I was a little nervous as I walked into first block Monday at school. Mason was talking to Greg, and completely ignoring Malorie, who sat a short distance from him, texting and glancing up at him every now and then. She scowled when she saw me, and I didn’t give her the satisfaction of acknowledging her.
I plopped down beside Sam, and stole her coffee out of her hands.
“Hey!” she protested. “Leave me some, I actually wanted that!”
“Too bad,” I replied, gulping down a couple mouthfuls. I nodded at Mason. “Has he mentioned anything about this weekend?”
Sam gave me a puzzled look. “We don’t really talk. He’s your friend and ex boyfriend, not mine. Why?”
She reached for the coffee, but I leaned just out of arms’ length and took another sip before handing it back. “Seriously, why?”
“It’s nothing,” I told her, and gave her a meaningful look.
“Oh. Come to the bathroom with me?” she asked, starting to stand up.
I shook my head. “Wait a minute.” Malorie had just gotten up and walked into the bathroom. “I don’t want anyone else to hear.”
A couple of minutes later, Malorie exited the bathroom and sat back down, still glancing at Mason every now and then. I motioned for Sam to get up and follow me to the bathroom.
I walked in first, checking under the stall doors to see if anyone else was in the bathroom. There wasn't. Sam crossed the room to the mirror, checking her makeup.
"So?" she said, and I thought for a second, trying to figure out how to word this.
"Friday night I stayed at Mason's house with him and his friends... and I got really, really drunk. Like, so drunk that he apparently had to take me up to his room and put me to bed."
Sam gasped, turning to look at me. "Did he do anything?!"
I shook my head. "No, of course not. Mason isn't like that. No, actually, when I woke up, he was sleeping in the floor beside his bed, and I was on his bed."
She grinned. "Aww."
"Yeah. But after I left, Nathaniel and I were hungry and there wasn't anything to eat in the house, so we went out. And Nathaniel invited some of his friends, Scott and Kyle."
"Ew, that guy that has a crush on you?"
"Yeah, that's the one."
She shuddered. "He's kind of gross."
"He isn't that bad... except I ran into Mason at the movies afterwards. And you know, we aren't really supposed to fool around with anyone else or go on dates with anyone else while we're trying to fix things."
"You weren't on a date."
"I know. But it looked pretty bad when Kyle yelled, 'c'mon babe' to me while I was talking to Mason."
Sam gasped again, her eyes widening. Her hand went to her mouth, hiding a smile. "That's terrible!"
I nodded again, smacking myself in the forehead. "I feel so bad! But I wasn't on a date, it just looked bad. And I'm afraid he's mad at me."
"If he's mad, then he can be mad for a little while. You weren't doing anything. Besides, he's the one that was all over Malorie the other day." She made a face. "Malorie isn't even pretty. She looks like a guy."
I giggled. "Sam!"
She shrugged, not caring that her comment was rude. "Just telling the truth."
"Let's go," I told her, and she laughed, leading the way out.
Mom tossed the dishtowel she'd been drying her hands with on the counter, and turned back to the skillet still bubbling and sizzling on the stove eye. "So how's school, honey?" she asked, stirring the mixture of vegetables, diced chicken, and various spices around in the skillet.
I glanced up from my perch on the counter, where I'd been looking through her oil splattered cookbook. Her soft blond hair was tucked behind her ears, her face free of make up, for once. The lines at the corners of her eyes indicated years of laughing and smiling. I wondered how many of those smiles had been triggered by her family.
"It's school, Mom. What am I supposed to say about it?" I replied, shrugging. I put the cookbook down and leaned forward, my face resting in my hands. "How's work been?"
She smiled and shook her head at me. "You're supposed to say that it's fabulous and you're making incredible, off the chart grades. And work is fine."
I frowned at her vague answer. "What's going on at work?"
"Nothing really, except for something I heard about Mason today..."
I stopped dead, and sat up straight, instantly alert. "Yeah?"
She turned around, rolling her sleeves up a little bit higher. Her light blue eyes assessed my expression carefully, as if looking for something that I was hiding. "His mom told me today that she and Will caught Mason smoking pot last night."
I relaxed a little, already aware that Mason smoked pot sometimes. It wasn't something I approved of, but not something I could really stop, either. I wasn't in control of his decisions. That was, I relaxed until I realized what that concerned look she was giving me was about.
