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Trystan pulled his jacket tighter and looked back at Mari’s window one last time before darting between the houses. It was nearly 3:00am. His father should be passed out by now. It was possible his dad didn’t even know Trystan was gone. The room looked the same from the outside, so unless his dad opened the door, there was no way to know Trystan wasn’t there.

Trystan didn’t want to think about that right now. His heart was still enraptured by Mari. God, he loved her. Her scent was still on him. He inhaled deeply, basking in it. Mari’s aroma made him lightheaded and giddy at the same time.

A smile snaked across Trystan’s lips as he continued down the deserted streets alone. Porch lights flared on houses that were more expensive than anything he’d ever own. Glancing down the street, he caught the telltale silhouette of a cop car, and cut down a side street to avoid the police. A kid out alone, at 3:00am was looking for trouble. They’d haul him back home and all hell would break lose.

Trystan walked faster. Shoving his hands in his pockets he felt the phone Mari gave him. He didn’t want to take it from her. It felt like a lavish gift that Trystan didn’t deserve, but when he saw her face, he knew that she needed him to have it. It wasn’t about stuff. It was about Mari. Trystan felt the edges of the little phone and wondered if he’d have to add minutes to it. He was totally broke, so unless it was prepaid for a while, that would create a problem. While Mari knew he didn’t have a lot of money, no one realized how strapped Trystan was. He did everything he could to keep it hidden.

Arriving at the condo complex, Trystan walked past the group of older guys who were drunk. The night air was temperate so they were hanging out in front of their door, sitting on the front step like it was a patio. They tried to get Trystan to come over, but he’d rather die than get hooked on alcohol. That damn stuff was what caused of all his problems. It wasn’t that his mom left them; it was that his dad refused to pick up the pieces and move on.

Trystan stopped at his front door and debated whether or not to go through his window. After a second, he chanced the door. Trystan slid his key in the lock and the door creaked open. Glancing around, Trystan didn’t see his father, but he could hear his insanely loud snoring carrying from the back of the apartment.

“Thank God,” Trystan sighed and locked the door behind him. That sound was music to his ears. It meant nothing could wake the old man, so Trystan headed for the shower. When he finished, Trystan unlocked the door to his room and closed it quietly, locking himself inside. Lowering himself to the floor, Trystan slept against the door to make sure his father didn’t try anything.

The next morning Trystan awoke with the door slamming into his ribs. “Get up, Trystan.” The door pulled back and slammed into him again. Trystan shook the sleep from his eyes and sat up and braced his back against the door to keep his dad out, but the old man didn’t try to come in. He was just in a foul mood. “Go to school today, before they come looking for you. And I swear to God, if you ever do that again, I’ll lock you in here and never come back.”

Trystan’s jaw tightened as his father spoke. If Trystan didn’t have to come back, he wouldn’t. There was nothing here for him. His life was ahead of him, but he couldn’t leave. Not yet. Trystan swallowed his pride and said what his father was waiting to hear, “Yes, sir.”

As soon as Trystan said those words, his father’s footfalls headed away from his room. A few moments later the front door opened and closed. He was gone. Trystan sighed in relief. Sitting on the floor, he pulled his knees into his chest and wrapped his arms around them. Lowering his head to his knees, Trystan sat in the quiet wondering what he should do. If the army was out, then he had to find somewhere else to live, and fast.

Trystan sat in the cafeteria looking out the window for Mari. He had an apple in his hand and was about to take a bite when Seth sat down hard across from him. Trystan stopped and scowled. “I’m not in the mood, Seth.”

Then, Seth did something very un-Seth-like and apologized. “He man, listen… I shouldn’t have said that. I knew you wanted to hit that, but I thought she was just another chick.”

Trystan rolled the apple in his palm, and lifted his gaze. He held his temper in check. Flatly, he replied, “I told you she wasn’t, so don’t try to bullshit me now.”

Seth rolled his eyes, and slammed his hands on the table making the metal fittings underneath jingle. “I’m not bullshitting you. I’m sorry, okay? I said it. If she means that much to you, I won’t go there again.”

Trystan wanted to tell him about Mari, about how things changed, but he couldn’t. He didn’t know how Seth would react and he’d promised Mari he wouldn’t. So Trystan nodded, “Fine. Enough of this crap. It’s over.”

Seth’s face lit up. He reached across the table and slapped Trystan’s shoulder just as Mari got out of her Mom’s car outside. Seth’s gaze followed Trystan’s and landed on Mari. “You want me to help you get her?”

Trystan flinched. He turned back to Seth. “The answer to that would be, hell no. Don’t even think about it. She’s mine. I’ll get her, eventually.” Trystan’s lips pulled into a grin. He already had her heart—she loved him. It made Trystan wish he could shout from the tabletops and dance across the hallways, but he didn’t. Trystan was careful to leave his poker face in place.

“What is she? The only girl in the drama class that you haven’t nailed?”

Trystan stood and glanced at the doors. “Something like that.”

