
"Probably neither," I replied. How can fame change my life this much?
"Are you and Dex going out?" a pretty lady asked.
There was a pause. Everyone was suspended in silence, waiting for my words. This was the big question.
I decided to give them the truth, and nothing but the truth. "We were getting close to going out, but then he left for Hollywood before we could solidify our relationship." At least it sounded sophisticated.
"That's horrible!" the same lady replied, her brown eyes full to the brim with sympathy and concern. "You... didn't let him take your innocence, did you?"
"No!" I said quickly, redness coming to my cheek. "But... I did like him," I admitted softly to her, the lady's eyes widening slightly.
"I guess Dex has another side to him," she starts furiously scribbling on her notebook, I suddenly remembering who I was talking to. A reporter. Why did I have to tell the truth in front of a gossiping reporter?
"Please," I walked over to her and touched her arm. "Don't say anything bad about Dex. I'm sure he had to leave for Hollywood because of business."
She nods silently, vanishing into the crowd quickly, giving me the impression that I had done something horribly wrong.
"Come back later if you want answers to your questions," I threw over my shoulder as I swung the door open and walked quickly inside. Emotion started to overtake me, and I put my head in my hands.
Why did everything have to turn out this way?

The was a soft, hesitant knock on the door a half hour later, just when I was about to leave for school. Sadie sat at the kitchen table, her hair a frizzy mess, eating a bowl of cereal. There was a small grin on her face, a satisfied one, and I wondered what exactly that meant.
Not more reporters, I hope. If she called even more reporters to trail me again like yesterday, I was going to kill her.
But the knock proved that possibility to be null and void. It was not the sort of knock a reporter would choose. They probably would take the more direct option and bang on it with all their might. Reporters are scary until they get what they want.
I walked over and swung the door open, then stepped back in surprise.
Peter stood there, undeniably handsome in his vintage jeans and t-shirt, looking down at his shoes. He glanced upwards at me, scanning me quickly, and shot me a hesitant smile. "You called?" he questioned.
"What?" I was confused.
The same look adorning my face showed on his also. "You called me ten minutes ago asking for me to give you a ride to school." He gestured to his shiny car on the road, beckoning for me to slip in it.
"I'm sorry, Peter. I didn't call you," I replied quickly.
I turned and glared at Sadie. She grinned back, her mouth full of cereal. "I called you, Peter, and pretended to be her so you would come over here," she clarified.
"That's a mean joke," he shot at her the same evil look I had seconds earlier, then without another word, started down the steps. I banged the door shut and ran after him.
I didn't want to be alone this morning. I wanted a distraction.
"Peter," I touched his arm. He halted, the silence between us unbearable. "I... want a ride."
He said nothing for a few lingering seconds, then turned to face me. "Okay," he said carelessly, opening the door on the passenger side so I could get in.
I watched Peter as he cranked the engine, the way he carefully scanned his finger, and then gripped the steering wheel lovingly. I could tell he really cared for his car.
He could sense my gaze, I could tell, but he didn't turn to me, keeping his eyes glued to the road. The school was close, so we wouldn't have much time.
"Peter..." I carefully said, a hesitant waver to my tone, "what you said was wrong."
Peter stiffened, sitting up straighter in his seat. "What?"
"You DID leave me," I corrected him from the previous night. "You left me standing in that empty hallway over five years ago, with no one to run to. You left me every second of these five years, ostracizing me until I was totally alone," I started to stutter a little, my anger corrupted by the feeling that maybe I was a little too harsh. But I had to get my feelings out somehow.
There was a sudden screech, the car's wheels turning harshly, running us both off the side of the road. Peter's eyes were alight with anger, his movements impulsive. The car stopped as he mashed the brakes, the lights dying as he mashed the car engine OFF button.
Peter seemed to be breathing heavily, trying to get the anger out of his system. He closed his chocolate eyes, his brown-blonde hair falling into his face. I waited patiently, a little frightened by this sudden turn of events.
He looked up, finally meeting my eyes since I had gotten in the car. "Eve, I know this may sound strange, especially from your point of view, but I didn't leave you stranded. It was for your own safety that I backed off. I was afraid that... I would suddenly kiss you when we talked, or did something else I knew you wouldn't want. I was holding back every second of each day I spent with you, and it was draining more of my energy than I could have possibly imagined. I had become constantly tired, my energy low all the time. It started to affect the football team. Our coach threatened to make Louie the starting quarterback if I didn't get enough sleep. But it wasn't sleep. It was you.
“It wasn't your fault, of course, but I soon got to the point where it was all or nothing. Having you as just my best friend wasn't enough. All my friends were trying to set me up on dates with girls, but I had no interest in them. All I wanted... needed... was you to be mine, and mine alone. I started to get angry whenever you talked to another guy. I tried to deny that it was jealousy, but the evidence was insurmountable.
“Finally, I hiked up the courage to tell you how I felt. To release some of this pent up desire, to make you mine. I thought that you liked me, Eve, but I wasn't sure if you thought of me as just a friend, or something more. My friends assured me that you would love to have me as a boyfriend. I became full of myself, thinking that surely you liked me. All girls did, so why not you?
“But the best thing about you, Eve, is that you are different from everyone else. You were so nice, and caring when I told you my feelings, but I could tell you were surprised by the prospect of going out with me. In fact, liking me had never even crossed your mind. As soon as I uttered the fatal words, I realized that everything would be different from now on. You knew my heart's desire, and the awkwardness would begin.
“I wanted so badly, at that moment, to stay best friends with you, to be by your side. The way you begged me was so tempting, the wonderful possibility you created of staying the same as it was before appealing greatly to me also. But I knew, even though eventually the event would fade in both of our memories that I would never be able to go back.
“I was lovesick for you, Eve. However, I knew that I would only cause you problems. Maybe, eventually, you would go out with me because you felt guilty. You would let me kiss you, breathe in the scent of your hair, hold your hand, and let me be eternally happy. But you, on the other hand? You would be miserable.
“I wasn't surprised when you told me you liked another, but that didn't stop me from being angry. I was disappointed, saddened, and bitter, which was not a good combination. I didn't want you to see me like that, when I would eventually spout off on you and make you even more depressed. I had to leave before my emotions spilled out all over my features and into my voice. The only thing I could do was turn and leave you standing there in the hallway.
“I know you were hurt, badly. You had lost your best friend in a matter of minutes. But I was selfish. I only cared about my pain. The hurt I could only avoid by avoiding you. And also, I hated putting the pressure of knowing your best friend was in love with you upon your shoulders.
“But I never left. I was always there, looking out for you. Maybe I wasn't by your side constantly, but I watched you from a distance. Hoping that, somehow, time would ease the pain. But it didn't... for me and for you.
“When Dex arrived, and when I saw you and him together, I knew. He was your love, and he was fixing your broken heart when I couldn't. I wanted you to be happy, so I left you both alone. But that didn't stop the insane jealousy that still seared through me. I still, though trying to be selfless, wanted him to disappear. So it would be just you and me, just like in seventh grade. He spoiled my hope of you ever coming to choose me over the guy you liked. How could I ever compete with a guy like him? I know you aren't superficial, Eve, and I know you don't fall for looks alone, but he everything you could want. He the ideal match for you, the perfect guy for the perfect girl.
“And even though, now, I am happy he is gone, I still am angry at him for leaving you. For hurting you. The jerk ripped your heart into a million pieces and didn't even bother to leave you a broom and dustpan to clean it up. I don't know the details, but I'm sure it was horrible for you," he looked at me, his gaze steady and comforting. "I want to help, Eve, in any way I can."
"Oh, Peter, I'm sorry," I said softly, sadly, "I... I never knew," I took his hand, holding it tightly. At least now I understood.
"I just want you to be happy," he whispered to the wind, my ears barely catching his words.
"I am, Peter. Right now, I am," I smiled and held his hand close to my heart.
Honestly, I never knew if I would return his feelings. He seemed to know that too, his expression of sadness. But what mattered most was that we, at this moment in time, were both content.

"What's going on between you and Peter?" Sadie prodded me on the way to lunch, "Did something happen in the ride to school?"
"We made up," I said, carefully navigating through the throng of people. We hung close together, our whispers only heard by each other.
"Are you two going out?" she asked excitedly.
I sighed, "No, Sadie," She had only asked me that three million times since she spotted me holding Peter's hand in his car as we arrived at school. Sadie really was unrelenting.
"But you will be, right?" she queried, her animation unsuppressed.
"Sadie, now might be a good time to stop talking. I might just slap you if you say another word about Peter right now," I warned, my irritation showing in my tone.
She grinned, "Okay. So... do you want to sit with us today?"
"Um... what?"
"At our lunch table."
The popular table? No way.
"No," I stated firmly. She grabbed my arm, squeezing it in protest.
"Ple-e-e-e-ease?" she begged, a pouty look to her features, "HE will be there."
"For me?"
"Eve, if you don't come sit with us, I might say a few stories about you to Akemi and Ayako," she threatened. Fear flashed through my mind, and also... the possibility. The possibility of sitting with Sadie and Peter and just being normal. To return to seventh grade, when I was happy, Dex in the farthest corner of my mind.
"Fine," I huffed, through secretly enthralled at the prospect. Sadie breaks into a marvelous grin, a strand of her golden hair falling into her face. Her eyes crinkled with delight, dimples appearing. Sadie was so pretty.
We reached the lunchroom doors, our matching lunch boxes in hand. Old and worn with age, it was a dull gray, the paint long gone. It made a creaking sound as I swung it open for both of us, releasing a sight that was stranger and stranger every day I dared to come in here.
Today, all the tables were horrible-looking, covered in pepperoni and melted cheese. I could tell what the menu was today with the food choices being displayed on the people that were supposed to be eating them. Apparently today was food fight day. Yesterday was the end of the water bottle volleyball event, and tomorrow... I quickly examined the calendar on the wall... was the pineapple basketball tournament. A long time ago the PTO calendar was made into a crazy food calendar, scribbled on by some troublemaker. Since then, people have actually started to DO the events. The teachers, after a while of trying to stop them, began eating in their rooms, leaving the lunchroom in chaos. I have to admit, though, the crazy activities were fun to watch.
Of course, It was mostly confined to the back of the lunchroom. As the tables got closer to the ledge, they grew increasingly more calm, the wannabes gravitating towards these closer tables. And then, when you finally reach the ledge, there is peace. No pineapple basketball would dare roll as far as the ledge.
I clawed at Sadie's arm as we walked closer and closer to it. I couldn't lie to myself. I was scared with a capital S. This was new for me. Sadie, on the other hand, was totally confident. She walked with a lilt to her step, a smile gracing her face, as she dragged me along with her.
"Walk normally!" she leaned over and hissed into my ear, "and smile!" I struggled to do as she commanded. I could feel everyone's eyes on me.
Akemi and Ayako were both already seated, conversing in low tones. As we approached, they both shot me a glare. However, they quickly amended their stares when they realized Sadie was with me. "Hey, Sadie," Akemi smiled, pointedly ignoring me.
Anger filled me. What had I done to them to make them act this way for so long?
"So, um, Eve," Ayako said, "are you going out with Peter?"
"No," I replied, "but we are friends now."
"Oh," short and bitter, her word signified clearly that she didn't care. A silence hung in the air between all of us.
Sadie walked to the edge of the platform and grabbed a stray chair. Hefting it over her head, she carried it over to the table and sat it down. "Here, Eve. A seat for you."
"Eve's sitting here?" they both asked in unison. It was surprisingly common for them to cough out the same words at once. They truly were different from Sadie and I.
How odd. Two sets of twins at the same table.
"Yeah," Sadie said nonchalantly, not noticing their gags.
My eyes narrowed in anger at their expressions. Quickly, I decided to start conversation.
"Guess what?" I said, forcing excitement.
"What?" all three of them said at once.
"I'm going to be on the cover of Vogue next month!" I told them, elation laced into my words. Sadie stared at me, openmouthed, and both Akemi and Ayako gasped. They were trying, though, to not show their amazement.
"Really?!" Sadie exclaimed.
"Yes," I nodded, "and in this outfit."
"Wow," Sadie said, amazed, "Why didn't you tell me earlier?"
"It was this morning," I shrugged.
Jared walked up to us, balancing a full tray of pizza, soda, and a ton of chips. With blonde hair and green eyes, he had an enchanting face that reminded me of a puppy, accompanied by a handsome smile. He looked at me, at Sadie, then back a me.
"She's sitting with us today," Sadie clarified for him.
"Okay. Hey Eve," Jared grinned at me, and sat down. His gaze skimmed over my form, "Looking good."
I blushed at his compliment, Akemi visibly seething. I could tell she liked Jared, with the way she looked at him constantly. Jared was a flirt, though, and Akemi shouldn't have worried. Although I wasn't sure that he liked Akemi, I could tell he was just flirting with me lightly. He was one of those infuriating people that gets you to fall for him even though he cheats on you and hits on every girl he sees.
"So what does it feel like to be famous?" Jared questioned, focusing on me. Peter appears at the table, glancing at me once and then sitting down.
I smile, "Well, I'm not really... famous."
"Yes you are! If you are on TV, you're famous," he insisting, a smile playing on the edge of his mouth.
I laughed, "Well, it's not like anyone cares if I'm famous here. It's rather normal."
"That's true," he said thoughtfully. Nobody here, after the first couple of days, treated me as if I was something special.
Akemi looked at me angrily, demanding me with her eyes to stop talking with Jared. Her long, straight hair was perfectly smooth, her face tanned and clear-complected. They both really were beautiful.
"Eve," Ayako purred suddenly, her voice as smooth as honey, "where did you get those shoes? They're pretty! But, isn't one of your straps undone?"
I looked down at my mismatched shoes, and realized, to my dismay, that she was right. I bent to hook it back in place, my fingers fumbling with the strap.
Suddenly, I felt a strange object meld to my hair, a gooey liquid sinking into my scalp. In alarm, I sat back up, reaching up with one hand and feeling the sticky object with my fingertips. It was a piece of pepperoni, accompanied by a mass of hot melted cheese.
I glanced at Sadie, Peter, and Jared to see their surprised gazes. I slid my eyes to Akemi and Ayako, them both staring at me. "Sorry," Akemi apologized quickly, "my fork slipped."
Ayako barely hid a small bout of giggles.
I glared at them both, my anger finally bursting. They. Put. Pepperoni. In. My. Hair. And judging by the look adorning Sadie's horrified face, it wasn't an accident.
They were so dead.
"Leave," I said icily, my voice firm and demanding.
Akemi laughed, "Who are you to tell us to leave? You're the one that doesn't belong!"
"Akemi!" Sadie exclaimed.
"If you don't leave," I laced intimidation in each word, "In my Vogue interview, I will tell them that I have been bullied for over four years by two mean, ugly girls called Akemi and Ayako, and they threatened me with a knife. And then, magically, a copy of Vogue just might appear on the principal's desk..."
There was the squeak of chairs against the rough floor, a scuffling of feet, and they were gone. Silence greeted us all, hanging between the four that were left.
"They... threatened you with a knife?" Sadie finally asked. Peter stared at me with the same concern. I nodded silently. It was last year when I said I would tell on them.
Jared was the only one without fear or concern in his features. As I met his gaze, he let loose a laugh, a loud, booming one that echoed in the lunchroom.
"You," he said in the midst of his chuckles, "are awesome."
Conversation, after that, went smoothly. We all were, secretly, glad that they were gone. Jared told hilarious stories about Akemi and Ayako, and had us laughing all lunch period. We watched the epic food fight, the lunch ladies quickly shutting the gates to the food area for fear of getting the same food they prepared all over their clothes. Unlike what Akemi said, I really felt like they enjoyed having me at their table. They included me in their conversations and listened to me when I spoke. The only other people that truly listened to me in my life were Mom and Dex. Pretty pathetic, right?
Akemi and Ayako were nowhere to be found, but it was better that way, I guess. The load I had carried silently, the torture of repetitive insults and jabs, was gone, leaving me feeling light and airy. I had finally learned to stand my ground, and if all it took was pepperoni in my hair, then I would have wanted them to do so long ago. My hair was my pride and joy, and this morning I had curled it, pulling it into a pretty half-ponytail.
But now, everything was looking up. Life was almost as great as when Dex was by my side.
"Come on," Sadie said as the bell rang, "let's clean the cheese out of your hair."
I waved to Peter and Jared, then followed her through the double doors. For once, I was hoping for the best.

Chapter 17

"Why do you have to be so glum?" Serena snarled in my ear, while still managing to smile for the tsunami of cameras surrounding us. We were sitting in a pleasurable little cafe, drastically expensive, which was famously known for being a celebrity's hangout. Serena had demanded for us to go here, so we did. I didn't care anymore about what we will do or where will we will go. I have long since felt numb to those sorts of things.
It has been my third week of dating Serena, and every second I've spent with her has made me colder.
Emotions don't strike me anymore. Sadness, pain, and happiness slowly became strangers to me in my second week. I just couldn't feel it. I have gradually changed, growing less and less humanlike with every minute that passed. Serena tried to make up for my robotic attitude with her superficial words, but I could tell she was shaken by my coldness. I wish I could make it easier for her. She was actually a decent girl, but she took away from me what meant the most.
That was unforgivable.
I had begun to stop thinking, my heartbeats slow and measured. I couldn't sing. Forcing the words out is too hard for me. How can I sing about love and relationships right now when I have only broken love in my heart?
I said nothing to Serena. I had nothing I want to say to her. Mean, harsh words do not come to me anymore.
"Please at least act happy. Remember who holds the power," she regretfully added to the end of her command. I could tell she wanted desperately to not have to say that. She wanted me to obey her demand on my own, out of willingness. She wanted to be my friend, that much I could tell.
I forced a meager smile to my face, the cameras flashing around us as I unwillingly beam. A camera directly next to us clicked, a big one, whose owner was a big, hairy man the size of a mammoth. I immediately recognized him as the reporter from People, and winced inside. Our pictures would be plastered on covers across America, then nobody would know the truth.
One cover, the owner's hair a light, milky brown, her eyes a bright blue, would be the one that hurt me the most. Because I knew that cover would pain her more than I could possibly imagine.
Even thinking of her stirred up emotion inside my heart.
"Leave," I growled to the swarms of pesky reporters. They slowly but surely inched away, their forms still trying to be by me, to hear the delicious gossip while still edging to their cars. Serena blinked, her magnificent black hair waving in the breeze, in shock. It was the first time I had spoken in two full weeks.
The employees buzzed around us, navigating through the throngs of tables to get to their destinations. It was a roomy little cafe, although decorated with an expensive, beautiful taste that attracted movie stars to it like bees to honey. We were sitting in a booth in the corner of the cafe, with plush, velvety red pillows lying across the seats and a stylish zebra pattern on the table. Serena was watching me now, waiting for my next words. Her eyes were alert, her attention focused on me.
"I want you to tell me the truth, Serena," I looked her straight in the eye. "Why are you doing this to me?"
She shook violently, suddenly, as if she had been slapped. Her shiny golden dress shimmered as she jolted, a spaghetti strap sliding down her deeply tanned shoulders. She quickly grabbed it and put it back in its place, looking away as she did so.
There was more silence as I clamored to catch her gaze.
"I wanted... and I still do want to, hurt Eve," her throaty whisper reached my ears, making me freeze in shock.
"W-why?" I asked angrily, regretfully. I had tried to forget, with all my might, that I was hurting Eve by being here. That, I suppose, was why I had begun to feel nothing during my imprisonment, to try to mask the pain. The guilt of what I had done... was doing to Eve.
But under no circumstances did I want Eve to find out my secret.
"It... It isn't your place to know!" she suddenly snapped, her eyes drilling into mine, "I have my own reasons."
"Please, Serena," I begged, my emerald eyes tugging at hers. "Please let Eve and I reach happiness."
For that was what it was. Serena was keeping us both from pure elation and joy. She was keeping us from... each other.
She was silent for a second, then a sly, beautiful smile creeped onto her face. "Think about this, Dex," she said slowly, thoughtfully, "Even if you did go back to Eve, and you two loved each other, how would you manage to keep your secret safe? After a while, she might even decide to go back with you to Hollywood, and then your secret would be even more easily revealed. You can't expect to have a happily ever after when such a big secret is kept from the one you love."
I reeled back in shock, my face growing chalk white. What she said was true, and it hurt, a terrible pain in my gut that nearly sent me to my knees.
Even if I met Eve again, I couldn't have a perfect fairy tale ending.
"The best thing for you to do," her slender, silky smooth hands snaking out and resting on mine, "is to forget about her."
I looked away, glancing anywhere but the conniving woman before me. It suddenly had become uncomfortable for me to look into her eager eyes, filled to the brim with cold logic.
"Place me in your heart," she whispered. Her eyes full of hope, veiling carefully her true emotions of hate and revenge, pierced through me. At that moment, Serena almost seemed... humanlike. Her long brown hair rippled in the soft, flowing breeze, her dress shimmering as she shifted to meet my gaze.
Serena stood up, the dress clinging to her bronzed, toned legs. "I'm leaving first to give you some private time. Think on that, okay? I'm sure, after pondering over it for a little while, you will make the right decision," She glided out the door, the chimes' delicate melodies ripping through the quiet air.
A waitress came to my table, holding a small folder in her arms. Placing it in my outstretched hand, she scampered off to help another, leaving me alone with my thoughts.
Leave it to Serena to time her exit just perfectly. She, once again, left me with the hefty bill.
I huffed inwardly, irritation searing through me, and took my debit card. With two delicate fingers, I slid it into the clear plastic spot designated for my method of payment.
The coldness of the air seeped into my skin, alerting me, my form twisting so I could peer out of the huge window. It was a beautiful sight, a milieu of rolling mountains, clear blue skies, and crystal waters, the oceans just beyond the peak of the last hill. I could smell it from here, almost tasting the salty sea water that awakened my heart and alerted the soul.
Two silver doves raced across the horizon, circling each other, zooming in various shapes and directions. It was almost as if they were dancing, with the way they gracefully maneuvered through the thick air. But then, their dance concluded and they just flapped about, their majestic white wings the only things suspending them in their current altitude.
Then, suddenly, without warning, one of the birds sped in one direction, the other bird flying the opposite way. I put my firm hands, now soaked with sweat, on the shiny glass as I helplessly watched them walk away from each other, never to meet again.
I realized the strange sweat was all over my clothes, face, and arms... and it wasn't from the heat.
I touched my eyes, nearly gasping when I pulled the soaked fingers away.
I didn't realize that I had been crying.