"Oh, that can't be good for him," I said casually, looking down at my lap. My faded blue jeans were nearly worn through in the knees; they'd seen a couple long years of use and abuse.
My mom shook her head, crossing her arms over her chest and leaning against the counter closest to the stove--where she could keep an eye on both the stirfry and my facial expressions. "No, it can't be. Honey, did you know about this?"
I looked up, trying to look surprised. "No, of course not. Why would I support something like that?" I tried on a look of complete innocence, which wasn't completely out of place. I really hadn't done any smoking myself, but I had done a lot of covering up for Mason.
She rolled her weight to her other foot, and absentmindedly picked up the spatula, poking at the stirfry with a weird expression on her face. "I dunno... I just thought maybe..." She paused, and put down the spatula. "I just thought that maybe you had done it with him."
I wrinkled my nose. "Mom, that's disgusting."
"I know it is. That isn't an answer."
"Isn't it answer enough? I hate pot. You know that. I hate smoking anything in general."
She nodded thoughtfully. "I didn't think you had, but his mom brought it up. Since you two are best friends and all... And she mentioned our agreement to let you guys drink, as long as it was at one of our houses. She thought maybe you guys wanted to try that too, but knew we wouldn't permit it."
"Of course you wouldn't! It's illegal!"
"Yeah. I didn't come up with the idea, honey. I'm repeating what Mason's mother said."
"Why would Jaden think something like that?" I asked, throwing a little bit of hurt into my voice.
"Miss Jaden," my mom corrected. "And she wouldn't have thought that Mason would be doing this, either. She was just looking out for me."
I rolled my eyes. "She needs to find other ways to look out for you. I don't do that disgusting crap."
My mother fixed me with a stern look. "Don't be rude. She really was just concerned about me."
"Accusing me of something her son is doing isn't looking out for you. It sounds to me like she's trying to lessen the shock of Mason doing it... Or something like that," I said, not completely sure that even made sense.
"Are you and Mason fighting or something, sweetie?" My mom tucked a stray curl back behind her ear, still looking at me with that same searching gaze. I squirmed, uncomfortable with the turn of subjects.
"I don't know, Mom..."
"Zach said you two were arguing at your birthday party, but he didn't know why. And you two haven't been really right since then," she added, and I inwardly cursed my brother for being such a big mouth, and her for being so observant, even when she wasn't home to be observant.
"We're just trying something new, is all," I said, and dropped down from the counter, adjusting my shirt and pulling up my jeans.
"We're basically just taking a break," I half-lied, and winced at how flat my voice sounded. I was terrible at hiding my emotions.
"Oh, I'm sorry... I know how much you care about Mason," she apologized, moving towards me to give me a hug.
I backed up, not wanting her to hug me, for fear tears would come, and she would know how much this was actually hurting me. "It's alright. I'm gonna go read or something, okay?"
She stopped. "Oh, okay."
"Call me when you need me to come help out," I said quickly, and made my escape.
In my room, I scrambled around on my bed, trying to find my phone. When I found it, I dialed Mason's home phone number as quickly as I could and pressed the SEND button.
It rang a couple of times before Mason's father picked up. "Hello?" his deep voice said.
"Hey, Mr. Will. It's Bella. Could I talk to Mason, please?" I said into the phone, trying to be polite as I could without embarrassing myself. It was weird to be formal with a man I'd known practically my whole life.
"He's... grounded," he said slowly. "Do you want me to tell him something?"
I sighed. "No, that's okay. Thanks anyway. Bye." I hung up before I could get a reply, no longer worried about being polite. I couldn't talk to Mason anyway. His parents never grounded him for long, though, so he couldn't be on restriction forever. Usually, he got off after a day or so, or his mom let him have his phone back in secret, when his dad wasn't home.
I was half tempted to sneak out right now, to go forget this whole agreement thing we had going on for tonight and sneak in his window like I used to, when we first started dating. We'd done it so much, I didn't even know where the screen to my window was anymore. After so many times of taking it out and replacing it every night, I had just tossed it aside altogether, convincing myself that no one would notice. No one really had, except for Nathaniel, but who would he tell?
I bit my lip. Sneaking out right now posed a risk for him, plus I had to be here for dinner. I could sneak out after dinner, but we had broken our little agreement so many times that it was starting to become non-existent. I needed to cool it and let things be for a while. We had to keep acting like strangers.
