Ryan eyed me through the rearview mirror and sighed. “Listen, I get what you were trying to do, asking my mom that question and all but…” He muttered something under his breath. “I know how she is. Okay? I know how she would react. Just, don’t try. For one, she won’t approve, and for two, I’m not ready for her disapproval.”

My fingers ran across the gray-clothed seats, my heart pounding against my chest. I felt awful for even having brought it up to Rebecca. “I’m sorry, Ryan.” I really was. It wasn’t my place to even bring up such an issue.

We pulled into the parking lot of the school and the three of us hopped out. I watched Hailey climb out of the car and look toward Theo, who was waving her over. “I’ll catch you guys later.” She started in his direction and I went to stop her. Ryan placed his hands on my shoulders.

“She has to learn on her own, Chicago,” he said. His voice lowered. “I know I did.”

“Ryan, I really am sorry. I didn’t mean to make a big issue this early in the morning. Or to make an issue at all.”

“It’s okay,” he said, wrapping his arm around my shoulders. “Now as long as you tell me where you got that hickey from, we’ll be really okay.”

I laughed as I snuggled against him. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” When I looked up, I saw Daniel walking right next to us into the school building, his eyes locking with mine. There was a small twitch in his lips, and he eyes were the bluest of blue against his shirt.

“Good morning Ryan and Ashlyn,” he said.

“Morning, Mr. D.,” Ryan replied, his arm still around me.

Daniel noticed Ryan’s hold and stared back at me for a split second. I pulled my friend closer to me, giving Daniel a hateful glare.

“Good morning, Mr. Daniels.”

English class came and Daniel didn’t look at me once. Not only had he ignored all of my text messages, but he was also ignoring me in class. Wonderful—back to square one.

“Okay, who wants to present their flash fiction first?” Daniel asked.

No one raised their hands. Stupid flash fiction. Stupid teacher for assigning flash fiction. Stupid life.

Daniel frowned, looking around. Then a bright smile came to his face. “All right, Avery. Thanks for volunteering! You’re up.”

Avery groaned. “Come on, Mr. Daniels. I didn’t volunteer,” he huffed and puffed.

“Oh…well okay. Then you were lucky enough to be picked. Get on up here.”

Avery dragged his body up to the front of class as Daniel took a seat in one of the abandoned chairs in the back of the class. Avery was a bigger kid, and the idea of hearing him read flash fiction would have made me smirk last week. But today, my eyes were puffy and I was PMSing and just all around annoyed.

Avery cleared his throat and cursed under his breath, stating how stupid this was. “Boobs, booze, football. This is the life.” The classroom snickered; his football buddies hooted and hollered. But I noticed Avery frown. Daniel must have noticed it too.

“Try again, Avery,” he said from the back of the class. I didn’t turn around to see him.

Avery gave a sigh, cleared his throat, and read from his paper. “Searching for more, but not smart enough to get there.”

Ryan and I started clapping for him, and the rest of the class laughed. “Loser,” coughed one of his teammates. “Fat loser,” joked another. He rolled his eyes and slugged them as he walked by.

It was always the jokes that hurt the most.

Avery pushed one of his teammates. “Yeah, well, this fat loser gets more girls than you.”

Ryan laughed to himself. “Doubt it.”

Avery shot his eyes over to Ryan. “You got something to say, Turner?” What was it with football players always calling people by their last names? Did Avery even know Ryan’s first name?

Ryan rolled his eyes and leaned back in his chair. “Not a word.”

“Figures. You never really did seem to have much to say.”

Avery made his way back to his desk. The rest of the class all went up to read their flash fiction, but Ryan’s was my favorite.

“Stars exploded and I was born. Please call me Tony.” He said it and no one understood it—except me. Ryan winked my way and I smiled.

That left me to go next. Daniel didn’t even call on me, but I wasn’t surprised. His ignoring skills were on point. I walked up there with no paper in my hands and stared Daniel straight in the eyes.

“Identical twins except with death. Romeo’s quest to find Juliet.”

I saw the struggle happening in his eyes. Not knowing what to say, not knowing how to react.

Ryan asked Daniel to come up with his own flash fiction when he moved to the front of the class.

“Shakespeare, kisses, lists. The vision before reality. Dream once more.”

I hated him because I hiccupped and had tears falling down my cheeks. The class snickered at his flash fiction, but it wasn’t funny.

“That doesn’t mean anything!” Ryan argued.

The bell rang and Daniel chuckled to himself.

“All right, everyone. Great job today. Make sure to read chapters one through three of To Kill a Mockingbird for tomorrow. Rumor has it that there might be a pop quiz.”

Ryan groaned as he tossed his backpack on. “It’s not a pop quiz if you tell us about it, Mr. D.”

“Not all rumors are true, Ryan, but it’s best to plan as if they are.” Daniel smirked.

I rolled my eyes. I hated his smirks.


I loved his smirks.