I scuffed the sidewalk with my impeccable A. Testoni milky brown shoes as I briskly walked over to the nearby coffee shop. It wasn't Starbucks (in Hollywood, it never was a Starbucks), but a gourmet coffee boutique. It was my favorite place to go, its rich coffee aroma swirling around me as soon as I creaked open the door, the employees inside friendly and cute. They were used to celebrities, so it was nice to be treated like normal. I suppose that was what attracted me to this place so much.
In the front of the coffee shop was an old and cracked mahogany door. Surrounding it was plain brick, stained with graffiti and other markings. Two random, cheap chairs lounged about, and a small red carpet sat at the doorstep. This was a disguise to repel normal customers, people who didn't know.
But you were no longer fooled when you walked in.
Hiding behind the drab appearance was a high-class, luxuriant room filled to the brim with expensive furniture and unique paintings and sculptures. A pure, ebony black danced across the tiles, and as it progressed higher towards the ceiling, faded into a stark white. I always loved watching the colors morph into another, a spectacular sight. Modern, interestingly shaped chairs were splayed throughout the comfy chamber, a stainless steel bar in the middle of it all. Circular, it was the real wonder of the whole coffee shop, for underneath the bar was a whole, underground room where they made the drinks. You knew that because as you went closer to it, the floor tiles directly surrounding the bar became glass. So, you could look down as you were ordering, and watch the employees grind the premium coffee beans and make your drink. It was especially cool to see the employees as they step on a miniature "elevator", a circular platform that brought them from the underground room to the counter. As they descended or ascended, you could see their heads and bodies shrinking or growing until they reached their destination.
I stepped up to the ordering line for VIPs (yes, there was two lines), and was immediately introduced to my cashier for the day. A tall, skinny blonde with big eyes and pouty lips smiled at me temptingly as I greeted her. "Hello," I said, my grin not quite reaching my eyes. She seemed almost like the kind of girl I would've dated... before I met a certain brunette.
"Hey," her voice was even seductive, her words flowing like molasses, smooth and as sweet as honey, "What would you like today?"
What I needed now was some strong coffee that would keep me alive for the next hour. "An espresso macchiato please," I ordered quickly, pulling out my wallet. It was different from my usual latte, but I thought that I needed it.
"Coming right up, Mr. Dex," she took my twenty dollar bill, depositing it in the sleek and smooth cash register, handing me back some meager change. Normally, this would be the time where I would grab her hand and say, "Call me Dex"-it was stupid to call me Mr. Dex; I didn't even have a last name- but I wasn't in the mood right now.
What was wrong with me?
She descended into the kitchen, leaving me puzzled. Where did my flirtatious skills go? Or, rather, what happened to my interest? Somehow, her attractiveness didn't reach me, her raw seductiveness not affecting me at all. It was strange, but not unfamiliar to me, this feeling of zero interest. I encountered it every day when I was forced to be by Serena's side, a girl even more attractive than this blonde, when all I could think about was the girl hundreds of miles away, probably swimming in the lake or daydreaming at school.
I waltzed over to an empty table, away from the loud, chattering voices. Wearily, I plopped down on a chair, my head overflowing with strange thoughts that I had tried to push back during these three long weeks. Pain struck me, her face the only thing I could picture in my mind. It was terrible... the misery. I couldn't bear it.
Magazines were sitting gracefully in a stack on the table, and to stop the hurt, I picked them up and began leafing through them. Pictures of my friends, or people I thought were my friends, filled the covers, their revealing outfits snagging their audiences' attention. They couldn't do it though. No matter how distracting they were supposed to be, they couldn't stop the terrible pain.
Is this how it was going to be? For the rest of my life, was I going to have to suffer this badly?
I threw them back on the table, many falling onto the polished floor. The laughter and the babble of the other customers hid the thump, hid the scandalous actions I was committing. For that one moment, I was glad for the noise, grateful that it hid the temporary insanity that was eating me whole.
I got up quickly to pick up the disgraced magazines, placing them back on the table where they belonged. A single one draped over a chair, and I cautiously went to grab it. However, when I retrieved it, another issue caught my eye, sitting delicately on the table beside it.
A thick, collector’s edition of Vogue jumped out at me, mainly because she was lounging on the cover.
Her thick, voluminous hair tumbled past her shoulder in rivers, ending just at her lower back. It was crimped a little, not curly, and perfectly framed her oval shaped face. Her big, blue eyes sparkled, enhanced a little by Photoshop, a clear azure blue that resembled the ocean that I loved so much. Her lips were a light pink, eyelashes a deeper black than normal, coated with some natural mascara. Her face and skin was perfect, clear of any pimple, a little tanned from the last time I had seen her. Her dress was truly magnificent, a creamy baby blue color that accented her eyes, with thin straps and a loose gathering at the bust. It was tight around her waist, emphasizing her hourglass figure, then became less restricting around the hips. It ended just above the knee, the flaring skirt cutting off abruptly, an old fashioned petticoat, layers and layers of white lace that puffed out the bottom part of the dress, clearly shown underneath. Her sandals, a dull silver, had laces that wound up to her knees, almost like the fashions in roman times. It truly was an unique and beautiful dress that fit an unique and beautiful person.
S he seemed to be smiling at me, her white teeth glinting in the camera's flash, her eyes looking directly out from the page into mine. I felt my heart jump, the lost attraction suddenly found, as I stared at her pretty form. Hurriedly, I walked over to the bar again, the cashier staring questioningly at me. She raised her thin eyebrow.
"I want to buy this," I desperately shoved the magazine on the table. My actions were becoming frenzied and rough, my hand shaking.
"They aren't for sale. Those are only for the customers to look at," the cashier stated, then looked away to another as if the conversation was over.
The girl snuck a single glance at me, spotting my death glare, and quickly recalled her previous statement. "Five dollars," she quickly said, taking my crisp green bill and putting it away. I snatched the magazine in my hands, walking out of the door with stiff, hulking movements, my own actions a stranger to me.
My limo was sitting in front of me, it's shiny black exterior so polished I could see my reflection clearly, the windows tinted so I couldn't see inside. I didn't wait for the chauffeur to come around, throwing the door open and sliding inside the long, skinny vehicle. It was stupid not to do those sort of things myself. Why did I let my chauffeur do that all these years. Who did I think I was? Royalty?
I guess I thought I was royalty, until I meet her.
"Home, please," I demanded, and the engine roared to life. There was a rumble, then it silently began its way down the slightly crowded street. The area was dark, the only illumination in the corner of the car. If I wanted to, I could light the limo so brightly it shone from the outside, but that was not what I wanted.
All I wanted... needed was the light splaying across her form, catching little details I hadn't noticed before, snagging her smile for only me to see.
I held the magazine to my chest, closing my eyes, my eyelashes brushing against my cheek. It felt, if I imagined hard enough, that she was with me, that she was by my side at this very moment. For a few seconds, she numbed the pain.
She gave me the strength to go on.
A tingle arose within me as her name rose to the surface, dwelling on the tip of my tongue. Finally, my lips uttered the name I had been pushing to the corner of my mind for the last three weeks.

Chapter 18

Every day of this last week had been a dream come true.
I couldn't count all the wonderful things that has happened to me. Akemi and Ayako have both left me alone. Sadie, Peter, and I had become friends again, just like in seventh grade. Oh, and Jared was a definite plus. He was sort of a new addition to our group, an interesting spice to the mix. I didn't mind his invasion of our trio, for he told hilarious jokes and always had something to say. He was like the person that filled in the awkward spaces, and we were all thankful for that. There were times when we all couldn't think of a single word, but Jared would always pull us through.
Also, it didn't hurt that I could plainly see he had a crush on Sadie.
It was rather, amusing, really, to spy his supposedly secret glances, his wavering words, his almost... nervous manner when around my twin. I knew he thought nobody could figure out his secret crush, but I could be rather observant when I wanted to be.
I understood why he liked her, of course. Sadie was particularly radiant these days, her bright, cheerful attitude shining from within her soul, a spectacular aura that made me sigh with awe. I didn't know why she was so happy, but I wished for her the best.
Anyways, it was everything I could've hoped for. People didn't ignore me in the hallways. I began to really start drawing in art class instead of world class scribbles. My self esteem shot up. My life just began to look up. It was perfect.
Except... for one thing. A person.
A person I dared not to name.

I walked up to Jared, my hand dancing on the tip of his shoulder as I delicately tapped for his attention. He whirled around, his hair messy and straggly, adding a cuteness to him that only he could perfect. His green eyes gleamed at my sudden appearance, his luscious lips stretched into a smile. I didn't like him any more than as a friend, but I did admit he sure was a handsome guy.
"Hey," I greeted him quietly. We were standing in a massive crowd, a throng of people that were clamoring to get to their lockers. Class was about to start, and no one wanted a demerit. However, no matter how loud it was, someone could hear us, pick my voice out from the others. I couldn't risk that.
"What is it? I have to get to class," he whispered back. His eyes scanned the hallways quickly, calculatingly, "at this rate, I'll be late by at least two minutes by the time I get there!"
"Don't worry about being late," I urgently grabbed his muscled arm, dragging him through the rusty hallways to a rough, wooden closet. I reached with tender fingers towards the handles, and pulled hard. The door gave in, flinging outwards at the same time I pushed Jared in the tiny space. There was a thump as he banged against the wall, his form colliding with the various brooms and mops. I slid in after him, almost melting through the tiny crack like butter as I forced the doors closed when I entered.
I sneezed as dust swarmed in my nostrils, a sliver of light through the open door the only thing I could see. It was pitch black, the stuffiness overwhelming me. I could feel Jared's heavy breathing, his heart thumping in his chest.
Oh, the price I had to pay for privacy.
I thanked the lord for the darkness at that moment, then quickly, awkwardly reached into my bra and grabbed a lighter I had brought with me. I had stolen it this morning so that my mother couldn't light another one of her dreadful cigarettes, for she hated having to use matches. Strangely, for Lou, safety was more important than her awful addiction, and matches was on the top of her 'hazardous' list. If she didn't have her lighter, she wasn't going to light a cigarette. I had been trying to get her off for days, but this was the only thing that worked. Also, Lou always watched her lighter like a vicious watch dog, making it difficult for me to take any other option. As a result, I stuck it in my bra this morning with a shameful feeling in my gut, and honestly, a little fear. I didn't want the lighter to accidentally turn on and burn my bra away.
I snapped the top open with my manicured fingernails, the sudden burst of violent light sputtering forth, then blossoming into a tiny teardrop of flame. It glowed, casting shadows around the heavily darkened room, throwing light against Jared's nearby face, startling me as I realized his closeness.
"This... isn't a confession, is it?" Jared's rough, gravelly voice threw me off guard, shocking me immensely.
I almost dropped the lighter on the floor, my laughter making the closet shake. However, the overwhelming whine of the old and rickety bell drowned out my giggles. Chattering ceasing, slow footsteps broke into runs as many people raced to their destinations.
Jared looked extremely offended, his adorable puppy lips twisting into a pout. "My ego is hurt, Eve. I thought we were friends. Do you really think I'm that gross?"
"No!" I exclaimed, another chuckle escaping me. "We are. Friends. Nothing more, nothing less," I smiled, the eerie glow casting the shadows from my eyelashes onto my cheek. "Trust me, I'm not interested in you."
"Ha! Neither am I," he said laughingly, then quickly changed his attitude when he saw the look on my face. I couldn’t help but be offended at the thought that he thought me to be unattractive. He quickly clarified. "Although you are really cute, Eve. You just aren't my type."
My angry expression morphed into a timid smile, my mouth widening, and dimples appealingly conspicuously on my cheeks. I was just joking with him.
"So why am I here?" he asked curiously, a tad irritated, judging by his tone. His face, illuminated by the bright light, shone with overwhelming interest. I had never done anything like this before.
"Because," I twirled a thin strand of hair in my fingertips, holding the lighter in the palm of my right hand. "I know you like Sadie."
Jared visibly shook his whole body weight shifting backwards until he was against the wooden wall. A single bead of glistening sweat appeared on his forehead, and he quickly swiped his hand against it to wipe it away. His calm assurance had vanished, leaving a nervous wreck left. I laughed inwardly at the incredible sight I was witnessing; the school's player reduced to a bumbling idiot as his crush is revealed?
Wow, it must really be bad.
"W-what about it?" he stuttered, his voice cracking as he emitted the tender, biting words. His hand shuddered visibly, and he quickly ran it through his light hair, his eyes narrowed at my form.
I looked to him, his bunny rabbit-like demeanor amusing, his apprehensiveness showing through even though he tried to conceal it, and smiled. "I can help you out,"
I could see the silent contemplation on Jared’s face. I could tell what he was thinking. Should I admit I like Sadie? Or should I deny it?
He gave in, obviously knowing that I wouldn’t believe his lame protests. "Would you? Really?" he asked, his face breaking into a wide, merry grin, his teeth gleaming in the darkness. His eyes shone with hope, the nervousness immediately evaporating.
"BUT!" I warned, stopping him in his tracks. "Don't get your hopes up. It's Sadie, after all," Sadie went through boys like a couch potato goes through a pack of Cheetos, one after the other, never stopping except for breath. Also, I was suspicious of her strange happiness. Yes, our little "threesome" was together again. Yes, I was starting to act like a normal human being.
But this complete and total bliss she was emitting was completely out of the ordinary.
"I know," he nodded, "but I can't help it. I can't help but like her."
I've heard those words several times before. Sadie seemed to have magnetism to her, a force that pulls guys to her that she could turn on at will, or sometimes even when she wasn't trying to.
"I know," I opened the door, letting the light stream in, illuminating us both. I squelched the little fire in my hands, stuffing it in my pocket instead of my bra. There was no way I was going to do that with Jared close by.
He ran to class, his binder in his arms, filled to the brim with papers, some flying into the wind and landing on the tiled floor. I sighed, laughingly, and started to retrieve his runaway papers.
He might need them soon.

The flowers tickled my toes as I trekked through the bright green meadow, anxious to get home. The sunlight focused on my form, determined to melt me into a puddle on the floor. Sweat appeared rapidly on my face, chest, and legs, trailing down my leg and in between my shoulders. I was definitely taking a bath when I got home. Butterflies flitted around me, their carefree attitude infecting me, until I truly was swept away, my worries pushed to the farthest corner of my mind. It was a beautiful day, the clouds as puffy as marshmallows, wildlife crawling in between the thick blades of grass.
There was a pounding, a smattering of footsteps, and then a firm hand on my back alerted me immediately to what was going on.
Peter was suddenly by my side.
I felt a nervous flutter in my stomach as I looked at him, his brown-blonde hair rippling, it's waviness catching the sunlight and displaying it on his slightly curled locks. His chocolate eyes caught my own, snagging it, holding my gaze so I couldn't look away. His hand, releasing my shoulder, sent a wave of tingles throughout my body, electrifying me. What was this curious feeling?
"Hey," he smiled, his teeth shining, his face a vision, causing awe that almost reminded me of... He Who Shall Not Be Named.
"Hey," I replied, echoing his words. His house was in the opposite direction, we both knew. He wanted to talk to me, his intentions clear.
However, he just moved his feet along with mine; maneuvering with me through the bushes, out of the meadow, onto the sidewalk which led me to home.
We walked in silence, his shoulder brushing against mine every few seconds, each of us trembling with words, words we were too shy to utter. My face burned from the scalding heat, my cheeks growing apple red from exertion.
I hurriedly took a glance at Peter in horror. What if he saw my redness, and thought I was blushing? How embarrassing that would be!
Peter caught my facial expression, of course, his eyebrows raised in inquiry, amusement wrinkling his forehead. He let loose a laugh, a big, booming one that signified pure joy and elation. "What's wrong?" he asked laughingly.
"I'm not BLUSHING, you idiot!" I angrily retorted to his jibe, "I'm just... hot. From the heat."
Peter grinned even wider, pulling a thin, rectangular object out of his backpack. We paused as he fiddled with it, tampering with strange hidden buttons, or switches.
Then suddenly, without warning, the object whooshed, a blur of movement, into a full fledged umbrella! I gasped at the sight. I had never seen anything like it before.
Peter put the umbrella behind us both, blocking the sunlight. I smiled, a blast of cool, fresh air reaching me and dancing with random strands of my brown hair.
"Aren't I your Prince Charming!" he joked, though there was a trace of seriousness behind his words. He was implying that he would be a better choice. The best choice.
"Sure," I said offhandedly, my voice catching on the whisper of the breeze and traveling outwards. Peter smiled in pleasure, his objective obtained.
"Eve," he stood in front of me, blocking my path. He reached out, with calm, loving fingers, touching the tip of my nose. It was an intimate feeling, almost like a kiss, signaling more to come. His form hulked before me, his voice straining to be heard over the robins' sweet song. "Could... you go to the amusement park with me this Saturday?" he asked in a rush, his words blurring together, his eyes drilling through mine.
Even though his speech was flawed at that moment, I understood every word. Peter was asking me on a date.
I wanted to say yes. I really did.
But something hindered me. Something blocked my way.
I had a feeling I knew what it was.
"I don't know," I finally whispered. Peter's eyes grew wide, his mouth turned into a pout, his eyebrows scrunching as he narrowed them.
"Why not?" he asked lowly, his tone was of sadness and disappointment.
I said nothing, just moving my feet in sync with his, our bodies perfectly aligned. I had no answer to his question.
Peter suddenly turned on me, his hair sparkling, his chocolate eyes trying to snag my gaze. There was a desperate quality to him now, a strange, uncharacteristic desperateness to his being. His body shook, not much unlike Jared's earlier nervous fumbling.
"Please," he begged, his voice melting like syrup through my ears. His begging sounded so delicious, so tempting, "Please move on."
I stood, stone still, my voice unable to come forth from within. Everything inside me was dead. Suspended in time, frozen forever. I wish I could move on, but it was a nearly impossible task that I felt I couldn't accomplish.
I wish...
I suddenly felt violently angry. How dare he ask me to move on so quickly! Did he have any idea how badly I had been hurt throughout my life?
All my emotions had to be let out. I had to emit the terrible feelings that were beating me from the inside.
"I just don't know, Peter!" I yelled, my sharp, bitter words slicing through the thin air like a knife. It was as if I had struck Peter, his eyes wide with shock, his hand flopping down by his side.
I ran as fast as my legs could carry me, faster and faster from the terrible disaster I had just caused. I didn't take a single glance back, but if I did, I felt that Peter would still be standing there, staring at my retreating back until I was only a tiny speck in the horizon.