No, I wouldn't sneak out. Once I had decided that, I picked up my cell phone again, but this time to text Trish, to talk to her and ask if she'd heard anything about this. She was also a pot smoker, and I wondered if Mason had ratted her out when he'd been caught, to lessen the trouble on him. Trish's mom was also a friend of Mason's mom, so it wouldn't have been that hard to get her into trouble.
I texted her and waited for her reply, turning on my TV so I wasn't waiting in silence. I watched some show about a guy who ate a ton of food for some kind of challenges all the time while I waited, not really interested. I sort of wished I could eat that much and not be morbidly obese. That'd be the life.
My phone vibrated, telling me that Trish had texted back. So she probably wasn't grounded or in any sort of trouble. Her mom was a ton more strict that Mason's parents.
No i didnt get in trouble. y?
I replied, explaining what I'd already thought of with her mom and Mason's mom being friends and everything.
crap! oh well. not in trouble yet. lol.
I laughed to myself and asked her how she and her boyfriend were doing, because there wasn't really anything more to be said on the subject of Mason and pot.
we r ok. tht reminds me tho...
I frowned, and texted back. Leaning back against the headboard of my bed and propping my elbows up on my knees, I waited for the phone to buzz again.
r u and mason still together??
Puzzled, I answered that we were talking, but not actually together.
o. so tht means he cant fool around, rite?
I pulled my blankets up and covered my legs, shivering. It was freezing in here. I knew there were hoodies in my closet, but I was honestly too lazy to go and get one right now. I sighed and leaned my head back against the headboard, tired, but now getting edgier with each passing moment that my phone didn't buzz. Something was up, he'd done something. I was sure of it. A sick feeling twisted in my stomach and I bit my lip. The feeling crept through my entire body, dread overcoming any fatigue.
Finally, it buzzed again with Trish's reply. I snatched it up from beside me, eagerly reading the message, and hoping that he hadn't done anything. My mood plummeted even further when I read it and absorbed what it meant.
i caught him kissing Malorie Tyler the othr day. didnt know if u shuld know or not.
I closed my eyes, feeling like I was going to throw up. I wanted to punch a wall or something, to get rid of this jumpy energy that was now flowing freely through out my body. I put the phone back down on my bed, not bothering with a reply.
I thought he'd be able to change. I thought that he would realize that this was his last chance, and that I wasn't going to take anymore crap.
"I don't want to lose him," I whispered to my empty room. "I can't lose him."
This left me to wonder: was it still worth it?
I still didn't have a clear answer to that.
I flipped my hair and faked a high pitched giggle, throwing Erik my biggest smile. I knew Mason was watching, and I knew he was getting pissed. Erik ate it all up though, apparently not realizing how fake I sounded.
Across the hall, Mason had stopped talking to Greg and was giving the death stare, his fists clenched. I leaned closer to Erik, whispering to him that I might just take him up on that date. I threw in another wide grin, feeling a little smug that it was making Mason so mad.
I knew I was overdoing it, but I didn't care. Mason had broken the rules, he'd kissed Malorie. I didn't care what he thought of me right now. I didn't care if it was overly childish. I wanted to make him hurt, too.
The bell rang then, and I hugged Erik before he went to class. He winked before he left, and I smiled again, making sure Mason could see.
As soon as Erik was gone, Mason strode over to me, pushing through the crowd of students.
"What the hell was that?" he demanded, his eyes stormy. His jaw was set, the vein in his neck pulsing. I smiled sweetly at him, crossing my arms over my chest.
"What was what, Mason?" I asked, tossing my hair again. Mrs. Reed eyed us from her spot at the end of the hall, and I knew that we would be evicted soon if we stayed here any longer.
"You were all over Erik just now, that's what," he said loudly, and I glanced around, hoping no one was listening.
"I was not," I replied, pulling the neck of my t-shirt up. It kept slipping down, showing a little bit more cleavage than I was comfortable with. I'd forgotten to throw on a tank top under it before I left this morning.
"Yeah, you were," Mason said hotly, and ran a hand through his hair. "Don't fucking lie."
"We aren't talking about this right now," I said, anger starting to bubble up, despite the fact that I'd clearly started this.
"Yeah, we are. One of the rules was don't fucking flirt."
I threw him an irritated look. "As if you care."
"I stopped that!" he nearly yelled, earning some more looks from Mrs. Reed.