Tucker walked through, and turned his face at the two of them. It was as if he was looking for Trystan. Tucker waved Trystan over and Seth followed. “I need to speak with you, Scott. This weekend is the play and Brie refuses to go on with her nose the way it is. I told her we could cover it with stage make up, that no one would know, but she said she quit. Her parents pulled her out of the class. You have no co-star, Scott. Can you please go talk some sense into her? She listens to you.”

Seth glanced at Trystan, but Trystan was still looking at Tucker. “Maybe, but I have a better idea.” A sly smile lined Trystan’s lips. He cut his gaze to the cafeteria doors just as Mari walked by and flicked his chin up. “Her.”

Tucker’s face pinched. “What? You can’t be serious. Mari doesn’t know all the—” Tucker stopped midsentence. His eyebrows shot up as a smile lifted the worry off his face. Looking back at Trystan, Tucker seemed amazed at the idea, “She knows all the lines.”

“Yeah,” Trystan nodded. “And she’s been practicing with me longer than Brie. Mari can do it.”

Tucker glanced at the hallway, and watched Mari walk away. “Fine. Talk to her. You both get A’s for this. That might not matter to you, but it does for her. She’s the one that caused this issue in the first place by punching Brie in the face.”

Seth laughed and jumped from one foot to the other like a happy monkey. He pressed his palms together, “No way! Girl fight and I missed it? Little goodie-two-shoes took a swing at the slut?”

Tucker opened his mouth to say something and then snapped it shut again. He shook his head and walked away.

Seth turned to Trystan, “Seriously? Your new conquest bitch-slapped your old girlfriend? Ha! I didn’t think Mari had it in her.” Suddenly Seth seemed more interested in Mari, which wasn’t good.

“Brie had it coming,” Trystan snapped. “And now she thinks she can screw everyone else by not showing up on Friday.” Trystan grinned, thinking about acting opposite Mari, and that kiss at the end of act 2. Oh God, he’d get to kiss Mari like that in front of everyone without anyone thinking anything was going on with them. “This is going to be awesome.”



“I’m not an actor, Trystan. I can’t do what you do.” He asked me to take Brie’s role. Part of me wanted to, but the other part said there was no way I could pull it off.

Trystan sat on the table in front of me. We were in the prop room under the stage. He waited to tell me until we had some time alone. Trystan’s hands found my shoulders and he gripped them gently. “Yes, you can. You already have, and you did it a lot better than Brie.”

My mind raced. If I said yes, this would be the third time I’d pissed off Brie in a really short amount of time. It just wasn’t smart. “Trystan, I wouldn’t know where to stand or how to respond to the other actors. This isn’t my thing. I’d suck it up.”

“Tucker said you have a C in his class right now. He wanted me to tell you that you’ll get an automatic A if you take her spot.” He watched my face as he spoke the magic words.

My face pinched. I wanted to say no, but that was too tempting. “Damn him—Tucker, I mean. That C will cause as much trouble as Brie.” I started thinking out loud without realizing it.

“What?” Trystan asked, confused.

“The C. My dad is a psycho with grades. I’ll catch hell for it. But, if I take Brie’s place so I get the A, I’m going to catch hell from her. I’m already on her shit list.” I sighed and looked into Trystan’s face. “It’s not much of a choice.”

“I can take care of Brie.”

“Brie’s suing me, well, my Dad—” I just blurted it out. I’d managed to leave out that part last night. The conversation skirted around it. I made it sound like a teacher tattled on me and not Brie’s father. Trystan’s hands slipped off my shoulders, as his jaw dropped open. “because I punched her. That’s what caused the fight the other night with my Dad. It was Brie.”

Trystan pressed his eyes closed and shook his head, like he couldn’t believe it. He stood and paced, thinking. The muscles in his jaw worked as he walked. Trystan crossed his arms over his chest. The dark blue tee shirt he wore showed off his sapphire eyes. I couldn’t help but stare at him. He was beautiful.

When Trystan stopped, he said, “Brie is a pain in the ass, but we have a shot at handling her. Your father, on the other hand, we have no control over him at all. I’d get the grade and deal with the Brie, if I were you.”

I smiled at him. That was what I was thinking, I just wished there was another option. Standing, I walked over to him, “And this decision has nothing to do with the kiss at the end of the second act?”

“Do you know how hard it is to stand in front of you and not touch you? Right now—” he shook his head, “I can’t even tell you what I want to do right now. It’s more than a kiss Mari. It’s more time together, more kissing, and more you. Of course I want you to say yes.” Trystan looked down into my eyes. He held my gaze making butterflies erupt in my stomach.

“Yes.” My voice was light.

Trystan blinked at me, like he hadn’t heard me right. “Seriously?”

I nodded and stepped closer to him, slipping my arms around his waist. “Yes. You’re right. I know the part and I really don’t mind kissing you, actually I look forward to it.” I ran my fingers through his hair while I looked into his eyes. Trystan’s gaze remained locked on mine.