"Hey mom!" I exclaimed, my face and back soaked with sweat, my legs tensed from the running. The terrible running.
It was as if I couldn’t stop, as I zoomed down the sidewalks, the exhaustion meaning nothing. My emotions were my fuel.
And now, as I reached home, I had no feeling left.
Lou, sitting on the kitchen table, got up and came over to me quickly. "What's wrong?" she inquired, her voice soothing, relaxing. She always seemed to immediately know, as if there was some "motherly sense" all mothers had, when I was upset in any way, and today was no exception.
"N-nothing," I whispered. It took so much effort to breathe, to part my lips and gasp out the words I wanted to say. Lou smiled nervously, immediately dropping the subject. She was an amazing mom, I suddenly realized. To not be nosy, especially if it was your kid you were talking to, was an incredible feat.
"Can you do me a favor and go get the mail?" she inquired quickly, breaking the sudden silence between us. I nodded quickly, a thin, meager smile brightening my face. When I was younger, collecting the mail was my favorite thing to do. I still remembered the amazing emotions searing through me as I walked for the first time, by myself, to the mailbox. It was mostly pure elation, responsibility as I grabbed the envelopes and trooped inside.
And, strangely, I still felt that same joy even now, the excitement long gone but the emotions still hidden inside.
I yanked the door open, releasing some of the beautiful, boiling hot outdoors into our living room. Gracefully, I stepped out of the doorway into the yard, an interesting array of dandelions, tulips, sunflowers, and roses scattered throughout it all. A single tree stood a small one whose growth was stunted at an early age, in the corner of the two fences. It was absolutely beautiful, covered in cherry blossoms and surrounded by honeysuckle. I raised my hand to the nonexistent breeze, hoping for some of the wind to brush past it.
I trooped over to the black box, curved on the top end, the pure white numbers on the top reading 3940. Slowly, I forced the bright red arrow down to its sitting position at the bottom of the mailbox. Grabbing the tiny hook, I edged the door down, waiting anxiously to see what was inside. This was my favorite part. The suspense.
A small package, covered in masking tape and cardboard, reading my name, and my name only was delicately written on the front side. I took it out, weighing it carefully. It was not heavy at all, a lightweight object that made no noise when I shook it. The container was flat, probably holding a book or something.
I wondered who sent it to me. It wasn't one of my friends or anything. They would have just given it to me. Curiosity savagely bit at me, eating me whole. Maybe it said the sender's name on the inside.
I fingered the box in my hands, bringing it inside, shutting the door quietly behind me. Once I was inside, I, fumbling with the tape, tore it open. The package's outer shell came off easily, like tearing a tissue down the middle.
All I could see, suddenly, was complete and total horror. I had to speak his name. I had to think it.
Dex was on the front cover on the People magazine, staring into another girl's eyes.
The girl was beautiful, her milky brown skin complimenting her even darker hair, her large eyes framed with thick eyelashes, wearing a gold, shimmery dress. Her facial expressions were priceless, her extreme admiration for Dex shown in the cover picture. The headline read, in big, bold letters, Hollywood's New Golden Couple, and they certainly looked like it, with the way they were staring at each other. I recognized her as Serena immediately, and hate started to bubble in my chest. Why did she have to hurt me like this? Why did she have to take him away?
I knew she would be back to hurt me.
Well, maybe Dex wanted to get away from me. I couldn't place all the blame on her. Dex obviously had to be willing to drop everything and go to Hollywood to be with Serena. I suddenly felt a pang of envy. Suddenly, I wasn't sure that if I was in Hollywood, Dex would come to see me.
I checked the package once more. The sender's name was not there. It must have been some anonymous person that wanted to inform me of the horrible situation I was in. I guess, though, I would have found out about it soon enough.
That was probably why no reporters had been near me the past couple of days. I was past news. I was another one of Dex’s washed out, heavily used toys, thrown away into the slushy mud as he found another.
A single tear exited the corner of my eye, dribbling down my cheek and chin and then splashing onto the polished floor. Thousands of questions seared through me. Why? Why did everything turn out this way?
Why couldn’t everything just be completely and totally perfect for once?
Lou had left the room, obviously seeing my distress, my desire to be alone. The tears were flowing faster, down my dress, my arms, my face. Breathing was getting harder, coming in shorter gasps. Emotions were overtaking me, the sadness overwhelming.
I picked up my cell phone, a brand new Blackberry, pressing the on button. Dots of pure, clear water dwelled on the phone, and then slipped off to collide with the floor. It was getting hard to see, my eyesight blurred by the tears. The terrible tears.
I scrolled through my contacts, pausing when I reached a name. Quickly, I pressed the call button, and a crackle followed. Another pause ensued, and then the ringing began.
He picked up on the first ring.
"Hello?" I asked, my voice shaky, overwhelmed with the thin, gasping breaths, the terrible emotions that struck me still. As I talked, I kept glancing at the People magazine, hoping, somehow, that I was just hallucinating. That the picture on the magazine was a lie. A phony.
But every time I glanced at it, the same horrible scene reappeared in my mind.
Quickly, I tried to hold back the tears as I continued.
Move on, Eve. Move on.
"I've been thinking about it, and I decided that I would like to go with you to the amusement park on Saturday..."

Chapter 19

I was growing more and more suspicious of Sadie's happiness.
It was so... radiant, this beautiful aura that surrounded her, shown magnificently in each one of her buoyant steps. It was as if she was a whole new person. Before, she was not a sad person, but her attitude seemed different now. She was more thoughtful, more caring. Nothing I had ever seen with Sadie before, and I truly thought I had seen it all, had amounted to this.
This complete and total dreaminess that accompanied her wherever she went.
I could tell Jared was affected by her, her joy, her face always void of the tiniest speck of sadness. His face would brighten whenever she got closer. He would always engage her in the situation, distracting her from her happy daydreams. Sadie was unconsciously enchanting him, weaving a web around him without even trying. Jared was well and truly in love with my sister. I didn't really get it, at first.
However, during these days, I eventually grew to realize why Jared liked Sadie so much.
She, in her elation, was absolutely beautiful. She talked invigoratingly, full of energy and laughter, her giggle like the melody of the morning birds. Her blonde hair sparkled always in the bright sunlight, teeth gleaming as she opened her mouth yet again. Her liveliness was contagious, passing on to us as quickly as it came onto her. This was something new.
I couldn't understand it.
She had suddenly become as undecipherable as a baby's cries. I didn't know what she was really thinking, no matter how deeply I observed. I couldn't predict what she was going to do next. This was strange, and oddly, frightening
I only had one question on my mind at that time.
I lumbered to my locker, hurriedly swirling the dial to the correct numbers. The bell had just ringed, and we were all let out from school. The chattering of all the people was horrendous, overwhelmingly noisy. I sighed quietly. Why couldn't kids my age keep their voices at a normal level instead of screaming? It grew to be kind of old.
There was a loud, annoying click as the locker swung backwards, my stuff tumbling out of it, papers flying like little birds in the sway of the gentle wind. My eyes grew wide, immediately racing to catch the papers. The papers I wanted to return to Jared. I dodged over and under people, ignoring their annoyance at my pushiness.
I snatched up a handful of papers, holding them carefully, shuffling them into a thin pile. Jared's neat, admirable handwriting filled the pages, the size of his letters so small even I could barely read it.
I paused, my form coming to an abrupt halt as I finally made out what the minuscule letters were trying to communicate. I discovered their meaning, quickly, my eyes growing wide.
The wind bit at me as I trekked upstream through the wave of angry fish heading in the opposite direction. My heart pounding, I forced through the crazy crowd of people and headed towards the backpack I had left.
A beautiful guy appeared in front of me, suddenly, a Greek god in human form. His eyes were a swirly chocolate, his face as sculpted and perfect as could be. His lips were scrumptious, stretched into a smile, his pearly white teeth gleaming. With a body that was also as handsome as his face, he sure was a catch.
This was my Peter.
He carried my backpack in his strong hand, the crowd parting as he walked though. He towered over me, a giant, almost, but still managing to keep that devastatingly tempting allure. His smile grew wider.
"Hey Eve," his eyes crinkled a little in happiness, "I have your book bag."
He had been like this all day today. Ever since I said I would go the amusement park with him, he had been crazy with excitement and devotion. Shown clearly in his puppy-like attitude and frequent glances, I was almost caught... off guard by this change in behavior. It was like a burden had been lifted off his shoulders, like he was the happiest man in the world.
He thought I liked him, and he definitely liked me back.
And... I couldn't disappoint him. That would be too mean of me.
"Thanks," I took my backpack from him, setting it on my shoulders, carrying the papers Jared had written on in my delicate hands. Peter smiled sweetly, walking along with me as I plowed through the crowd, stepping through the gateway into the courtyard.
The sun winked at me as I looked up at the puffy marshmallows suspended in the moderately warm spring air. The cold winter was over, the flowers blooming, their petals pink and purple. The scene before me was amazing, splashes of every color covering it, swallowing me up in wonder at its beauty.
"Eve," Peter's rough, gravelly voice brought me to reality. He stood beside me, not looking at the gorgeous display of nature, but at my face, my form.
"Peter," I uttered the name softly, then smiled softly. "I would like some alone time. Can you give me that?"
I wanted some time to think... away from Peter's loving affection.
His face crinkled into a pout, but he backed away as I requested. "Tomorrow?" he called hopefully, his voice begging, tugging at me in ways I had never experienced before.
"Sure," I shrugged as I left the courtyard, the feeling of being uncomfortable evaporating when I was completely and totally alone.
I stumbled along the walkway leading to my home, turning my head to find nobody watching. The wind was the only noise, whispering into my ear with it's sweet taunts.
I meandered over to a rock, one about as big as a spare tire, and plopped down upon it, my hair whipping across my face. The papers smiled at me, begging me desperately to read them. It was so tempting... how could I not give into this desire?
I picked up the first paper, and began to read.

‘Dear Sadie,
I have been in love with you every since I met you. Do you remember? On that very first day, when Akemi asked me to sit at your table, and I complied with her request, my heart beating furiously in my chest, you were the first one to speak at my presence. You said "Jared". It was that one word, uttered with a voice as smooth as honey and as sweet as syrup, that made me immediately become-

It cut off, the words smeared beyond recognition. Obviously this was a first draft. I laughed, my giggles echoing in the wind. This was so sappy, and so unlike Jared. He was cool, calm, and collected. But this was a side I had never seen of him before.
I looked to another, my breath catching in my throat as I tried to process this next one.

‘Dear Sadie,
Do... you believe in true love at first sight? Or maybe, do you believe in soul mates?
From the very beginning, I have. I always have acted calm and collected, like nothing in the world could ever shake me. I know you think I am cold, with the way I throw around girls, leading them on, making them believe I am in love with them. And I know I deserve this suspicion. I am a player, and I know it.
But I, just like every believer, am looking for the right person. I try going out with these girls, because I never know which one could be THE one. The destined one. It may not be the best method, but for me, it is the only way. This is my nature.
But when I find that one person, I will never leave her. She will be mine, and mine alone. We will only share each other's kisses, our love blossoming beyond all comparison. We will comfort each other when our skin turns wrinkled and gray. We will be everlastingly happy, fighting through thick and thin to be by each other's side. No matter what happens to us, love will pull us through.
I believe she's out there.
I know she is.

There was rough fingerprints, scuffing the handwriting, smearing the pencil's emissions across the page. But, somehow, even though the last sentence was near impossible to read, I knew exactly what it said.

‘I'm not sure, and I may be dead wrong, but I think it might be you.’

The only thing left that I hadn't read was his small signature, with rough and jagged letters, as if he was afraid to write his name. I could feel his emotions with every word, every scratch and scrawl. He truly believed what he said.
I just realized that I was subconsciously shedding tears. This, somehow, seemed to relate to my own problems. I looked again to that one sentence.

‘But when I find that one person, I will never leave her.’

I sat, in silent agony, for ages and ages, my tears my only comfort.

I trooped up the rickety stairs, my face still ragged from tears, my emotions in turmoil. Everything was just a little dizzy to me, my world shaking with every step. I didn't know where I was going, for these few, strange seconds. My feet were just leading me, and I graciously let them.
Once my head cleared, and I was finally was able to think, I realized I was standing in my bedroom. Sadie's bedroom.
Sadie was here, scrunched over a piece of paper on her desk. Her blonde hair twinkled in the light, a stray curl falling into her face. She sighed, erasing a sentence then starting over. She didn't seem to notice me, focused clearly on the paper in front of her.
Her world-class bliss was emanating from her, brightly and contagiously, as she wrote. A smile stretched across her lips, a twinkle in her eye. She was unbelievably happy, which was strange. Since when was Sadie happy about homework?
I snuck closer, weaving around the miscellaneous objects that was scattered all over the wooden floor, creeping to the desk where she was working. Still she didn't notice me. It was as if she was in a dream world, her senses dulled.
I looked over her shoulder, and stared in shock at her words.

‘Dear Jay,
Thank you for your last letter. It made me feel extra special! I love you so much, and I can't help but feel lucky to have such an amazing man like you love me back. I really’

The last sentence wasn't finished, her pen still hovering over the unwritten words. "Don't you think that sounds a little cheesy?" I asked her curiously.
Almost in a murmur, she replied, "Sure," Suddenly, she gave a start, her arms flailing, knocking her jar of pencils all over the desk. Realization was finally coming to her. "What are you doing here?!" she asked angrily, her eyes narrowed into slits.
"Watching you write a love letter," I stated plainly.
She scowled, "I know that!"
"Then why did you ask?" I laughingly teased. She didn't seem to get that I was joking, shooting me a laser-like stare that could kill an elephant. I quickly added, "I just was going to tell you something," to try to save myself from certain death.
She softened just a little, her angry pout lessening. "What?" she asked.
Time was suspended between us, both of our hearts thumping. I began to feel sorry for Jared. "Jared... he... he-" I sputtered.
"Likes me?" she guessed, and correctly. My eyes widened in surprise.
"Yeah. How did you know?" I inquired.
"I AM the boy master," she grinned a little, the hint of a smile at the corner of her mouth.
"Sure," I said impatiently, "so what are you going to do about it?"
"Do about what? Jared? I can't do anything. I don't want to," she said quickly, then closed her long lashed eyelids and smiled dreamily, "I have Jay."
"Who is he? This Jay?" I asked suspiciously, "He's not a druggie like that last one, is he?" The last boy Sadie dated was constantly drunk, with black hair that fell in front of his eyes and baggy jeans that were ten sizes two big. I didn't like him.
"Oh no! Jay is absolutely wonderful! I can't wait until we..." she abruptly trailed off. I knew immediately she was hiding something.
"WHAT is it, Sadie?" I pried.
"I promise, Eve, if you tell Mom, I going to kill you..." she muttered angrily, and then leaned in. I unconsciously leaned in also, wanting desperately to catch the words she was about to say.
"Jay and I are going to get... married," she said softly, dreamily.
I let loose a scream, jumping back from her. What I heard could not have been true. Sadie and married weren't even close to being in the same proximity.
"Shut up!" Sadie exclaimed, running and covering my mouth with her hand. She whispered, "We are engaged. Look at this pretty ring!"
I twisted my head to glance at the ring, immediately awed by it's splendor. It was a small sapphire, surrounding by silver and gold. The silver directly around the sapphire seemed to flare out, framing the gem perfectly. It reminded me of an ocean, with the silver as a tidal wave.
"Whoa," I commented, "Is he a doctor?"
"No, actually."
"Sadie," I sighed, all awe evaporated as I returned to the situation at hand, "we are both 17! We are way too young to marry. We still have to finish out our senior year! How old is Jay?"
"He's 20!" she protested angrily, "and we are both going to turn 18 in one week! I will be a legal adult, and I will be able to do what I please."
"And think about how badly you are going to hurt Jared..." I cautioned desperately.
"Look," Sadie said matter-of-factly, "I like Jared a lot. He's one of my good friends. But, I wouldn't be happy with him. I have someone I love. And if I have to hurt him just a little to achieve happiness, really, for the both of us, then so be it."
She did have a point there. However, I couldn't help but feel sorry for the guy that wrote the love letter crumpled in my hand. I didn't even try to give it to Sadie. I knew she wouldn't accept it.
Another love ruined.
"How long have you known him?" I queried.
"About... a month and a half," she said calculatingly.
"That's such a short amount of time!" Typical Sadie, though. She was so impulsive.
"It's long enough," her eyes shone fiercely, determination in her glare. "YOU found out Dex was your soul mate in about a month in a half too!"
"H-He... isn't" I said softly, sitting on our bed, dazed a little by her statement. Sadie gazed at me furiously.
"You're just going to give up on him? Just like that? Where is your faith?" she spat, disgustedly.
I stayed silent, not willing to quote Jared's letter in front of her, although I was picturing it clearly in my head. But when I find that one person, I will never leave her.
But what she said had struck me. Where was my faith? Did I not trust him enough to come back?
I guess... once I thought about it, I just didn't want to be hurt again.
A heavy silence followed while Sadie calmed down, her spirits quelled a little by my pained expression. She looked at me with some sympathy.
"You have met him before, you know," she said softly. I jumped a little at her sudden words.
"Jay," she smiled a little even after speaking his name. I looked at her, her face gleaming with love and devotion, her heart clearly displayed for me to observe. This was the most vulnerable state I had ever seen Sadie in. Somehow, this seemed real.
Sadie's love seemed to be true.
The doorbell rang, an earsplitting noise that nearly scared me to death. Sadie jumped up, her joy multiplied, then zoomed downstairs. I quietly followed her, wondering what was going on. We both stepped across the kitchen to the door, Sadie frantically, I curiously.
She threw open the door to a very familiar figure.
"Jay!" she exclaimed, running into him, burying herself in his jacket, his huge and muscled body. He made Peter look skinny in comparison, and his face was not too bad either. However, it was the height that made me laugh. At about five foot five, Sadie was incredibly short compared to this beast, who was probably around six foot four. However, they seemed to suit each other.
Shock consumed me, freezing me still.
"Dex's bodyguard?" I asked in amazement, "THAT'S who you fell in love with?"
"Former," the guy corrected, his deep and throaty voice actually enticing. Not what I would expect from a man like him.
"Isn't that just great?" she oozed with delight and satisfaction, her lips stretched into a smile. He just stood still, absorbing her affection like a sponge takes up water. The only sign of his happiness was a timid smile stretched from ear to ear. Sadie reached up to kiss his cheek, a difficult thing to accomplish without him bending down to let her.
I snuck out of the room, wanting to escape the madness I was just introduced to. In only about fifteen minutes, I learned that Sadie was engaged to a guy that just happened to be Dex's former bodyguard. And, on top of that, Jared's love was dashed to pieces.
I picked up a landline phone, dialing Jared's number... then set it back down on the granite tabletop.
I think I will wait until tomorrow to tell him.

Chapter 20

I weaved through the crowd, my red hair shining in the streetlights. My breathing was rushed, frenzied, as I hurried to the restaurant in front of me. I was late, and Serena HATED it if I was late.
The wind whipped across my cheek as I ascended the marvelous steps leading up to a magnificent building. The steps were pure marble, the building just as glossy. However, the outside was more of a white, while the steps were creamy. Windows, wide and stretching from the eastern side to the southern side, illuminated the beautiful, outrageously rich restaurant. A beautiful scene, of the ocean I loved so incredibly much, was displayed.
Swinging the pure gold door handle open, I stepped through the doorway. A hostess, with brown puppy dog eyes and blonde hair, smiled at my entrance. People chattered about at their tables, soft jazz music playing over it all. Fish in huge aquariums meandered around the coral, the attractions the aquariums offered. The walls were as light as the white exterior, the tables a silver that complemented it greatly.
I flashed her my movie star smile, and she melted like butter all over her podium. Even though these sorts of restaurants had celebrities every day, it was only occasionally that they would have such a high class rock star like me. I was like the "pinnacle" of VIPs, if you get what I mean.
"Hello," she greeted me, her smile sweet and innocent, full of caring. I could tell she was nervous at my presence.
"Hey," I replied, my voice playing with her emotions, encouraging her crush. I could tell she liked me, and I didn't want to ruin her dreams just yet. "I believe my-" I quickly coughed into my elbow, "friend is here already. The table would be under Dex...?"
"I heard that," Serena stepped up next to me, her voice flowing as sweet and smooth as molasses. She narrowed her eyes at me, then turned her deadly attention onto the hostess. "I'm sorry," she purred, turning on her charm, "he just is too shy to say that I'm his girlfriend," She grabbed my arm, encircling her own waist with it forcefully.
"Oh," the hostess was visibly disappointed, her cheeks flushing. With a forced smile, she led us back over to a table, one that was close to the sea, the beautiful, wonderful sea.
Seagulls darted over the water, skimming it, snatching up the little delicacies it loved. I watched them, free in flight, as they plunged into the water, then reemerged with their prize. It was wonderful, watching them try and try again until they succeeded.
I could feel Serena's hawk-like eyes examine me as I watched the fish squirm in the seagulls' grasp, measuring me quietly. She was absolutely gorgeous tonight, with a pink dress that flowed to her toes tying at the waist. It was a little tight, but gave her an innocent look. Her brown hair was curled, twisted into an elaborate up-do, a single strand of hair falling into her face. Her light brown skin was without a pimple, without a mar of any kind. Her face was wearing a beautiful smile with pouty lips. The hostess must have thought we were a cute couple.
But beauty can be deceptive.
"What are you doing?" she asked harshly as I watched the majestic birds shove the miserable fish into their beaks, sealing their fate forever. The sky was filled with puffy white clouds, the sun winking through the blanket of thin marshmallows. Free fish, fish that were stupid enough to be within ten feet of a seagull, jumped out of their confinement, soaring for a few seconds, then tumbling back down into the depths of the ocean.
How I wished, just then, to be like the fish, their scales rippling in the light, their discretion displayed for all to enjoy. Why couldn't I have that freedom? What did I do to deserve these chains?
"I'm... watching," I said hesitantly, my voice masking the desperate longing I was experiencing inside. Serena smiled, her perfect teeth winking in the bright lights. I could tell she was falsely grinning, instead ready to rip out my gut with her shark teeth. I felt a nervous tremor inside.
"Please pay attention to me," she quietly demanded, "everyone is watching you daydream."
I looked around quickly, to see no one staring at our forms. I looked at her questioningly, my eyebrow rose. Serena was paranoid.
"Um, okay," I complied with her request, looking at her awkwardly. We had nothing to say to each other. No words to express. Her brown eyes stared into mine, about as empty as the air around me. There was no emotion in them, no feeling. I could see her hands shaking, just a bit, as she scavenged the room for the staring people she professed to be there. She was way too self-conscious.
"Are you cold?" I asked her, my words, though nice and friendly, as icy as possible. I didn't want her to think I actually liked her. However, my gentlemanly side just couldn’t be ignored.
And of course, she takes advantage of my soft side. "Actually, I am," she frowned, staring at the fan above her, rubbing her arms to quell the Goosebumps rising on her arm.
I roughly took off my jacket, a denim one that I loved dearly, and gave it unwillingly to her. She snatched it out of my hands and shimmied into it, letting the denim caress her silky skin.
Ugh. Now I'm going to have to wash that jacket if I get it back, although Serena liked to take my stuff and never return, so I wasn't sure if my denim jacket would make it with me home.
She smiled, as if she was extremely happy over my kindness. I felt anger at her lack of genuine emotions. She was constantly putting up a facade, as if she didn't want to show anyone how she really felt. I felt disgusted constantly whenever I was in her presence.
Abruptly, she got up from her seat, her chair screeching as it scraped across the floor. Her eyes had a crazy glint to them, a tint of mischief.
She crossed over to me, her eyes focused on my face. I could feel stares, the easygoing manner in the room evaporating. She smiled at me once, although it didn't quite reach her eyes.
In one easy movement, she swooped in over my form and planted a gentle kiss on my lips. Carefully, she put her hands around my neck, angling us both so our audience would be able to get a good view.
For we really did have an audience. All talk in the dining room had stopped, even the waiters and waitresses. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see their gaping faces, their frenzied whispers. I could understand their surprise. No one, and I mean NO ONE, has tried that sort of thing here before.
Serena had just embarrassed me in front of everyone.
And her kiss was as bittersweet as could be, her true feelings finally shown in her embarrassing action. She, I could tell, was happy about my demise. The reputation I had that was going to seriously take a beating because of her. Her kiss was not of caring, but destruction.
If I went against her, though, she wouldn't just destroy me like she did now. She would annihilate me.
With only a few words.
I pushed her away, unable to bear it any longer. She looked at me, a grin on her face, then casually returned to her seat.
Normal chattering resumed, although people still threw looks at me, at my form as I slumped at the table. I had been kissed by Serena. Serena.
I shot them all a grimace, hoping they would get the message.
Serena, ignoring my obvious disgust, reached across the table and grabbed my hand. At our contact, my hand shook, a nervous tremor that shot through my entire body. Sensing my reluctance, she gripped it tighter, signaling that I shouldn't disobey her.
Quickly, my shudders ceased.
"Dex, have you made your decision yet?" she leaned in and whispered, shock flooding through me at her words, "Are you going to let me tell everyone your secret and run towards your love? Or are you going to stay with me?"
I pondered silently. Which one was the best choice? I would lose my career and my love if I let her tell my secret. However, if I stay with Serena, I would lose my love and possibly my sanity. It was a lose-lose situation.
I looked at her evenly, a strand of my red hair falling into my eyes. Carefully, I brushed it away, preparing myself mentally for the actions I was about to commit.
"I've... made a decision," I said finally, after a long, arduous pause. She looked at me, hanging on my every word. Time was suspended between us, stopping as I finally determined which path I was going to go on.
The chair behind me squeaked as I pushed it back. Serena's eyes widened as I stood up, my red hair sparkling in the sunset. I took a minute to look at the scene outside, staring in wonder at the ripples of purple, pink, and splashes of pure gold that stretched across the wide horizon. The clouds were illuminated by the wondrous colors, seagulls flying to their homes to chomp on their delicious meal. The sand was soft and white, little crystals that spread across the beach. The waters, speckled with light, was a calm, baby blue that was rapidly fading into a midnight black.
At least, this way, there was some hope for me. At least, I won't have any regrets.
I walked out of the beautiful restaurant, never looking back.