"That's cool. I have to get to class," I snapped, pulling my bag up onto my shoulder.
"Whatever," Mason muttered, turning and storming off. I sighed, and walked to class slowly, smiling at Mrs. Reed as I went past.
"I hope he punches a wall and breaks his hand," I grumbled to myself. A couple of people still lingered in the hall, but no one looked at me curiously, so I was pretty sure that no one had heard Mason and me talking.
"What's wrong with you?" Sam asked as I slipped into my seat beside her, barely avoiding a tardy. She brushed her hair out of her eyes, only for it to fall back.
"Nothing," I muttered, slamming my notebook onto my desk. I slumped down, putting my feet in the empty chair in front of me.
"Something is," she insisted. I shook my head, closing my eyes.
"I don't want to talk about it right now," I told her, and put my head on the desk.
"Okay..." she said slowly, and left me alone. I kept my head down, wishing I could just go home now.
I pulled up in front of the elementary school, fingers drumming impatiently on the steering wheel as I looked for Zach. It was my turn to pick him up from drama today. Kids milled around outside, making it harder for me to look for him. I was about to give up and go park so I could look for him on foot when I spotted him sitting on the steps, his long blond hair falling over his face, and his earbuds plugged into his iPod.
I beeped the horn once, and he looked up, startled. When he saw that it was me, he stood, grabbing his backpack. The kids arond him ignored him, and he didn't seem to care. He walked towards the car quickly, almost tripping over his own two feet as he did so.
"Hey," I said when he slid into the car. He turned around and threw his bag into the backseat. "How was school?"
He sighed, pausing the music on his iPod. "What?"
"Take out your headphones, please," I requested as I backed up to turn around. I waited for a couple of kids to move, and then turned around. "How was school?"
He shrugged, pulling his hoodie strings tighter. "Boring."
"I thought you had drama with your friends, why weren't you with them?" I asked as we pulled out of the school parking lot, heading for the train tracks.
"They weren't there today," he muttered, pressing his forehead to the passenger side window. He closed his eyes, and I frowned at the false note in his voice. Not wanting to embarrass him, I didn't question him further. I knew he didn't really have that many friends, but I didn't know he had that few.
"Are you hungry?" I said, passing the spot where we crossed the train tracks and instead heading for Lowell Market, a little store that sold groceries, gas, and had a little restraunt in the back. They usually had pies and cakes, too.
"A little. I thought Mom was making burgers tonight though?" he said, reaching for the radio. He turned the volume down, and flipped through the stations.
"Yeah, but she won't be home until five. I'm hungry now."
"Can I have chocolate cake?" he asked hopefully.
I nodded, smiling. "Yeah."
"Then yeah, I'm hungry."
I laughed. "I have to get more drinks for the house anyway," I told him, slowing down and flicking on my turn signal.
"I thought Mom went to the store yesterday."
I wrinkled my nose. "She got Hawaiian Punch."
"Hawaiian Punch is good."
"Grape soda is better," I informed him, and parked. "C'mon."
I pocketed my keys and grabbed my wallet from my bag before getting out. It had started to sprinkle, and Zach had taken refuge under the little overhang by the store's door.
We went straight to the back and ordered two pieces of chocolate cake to go, each of us choosing a drink and letting the guy ring it up. I made Zach stand by the register with the cake and the drinks while I went off to grab a twelve pack of grape soda. I walked slowly down the aisle, searching for the drinks.
"Bella!" I heard a guy call, and looked up. Erik stood at the front cash register, waving and smiling. I waved back, faking a smile. Crap. I'd forgotten he worked here.
"Hey," I yelled.
"C'mere for a second!"
I grabbed the twelve pack I'd just spotted and pointed over my shoulder. "Zach's waiting."
"He won't mind another five seconds. I just want a hug."
Groaning inwardly, I walked up to him and put an arm around his waist. He was wearing too much cologne.
"There's your hug," I said, grinning. "I really gotta go, though."
"Text me?" he said, and I nodded.
"Okay," I said, hurrying back to Zach. I slid the soda onto the counter and then forked over a twenty to pay for it all, wincing at how empty my wallet was getting.
"Thanks for the cake," Zach said happily as we walked back out the car. He'd already opened his and was eating it with a plastic fork the guy had included in the bag. Chocolate icing was smeared around his mouth. I snorted, reaching in the bag to grab a napkin for him.
"No problem," I said.