Chapter 21

It was time.
I blinked as I surveyed Peter's form, spicy hot with a dash of gangster, his sandals adding a casual look. He was wearing a t-shirt with no sleeves, as if the sleeves had been cut off, and then he also had on black, baggy skinny jeans that ended at the ankle. Some chains danced along the side of his pants, his black flip flops making the whole outfit so crazy, it would look horrific on the wearer.
But not Peter.
He had constructed his outfit carefully, I could tell, but it was HIM who made the outfit look so good. His muscles strained against the t-shirt, his heavily tanned, bronzed arms coming from underneath the white fabric. His legs suited skinny jeans, a curious look I had not seen him pull off before, but it was an interesting change. It was loose, so it didn't fit to the form of his legs, but that would have been breathtaking even if it had. His face peeked out from layers and layers of his brown-blonde hair, bits and pieces specifically spiked to make himself more intimidating.
He led me out the door, his hand touching mine gently as we trooped down the stairs. He looked at me and grinned, his eyes skimming over my outfit in return.
For this occasion, I had chosen a deep red, sleeveless top. It was sparkly, shimmering with sequins, dancing down her form until it ended and my skirt started. It was puffy, a little, coming to the knee, with roses all over it. The puffy flares of the skirt boomed around me, boosting my figure somewhat, and giving myself the comfort that not everything I was wearing was skin-tight. Somehow, I didn't want Peter looking too much at me.
I would feel uncomfortable if he did so.
"Hey," he finally said as we both stood before his car.
"Hey," I replied, a strange silence filling the air. Quickly, almost robotically, he opened the car door, beckoning for me to get inside the extravagant luxury. My spirits lightened as I complied. The car always managed to cheer me up.
I sunk into the plush seats, waiting as Peter came around the side. He opened the car door, entering, then slamming it behind him. I watched his finger slide in and out, starting the engine.
We began driving to the amusement park which was about twenty minutes away. Peter looked at the road only, a careful, responsible driver. Words were not spoken, silence reigning.
Is this how it was going to be like on our whole date?
Peter looked at me, his eyes grave, then quickly returned his gaze to the road. "Do you know why Jared was sulking today? Did Sadie turn him down or something?" he queried, his rough voice caressing my listening ears. He seemed thoughtful, thinking carefully as he drove about Jared's previous strange behavior.
"You knew?!" I asked, frightened suddenly. Sadie had told Peter?
Peter laughed, sending tingles through my body. "Of course," he said gently, "I can see what's on my best friend's face." Relief flooded through me at his words. Now Jared could not get mad at me for telling someone.
"Kind of," I replied quietly, brushing a strand of my brown hair behind my ear, "she has a boyfriend, and she doesn't care for Jared."
Peter frowned. In the moonlight, shining onto the vehicle, Peter looked so much like Dex, his perfection illuminated by the white orb hanging above us. His brown hair was dark, the whisper of the wind brushing past us and ruffling his hair as it said goodbye. I watched him, wonder in my gaze. How can one normal guy be so beautiful?
If I squinted hard enough, I could briefly make out reddish hair, framing a paralyzed face, with a pair of green eyes set into them. He... when I did this... looked like him.
What are you doing, Eve? I scolded myself quickly. Peter was not, COULD not be a replacement for the man I was imagining.
I guess I was going crazy these days.
I decided to spit out the juicy gossip to distract myself from my wild thoughts, full of longing and desire. "Peter, Sadie.... she is getting married soon," I told him softly. Peter's eyes widened, his grip loosening off the steering wheel, nearly causing the car to veer off the road.
"Married?!" he incredulously exclaimed, "but she is too YOUNG to get married," His voice, though shaky at the thought of such young marriage, had no anger to it. I could tell he wasn't in love with Sadie like Jared was.
I felt a little fluttering in my stomach. Was... this relief?
"I know," I said plainly, watching the flowers as we zoomed past them, shining brightly, a pale white that caught the moonlight and distributed them onto each one of their delicate petals. They had tints of purple on the inside, resembling the midnight sky, speckled with soft, starry white until the purple overcame it all. Many of these beautiful midnight flowers grew here, scattered among the meadows and trees, around almost every home and on every porch. They were the pride of our town, being the only place where the nighttime wonders bloomed.
"How old is the guy?" he inquired, curiosity peaked.
I smiled, though it didn't quite reach my eyes. My hair waved in the whip of the wind, thrown back by its force. "20," I shrugged. It really wasn't much of an age difference.
"What does he do?"
"Well..." I pretended to be thinking about the question he asked, when in truth I was wondering about all the questions he was asking. Why did he not want to let the topic go?
I soon came to realize that he was trying to hold a conversation with me, and this was the only way he could keep me talking.
"He was Dex's former bodyguard," I said, choking suddenly as all the breath was suddenly knocked out of me from that one name. Every time I said it brought a bunch of fresh tears, fat from all the sorrow shoved into every drop. However, there was no way around it this time.
Peter glanced at me once, his facial expression mirroring my own. Carefully, timidly, he lifted a single hand from the steering wheel and placed it over mine. It was warm, offering more comfort than I could possibly imagine. The heat from it spread through my body like wildfire, sending tingles to my heart. I slowly felt the icy cold, the biting sadness, crawl back into its hidden depths, ready to emerge another time.
"Eve, you will be okay. I just know it," he gently smiled, then returned his probing gaze to the road in front of us. I followed his movement, craning my neck like him as I looked upon the endless stretch of road sprawling out before me. It seemed to go forever, winding as far as I could see. Trees as tall as the sky were on either side of us, the blackness consuming them all as we were all introduced to the deep, dark night. I could hear the frantic caws of a raven as it soared to its nest, the hoots of owls as they search for their prey.
In the far distance, I could spot bright lights, cutting through the darkness, amazingly powerful beams that climbed high into the sky. The tops of flashing rides and movie screens could be spotted, taking my breath away as it illuminated the hilltops. Screams, loud and high-pitched, could be heard from even our distance, about five hundred feet from our goal.
A small silence followed while he pondered, then he opened his mouth once more. "I know, for certain, that your dreams will come true," he smiled. His smile brightened his face as he looked out through the night, his gravelly voice tearing through the silence. It was full of hope, his words. From them, I could tell that Peter wanted my dreams to be fulfilled. He wanted me to be happy.
My eyes widened, and I shook at his words, but... not because it was unexpected.
But because I didn't know what my dream really was anymore.

My feet collided with the grass as I daintily slipped from the car, the thin blades tickling my bare toes. I laid my brown flip flops on the dirt, shimmying my feet into the thin straps, my toes rubbing against the soft leather.
It was absolutely beautiful, the sight before me. A Ferris wheel towered high above the ground, the rusted metal adorned with flashing lights and colorful paint. A rollercoaster lounged beside it, the loops and corkscrews delightfully tempting. The stars above, winking at me in the midnight sky, were parted by the extremely powerful beams of light. It cut through the air, illuminating the darkness, shooting up and never stopping. Tents, covered in stripes and wacky decorations, were sprawled throughout it, inviting people with their alluring bright colors into swindling away their hard-earned money. The playful laughter, the ceaseless chatter, it all erupted from this nightly bonanza. Calabooza Amusement Park, the place where happiness reigns always.
I hoped I would have fun here.
Peter held a hand out for me, some locks of his slightly curly brown hair falling into his chocolate eyes. I felt myself... falling into his gaze, and it was as if I couldn't disentangle myself from the trance I was in. There was something about them that captured my heart, and just didn't want to let me go. A grin hinted at the edge of his mouth, his desirable lips parting slightly, his cheeks flushed a little red from exertion.
Something about his eager expression made me feel better. I, suddenly, felt that I would have a good time here. I needed this... a distraction.
I took his hand, and we walked across the crowded parking lot to the admissions booth. People of all shapes and sizes surrounded us, the popularity of the nighttime attraction clearly evident. The line to the admissions booth was about forty minutes long, stretching from the hut itself to almost off into the road.
"What are we going to do, Peter?" I asked him. His big, soft hand was wrapped around my waist, each one of his steps mirroring mine.
Peter looked at me, his face grim. "I guess we will just have to wait." Quickly, he shuffled, with me in tow, to the long line, my spirits immediately abating. I was going to have to wait in this? At the rate it was moving, it would be closing time before we got in.
I looked up, the sky pitch black, and smiled as an owl sailed through the night. I could hear its impressive caws, its hoots as it clamored to find its way. At times like this, I admired the owl, in how they could always find their location, no matter how bad their eyesight was. They were never lost.
Unlike me.
Now, I was lost more than ever, even one movement possibly taking me in the wrong direction.
As we finally reached the grass leading to the admissions booth, it crunched beneath my sandaled feet. A tiny girl with ruby red hair and gray eyes suddenly turned around and glanced at me, taking in my form. Her eyes widened as she skimmed me, then she quickly whirled back around.
I seemed to be getting strange looks from everyone, their faces just like the girl's when they stole a glance. Peter seemed to notice it too, his face in a frown, his chocolate eyes narrowed. "What's going on?" he whispered, his voice urgent and inquisitive.
I looked around once, anxiously, noticing the shoves, the stares, the... attention. It was if I was a human spectacle, something they had never seen before.
"Hello," the girl finally turned back around, her eyes focusing on me. Her face, full of excitement, brightened when I answered her.
"Hey," I grinned at her, my hair falling down into my face as I bent down. At this new level, the girl was right at my height. This seemed to please her, our supposed equality.
"Could I have your autograph?!" she excitedly squealed, handing me a thin piece of clean paper. I just looked at it for a second, confused.
"Why would you want my autograph?" I asked, befuddled. My arms prickled as a wave of startling cold brushed by, unconsciously making me shake.
The girl laughed, a beautiful, melodious sound that made my heart burst. "You are Eve Valencia!" she looked at me, her energy pouring out of her as she spoke the words, "my dream is to be just like you! I want to be an amazing singer and sing with Dex also!"
I smiled, though shock was the prime emotion flooding through me. I guess, back in my town, I had not many fans, for it was a small town with limited cell phone and TV service. However, here were the urban people. We were right next to a huge, limitless city, the skyscrapers peeking over the top of the hill, their height incredible. Of course they would have a TV. Of course they would recognize me.
I took her paper, quickly scratching my name into the lined sheet. "I hope you achieve your dream," I told her, a smile gracing my oval-shaped face, "what is your name?"
"Kate," she shyly replied to my inquiry. I gave her the paper back, noticing her family's look of awe as Kate boldly stepped forward and gave me a hug. Her warm, small body curled around mine, making me laugh with happiness. At times like this, I wished for a baby sister.
Kate's mother looked at me regretfully. "I'm sorry she is like this," she apologized.
I laughed, "It's not bothersome. In fact, it is a pleasure!"
"Thank you," she whispered, then turned away, forcing Kate to turn with her.
After the girl's boldness, many others closed in on me, their voices desperate and pleading.
"I want an autograph too!"
"Can I have a date?"
"I love you, Eve!" I looked up, my heart rate rising as the people crowding me, covering my vision, blocking my view of the night. There... was too many of them, almost running me over with their close proximity to my form.
"MOVE IT," a tall, devastatingly handsome man plowed through the crowd, grabbing my wrist. Slowly, he pulled me out of the clump, all the while staring daggers at the people around me.
I took in his chocolate eyes, his tanned skin and brown-blonde hair going together perfectly, and smiled. "Peter," I simply said, joy abounding.
"Come on," he returned my grin, taking my hand and dragging me to the booth, away from the swarms of fans that I never knew I had. The lady sitting delicately inside the booth, a teenage one, with a pierced lip and raven black hair, jumped at our sudden appearance as we squeezed to the front of the line.
I suddenly understood what Peter wanted to do. "I'm Eve Valencia," I said lightly, "and I need two deluxe, all night tickets."
She just sat there, gazing at me in wonder. "You are Eve... from TV?"
"Uh huh," I nodded, watching her face transform from complete boredom to amazement.
"I love you!" she exclaimed, her voice squeaking as it became high pitched, "Your voice is amazing!" She hurriedly grabbed the tickets, cutting off two as she chattered at impossibly fast speeds, making it hard for me to follow her words.
I had no idea a simple appearance on TV and on magazines would affect so many people. I felt strange, suddenly, as if I was not even a human being, but just an object put on a pedestal for people to admire.
She gave me my tickets, her eyes crinkling with pleasure. "I'm Joni," she smiled, "I hope I see you in Hollywood!"
I looked behind me at her happy face, pierced with a lip ring and graced with black hair, and shot her a smile. She had a dream too.
I seemed to be the only one confused about what I truly wanted.
We walked through the gates, scanning our tickets for admission, then gazed in wonder at the glorious display of lights, people, and rides. Bumper cars were right beside us, the tiny vehicles ramming into each other, signaling pure ecstasy. Tents were all around us, inviting people to their deceptive attractions, huge roller coasters just ahead.
Let the distraction begin.
I winked at Peter, and then ran to the bumper cars line. My all-time favorite ride, I was not going to miss it. He followed me, laughing as I was immediately taken over by crazed fans. "Look's like you are going to have a fun time here," he said as he raced to join me, running to be my bodyguard.
I giggled with excitement as I was swallowed by even more admirers. Admirers... that would let me do whatever I wanted.
This was going to be fun.

"Yes!" I exclaimed as my carefully thrown ring landed on the jackpot. The lights above me flashed, the jackpot's shrill beeps alerting the worker to my lucky throw.
"Wow," the employee, a handsome teenage boy with blonde hair and brown eyes, looked at me, then to the jackpot ring in amazement, "I can't believe you actually got it."
"I'm surprised too," I said, smiling happily. I actually achieved my goal; of getting that gigantic purple fluffy bunny that winked at me from the first time I saw it, begging me to take it home.
The guy, as I motioned to the prize I desired, ran his gaze over my form, his eyes crinkling in confusion as he gave me the flocculent rabbit. I hugged it, its form mashed into my own as I squeezed the bunny as hard as I could. It was so soft, like a pillow, and incredibly cute. I felt myself fall in love after touching it for the first time.
“Hey,” realization finally dawned on the employee, a light coming to his eyes, “are you Eve Valencia?”
Oh no. Again? I liked this attention, but this was really getting old.
“Yes,” I nodded slowly, as if he didn't figure that out just a few seconds ago.
"You're amazing," he smiled dreamily at me, as if he was seeing me in a completely new light. His gaze bore into mine, his fantasies clearly shown on his face. Obviously being a celebrity changed his treatment of me. "I love you."
I began to wish for just a bit of that anonymity no one seemed to prize.
"Um, thanks," I awkwardly replied. Carefully, I backed away, my bunny in tow, eager to get away from the boy's devotion.
"Hey, can I get a picture with you? Just one?" he pleaded, "My friends wouldn't believe that I met you without proof." His big, milky brown eyes tugged at mine, and I felt my heart melting.
"Fine," I said, or rather, growled as I stomped to his side. He pulled out a sleek camera, holding it out, pressing the on button. It whirred to life quickly, brightness flooding from it, the lenses emerging. I noticed, suddenly, how the guy's hand was around my thin waist, pulling me closer. Surely it is for the picture. Surely... he wouldn't try anything.
As he pressed capture, he suddenly whirled me in towards him, giving me a kiss on the lips. They were like strawberries, his lips, the sweetness intoxicating, but without much emotion. So... this was what a kiss was like without love.
I jumped away in fright, the boy smirking as he examined his camera. "I can't wait!" he exclaimed, holding the camera close to his chest, "I will be the most popular guy in school!"
This just went to show how naive I really was.
"I'll have you know," I huffed, "I am here with my boyfriend..." It was mostly true. Except for the boyfriend part, of course.
Where's Peter?
Hurriedly, I looked around, my hair flying, urgency in my gaze. He wasn't near me at all... where had he gone?
I had just seen him about fifteen minutes ago, right before I got swept up into that addicting game to try and win the bunny. He had been right beside me, shaking his head at me in laughter as I decided I had to have that bunny. I guess I lost track of him then, focusing on the fluffy animal that delighted my heart.
I walked hurriedly around, peering into tents, looking into the ride lines, glancing at all the people around me. My heartbeat began racing, my eyes full of fright. I was alone.
This isolation is what forced me to search for him.
I raced to a shooting attraction, a thin, weedy girl standing beside the cash register. She didn't look up as I grew close; focusing on what I soon realized was her phone. Her fingers flew upon the keys, mashing them hurriedly, as if she was in a rush.
"Excuse me?" I politely said. She finally, after a long pause, raised her head.
"Yeah?" she asked, a heavy southern drawl in her long, drawn out words. With eyes of green and silver-blonde hair, she was fairly cute, though her extremely skinny form made me question her health.
"Did you see a tall man with tanned skin, chocolate eyes, and wearing a t-shirt and jeans?" I asked. When she didn't answer, recognition not coming to her, I added, "an incredibly hot one."
She perked up then, her eyes shining with brightness. I should have known to say that first. "Oh, him? I saw him pass by here about ten minutes ago towards that purple tent over there," she smiled, pointing at it. "He sure was fine," she murmured, looking over at the tent once more, as if he would suddenly emerge from it and sweep her up into his arms.
I tried to quell the tiny stabs of possessiveness, offering my thanks through gritted teeth. "I appreciate it," I forced a smile to my worried face. She ignored me, still lost in her thoughts.
"Fine..." she whispered as I walked away, letting me know what she was thinking about.
I edged to the purple tent, my short trek filled with purpose, yet with fear. What was he doing in there? I felt like I didn't want to know.
I forced the doubt away. Peter wouldn't ever do something... bad. He was the one constant in my life, the one person that never changed. Maybe the bathrooms were in the purple tent.
I plowed faster through the throng of people, heading towards my goal. My hair flew behind me, my face flushed from worry. I was almost there.
I didn't realize how big the tent was until I finally approached it.
It loomed before me, its stripes of purple and lavender, without the lights the other places had. Towering above my head, it truly was gigantic, a monster. The tent was freaky, almost like a haunted house, but in a circus style.
I took a deep breath, lifting the flap and slipping inside, my heartbeat pounding furiously in my chest.
Well, it certainly wasn't a bathroom.
Tables were scattered all through it, almost every seat filled. Women, all dressed provocatively, were lounging about, and flirting with the unattractive, but obviously rich men littering the area. You could tell they were well off by their clothes and face, well groomed in all aspects. In the corner there was a bar, a huge one, with about thirty barstools stretching from one end of it to the other. Handsome men were pouring the drinks, entertaining the men with stories and jokes.
Silence overtook everyone as they turned at my entrance, their eyes widening at my form. Even the women were staring, surprised to see a celebrity in such a place.
I felt very uncomfortable under their measuring gazes. Why would Peter enter this awful place? Why didn't the girl tell me this was a bar?
Suddenly chatter started back again, the excitement at my presence lost. Men continued to drink, flirting outrageously with the tempting women, some traveling out of the bar with a girl to do who-knows-what.
I had to find Peter and get us both out of this horror.
My eyes like searchlights, I frisked my gaze over the drunken guys, the intimidating women, the handsome workers, trying desperately to find him. Eventually, I saw a form hulking over the bar, in the far corner, despair in his slump.
I hurried over to him, tapping him on the shoulder. Slowly, he turned, his face weary and worn.
"Peter?" I questioned. He just looked at me, blankness in his features. A thin glass laid in his hands, filled with liquid, his eyes unfocused and blurry. I saw the desperateness in his features, yet the emotion he lacked.
Who was this man? And why did he look exactly like Peter?
The glass flew from his hand onto the floor, my hand causing the accident. Quickly, I grabbed his arm, forcing him upwards. He put up no resistance, no biting words to deliver. His chocolate eyes were deep and dark, hiding what was truly inside of them. I was afraid of this strange man. This was a side I had never seen before.
"We are leaving," I told him sharply, as loud as I could without screaming. The whole bar stared as I dragged him to the opening, some even cheering for me as I shoved him out. I guess they were still waiting for reason to come and pull them out of the terrible, sinful hole they were in.
I pulled him away from the crowd, away from the stares, his face still clouded. The night sky swallowed us up as we vanished into the bushes, into a small clearing. I released him here, his body swaying in the wind. He looked... strange. Expressionless.
"Why were you in there?" I probed, looking at him straight in the eye. As I did so, consciousness seemed to come to him, understanding lighting his features.
"I..." he stuttered, "had t-to get a d-drink," His lips parted in a pout, innocence in his face.
"How long have you been an alcoholic?" From what I could gather, he certainly seemed like one.
"About five years," he said, stuttering slowly evaporating. He frowned sadly at me as I contemplated this horrible piece of information.
He had been an alcoholic ever since I had gone into depression, after I had refused to be his girlfriend? How did he get a beer at thirteen?
I waved away my inquiries and focused on him. "This could hurt you, Peter," I said softly, my voice full of desperate pleading, "you need to stop, or you might be kicked off the football team."
The night seemed to grow darker with every dooming word I spoke.
His expression grew to be of fear. He grabbed my hand, nearly crushing it in his grip. "Please, Eve," he begged, "don't tell them. Please... please..." His eyes were full of sorrow. "I'm sorry for leaving you. I just had one of those urges. I... HAD to get a drink, or I thought I would die."
"Peter!" I exclaimed, "You are only eighteen!" How could he even get drinks? How could his addiction reach that level at his age?
He ignored my question, instead squeezing my hand so tightly it turned white. "Don't tell, Eve."
I ripped my hand away, looking to the stars, wondering just how much my life had changed in a few minutes. About ten minutes ago, I trusted Peter. I honestly liked him. In fact, I was wondering if he was even the true one for me. However, ten minutes had washed away any chance of romance, and even tore at our friendship.
Now I had nobody.
For the sake of old times, I attempted to calm him, no matter how badly I wished to punch him. "I'm not going to right now," I whispered, touching his shoulder, "but you have to stop. I will help you, Peter."
"You will?" he asked, the light finally returning, although something foreboding seemed to loom beneath the surface. He stepped closer, nervousness arising within me.
However, I could not show fear.
Standing my ground as he crepted closer, I continued. "Peter, you can solve everything!
“Just tell your parents, and they will help you recover also. You can fight this Peter!" Hope was laced through my voice, belief in my words. I believed that he could break free. Peter was strong.
Peter seemed to be affected, his hand shaking. "I... have never had someone believe in my before," he said softly, true sorrow in his expression. I felt a touch of pity, a hint of sympathy biting at me.
He smiled, his handsome, god-like face shining in the moonlight, his body lean and muscular. "Thank you, Eve," he thanked me, "you really are special."
Bringing his fingers to my face, he let them trail down my cheek, affection in his feather light touch. With his other hand, he held a strand of my soft hair in his large hands, stroking it softly. The normal Peter would never be so bold.
Time was suspended between us as he leaned in, his face within a hair's breadth of mine. I could smell the alcohol, though fading, on his breath. His closeness unnerved me, but somehow, I couldn't escape. He had caught me in a web, in a bind I couldn't possibly understand.
I couldn't mask my revulsion as he brought his beer stained lips to mine, forcing a kiss.
I knew he wasn't thinking clearly.
I knew he was one of my best friends.
But this? I... had a feeling this awful act would be hard for me to forgive.
He pressed closer to me, snaking an arm around my back, yanking me closer. His kiss grew deeper, scaring me immensely. I tried to wiggle away, but he was too strong, almost taking my movement as encouragement, forcing even more kisses down my collarbone, on my shoulder.
Please let it stop.
Please let the horror end.
Was I going to get raped here and now? By one of my very best friends? I closed my eyes, awaiting the worst. I truly, at this moment, discovered the danger of being drunk. Before, I had only read about it, it's destructive demeanor, how it implanted forbidden desires into your mind, causing you to lose control.
But now, one of my best friends was experiencing this horrible torture, and I finally understood.
There was a whoosh, a blur of movement I could spot through the crack in my eyelids. Peter's touch suddenly ceased, a grunt emitting as he fell onto the ground. Another pair of warm, comforting hands took Peter's place, holding my body close to the stranger.
Somehow, although this man truly was someone I didn't recognize through my very limited vision, I felt more comfortable with him than I did with Peter.
"I'll save you," a whisper erupted, close to my ear. I felt like I recognized that smooth, melodious voice. It seemed to bring complacency to my body, soothing the nerves that was previously spiked by Peter's kisses. Who was...
I was interrupted in my thoughts as another pair of lips crashed onto mine, urgency and longing in its deliverance.

Chapter 22

I immersed myself in him.
Delving myself into his soft embrace, I reveled in the feel of his sweet lips as they danced across mine. His shirt, silky and warm, brushed against me as I got closer to him, not even a hairsbreadth apart. We were one, two beings melded together until even we didn't know when I ended and he started. It was so amazing, this incredible bliss that tickled my skin and sent me into pure elation.
He reached to my waist, pulling me even closer, I wrapping my arms around his neck in return. This wonderful feeling immediately enlightened me, letting me know exactly who the enchanting mystery man was.
I finally broke the kiss, leaning back slowly. I let my fingers reach towards his glorious red hair, brushing it back out of his eyes. Somehow, my gaze got lost in them, those emeralds that were brighter than any jewel. He always did that to me, mesmerizing me, arresting my glance with his two green handcuffs.
"Dex?" I asked, though I already knew the answer.
"Of course," he smiled, his sparkling white teeth shining. His cologne, a scent that I could not exactly distinguish, was a delightful aroma that intoxicated my senses. I didn't realize that I had missed it until I smelt it once more, experiencing its enchanting flavors.
"You're... back!" I happily exclaimed, squeezing in even closer to him, shutting my eyes, immersing myself in this joy I was experiencing. It was enchanting, those few meager seconds.
However, there was something strange around me, interrupting my happiness. I could feel it, the distraction, and suddenly I couldn't stay in Dex's embrace any longer.
What was it?
As I was brought slowly to full awareness, I suddenly gasped as Peter came into focus, sprawled on the dirty grass. His body was slumped against the crisp stained blades, his arms by his side. Pieces of his hair was lying in his face, blocking my view of his slightly bruised cheek. He looked pitiful, his eyes worn and tired, his face likewise. I broke away from Dex's arms, though unwillingly, and ran to Peter's side. He seemed so desperate, with a small gash in his leg, blood running in little droplets from when he scraped his calve against a pointy piece of bark. No matter how stupid he just acted, no matter how scary he had been, I wasn't going to leave him like this.
I kneeled down by his prostrate form, slipping my arm under his and holding it tight. With my other arm, I grabbed a packet of Kleenex, holding it over the wound so the flow would cease.
When I was this close to Peter, even when he was unconscious, I always marveled at the perfection in his face. He had a clear complexion, tanned and chiseled, his jawbone strong and masculine. His eyes, a rich chestnut, sucked me into its depth, awakening flutters inside my chest. His lips were so soft-looking, sweetness emanating from them, signaling the intoxication contact would bring. None of that innocence was in his earlier kiss, only his beer tinged breath, and his unfocused eyes.
Why, Peter, did you have to be an alcoholic?
Honestly, I considered myself to be a little bit selfish. I never thought about Peter in all of my troubles. I never knew how much he had suffered. How did I think that he was perfectly fine through all this? That he wasn't hurt at all?
I could have helped him. Maybe, if we went back five years, I could have said yes to his proposal, becoming his girlfriend, having a great life. He probably wouldn't have gotten drunk then, being really happy.
If only Dex wasn't the man I loved with all my heart...
I glanced up at him, at his dubious expression, and frowned. "What?" I asked bitterly.
"He attacked you, Eve," Dex practically snarled, his voice of pure disgust, "he doesn't deserve to be called a man,"
"Does that mean that I don't help him?" I inquired incredulously, watching Dex's face droop slightly.
"Go ahead," he nearly whispered, "You win. Help him, but I still don't think he's earned any of the support you are giving him,"
I ignored Dex's last jab, stuffing the whole pack of white Kleenex onto his knee. Carefully, I pulled two rubber bands out of my purse, wrapping it around his injury. I watched him for a second more, wondering once again how he had suffered all this while keeping a meager smile on his face.
Suddenly, questions within me started to rise. Turning to Dex, I began to voice them. "Why did you leave? How did you find me?" I probed, looking at him directly in the eye.
He frowned, similar to when he delivered that disdaining remark about Peter, and said, "I followed you through the amusement park," he shrugged, "and I left because of... business."
I narrowed my eyes at him. Something about his words didn't ring true, with the way his voice wavered on the word 'business'.
He seemed to be inwardly debating on whether he should open his mouth more, to tell me something I didn't know. Subconsciously, I pleaded with him, my eyes widened. Why did he feel like he couldn't tell me everything? I trusted him, but this still hurt me a little.
"What about that girl on People magazine with you?" I quietly queried, keeping my eyes glued to his face. His face grew determined in response, his voice rising.
"She was not my girlfriend!" he spouted, "She just stuck to me like glue... she wouldn't go away!"
"You were eating with her," I plainly stated.
"Because she wouldn't get away from me unless I did!" he protested, his voice filled with revulsion as my accusation brought back some of his memories. Then, his tone dropped slightly, oozing charm and sweetness. "Eve, YOU are the only woman in my heart. Please remember that."
My heart began to beat wildly as the most popular rock star in America said the words I wanted to hear the most. Shock overloaded my body, eternal bliss sizzling directly around me. It was more than what I ever expected... and it elated me beyond all else.
He walked over to me, standing over Peter's body as I made the final adjustments to his bandage. The blood seeped through the Kleenex, spots of red appearing on the outward tissue, some droplets slipping down his knee. I looked in fright as the blood stains grew bigger, dyeing the tissue a deep ruby shade. I looked to Dex in fright, his face contorted in similar alarm. "What do I do?" I asked in alarm. He looked expressionless as asked him for his much-needed help, his face as blank as could be. Blood began to ooze outside of the bandage, trickling down Peter's muscled leg. Carefully, I brought my elbow over to his shoulder, hefting his weight onto my reluctant arm. I could feel sharp jabs of pain shoot through me, causing my legs to wobble underneath him as I lifted him up. I accidentally released a small, almost inexistent groan as I managed to pull him completely onto my slight body.
I struggled forwards, Dex coming to support me by carrying Peter's other side, my destination unknown. His feet dragged along the muddy ground as we carried him into the crowd, into the mass of people.
"Please!" Dex unexpectedly called, his voice sharp and shrill, "A man is hurt! Where is the health tent?" His voice was as smooth as butter, and as sweet as sugar, calling people to pay attention to his request. People actually stopped in their tracks, although I wasn't sure if that was because there was a beautiful man speaking, or that we were dragging a beautiful man. Either way, we pretty much ceased all action.
People glanced at Dex in wonder, taking in his appearance, his pretty hair shining as it fell into his eyes. His emerald eyes, as they gazed upon the crowd, seemed to single out each individual, making every one seem special to him. This celebrity effect, only given to a select few, was one of the qualities that separated Dex from his rivals; his ability to get intimate with each and every one of his fans with a single glance.
This was one of the reasons why I fell in love with him. Because he cared.
A rather portly lady emerged from the throng, crossing over to our side. With light silver hair and icy blue eyes, she looked like a former knockout, traces of her figure still left. She seemed to ooze superiority and authority, commanding respect. Carefully, she examined Peter as he slumped over us both. His form seemed even more bedraggled now as we dragged him, his feet splattered with mud.
"Come with me," she ordered, and we followed her. The grass crinkled beneath our feet as we trumped through the dispersed crowd, navigating quietly behind the lady. My heart ached with unsaid words, questions I wished to ask, but now was not the time. For a few minutes, I wanted to revel in this innocent time, this time before I attempted to satisfy my burning curiosity.
I was afraid everything around me would fall again, this temporary happiness ripped away by the horrible truth.
I looked up, as I struggled with poor Peter, at the beautiful night sky. It was pure black, an ebony that contrasted with the bright lights decorating the ferris wheel, the colors reaching into the night, yet only stealing the darkness directly around it. Stars twinkled, but seemed to back away from the brightness the park was emitting, staying towards the moon and away from the spectrum of colors. Just looking at their beauty seemed to strengthen me, encouraging me.
The lady finally came to a halt in front of a small tent. Away from the multitudes, it was a quiet, homey tent. It was decorated with splashes of red and orange, lights strung across the entrance. Across the side it said HEALTH, and then I immediately understood. The lady was a nurse.
"My name is Mina," she smiled at us, then immediately went to Peter. Lifting his arm from my shoulder, she slung it around her own, carrying him effortlessly. I marveled at her strength... It took us both to carry him and she just effortlessly did what we struggled to do. She walked carefully into the tent, Peter in tow, briefly disappearing. After a minute, she reappeared outside, her eyes focused. "I'll clean his wound," she said, rather resignedly, "give me a minute," Her berth vanished into the folds of the tent, out of our sight.
Dex leaned back against a tree, a beautiful oak with crimson leaves that seemed to catch the moonlight and display it on their veins. They seemed to match, Dex's incredible beauty and the tree's elegance. His red hair stood out among the bark, his muscular body blending with the similarly masculine trunk. His eyes seemed to match some of the tree's green leaves, as if each one was a single eye. They were both so perfect in their own way. They were different, yet startlingly alike.
I guess I was going crazy, comparing Dex to a tree.
The silent seconds stretched into minutes, Dex not saying a single word. His eyes stared into mine ceaselessly; as if he was trying to judge me, figure me out in some way. He seemed to be biting his tongue, as if he was holding back. As if he had something to say, but he didn't want to let the words escape his lips.
After a few more seconds, I couldn't take it anymore.
I crossed over to him, wrapping my arms around him, leaning against him comfortingly. He seemed to welcome my sudden embrace, holding me likewise, suspending us in time. At moments like this, everything seemed to stop, even time itself bending to our will. We were one with each other, our feelings mutual, nothing holding us apart.
Except for his hesitation.
I could feel it, a boulder in each other's paths. There was something he was concerned about... something that he didn't want to tell me. I sincerely hoped it wasn't something bad. I hoped it wasn't something that would ruin our happiness.
"Why did you leave?" I asked the burning question once more, the one gnawing on me ever since I saw him. As I spoke, I immersed myself in him, into his comforting embrace. It was almost as if I was trying to use Dex as a shield from the very words that I asked to hear.
He froze, all warmth and comfort gone. I could feel the sudden icy cold ripping through his body, although his heart rate shot up a million miles. This cold... I quickly broke away from it.
"Business. I told you," he said, a little annoyed. This time, even more of his tone was streaked with fear, with bitterness. He stood, straight and upright, all movement and warmth gone.
"Why didn't you call me, then?" I asked a little angrily. I knew I sounded like a jealous girlfriend, but I was willing to risk annoyance for answers.
He looked at his shoes, withholding the answers I desperately wanted. However, his eyes filled with the deepest sadness, his emerald eyes almost turning blue from the iciness between us. A tear bubbled at the edge, ready to run down his cheek at any second. Incredulity filled my features. I had never seen a boy cry.
Carefully, he pulled me to him, brushing his fingers across my porcelain face, delving in for sugar sweet kisses that made my heart ache. They soon grew deeper, blocking out any train of thought, making my heart stop completely.
"Eve, please forgive me..." he whispered, finally breaking away. He stood before me, his stance of a defeated man, his eyes full of unshed tears. "I hate this, not telling you, but I'm afraid..."
I looked at his beautiful face, the confident man brought to such ambiguity. "Don't be," I told him, grabbing his hand, squeezing it lightly.
"You don't understand," he shook his head quietly, "you don't know just how terrible this is."
"Please," I begged. I became deathly afraid of his words, yet they were the words I needed to hear the most.
"I have-" he began, each tear studded word stuttering forth.
"He's ready," Mina appeared at the flap, her eyes widening when she saw our faces. "Was I interrupting something?" she cautiously inquired. I looked at her tired expression, and shook my head.
"I'm coming," I took my purse, Dex following right behind, and we slipped into the tent. An old fashioned TV was sitting by the door, its angle rotated so I couldn't see from the entrance. On the other end, Peter lounged on a bed, his knee bandaged heavily. His eyes were opened, though extremely groggy, his form tired and weary. He seemed to be glancing at the TV as if he was angry with it, his hand shaking a tiny bit.
I ran to his side. "Is he okay?" I asked Mina quickly, grabbing Peter's arm.
"Yes," she replied, "I woke him up, and I bandaged his knee, but he will be very groggy and not fully awake for a little while."
"The drugs?" I asked regretfully. She nodded.
"A dangerous habit for young people your age," she shook her head sadly, "try not to get sucked into it. It hurts you terribly."
"I know," I said softly. I rubbed my thumb over his hand, feeling the toughness of his palm and fingers.
Peter, his chocolate eyes unfocused and blurry, finally spoke. "Dex, that's you on TV," he reached up and pointed, his gaze on Dex only. "That's not fair," he complained, "you are on TV, you get to keep Eve, AND you are a rock star. Why can't I have that? All I get is an addiction."
Dex just looked at Peter, emotionless, although I could tell he had froze once again, his knuckles turning white. I looked to the TV, my heart rate stopping completely as I looked at the terrible words. And looked at them again. And again.
For I couldn't believe the awfulness before me.
I ran to Dex, pulling him out of the tent, my movements frenzied and robotic. I turned to his stricken face, full of sadness and terror.
"Tell me it isn't true," I demanded. Tears of my own began to run down my cheek.
Full of guilt, his face showed that he couldn't do so. "It is," he said softly, "I have a... baby."
My world crashed down around me, leaving nothing left except for the sadness.
The terrible sadness.
"Who?" I forced the probing words bitterly out of my system.
He looked down at his shoes, the sadness consuming him also. He began, "When I was 17, I was always hanging out with the wrong celebrities, doing things I hated to normally do. They convinced me to hang out with them because it would boost my popularity, but in truth it did just the opposite. On one terrible night that I would remember for the rest of my life, they made me take a swig of beer. After just that, I got incredibly drunk, and took advantage of a girl named Emilie, or at least everyone said I did. She was a rising star who wanted to be popular like me, who was also very pretty with a nice voice. After I did such a horrible thing, ruining such a nice girl's life, I never took another drink. When we discovered in the next few months that she was pregnant, I asked her to marry me, for a baby would ruin her career and I needed to take care of them both. She agreed,"
"What happened?" I asked in a breathless whisper. This was almost too much.
"I began to grow suspicious. Emilie was way too happy, although her entire career was ruined. I investigated, and found that Emilie's agent had actually told her to take advantage of ME when I was drunk, so that she would get more popularity as my wife. Furious, I called Emilie to tell her I had discovered everything, but then decided to keep it to myself. It wouldn't change anything. The baby girl was still mine, no matter how deceptive Emilie was. However, everything after that grew even worse."
I couldn't breathe. Why... was he telling me all this NOW?
"We were scheduled to get married two weeks after the baby, so Emilie could erase any baby fat she kept. Emilie had the baby right on time, and she was so beautiful," He smiled softly, "We named her Felicia. However, on the ride home from the hospital, we had a car crash. I managed to shield and protect the baby since I was holding her. Emilie, however... didn't make it through. Now I was left with a baby that would possibly ruin ME, and a terrible bitterness that consumed my heart."
My breath caught in my throat.
"That was the year I came to Jesus Christ," he looked at me, a determined look to his eyes, "I learned that my sins could be forgiven, and I could start as a new man. Eagerly, I became a Christian. Eve, I have regretted that awful day since the time it happened. It will ruin my career, for parents won't want their child to listen to me, and it's hurting Felicia even now. She is without a mother. On the day I left, Serena told me that if I wanted to keep this a secret, from you and from everybody, I had to go out with her. I broke our agreement by coming here, and so she told the whole world. But the only person I care about is you. Could you possibly find it in your heart to forgive me?"
I stared at him, shock and anger on my face. Quickly, I shot a glare at an eavesdropping Mina, making her scamper back inside the tent. Finally, after a pause, I spoke. "Dex, I can't believe you don't trust me," I accused.
"Yes I do! I-"
"NO YOU DO NOT!" I yelled, my voice echoing, vanishing in the crowd beyond, "You didn't think I would accept you, didn't you? You believed I would just turn you away without even trying to understand. That's terrible, Dex... an insult to me."
"I didn't-"
"You know what?" I vented, "I AM going to turn you away. Go back to Hollywood, rock star," I couldn't think, for anger was the only emotion coursing through me.
I saw his eyes crinkle in a wince at my last words. I could tell they bit at them. They bit at me too.
But they had to be said.
I vanished back into the tent, knowing that when I reemerged, Dex would not be there.