We drove home in silence, Zach occupied by his cake and I by my thoughts. I knew playing with Erik wasn't good, especially when I had no intentions of furthering our just friends relationship, but I didn't know how to stop it now. I'd already started a game I wasn't very good at in my attempts to piss Mason off.
I really was starting to go crazy.
I woke with a headache and a bad moood to match. I glared at the light flooding the room, grumbling to myself as I shuffled to the bathroom to shower. I moved through the motions absentmindedly, my thoughts elsewhere.
I didn't know what to do about Mason... and even though I was mad at him, butterflies started fluttering in my stomach everytime I thought of him. Feelings like that hadn't existed between us in so long... At least, I hadn't felt like that towards him. And despite how angry I was with him over the kiss between him and Malorie, a slow smile crept over my face as I thought about him.
When I finally dragged myself downstairs to the kitchen, I nearly ran into my mother standing in the doorway. She turned around, surprised, a bottle of Aspirin in one hand and a thermometer in the other.
"Oh! Hey, sweetie. Good morning."
"Are you sick?" I asked, edging around her. I was running late due to my daydreaming in the shower, and only had time to grab something and eat it on the way to school.
"No, Zach is. He's running a temperature and throwing up."
I wrinkled my nose. "He felt fine last night, when I took him to Lowell Market. He ate a huge piece of chocolate cake."
"Well he's sick now. Do you want something real to eat?"
My mom watched me as I rummaged through the cabinets and grabbed a HoneyBun and a grape soda. I opened the soda and chugged some before grabbing my backpack from the floor where I'd dropped it while searching for food and headed towards the door.
"I don't have time," I told her. "I have to go. Tell Zach I said get better, okay? And don't forget to set out the chicken, I'm making chicken tonight and need it thawed!"
I ran out to my car, throwing open the door and sliding in before I could get wet. It was starting to rain. Cold water dripped down my back from my hair, and I shivered, cranking the heat.
I wasn't late when I got to school, mostly due to the fact that I drove like I was on Grand Theft Auto the whole way. I ran into no cops, thank goodness. When I walked into first block, everyone sat in their normal spots. Mason looked up as I walked in, sending a fresh wave of butterflies through my stomach. I scolded myself as I walked to my seat.
I was mad at him. Very, very mad at him. Wasn't I? And where in the hell were these weird feelings coming from? It'd been so long...
I sat between Sam and Mason this time, hoping that Mason would talk to me despite the war raging in my head. He ignored me, to my disappointment. To my delight, he also ignored Malorie.
When I sat down in English, I fully expected to be ignored again. I figured he was still mad at me from yesterday. So I was surprised when he leaned across the aisle and beckoned for me to come closer.
"What?" I hissed, trying to act like I was mad. He was smiling, making that a little difficult for me. I leaned over, wincing as the bar on the side of the chair dug under my ribs.
"What are you doing tonight?" he said, not trying to keep his voice low despite Malorie's proximity. I peeked around nervously, my gaze landing on Malorie. She ignored us with a dark look on her face. Her fingers traced the carvings in the desk absentmindedly.
"You're always the one that asks me," I told him, leaning back. The side of the chair hurt my ribs. Mason leaned forward on his elbows, resting his head on his hand while still looking at me. The smile remained on his face.
"Your point? So what are you doing tonight?"
"Can we write a note?" I asked quietly, looking around pointedly. Mr. Burns wasn't in the room yet, but this conversastion was embarrassing me. A couple of people were looking at us, but the majority didn't give a crap.
"Just, are you busy? Answer that?" He asked, and I fiddled with the zipper of my bookbag, which was still sitting on my desk in front of me.
I smiled at him. "No, I'm not busy. Why?"
"Oh, we'll talk about it later, Ms. Discreet," Mason said, and I rolled my eyes, smiling and shaking my head.
After class, Mason caught up to me leaving the room. He struggled with a couple of books and his bag, like he'd left in a rush.
"Hey," I said, reaching over to grab the book he was about to drop.
"Thanks," he said, and led the way through the crowd to his locker. "So I was wondering if you wanted to do something tonight? I think we could be friends after these past couple of times hanging out."
I laughed. "That is not how people become friends! They don't establish it, it just happens!"
"This is invitation only. I'm very picky."
I scoffed. "Right. We'll discuss that some other time. Are you asking me out, or asking me to be your friend?" I closed his locker for him after he grabbed the book he needed next, and crossed my arms over my chest. He looked up at me.