Chapter 23

I wanted to stay and beg, but that wouldn't help.
Eve's face, streaked with tears, made me want to pull her into a hug. However, the sad thing about it was that I couldn't. If I tried, it would only make things worse.
I knew my secret was strange. The most popular man in America, a 21 year old single man, with a 3 year old toddler who he is taking care of on his own? No one in the entire country could have guessed that, and many by now are thinking I'm a terrible person. I felt like punching those sort of assuming people, people that just thought that I was a player because I made one mistake.
Well a lot of mistakes, but still.
I didn't tell Eve the whole story of Emilie, Felicia, and I, but I did tell her enough so that she would get the big picture. Leaving out the parts where Emilie was bossing me around, stealing money out of my wallet, and going to clubs and never coming back was necessary. It was my mistake, even getting into that mess in the first place, and I didn't want to give Emilie too much of the blame, so I would seem like an innocent man. For I wasn't. I was just as guilty as Emilie.
In the very beginning, it was bearable.
Emilie was a beautiful girl, with blonde hair and hazel eyes that was almost pure gold. She had an amazing figure, her voice nice but not amazing, with all the makings of a future star. I felt myself to be lucky to accidentally take advantage of a girl like her instead of a street rat. Her personality was hidden beneath layers and layers of superficial sweetness. We had fun, for a little while.
Then she became this paranoid girl who couldn't leave me or my money alone. She had to bury herself under wigs, cheap clothing, and weird makeup so she couldn't be recognized, or else everyone would see she was with child. She hated every minute of that, every second of anonymity. Soon, that hate began to wear on her, and she began to let her true personality show. I had let her move in at about five months into her pregnancy, and regretted it the day I let her bring in her ten suitcases. She got mad at my cook for the smallest things, flirting with the gardener until he had to resign. Stealing money out of my wallet, she would run off to a nightclub, while pregnant, and get drunk. I tried to tell her that it wasn't good for the baby, but she wouldn't listen. She didn't care. And at that time, I believed I would be stuck with her forever, for I didn't believe in getting divorced when there was a kid involved. I came from a divorced family, and I didn't want to inflict the same fate upon my child.
Then, about three weeks before the baby was born, I overheard Emilie talking to her agent. I could still hear, in my mind, her smooth voice as she told him that the plan was working perfectly. She would have my baby, she said, then tell the whole world that I had taken advantage of her and was in hiding for almost a whole year. It would boost her popularity immensely, while destroying my own. I would be the villain, while Emilie would be the victim.
Also, it was then that I found out she had set up the whole escapade, gotten me drunk, and made me conform to her will.
If I tried to explain this to Eve, I couldn't possibly describe the complete defeat and anger I felt at that moment. I was still hoping, on the inside, that she would eventually try to work together with me. That she would want to raise the child. But this, I couldn't allow. Telling her that I didn't want to get married would only infuriate her, for we were both engaged, and she would tell our secret earlier. I was trapped.
Soon, I came to the conclusion that I would have to tell the press before she did. I planned to call the media on the day of our wedding, alerting them then to our secret. However, Emilie's sudden death six days before the wedding, two days after Felicia was born, ruined everything.
The memory crisp and clear in my mind, I could picture the limo as a drunk driver slammed into it, the screams we all emitted as the limo was shoved back by the collision. Glass flew into the car, piercing Emilie's body. I, on the other hand, was cradling our two day old baby in my hands. She was so small, her body snuggling against mine as I shoved her into the folds of my jacket. Felicia was perfectly safe and sound.
I couldn't say the same for Emilie.
The funeral was very torturous, about four hours long, as person after person came up to speak about her. They all said how beautiful she was, her personality as wonderful as her face, but inwardly I disagreed. She was my worst nightmare, and I was ashamedly happy to see her gone. However, she had left a very big problem behind.
In the form of a little baby named Felicia.
I couldn't suddenly announce her to the world as my kid, for that would introduce too many questions. People would be asking who the mother was, why I had a baby at such a young age, and why I was the one taking care of Felicia. It would, overall, dash my popularity. As a young, ambitious rock star, I couldn't risk that. Felicia was a blessing, but at the same time, a curse.
Funny how I ended up willingly allowing the secret to be told just so that I could see Eve.
I suppose what made the secret so terrible for me was that Felicia was a living reminder of what I was years ago; a crazy rock star who was willing to do anything for popularity and money. I even had a baby out of wedlock, and no matter how drunk I was, that was truly awful. It went against everything I was now living for as a Christian, and set a bad example for my fans. Every time I even glanced at Felicia, Emilie popped up in my mind, impossible to banish.
I had been hiding her these last few years, but now there was no reason to do so. I felt sorry for Felicia, because I had to bring her into such a gossiping, judging world. She would be a celebrity without even trying.
The hardest thing about it, though, really was that I had people looking up to me. Now they were going to think I was just like every other celebrity in America. This reputation I had earned was going to be impossible to wipe away.
Finally, it was pulling Eve and I apart. She now probably thought that I was a player, even though I tried to tell her otherwise. Anyone who had a toddler at 21 was considered to be a player.
I was so undeserving of Eve. She was so beautiful, her eyes a sparkling blue, her heart pure. I, on the other hand, was a man that hid his own kid. She gave me her love, and I couldn't even give her my trust. I understood why she turned me away.
I did notice, however, that she did so with reluctance.
She almost seemed to be angrier with the fact that I didn't tell her earlier than the secret itself. I remembered her words, the way she said, "You didn't think I would accept you, didn't you? You believed I would just turn you away without even trying to understand. That's terrible, Dex... an insult to me," with such hurt. I didn't understand her, but I did get that she wanted my trust.
I was such a bad person to the one I loved. Even Peter, probably, would suit her better.

Swarmed with reporters, I tried to edge my way home.
They stabbed at me with their microphones like they were sharp swords, hoping to force some answers out of me. Their questions pounded against my defenses, overwhelming my senses until all I could see was their faces as they mashed against mine. Obviously all the big media people sent their employees to check out this groundbreaking story. Their voices all mashed together to create a hum, a blur of sounds and words, from which I couldn't possibly distinguish a whole question out of.
Angrily, I shouted, "STOP!!!!!!!!" My voice ripped through the air, over the unbearable hum, into every ear within two miles of me. They just looked at me, talking ceased.
I took my chance and ran.
Huffing like a tank engine, I raced through the emerald green meadow to my gate, ferocious reporters running behind. The air seemed to whirl around, tickling my face, crawling down and whirling around my legs. As I approached the metal bars, I quickly pounded in the numbers to the gray keypad. Please process quickly, I thought anxiously as they grew closer, so I don't die a miserable death.
Luckily, the gate seemed to hear my prayers, raising to admit me and snapping shut before they arrived. I turned to look at them, at their nosy microphones they were trying to shove in my face, and grinned. I loved gates.
I ran down the driveway to my door, although this time it was not because of the nagging reporters. I had someone to see.
The fountain in front of me towered high, its marble sides gleaming. Water, as blue as Eve's eyes, poured out of the elaborate decoration in the middle. The marble seemed to have veins of gold, with more and more until the top of the decoration was completely gold. It was a rather expensive fountain, taking almost a month of my normal wages in a movie. However, I felt that it was worth it when I stared into its beautiful waters, throwing in a penny every once and a while.
My mansion stood before me, casting its shadow upon my form. Tall and intimidating, it truly was a wonder, with creamy textures and pure white columns. I had it made when I was sixteen, lavishly decorating it with all that money could buy. It was huge, filled with maids and butlers, who spent their time cleaning all the art and technology I had around the house. However, to me, it had always been surprisingly empty.
I passed by it, heading into the huge garden I created for Emilie. She loved flowers, and back when I was enchanted by her, I wanted to satisfy all of her desires. She used to love wandering around here, and I did also. Even now, when she was long gone, I didn't regret creating this wonderful area, filled with pink buds and other beautiful colors. Another colossal fountain stood majestically in the center of the garden, similar to the one near the mansion.
However, this time, I didn't stay to look. Quickly, I passed by the garden and headed to a huge tree right outside of it. It was on the edge of the property, a truly gigantic beast. The branches were about as thick as my muscled forearm, with some as large as my thigh. The trunk was even bigger, about five times the size of the branches. It served as a canopy over my guests, reaching over the garden with colossal, sprawling hands.
I reached to one branch in particular, yanking it down, it surprisingly conforming to my will. It bent, a familiar whirring sound occurring from within the tree, the secret door appearing. Cautiously, I swung the door open, revealing a sight that always lifted my heart.
She was standing in the doorway, her deep red hair in bouncy ringlets that spiraled to her lower back. Her face was adorable, her complexion perfectly clear, babyish still. The most beautiful thing about her though, the thing that set her apart from the others, was her spectacular green eyes, mirroring my own. She seemed to inherit almost all of my traits, except for Emilie's curls and smile. A short but rather skinny child, she came to about my waist, her arms spread wide.
"Daddy!" Emilie's voice, channeled through another face, drifted to meet me as I swept the pint-sized package into a hug. She was so warm, her eyes sparkling with joy, her baby sized mouth stretching into a tender smile.
"Felicia!" I exclaimed right back, giving her a sweet kiss on the cheek. She laughed, a melodious one that sounded a little like my own. It always felt good to hold her like this, her petite body in my arms, hugging her tight.
"I miss you daddy," she said softly, peering at me under a thick wall of long eyelashes.
"Well not anymore," I replied, "in fact, Felicia, you can finally come out now. For good."
The nurse I had hired to take care of Felicia when I was gone walked up the steps, her face bent in confusion. She looked at the bundle of joy in my hands, and asked, "Why is she being let out?"
I told the nurse grimly, "the secret is out. All has been revealed."
Her face grew white, more out of concern for herself as the secret baby's nurse. "Who found out?" she queried anxiously.
I set Felicia on the ground, and she grabbed my leg as I spoke, "Penny did, then let it slip to her sister, Serena."
"Those two..." she growled a little, her face red. Obviously she liked the money she was getting as Felicia's nurse/mother. The reason I picked her was because she looked like Emilie, very beautiful, with the same hair and similar features, but she also seemed to have the same greedy personality.
"Don't worry," I reassured her, "I'm not letting you go just yet," I looked down to Felicia, who was having fun with my ankle, and smiled. "Felicia," I told her, "now you can play in mommy's garden like you always wanted to."
She released another squeal, grabbing my hand to pull me with her. Felicia had never left that underground room, full with toys and everything she could possibly want, and she hated it. For she had wanted the one thing I couldn't offer; freedom.
Now Felicia had all the freedom in the world.

"Now Felicia," I grabbed her, setting her on my knee, "Daddy has something to tell you."
"What?" she grinned excitedly. She had been playing among the flowers and bugs, almost trying to eat one, the catastrophe narrowly prevented by me. Her red curls were in a ponytail, the nurse standing off awkwardly to the side. A cute flush overpowered her tiny cheeks, her exertion apparent.
"I found a girl," I told her softly. Her eyes widened.
"A new mommy?!" She was bouncing on my knee, happiness apparent.
I laughed, "maybe."
"Yay!" she smiled, her joy radiating from within her, "can I see?"
"That's the thing, Felicia. She didn't come with me to Hollywood. She was a little confused because she didn't know I had a beautiful child named Felicia. She told me to go away."
Felicia narrowed her eyes, "Not a nice mommy."
"No no," I quickly reassured her, "not a nice daddy. I didn't tell her anything about you."
She pouted, her expression of a frown. "Daddy," she said, "why?"
"Because I was scared she might not like you."
She laughed, "Everybody likes me! You're silly, Daddy."
"Yes I am," I grinned, agreeing with her. I touched a bouncy curl, her silky hair reminding me once again of my own. The silence swirled around us both, Felicia resting on my lap silently.
She turned again after about a minute of contemplation, and looked at me with her big green eyes. "Daddy," she whispered, "Go tell that mommy to come back so she can be my mommy."
"But Felicia," I said, "you haven't even seen her."
She shook her head, "I don't have to see her, Daddy. Anyone my Daddy loves must be a pretty, nice mommy."
I watched her as she scampered and affectionately hugged the nurse, pulling her to the pretty flowers. They looked, the nurse talking to her energetically, and then she chased Felicia through the walkways, to the fountain. That nurse, no matter how greedy, was a good one.
Felicia's words rang in my head over and over, shocking me still. What she said was wise beyond her years. She seemed to know that she would love Eve, just because I loved her. She seemed to understand that love was what made a relationship.
I had to obey Felicia's words. I had to retrieve the woman that won my heart and, somehow, my daughter's full trust.
My butler arrived, his mouth stretched into a tender smile. Like a pair of shoes when worn just enough, wear and tear was beginning to show on his masculine face, wrinkles apparent. His ebony black hair was fading at the front to a snow white, his mustache sprouting a few grays. However, his sparkling blue eyes were just as bright and youthful as it was twenty years ago, still shining with that same energy.
Quietly, he handed me my mail, smiling to reveal a set of perfectly white teeth. "Here, sir," he grinned, "and all your fan mail is in your office if you want to look at those."
I laughed, "Thanks, Randy. You're a good butler."
"I know," he jokingly replied, then turned to walk back to the mansion, casting a few surprised glances at the beautiful young girl frolicking around with her nurse. The air seemed to glow around her form, energy from all around her sucked into her presence. She was amazing, a wonderful specimen you couldn't pull your eyes away from.
Grabbing her nurse's hand, she started to utter the notes to a nursery rhyme. "Ring around the rosy, pocketful of posy, ashes, ashes, we all fall DOWN!" she laughed, tugging the nurse into a pile of lilies while she dropped into a bunch of unused dirt. "Yay!" she exclaimed, her yell just as pretty as her singing. At the tender age of three, she was already getting voice lessons from her nurse, for she had tons of raw talent. Every note she uttered was like pure gold dropping from her tongue, the pitch absolutely perfect. She was also very good at piano, practicing it often.
Felicia stepped onto the ledge on the fountain, right before the clear crystal blue swirled in its captivity, and looked directly at me. "Listen, Daddy!" she commanded, "me and nurse have been practicing a new song," I perked up my ears, sitting upright in my seat.
The nurse came over to me, smiling. "It is very pretty. Felicia has incredible talent, just like you," she said, sitting down on the far edge of my bench.
Felicia released the first few golden notes, and then let the rest follow. Each one that came out of her mouth flew to my ears, delighting my heart. It was beautiful, although childish, her voice not yet developed. However, what really astounded me were her performance skills. She seemed to feel perfectly comfortable with her stance on the "stage", behaving naturally in every way. It seemed to fit her charismatic personality, full of energy and excitement.
She was a born star.
After finishing, she jokingly took a deep bow, and then started to wobble. We both leaped up, but a splash reached our ears before we reached Felicia. Water sprayed out of the fountain, soaking into our forms. Felicia reappeared over the sides of the fountain, completely wet. She seemed to look at herself, surprised, and then started to laugh. The nurse grabbed her out of the fountain, but Felicia tried to wiggle out of her grasp. "No!" she laughed, "more! More wet!"
I smiled gently. "Take her to the pool," I ordered, returning back to my bench. After going through my plethora of mail, I would join them. Plopping down on the rough bench, I peered at the first envelope, and then threw it aside. It was from Yolanda, the Disney Channel star with beauty and no brain, who I dated about a year ago. I was surprised that Randy didn't put that with the fan mail.
Putting some catalogs away, I was now shuffling through just envelopes, most of them bills. Just on a whim, I opened the bill for my Little Duckies card, the shop where Felicia got all of her clothes. A truly huge number popped out of the page, one that I couldn't spend in two weeks if I tried. Sure, this bill was quarterly, and Little Duckies was very expensive, but that really was incredible. I was going to have to talk to the nurse about a clothing limit. Felicia didn't need ALL those clothes.
I placed the slender envelope beside me, also laying the other hefty bills there also. With only two left, I quickly examined them. Suddenly, my eyes widened.
One of them was from Jack, my former bodyguard.
He was an amazing bodyguard, back when I had swarms of stalkers, simply the best out of all the others. However, when I was living with Eve, he suddenly quit for no reason, refusing to come back with me to Hollywood. I had no idea why. Maybe this would explain some things.
I tore it open impatiently, expecting a piece of thin paper to fall out, but was greeted instead by a thick piece of card stock, a translucent sheet of white on top of it, tied together with a bow.
You have been invited, it read, to the marriage of Jack William Johnson and Sadie Penelope Valencia at noon on April 7th, 2017.
Jack and Sadie???
I couldn't think, my mind blown for words. I had never expected something like this to happen. When they met, sure, they were flirtatious. However, I never expected that attraction between them to grow into something like this. And so soon! We came to their house about two and a half months ago, and they're now getting married in about two weeks. And didn't Jared like Sadie? When I was at Eve's school, I always noticed Jared's stares, his obvious love. He must be crushed.
So this was why Jack suddenly quit for no reason.
I looked at the date once more, and realized suddenly that it was two days after the twins' eighteenth birthday. So she doesn't have her mother's permission, so she has to wait until after her birthday? I wished, suddenly, that I could be there when Sadie finally told her mother, imagining the screams that would follow.
A revelation came over me as I stared at the invitation, although still suspended in complete shock, and smiled. A plan began to form in my head, one that might solve my problems.
Eve would be at the wedding. I had one more chance to convince her to be by my side.
I couldn't waste this golden opportunity.

Chapter 24

I woke to find myself lying on my bed, my hair mussed and greasy, still clothed in the outfit from the night before. The fan blew freezing air into my face, dancing along bare skin, reaching down to tickle my toes. The ceiling was scarred with scuff marks and cracks, a single bulb illuminating almost the entire room. Finally, the poster of Dex still stood, the light seemingly sucked into it, making the whole poster glow. It was vexing; with the way my eyes were tugged to it again and again.
I sat up, my body leaning against the old, wooden headrest. I closed my eyes, trying to remember. What happened last night? Why could I only dream of nightmares?
My head hurt as all the memories came flooding back to me, each one inflicting more pain than the last. First, the date, full of annoying people that couldn't leave me alone. I could still remember their hands as they reached to grab me, to touch any part of me, to shove a pen and paper into my face.
Peter, when I discovered he was an alcoholic. My heart ached as I recalled those beer-stained touches, those kisses full of unconfined passion. The man that looked like Peter but was really a monster still flashed within me, scarring me forever.
Then there was Dex. He was my knight in shining armor, the man who saved me from the stranger that attacked me. His kisses were memorable in a better way, filled with love and caring instead of raw lust. Unconsciously, they brought a smile to my face with even recollection, making me want to experience them again and again.
However, that cannot be so.
Also, coupled with that delight, a terror hung on the edge of that memory. All my good impressions of him, as a perfect man, no flaws to be found in his beautiful face and personality, were ruined. He was not perfect, my dream man really being... just a dream. He was just like everyone else in this world.
Also, the fact that he had that kind of relationship with another woman was really annoying. No matter how drunk he was, he still... shouldn't have done that. If he didn't get drunk, none of it would have happened. It sounded like he regretted greatly his choice though. Emilie sounded really mean.
However, that was not what had made me so incredibly angry. Really, his reluctance to confide in me, only telling me AFTER I had found out, was what made my blood boil. It proved to me that he did not believe in true love. If he did, he would have told me the truth earlier, expecting love to pull us through. Trusting me to understand.
What made me turn him away was that he was expecting me to turn him away. It was almost as if he wanted me to reject him. He had no hope. And that, to me, was pitiful.
The bottom line was, our relationship was over. I told him to go away, and he left. Simple as that.
I wasn't infuriated, really, at him anymore. I stewed over it last night, and came to the conclusion that although I was really irritated with his earlier choices, it didn't really affect my feelings. I still loved him. However, I was not going to chase after him, and I had a feeling he wouldn't either. I had nothing against him. It was just over.
I could live my life normally now. Well, kind of.
I was probably going to have to move to Hollywood, for the paparazzi was really annoying my neighbors. Every day, our phone rang off the hook, fan letters were delivered in sacks to my door, and people dogged us every day at our tiny house. My mom hid herself in the laundry room every day, where there was no windows, and made her candles in there. Sadie, on the other hand, was off every day with Jack, staying away from the fan-infested house for as long as she could. Mom asked about Sadie many times while she was out, but I had nothing to say. It was Mom's fault for not noticing the diamond engagement ring on Sadie's finger. And the neighbors, who moved here for peace and quiet? They probably were going to sue me if I didn't leave, and take the popularity with me.
Because Dex and I had abruptly broken off our record deal when he suddenly ditched me with Serena, the CD had never been finished. However, the staff had been patching together the pieces, and they had released the five-song (originally twelve-song) CD to the public. It was an immediate smash hit, and money was pouring in so fast we were soon swimming in it. I could now afford things I had only dreamed about before, a new car, a room of my own, and most importantly, a house in Hollywood. People were calling me from all over, requesting me to sing their songs or have a concert in some place far away from home. I didn't really understand that. I had only FIVE songs out, all of them duets with Dex, and they wanted me to have a concert with those? It always made me want to laugh.
Anyways, I was seriously considering, when I graduated, to become a professional singer, for that seemed to be the most money-making option there was. I needed to embrace my newfound popularity instead of pushing it away like I was so good at doing. A normal life might not be an option for me anymore.
I swung my tanned legs over the side of the bed, my feet making contact with the floor. Grabbing a ponytail holder with my manicured nails, I grabbed my tangled and messy hair and pulled it back into a ratty bun. Pieces of my long hair trailed down my back, accidentally left out of my simple design. However, I didn't care. I was going to take a shower soon. Last night I had been too tired to do anything except crawl into bed. It had taken a ton of work to heft Peter into his own car, driving him home, and calling his dad so he could help. I supposed that he would be in a bunch of trouble, but there was nothing I could do to prevent it. In fact, telling his parents would probably help him in the long run.
Squinting as my eyes adjusted, I spotted a thick piece of paper as it lingered on my dresser. I snatched it, my eyes widening as I noticed what it was.
An invitation... to Sadie's wedding?! And two days after our birthday? That's only two weeks away. I supposed, though, that they would have to have it sometime. Might as well be sooner rather than later.
However, being the procrastinator she was, she probably had not told Mother yet.
Sadie entered the room, her golden hair shining in the meager light, her eyes widening when I waved the invitation at her. "Planning on inviting me?" I lazily asked, holding it up. She just looked at me, not comprehending, then understanding dawned on her.
"Oh. The wedding," she said, "yeah, well... I was afraid you would rat on us."
Just goes to show how much my own sister trusts me.
I narrowed my eyes at her. "Thanks, Sadie. Have you told Mother?" I asked in retaliation. Her face grew pale, betraying the expected answer.
"Maybe, maybe not," she said, although we both knew that meant no. I grinned.
"Come on, I'll help you," I grabbed Sadie's arm with all my strength, forcing her with me out of the room. In the process, I rather felt sorry for her, but she deserved it for not giving me an invitation.
Jack was standing at the bottom of the stairs, his face crinkled in confusion as I plowed towards him, Sadie in tow. I smiled sweetly at Jack. "I just convinced Sadie to tell Lou that you two are getting married. Look at her smile!"
Judging by the grimace Sadie showed, it wasn't hard to tell that I was lying. However, Jack didn't seem angry at me for making her. "I've been trying to get her to tell Ms. Valencia for a while now," he said, cautiously tucking his shirt into his jeans, "I told her that if we waited too late, we would be worse off."
"Listen to your boyfriend, Sadie," I laughed, "he's smarter than you are." Sadie said nothing in reply, conforming to our will. She seemed to accept her fate, her head drooping slightly, waiting for the inevitable. Jack was busy preparing himself, his composure morphing from a tough bad boy into a perfect gentleman.
We entered the living room, Lou lifting her eyes to mine. She was reclining on the sofa, watching TV as usual. Her mouth was bent in a frown, her majestic hair splayed over the pillows. She was wearing a mildly skimpy nightgown, the dress reaching to her mid-thigh, the front reaching down into a V-neckline. As she took us in, her frown deepened,
"Who are you?" she asked roughly, half asleep. The sun peeked out from the surface of the crystal waters as it quietly rose above the lake. It illuminated the window, making it glow with energy, the soft yellow creeping through to shine on my face.
Jack blinked once, then smiled enchantingly. He slipped Lou's hand into his own, invoking a strangely satisfied sigh from her. "I am Jack," he said, "and I am Sadie's boyfriend," He leaned down, bringing her delicate hand to his lips. Carefully, he placed a gentle kiss on her hands. "I am so honored to have such a beautiful mother in law."
I winced on the inside. Jack was not supposed to say that first. Lou looked at him, suddenly losing all her weariness, focus regaining in her eyes. "Mother in law?" she asked, fire alight, "are you two MARRIED already? But you are both too young!"
I could tell Jack was mentally slapping himself. Being the perfect gentleman seemed to be rather hard for a man like him. "I'm sorry, Ms. Valencia," he quickly apologized, "I meant to say future."
"FUTURE?" she roared, "So you two are getting married soon? And you didn't tell me?"
"Yes ma'am," he nodded regally, his head bowed a little in shame. This actually wasn't too horrible. I had predicted that she would throw something.
"Mom," Sadie interludes, "it is not Jack's fault. I'm the one that said for us to get engaged first then get your permission. He wanted to tell you right off. So please, don't get angry at Jack," She disconnected herself from me, walking to Jack's side.
"Why would you not want to tell me?" she was visibly shaking, her anger clearly directed at Sadie now. Her hair was flying now, the static electricity building up in it until some pieces flew straight up.
"Because you might act like this," Sadie stated plainly, watching the anger spurt out of Lou. She always had a terrible temper.
"Please, Ms. Valencia," Jack pleaded, "am I not suitable for your daughter? I can take care of her, and I promise to love her for the rest of my life. What else would you want in a suitor?"
Lou opened her mouth, but nothing came out. Jack smiled at her encouragingly, "We will be happy. Isn't that what you want for us?" His words rang true. Lou sat, stone still, while she considered. Shock seemed to be overtaking her, the effect finally hitting home.
"Sadie..." she whispered, "gone..."
Jack stepped close to her, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. "She will not be gone. I will keep her right here. I've gotten a job in these parts so I could stay in this area."
"When?" she croaked, suddenly looking twenty years older.
"Two days after my birthday," Sadie uttered, her voice weaving its way towards Lou's ears.
"WHAT?!" Lou incredulously screamed, her voice growing raspy. However, I could tell that she was breaking, and eventually they would get her permission. I crept away, not willing to witness that battle. No matter how weak Lou would become, she would still have a barrage of ear-piercing yells, stubborn words, and scathing remarks. Not exactly what you would call fun to watch.
I crept back to my bedroom, laying down on the comforter that soothed my skin. I feebly tried to deny it, but soon I gave up. There was no doubt about it.
I... I missed him.
As I watched Sadie and Jack fight with Mom I, on the inside, rather envied them. I almost wanted it to be Dex and I waging a war with the monster, fighting for permission to get married. I wanted to touch his hair, to weave my fingers in-between the ruby red strands once more. His kisses still remained, imprinted in my memory forever, my desire for them rampaging within me. All I had to do was call him. Say that I forgave him. If I did so, he would come for me, and we might live a happily ever after.
But some strange force stopped my hand as it reached for the phone. Maybe it was my pride. My jealousy, maybe, from him being with another. I truly had no idea.
It was up to Dex.
My hand finally grabbed the phone, but it was not Dex whose number I punched in. The cord stretched as I pulled it to my ear, the rings echoing inside my head. He eventually answered, his voice rough and pained.
"Eve?" Peter asked, his tone of defeat.
"Yes," I said softly. There was a small, awkward pause, and I asked, "Are... you okay?"
"Yeah," he whispered, almost a low grunt.
"Are your parents' angry?" I questioned.
"Well, yes, but they seem to understand me. I ended up telling them everything. It takes some weight off my back, you know?" He said lightly, but then his voice adopted a darker tone. "I'm going to go to rehab after the end of my senior year," he said softly, hearing my gasp as my emotions spurted through the phone to his ears. "I need it," he quickly comforted me, reassuring me that everything was okay, "I need to get my life straight."
There was a silence, one that seemed to stretch for ages, then everything began to spurt out of him. "Eve, I'm so sorry. I feel so guilty, and I know that if Dex didn't come, I would have done even more. Please, Eve, tell Dex thank you," he requested, the tears he was crying not visible, but sensed through his emotional words and sniffles.
"I... can't," I emitted, barely above a whisper. Peter's words rang in my head over and over, almost impossible to believe, but yet so obvious. I would have done more. It seemed strange that, even when he was under the influence, he would do something like that. My heart sank when I remembered that the same thing happened to Dex... except that he didn't have a knight in shining armor to rescue him.
"Oh Eve," he said, "you didn't have a fight with Dex over that baby issue, did you?" My silence betrayed the answer, and he groaned. "Eve, I don't really know Dex, but I do know him enough to safely say that he is a good man. He regrets his earlier actions, definitely, because you are the only person in his heart. He doesn't care about that other girl. Only you. He's probably told you that before."
"Yes," I whispered. He did. I just didn't believe him.
He continued, "I'm just going to ask you one thing, Eve. Why... are you so willing to forgive me, and talk to me again, yet you can't forgive the man who is closest to your heart?" Silence reined, my conscience spiked by his observation. There was a clicking sound, and I knew immediately that he had hung up.
I slowly padded to the bathroom; my head muddled with strange thoughts, and closed the door. It was time for me to spend some time in the shower... to think.
I had never been so confused in my entire life.

Chapter 25

It was finally Sadie's wedding day.
As I drove my rickety old car down the rough and cracked road, I looked at the sky, hanging so precariously above me. Clouds floated in the mysterious realm above us, a world we could only look at, much less experience on our own. Birds flocked above me, provoking my envy, for it was always my wish to fly by their side. To feel the cold, rushing air as I soared through the blue, never to return, suspended in happiness forever. The vast expanse above almost felt like the ocean to me; with the way you could almost grasp it, but it always just escaped your reach.
Kind of like the pursuit of true happiness. It was so hard to attain, so hard to snatch for your own... fate twisting your life and throwing in a few more surprises merely to make you stumble. Happiness was a dream for adults, a nirvana they could never achieve. A pure fantasy.
But you couldn't help but wish for it.
The thinly cut green-brown grass slowly progressed into healthy stabs of emerald blades as I drove closer to the church, the trees growing trim and covered with flowering buds. The road suddenly became cobblestone, signaling a sudden change in my surroundings. I looked up, observing the beauty around me, and smiled.
Flowers erupted in little bursts all around the premises, a spectrum of colors that delighted my senses. A huge church stood magnificently before me, pure white, the doors twice as tall as I was. The sides of it were shrouded in thin carpets of ivy, trees framing the church also. The crystal clear lake, the one I enjoyed every morning, was right beside this splendor, the sun catching the water's gaze and making it shimmer in pleasure. Not a single ripple raced through the lake's surface, transforming the surface into a giant mirror, one that reflected the serenity above.
It was pure beauty.
Not many cars were parked in the gravelly road, but that was to be expected. I was six hours early, after all. I told Sadie that I would help her with her dress, hair, and makeup. I was a fan of staying all-natural, but to help Sadie, I had been practicing how to apply makeup. Also, I tried to learn how to curl hair into ringlets, and I had slowly started to improve.
I exited my car, stepping across the brief expanse of gravel, heading towards the open doors. The sun glinted at me, as if it was angry at my presence, lashing me with its whip of golden light. However, I managed to barely escape it, rushing into the air-conditioned church before the heat baked me to a crisp.
The inside of the church was just as beautiful as the exterior, with creamy white walls and a high ceiling. It wasn't huge, but not really small either, seating probably around one hundred people. A colossal chandelier dangled, crystals suspended by tiny wires, catching the light and reflecting it in little bursts along the walls. There were rows and rows of pews, then a spectacular display of beautiful, blooming flowers. There were hundreds of them, the multicolored beauties that were stacked up upon each other until the whole wall facing me was covered with them. Directly in front of that was a beautiful array of the very midnight glories that our town was so proud of... but they did not bloom like the others. I frowned as I surveyed them. Why would Sadie put midnight glories in the church when it wasn't nighttime?
I walked down the hall, not half as elegant as the grand room, and knocked cautiously on the designated door. A nervous, frazzled cinderella opened it, garbed in pure, snow white. Sadie smiled, though her eyes unveiled her true emotions of disconcertment. I had never seen her like this before.
"It's eating at me," she said anxiously, shoving me inside the room and slamming the door shut. Scared, I backed away from her nervous walk, full of frenzied and robotic movements. "What is this?" she asked me, "this terrible feeling?" Her eyes were wild, her hair in a rough ponytail, garbed in her wedding dress.
It truly was a wonder, her beautiful dress, with the best material and best design I had ever seen. It wasn't strapless, but a halter neck, something you rarely see in a wedding gown. It puffed out a little at the chest, then clung to her waist until it released its grasp at about the hip. There, it flowed outwards, a long train behind her. The halter neck design sort of reminded me of a sundress meant for the beach, yet it seemed to fit the elegance of the occasion.
"What do you mean?" I asked, confused by her words.
Lou stepped out of the shadows coming towards Sadie. Quietly, she put a thin, comforting hand on Sadie's shoulder. It calmed her, soothing her spiked nerves. "Honey," she reassured Sadie, "you probably are just feeling worry, that's all. Every woman wants their wedding to be just perfect,"
Sadie nodded, her actions confirming her mother's guess. Lou smiled, her voice flowing like molasses through her dry lips. "You will be just fine. There is a happy future ahead of you,"
I just looked at Lou, wondering what the crap was wrong with her. I was expecting steam to still, even now, be puffing out of her ears. "Are you... actually... okay with this?" I queried, shock running through my veins.
"Well," Lou huffed, "of course I would be happy to have my daughter marry such a kind and gentle man like Jack!"
I stared at Lou, glanced at Sadie, then returned my surprised gaze back to her.
Her voice took on a rather dreamy tone, her eyes starry, as she continued, "Jack is just such a gentleman..."
I walked near Sadie, uninterested in listening to the rest of Mother's drone. "Looks like Lou is in love with Jack," I whispered teasingly in her ear. However, she didn't giggle along with me.
"I know," she sighed, "but it's better than not having her permission,"
"I was just kidding!" I whispered back in surprise. Standing back, I surveyed Mother's so curious approval, and then let loose a giggle. I could clearly tell that Lou was attracted to him. With the way Lou went on about him, it almost seemed like Lou was the one in love, not Sadie.
"She was flirting with him all morning," Sadie leaned close to my ear, her perfume swirling around me, nearly choking me with its strength. "Jack turned on the charm earlier this week and Mom has been crazy ever since,"
I waved my arms around, trying to dismiss the overwhelming aroma. "Sadie, aren't you a little heavy on the perfume?" I asked incredulously, in my efforts to stop it.
"It'll wear off soon," Sadie shrugged, her voice dismissive, "I put on a lot now so that at the wedding, I will have the perfect scent,"
"Speaking of the wedding," I said, "we need to get your hair and makeup done. So sit down!" I made her plop into a hard, wooden chair, smoothing out the wrinkles her beautiful dress caused, and started to work wonders.
Carefully, I brought the curling iron to her hair, taking the first few pieces and wrapping it around the thin iron. I put the rest of her hair into a glorious, but incredibly simple updo, leaving some strands hanging from the back. I took those and curled them also.
I took her eyeshadow palette, scanning the colors that were available to me. I eventually picked varying shades of sparkly brown, colors that would enhance her eyes. Taking a thin brush, I delved it into the correct eyeshadow, then brushed it across Sadie's closed eyelid. It sparkled in the light as I added color after color, light after dark, splashing the shimmery spectrum throughout her eyelid.
Next, I added mascara and lip stick. That was easy, for using mascara and lip stick was pretty much the same for every brand I ended up using. This wasn't the exception. It really was the art of eyeshadow that really enchanted me. All the colors, when artfully applied, made a beautiful set of eyes that sparkled in the light. Eyeshadow, when perfect, was absolutely awe-inspiring.
I was done soon, setting the veil over her hair, signaling her completion. Sadie stared at herself in the floor-length mirror, grinning. "Beautiful," she laughed, "Eve, you did a great job,"
"Thank you," I bowed, my hair brushing across my feet. I suddenly became aware that I was not dressed up at all. "Where are the bridesmaid dresses?" I asked, scouring the room.
Sadie just looked at me. "You're not a bridesmaid, Eve. You're the maid of honor," she said matter-of-factly, as if she just expected me to know that already.
I suppose that would be kind of obvious, but nevertheless, I didn't realize that until now.
"Same thing," I grumbled, trying to hide my embarrassment, "So where are they? The dresses?"
"The next room," Sadie said, looking at her perfectly manicured nails, "Oh, and they all have different flowers on their dresses; see mine?" She gestured to the white rose on her dress, right above the bust. "There are varying types of flowers on each dress, though the dresses are the same. Be sure to pick the one with the carnation," she said, "it will pair you with the man you are walking down the aisle with,"
"Who are the other bridesmaids?" I asked curiously.
"Anna Welsh, Wendy Rochester, Tally Den, and of course Delilah," she said. I noticed that none of them, except for Delilah and I, were from school.
I narrowed my eyes at her. "You aren't trying to keep this from the school, are you?" I probed.
"Well, they will find out on graduation day, but I'd prefer to keep it a secret until then," she stated plainly, her eyes tugging at me, begging me to keep the secret. I rolled my eyes, although protest was useless. Sadie had made up her mind.
As I exited to go to the next room, the scent of cologne erupted near me. I realized that the groomsmen were in the room next to our own. It was so sweet, so delicious smelling... I tried to recognize that familiar aroma, but suddenly, a pair of hands wrapped around me, tugging me into the bridesmaid room.
I should have known it was Delilah.
"Eve, what were you doing out there?" she nearly shrieked, "we aren't supposed to see our partners until we are about to walk down the aisle!"
"I didn't know that," I protested angrily, "and how would I know anyway which groomsman would be my partner?"
"The flower on their suit," Delilah rolled her eyes, as if that was obvious. I looked past her to the three figures behind her, stuffing themselves into the skinny dresses. They were also halter neck, but the neckline did not surge as low as the wedding dress, and it cut off at the knee. It was a light lavender at the top, then darkened to a deep violet using varied shades of purple in shiny sequins. Certainly eye catching, it reminded me of the midnight glories, with the way it shined similarly to the nighttime blooms. To somehow combat the splendor, a simplistic white sash was right below the bust, adding a gentler effect to the stunning design.
Delilah looked pretty good in it, the purple contrasting with her deeply tanned skin, her hair and makeup pretty also. However, the other three girls seemed to be sucking in their extra flab to achieve the same look Delilah had, and were clearly unsuccessful in their efforts.
I walked over to the rack, retrieving the last dress, examining the flower. A light purple carnation, it was very simple and sweet. Delilah had a violet, and the other three had a lily, a tulip, and a perennial. They were all purple, but in different shades and forms.
I unzipped the back, slipping into it. The fabric seemed to fit me like a glove, melding to my skin, however, it was not too tight. It lavishly caressed my figure, the sash tightening around my thin waist but loosening around my chest and hips. I stared at the dress, now on my form, in wonder, inquiring inwardly how Sadie got my exact measurements. For she must have, with the way it fit me, so different from the other three girls.
Delilah stared at me, her face struck with amazement. "You are so lucky, Eve," she said dreamily, "you have the perfect figure and face,"
Anna, Wendy, and Tally just stared at me, mouths open. I couldn't help but blush at their scrutiny. They seemed so jealous, though I really couldn't understand why. My figure was nothing, really. There were many girls prettier than me.
After a little more gaping, Anna left the room. I walked to the mirror, fingering my makeup utensils in my thin hands. It was time for a makeover... on me. Not a big one, for too much makeup made my face look caky, but a little one was needed. Maybe I would meet someone... someone who would ease my troubles.
I artfully brought the brush across my face, smoothing my slightly rumpled complexion. The brush, after a while, seemed to move on its own, the art flooding from my fingers to my eyelids. Sparkles were carefully distributed, not a speck out of place, eyeliner drawn in a thin line across the top and bottom of my eyes. The makeup seemed to work for me, doing exactly what I wanted it to do, understanding exactly what I desired. It was different from that disgusting Vogue makeup they forced upon me; cheap, sticky, and gooey. I could still remember the lip gloss when it was dabbed upon me, it's pure disgusting ickiness shaking me to the core.
When I was finished, I surveyed my face in the mirror, satisfied. Perfect.
Memories flashed to my mind, reminding me of how much I had changed in the last couple of months. I could still recall the time when I wouldn't slap on a bit of makeup, dressing like a complete and total slob. When I was an outcast, but not a reject, more invisible. Now, I had people begging to be my friend, guy hitting on me left and right, and I was even coerced into singing at the charity benefit our school was doing. They were raking in some major dollars, splashing me on the front of every flyer, telling everyone that this was going to be my first live song. I had agents begging for me to employ them. Life was completely different.
Suddenly, Anna fled back into the room, her face flushed, filled with excitement. "I didn't mean to, but I SAW the groomsmen! And they were hot!!" she exclaimed, "there's this yummy guy with brown hair, gorgeous blue eyes, and amazing lips. He had a tulip on... oh, that's you, Tally! My groomsman had-" Anna went on, her voice of amazement. I soon tuned her out. Peace was always hard to achieve, especially in my circumstances, but I always eventually managed to achieve it, to retreat to that corner in my mind where everything was silent. I could still her voice as she gossiped, but I didn't really comprehend her words, suspended in my quiet place. She seemed to be talking about an amazingly hot guy with red hair... or did she say blonde?
I didn't realize that my eyes had shut until it was too late, falling into the comforts of dreamland, my chair swiveling in unpredictable directions.