"I'm asking you to be my friend, dippy. That's what I just said. Don't flatter yourself, I don't date people that I've just met."
I grinned. "Oh, really? We'll see about that."
He eyed me curiously. "Are you hitting on me, Adkins?"
"Course not. I have class."
"I hope you're talking about where you have to be, because you lack the other one."
I snorted. "Thanks a lot. Text me with the details?"
"Will do. See ya after school."
"See ya," I said, smiling like crazy as I turned on my heel and walked in the other direction. I'd gone the length of the hall, wrapped up in my own thoughts before I realized that I had gone in the complete wrong direction. I swore under my breath and corrected myself.
Mason texted me telling me to meet him at Bellepoint park after school, and that he was bringing food. Because I was a fat kid, I couldn't turn down the offer of food. I texted back with my agreement to meet him there and left the school.
I watched the sky as I drove, wondering why Mason had been so stupid as to pick the park. It was rainy and cold, even though tomorrow was the first day of March. What was the saying, if it goes in like a lion, it'll come out like a lamb? Something like that?
I parked in the closest spot to the picnic tables I could get, even though Mason's car was parked in the furthest spot. I could see from where I was that he was still sitting in his car. Taking my keys from the igniton, I pocketed them and got out into the rain. I held up my hand as a halfhearted attempt to cover myself from the rain.
I ran towards his car, jumping in as soon as he unlocked the passenger's side door. The smell of McDonald's greeted me, as well as a bag full of burgers and fries sitting on top of the center console.
"Hey!" I said brightly to Mason, my mood skyrocketing. His blonde hair was damp and dark from the rain, and the shoulders of his light blue t-shirt were wet.
"Hey," he said, and raised an eyebrow at me. "Why are you in such a good mood?"
I shrugged, looking at the bag of food. "Just am," I lied, and peeked inside the bag.
"The Quarter Pounder is mine, fatty. Don't you dare. I got you a Big Mac."
"I don't even know the difference," I said, and grabbed one of the fries and shoved a couple into my mouth. "Mmmm."
"Here," he laughed, handing me a couple of napkins and what was apparently the Big Mac. "I got you a Coke too, it's in the drink holder in the back seat."
I peered around the headrest of my seat and sure enough, there was a drink holder in the back seat holding two large Cokes. I retrieved them and handed Mason his, taking a long drink of mine.
"Thanks, Mase," I groaned when I was full, though I still eyeballed the remnants of my fries.
"No problem," he told me, and belched. I wrinkled my nose and laughed.
"Like you weren't thinking about it," he told me, and I gave him a wide eyed look.
"Right." He belched again, and took another drink of his Coke.
"So what now?" I asked, shoving my hands in my hoodie pocket. I'd already balled up our trash and shoved it in the bag.
"You wanna walk around the park?" He asked, looking out the window. It was still raining steadily.
"I like being warm," I complained.
"So you'll be warm later. C'mon, let's walk around," he said, opening his car door and getting out. I sat there for a second, seriously considering making him stand out there in the rain, but then I remembered he had the keys.
"Ugh," I groaned to myself, and got out. I pulled the hood up on my hoodie and glared at Mason, who was looking happy and dry in his jacket and hat.
"Stop whining," he told me, and started walking.
"I'm not whining," I said, hurrying to catch up to him. I dodged a puddle.
"You are too. So how's life?"
I shrugged. "I guess it's okay. Life is life. My little brother is sick. Zach."
"Sorry, I guess," Mason said, and pulled his hat further down on his head. Freezing water seeped into my shoes as I walked, and squished every time I stepped. My arms and hands were already going numb, along with my nose.
"You're such a wimp."
"Am not. So why'd you want to come out today?"
He looked up, at the river roaring beside us. The New River. We were standing right beside the Bluestone Dam, so it was pretty loud. The cold, muddy water in the river rushed faster than I'd seen it go in a while.
"I just wanted to hang out again," he said. "Hanging out at my party wasn't all that good of an idea. You looked like you didn't really want to be there."
I frowned. He was talking to me like he would any other person. Before, this whole facade had been polite and practically scripted. Were we strangers, or was he trying to be a friend now?
"I didn't really want to be there," I admitted, kicking at a rock.
"I just didn't feel comfortable. And other stuff. Just reasons."
"Okay, so why did you come out here then?"