"Eve!" A chorus of voices woke me from my slumber. As the blurriness came into focus, I recognized Delilah, her eyes signaling urgency. "Come on, we got to go!" she urged, pushing me from my seat.
"What?" I asked groggily, picking myself off the floor, "is my makeup ruined?"
"No, don't worry about that. Eve, you have been sleeping for three hours. The wedding is going to start in thirty minutes! We have to go get ready," she tugged at me, forcing me to follow her. I stumbled after her fleeting form, still wondering where I was and what the crap I was doing here.
We turned down a strange hallway, to a room I had never noticed before. I could sense movement inside it, spiking my heart's tremors. Who was going to be the best man? I was undoubtedly curious, hoping he didn't look absolutely hideous. Hoping he might be the answer to my prayers.
Delilah threw the doors open, showing the mass of identically dressed groomsmen and bridesmaids, and Sadie in the center of them all. I felt a pair of eyes upon me as Delilah pushed me into the crowd, closer to Sadie's words.
"And so, we are going to find our partners," she was saying, "best man and maid of honor go first, than lily, tulip, violet, and perennial. Oh, and then the flower girl. Where is she, by the way?"
"The bathroom with her nurse," a melodious voice erupted, spiking recognition inside my chest. I felt my jaw drop as the man I had never expected to be here emerged from the crowd, crossing to my side.
Why was Dex here?!
I glanced at his shirt, and realized with horror that he wore a carnation also. "Looks like we are partners," he said, flashing me a heart-melting smile. Reaching out with his long, slender fingers, he placed them on my chin, snapping my jaw back into place.
I soon felt myself grow intoxicated with his cologne, the same scent I had detected earlier in the hallway. I knew I had recognized that aroma. He had been here all along.
"Why..." I choked out, my breath stolen by this seductive man I had never expected to see again. But my assumptions were defied, for here he was, right in front of me, smiling.
"Jack was my former bodyguard, remember?" he said, his voice slippery and smooth, flowing like syrup from his lips. I had forgotten how much I missed his beautiful voice. Sadie crossed over by us, shooting me a wink.
And, somehow, I didn't have the power within me to grimace back.
Sadie stepped on a chair, her face perfect, her dress awe-inspiring. "Everyone," she called, "we are now going to gather right in front of the two double doors, in lines, so we can be ready to walk down the aisle. I'll have to stay in here until Jack leaves to go to the front of the church, so he won't see me... just go on without me. Okay?"
We all nodded. Lining up in pairs, we slowly marched out of the room, heading to our destination, anxiety pounding in my chest. We really were about to walk down the aisle.
And Dex and I were first.
I could feel the other bridesmaids' eyes scour Dex, envy pulsating from them. The groomsmen were all hot, but Dex was voted, last year, the hottest teen on earth. So you could understand their jealousy. Delilah, too, was rather envious, comparing her mediocre guy to the greek god standing by my side.
I looked up at him, seeing his ruby red hair, sparkling in the rich light. His eyes were so green that the grass outside looked duller, emeralds the only thing truly matching their color. His perfectly clear complexion sparked envy in even my chest, making me want to stroke his beautiful cheek.
A small, petite lady stood beside us, looking out unto the crowd. The organ dwindled on the last few notes of its song, signaling readiness. The walking soon begun.
The grandfather and grandmother walked down the aisle, Sadie's grandparents dead. After that, Jack's parents found their places at the front. The pastor and Jack themselves trumped through the door next, marching to the altar. I could sense the time coming, the time when we would be descending the small steps to the aisle ourself.
And of course that time would sooner rather than later.
The petite lady jerked a finger towards the door. "Your turn!" she urged, pushing it open so we could emerge. I subconsciously held his hand close to my own, my heart pounding furiously.
The crowd.
With judging eyes, they raked over us, staring with their blank eyes. It was a small wedding for sure, no one from high school visible, but a couple eyes less didn't really make a difference. It was still terrifying, their gaze blank, but always there. Excitement pulsed through them, I could tell, at Dex's presence, but except for a scream or too, they kept themselves in check. That was actually pretty good, with Dex being a rockstar.
I kept my eyes glued to the midnight glories, my face burning with heat.
"You look absolutely gorgeous," I could hear a soft, seductive murmur, my nervousness quelling as he spoke quietly, "everyone is wondering if you are the real bride,"
I looked up at him, thankfulness in my gaze. However, his eyes were glued to the altar, to the destination we both were reaching. His grip was firm, but caring. He released me after we reached the end, and I went on the left side, and he went to the right. We stood, my face still blushing slightly from the stares, the never-ending gaze.
Anna arrived next, then Tally, Delilah, and finally Wendy. They didn't seem to be as nervous as I had been, walking confidently, their faces unblushing. Silently I regretted having such a pale face, one that would show my every emotion whether I wanted it to or not.
Suddenly, the doors swung back open, this time to admit a little girl that took my breath away. I could feel Dex's eyes shift to watch me, as I absorbed this sudden shock.
Time seemed to stop as I realized that she looked exactly like Dex.
With long, ruby red curls and startling green eyes, the girl was an absolute knockout, even now. Her complexion was exactly like Dex's, her body slender, her face absolutely perfect. It was heart shaped, framed by her miraculous hair, her cheekbones pronounced slightly. Everything about her was beautiful.
And the way she walked. It was so full of energy, so confident, a smile bursting on her tiny face. Without a stumble, she glided to the front, throwing flower petals around, never missing a spot. She had such performing ability, already, at a young age.
She had to be Dex's daughter.
The pretty girl walked to my side, looking at Dex, then looking at all of us. She seemed to be debating on which person she wanted to stand by, seeking confirmation from her dad. He gave a slight tilt of the head, confirming her choice, and she halted beside my form. A huge smile was on her face as she looked at me, pure love in her gaze.
What had I done to deserve this adoration?
Sadie appeared next, guided by Lou. She looked absolutely breathtaking, as you should on your wedding day. Everyone seemed to be struck by her beauty, their faces of awe.
As they stared at the bride, a tiny hand shook the folds of my dress. I looked down into the face of a little angel, her eyes wide and her tiny mouth stretched into a grin as always. "Hey mommy," she whispered, "You are so bee-yoo-ti-ful! I knew u would be the mommy my Daddy liked as soon as I saw you,"
I laughed very quietly at the way she struggled with the word beautiful. "Why, thank you," I whispered in return, "now, let's watch the bride,"
She grew silent, though her hand weaved towards my own. Quietly, I allowed her to grasp it, her tiny hand vanishing under mine. I drew comfort from her warm presence, her comfort she so generously offered.
I observed Jack's calm, adoring face as he took Sadie's hand, all their love swirling around them for the whole world to see. They seemed suspended in elation, their expression of pure joy. At that moment, I was absolutely positive that this was the best day Sadie had experienced in her entire life.
The rest of the ceremony was the same way, not quite like the boring ceremonies I usually had to sit through. It was full of emotions through and through. Every touch, every word, was filled with love and sweetness. Before, I thought they might have been just infatuated with each other. However, I soon realized that it was really much much more.
When Jack kissed her, I realized that truly, love could be a powerful thing. It was so soulful, their lips lingering on each other's for a second longer than necessary, their faces unwilling to break apart. However, they didn't seem to be slobbering over each other, almost like an innocent love, not filled to the brim with passion and desire. It was there, obviously, but rather subtle.
Once again, I envied my pretty sister.
Suddenly, I noticed that the sunset had faded into a deep night, purple streaking across the horizon as the sun still fought for light as it was forced away. The stars were beginning to twinkle, the moon shining into the church, illuminating it with its brightness.
Then the amazing happened.
The guests looked on in amazement as the midnight glories opened slowly, their buds finally bursting with maturity. They spread, almost glowing as they soaked in the moon's light, until the beautiful flowers were at their prime. They seemed to sparkle, representing a new love that had taken a big step. Our dresses seemed to sparkle with it, resembling a midnight glory to the upmost.
It was so amazing... to see them blossom so beautifully. Jack kissed Sadie again, symbolizing how their love was going to grow even more, never to vanquish.
At the end of the ceremony, the bride and groom left first. I could spot many people with tears in their eyes, and I soon realized I had moisture running down my cheek. I reached up with one hand to brush it away, to try to wipe away my crazy emotions. All the while, the little girl didn't let go once of my hand. Sometimes, she gripped it even harder, seeming to sense when my emotions were about to overflow.
She was just what I needed.
It was her turn to go, right before Dex and I, but she refused to put even one foot forward. "You have to go," I whispered softly in her ear. The church was suspended in silence, each guest wondering what was going on. She shook her head, her ruby ringlets bouncing on her back.
"Not unless you do," she insisted. With a firm tug, she suddenly forced me to the altar as she walked to Dex. Pulling on his arm, she dragged us both to the aisle, both of us surprised at her strength. "Now it is perfect," she smiled, walking with both of us in hand.
This felt, strangely, right. As if this was how we were supposed to go back down the aisle. I could feel Dex's energy as it channeled through the girl, and I'm sure he could feel mine also. We were connected through her, almost like she was the missing link. Everyone in the audience could see the chemistry too, their whispering voices clearly heard as their words reverberated around the church.
I felt a smile stretch across my face as the doors swung shut behind us, the petite woman looking at us in fury. She, obviously, was not amused.
I, however, was rather pleased.
"My name is Felicia," she boomed, smiling up at me happily, "What is your name, Mommy?"
"Eve," I replied, looking at her perfect face. I felt an instant emotion sear through me, and quickly realized it to be affection. It was almost as if my feelings for Dex were sort of... amplified in this look alike. Was this what people called "parental love"?
"I love you, Mommy," she oozed satisfaction and eagerness in every word. I jumped a little at her declaration. Dex, however, seemed unsurprised, his face alight with amusement, and another strange emotion I could not distinguish.
"How can you love me, Felicia? You just met me!" I said, smiling, hiding my true emotions of pure shock. I bent down so I was at her level, her face equal with mine.
"Because my daddy loves you," Felicia grinned, "right, Daddy?"
I felt my heart race as I looked up, only to blink as the form that was just there had disappeared. "Where's Dex?" I asked, standing back up, picking Felicia up with me so that she sat in my arms. She looked around, searching just as I was for the lost figure.
Shrugging in defeat, she stated, "Daddy always runs away,"
"From what, Felicia?" I asked, not quite understanding. Why would a little girl say something like that?
"The truth," she said plainly, Dex's eyes, through another face, staring into mine.
I marveled at the little girl's simplicity, yet colossal understanding. She seemed to comprehend everything about her father, his feelings, his words... the meaning behind his words. Felicia was so intuitive... she seemed to have gotten the best genes.
Where did he go? Was he really escaping from us so that he didn't have to answer Felicia's questions? I wasn't angry at him, but a little disappointed. Maybe this won't turn out too well after all.
Maybe he found another, but he didn't want to hurt me. Truly, I had no idea.
Felicia put a tiny hand on my shoulder. "Don't worry, mommy," she said quietly, "even though Daddy runs away, he will always come back. Wait for him,"
I silently held Felicia, her arms wrapped around me, my anxiety somewhat soothed by her words.

I walked to the water pitcher, refilling my glass once more.
We were all located in the reception room, a small building about ten minutes away from the church. It was right next to the lake, displaying a beautiful view of the crystal waters. The building was the location of the dance floor and the food, and outside there was a small patio on which guests could lounge about, right next to the lake.
It was absolutely beautiful, just like the church, with a creamy white exterior, inlaid with granite countertops, marble flooring, and a seemingly appropriate disco ball. Midnight glories burst with beauty all around us, lining the walls and the patio outside. The dance floor was filled with couples, a band jamming in the corner of the room.
I had not danced yet, though asked over and over again by men I didn't even know. They didn't appeal to me, their forms dulling in comparison to the man I loved.
Sadie was dancing with Jack, of course, their bodies melding together in perfect alignment, easily the best dancers on the floor. Their elegance was displayed throughout the whole building, their love amplified. Everything they ever wanted was coming together this very day.
I could imagine their joy.
I had experienced that elation... once.
Felicia trooped over to my side, pulling her beautiful nurse along with her. Her face was alight with joy, so similar to Dex's expressions that it made me jump. She smiled, her voice sugar sweet, "Hey Eve,"
"Hey Felicia!" I said, smiling energetically. I gave a nod to the nurse, who gave a slight tilt of her head in return. "What's up?"
"Playing with nurse," she laughed, gripping the nurse's hand so tightly that it turned white.
"I can see that," I said, distracted as I caught another glimpse of Sadie and Jack as they slow-danced, swaying to the beautiful music. They seemed so happy... so radiant.
Suddenly, a figure with red hair creeped up to the band members, conversing with them in low tones. I squinted, trying to make out who the man was. Was it who I thought it was...?
Dex turned, smiling brightly, catching the attention of every person in the building. "Hey everyone, I'm Dex," he said roughly, making all the girls squeal, "I'm going to sing a song for you all. Can everyone please clear the dance floor?"
There was a bunch of shuffling as everyone conformed to his request. Sadie seemed slightly confused, but still happy. She caught my eye, and winked, making me wonder what exactly was going on.
When everyone was off the dance floor, Dex continued, "I'm going to sing my most popular song so far, 'Release Me'," He paused as applause and screams followed. i felt my heart beat faster as I started to realize what he was about to do. Smiling, he said, "However, instead of Richy Charles, I would like to sing it with someone else. Eve Valencia, could you come up here?"
Screams exploded, people turning to stare at me as I walked to his side. I could hear frenzied yells of, "Go Eve!" and "I didn't know she was here this whole time and I didn't notice!" constantly, pounding against my eardrums. I would imagine that some of them were wondering why two a-list celebrities would be at a wedding like this.
Dex smiled at me, his perfect teeth sparkling. "Here you go," he whispered, hooking a tiny microphone to the top of my dress. As I stared into the crowd, I could spot Sadie's smiling face and Felicia's silly grin, energizing me. Encouraging me to go with Dex's crazy, impulsive actions.
The band started the first few notes, the music drifting to my ears, the familiarity relaxing me. Dex cautiously took my hand, his voice intermingling with mine as we sang the first few notes. I soon lost my shyness as my voice grew, confidence coming from his beautiful voice, his presence beside me. I was with the man I loved.
He pulled me to the dance floor, wrapping his hands around my waist, I going with the flow and putting my hands around his neck. We swayed as we sang, our voices tangoing with each other, weaving within our notes. It was so beautiful, our harmony, so perfect and intoxicating. I felt myself drown in the melody, in his beauty as I stared into his immaculate eyes, green beyond compare. I longed to delight in the taste of his appealing lips, to sink into pure elation, desire, and passion like Sadie and Jack.
My gaze didn't waver from his statuesque face, unable to notice any other. It was as if my eyes were glued to his, with the way he didn't release my glance. Everything around me vanished, only us left.
As we dwindled to a close, suspended in time, we stared into each other's eyes, our faces a hairsbreadth apart. His breath tickled my cheek, his eyes alight with the same emotions I was experiencing. Everything was finally coming together. There was no past sins to block our way, no person to confuse me. The path was clear, and now we could walk it together.
Finally we stopped, the cheers of the people around me shaking me out of my trance. Everyone seemed to be happy, Felicia jumping up and down with excitement. "Yay!" she screamed, "go Mommy!"
Suddenly, Dex waved his muscled arms around, quietly subduing the audience. With shaking fingers, he delved his hand into his pocket. "Eve," he said softly, "I left earlier... because Felicia made me realize that I wanted to be with you forever. I knew that, really, since the beginning, since you walked on that stage with me, but I hadn't acted on my desires because I selfishly kept Felicia a secret from you, and the whole world," He looked up, scanning the crowd, "I'm sorry," he apologized, making some girls in the audience faint. Obviously the fact that Dex was a daddy didn't faze the hopeless fans in the room.
He finally found what he was looking for, and drew a tiny, minuscule box out of his pocket. Fingering it, he got on one knee, his expression of dead seriousness. Shock ran through me. Was he really... going to...
His emerald eyes sparkled as he crinkled his eyes in joy. Flipping open the box, he displayed a beautiful diamond ring, with tiny sapphires circling it. Each blue jewel reminded me of my eyes, striking me with their beauty. "Eve," he declared, his voice strong and vibrant, "will you marry me?"
Time stopped. Completely.
In all of my dreams from childhood, all of my wild fantasies, it had never come to this. A couple of times, I had dreamed of a kiss, maybe, a hug. Most of the time it was a few words, or a duet. And all of those dreams had been fulfilled, and for that I was very thankful.
But this? This was above and beyond anything I could have wished for, my craziest desires never reaching this far.
Yet it was happening.
"Of course," I choked, breathless as a wave of fresh tears poured down my face. Dex's face grew elated, no, beyond elated as he surveyed my tear-stained features. He took the ring, sliding it on my finger. It fit me perfectly, the diamond catching the light and scattering it across the room. We both felt our faces magnetize towards each other, and we gave into our desires, delving into a spectacular kiss.
After cheering relentlessly, the audience finally began to gravitate back onto the floor, though curiously leaving us a circle of fresh air in the dead center. But we barely noticed anyway, consumed with each other, with the love swirling around us.
In Dex's adoring eyes, I truly felt beautiful.
He ran a couple of kisses down my neck as we began to sway again, each deliverance filled with spicy hot passion and desire. "Let's get married tomorrow," he mumbled in between breaths, kissing my cheek, stroking my voluminous hair.
"Whatever you desire, my prince. I'm all yours," I laughed, my voice melodious. He smiled in return.
"Say that last part again," his breath once again tickled my cheek as he sought another lust-filled kiss.
"I don't know..." I teased right before I obliged him, wrapping my arm around his neck.
He grinned. "Well then," he stated, "I'll make you say it over, and over, and over..." He laughed, "I like hearing it,"
I smiled, Dex stopping my words with yet another kiss. Full of sweetness, his lips dwindled for seemingly forever, then slowly parted from mine. This kiss was the one I had liked best of all, signifying the wonderful things that were to come.
This happiness we had together was just the beginning.


The stars shined brightly in the sky as I stared up at them. It was a beautiful night on the crystal lake, the water reflecting the serenity above. Fish jumped in the dark waters, suspended in the crisp air before splashing into the dark depths. I shot a glance at my beautiful ring, the one Dex bought especially for me, and sighed. Its exquisiteness always struck me silent.
I stood up from my perch in the old wooden chair, examining myself in the floor length mirror. Looking back at me was a gorgeous girl... one I could barely recognize. I was adorned with a breathtaking white dress, littered with sequins and made with the finest silk. It was strapless, melding to my body past the hips, letting loose finally at the knee. It had a long train, the whole dress covered in beautiful lace. It was a mermaid dress... a beautiful one, I might add.
My face had been modified slightly by my magical makeup brush, or so I liked to call it, and the effects were very beautifying. Light lipstick enhanced my full lips, making it differ more from my smooth, porcelain skin. My sapphire eyes were enhanced by a silver gray color that was splashed across my eyelids. Blush was lightly applied to my pale cheeks, adding life to the canvas on which I was practicing my art. I had grown to really enjoy makeup; practicing often, and I felt that I was improving.
Finally, my hair was arrayed spectacularly, curls abounding on curls, tied together in the back of my head in a carefully constructed bun. Curls were spurting out of the arrangement, creating planned chaos. Some of the hair fell to frame my face, attractively drawing attention to my facial features. It seemed to hold a touch of wild beauty, strangeness in the unique hairstyle.
It made me as serene and as mythical as a mermaid, and that is what I loved so much about it.
I walked to the door, surveying through the window the scene before me. The boat rocked beneath my feet, as I opened the door, passing through it. Casually, I approached the side of the yacht, looking over the waters. If I reached out, I could touch it, skim my fingers across the water as the boat zoomed along. But then I might fall in, ruining my dress.
Deciding against the tempting option, I leaned against the side, closing my eyes. If I imagined hard enough, I could feel water rushing past me, as if I was swimming in the deep, dark waters.
"Eve," Sadie's voice awakened me from my trance, "it is almost time," She was standing, garbed in a simple bridesmaid dress; I wanted this whole wedding to be subtle. It had to be small... and perfect.
Which was one reason why I requested for it to be on a boat, far away from land so the paparazzi couldn't harass us.
I nodded, following her into a passageway and to the stairs. Just beyond those stairs was the deck, where the wedding was being held. Sadie, Delilah, and (after a fair amount of pursuing) Zelda were my bridesmaids, being escorted by Jack, and two other men I didn't know. Felicia stood by my side, dressed once more in a beautiful flower girl's garb.
Sadie left first, with Jack by her side. Soon afterwards, they all filed out, their forms vanishing through the thick wooden door into the nighttime air. As I watched them, I felt myself float inwardly, as if I was suspended in a dream. I still, after about three weeks, couldn't believe this was happening.
I was actually marrying Dex, the hottest man on the planet. Every day when I woke up, he would be beside me. I would be able to kiss him as much as I wanted. I would be with him forever.
I still could barely grasp it.
Finally my turn, I glided up the stairs, pausing before exiting into the night. This was my last shred of normalcy, before I began a life with Dex. Was I ready to spend the rest of my life with my soul mate?
I banished that last doubt. Of course I was.
I had always been ready.
Throwing the doors open, Lou by my side, I ascended into the light, smiling at what the future would hold.


Tag der Veröffentlichung: 01.06.2011

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