"Just because I didn't feel comfortable at your party doesn't mean I don't want to be here," I said, my eyebrows going together. He was confusing me, majorly.
"I was changing the subject, you didn't want to talk about it, obviously."
"Oh. Well, that's because you said you wanted to be friends. Guess we could be," I said, smiling. I smiled at my feet, avoiding the cold turrent of water that kept spilling down my face every time I looked up at him. My whole body was numb by this point, and I was drenched. There wasn't a bit of my body that wasn't cold and wet.
"Good. Friends," Mason said, and grinned at me.
I walked over to a bench with a little roof built over it. "I'm sorry, this is just too cold. Let's sit here for a while."
He followed me without complaint, and sat down beside me, a little closer than I thought he would. His arm was pressed right up against mine. Electricity raced through my body, and I again wondered why the hell I was reacting like this. This was Mason, the guy I'd known and been with forever. I hadn't felt like this since the very beginning.
He flipped his hand over, lacing his fingers through mine. A furtive glance at Mason told me that he was looking straight forward at the river. I brushed the hand holding off as him trying to warm up his hands, and sighed, leaning back against the back of the bench. Little pools of water stood on the top of the back of the bench, and it trickled down the back of my neck. I shivered, but didn't move, because I honestly didn't think I could get any colder and wetter.
"It's sort of pretty, isn't it?" Mason said suddenly, looking over at me.
"What is?" I asked. The roar of the river filled the silence that followed my question as he looked back at the river, thinking. I leaned forward, looking at his face. "What is, Mason?" I repeated.
"The river. It's sort of pretty."
I gave him a weird look. "Uhm... I guess so." I didn't think it was pretty at all, all cold and brown and foamy white, roaring over rocks and carrying fish and bugs and plants. It could kill you in under a minute.
"Okay. Well, the trees are pretty, aren't they?" I said, thinking of something else that I actually thought was pretty. "At least, in the summer they are, when they're not so naked."
Mason half smiled. "In the winter they are too, when it snows. They're pretty then."
I laughed. "What's with the crazy talk?"
"I couldn't think of another way to tell you that I think you're beautiful," he said, looking back at me. I felt my smile freeze in place, a shock going through me. Of course I knew he thought I was beautiful. I knew that because he'd been with me before, he'd told me. Just not in so long... It'd been forever.
"Oh," I said, clearly caught by surprise. I looked down at my lap, feeling myself blush. My cheeks were probably bright red right now, for no reason.
"You are, Bella."
I bit my lip. "Thank you... But why are you saying that? I thought you wanted to be friends, not this."
"Not boyfriend and girlfriend or whatever. We barely know each other, remember...?"
Mason smiled and shook his head at me. "I'm not trying to be your boyfriend. I can tell you that you're pretty, can't I? Friends do that, don't they?"
"Sometimes," I said slowly.
"Your girl friends do."
"Yes, they do. I think they don't usually mean it though. Besides, they don't try to be with me," I said, adding a small smile.
Mason smiled slyly. "If I was trying to be your boyfriend, I would've done this."
He leaned forward, putting his hand under my chin and gently tugging it upwards. Before I could protest or think or do anything else, he kissed me. The butterflies in my stomach went crazy, and a shot of the earlier electricity I had felt raced through my entire body, almost painful, but not quite.
He only kissed me for a second, and I regretted that he pulled away when he did. His eyes shone, the deep blue sparkling. I looked at him, wide eyed.
"Oh," I said stupidly, unable to even think of what he'd said before he'd kissed me.
He grinned. "Yeah. So we both know I'm not trying to be your boyfriend."
"You can speak, you know. I won't shoot you."
I blinked and leaned back, trying to get away from the heat of his body, the smell of his cologne and trying to clear the thought of his mouth on mine out of my head. "Shouldn't we go? I don't wanna get sick or anything, Zach is already sick."
Mason shrugged. "If you wanna go, that's fine. I think I'll sit here for awhile."
I nodded numbly, getting up and walking away abruptly. A wide smile pulled up the corners of my mouth as I went home; I couldn't get Mason's kiss out of my head.
This sure complicated things.
I was a little nervous as I walked into first block Monday at school. Mason was talking to Greg, and completely ignoring Malorie, who sat a short distance from him, texting and glancing up at him every now and then. She scowled when she saw me, and I didn’t give her the satisfaction of acknowledging her.