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Chapter 12 : Sweet Success
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There was something about being back that lifted my spirits that much more than when I had been at Hogwarts before. Before there was an endless endeavour, a mission, a goal to obtain as it were, whereas now there was no structured plan and I was free to enjoy the school I’d loved for years to the fullest. I still kept my eye out for Jase and yes, I’ll admit that some of the time there was a twinge in the pit of my stomach that made me think of what I’d lost, but I told myself that it was only temporary. I had found the confidence somewhere deep inside me that kept up a steady drum beat that chanted he would come back to me, if that makes sense. I just had to forget and enjoy and maybe things would turn out my way because I refused to even consider life if they didn’t, I was just that stubborn.
I dug into my chocolate pudding with so much fervor that even at the feast that when Melody tapped my shoulder I nearly dropped my spoon. I managed to hold onto it, but only just, and all the pudding I’d scooped up fell right back into the bowl, which usually I’d be a little frustrated about, but not today. Probably not tomorrow either if this mood kept me company for the next little while.
“Hello?” Melody said. “If you’ll take a few moments to come up for air you will see that our quarry is leaving the Great Hall.” She shook her head towards the entrance and I saw the sandy-blonde hair of a tall and broad-shouldered boy.
I shoveled a few more spoonfuls into my mouth and nodded to Vic across the table. She would be able to cover for us if Starr asked where we were going. I stood up and started to follow Melody.
“Chase,” Melody called out to him when we reached the first staircase. He had just reached the top. “Chase Hamilton.” Her voice was oddly sultry and I wanted to frown at her and ask what that was all about, but I held back. I’d ask her later, if I could remember.
Chase turned and I was struck by the gorgeous and handsome face that lit up with a smile when his gaze caught us walking towards him. He was one of those obviously beautiful people with good looks, personality, and money to boot, and yet he was never snobby or rude. It was almost like everyone was his friend in some form or another. He didn’t have any specific pack of friends because he was friends with everybody. He would swing from group to group with his good looks and his debonair charm that made girls swoon, which made guys jealous. And despite my obvious feelings for Jase I could still appreciate the looks and class of the boy in front of me. In the words of Melody, my present cohort, he was damn fine!
“Ladies,” he greeted. “To what do I owe this pleasure?” He grabbed Melody’s hand and kissed the back before doing the same with mine.
“We have a proposition for you,” Melody said sweetly, giving him her best actress smile…or was it? I couldn’t tell if she was being sincere or not. Damn she was good.
“A proposition? I’m all ears.”
“We’ve been doing a little reconnoitering with two of our friends, a little matchmaking here and there,” I began. “Except, here’s the kicker, neither knows that it’s more than friendship.”
“How deep has this recon gone? For how long” Chase asked suddenly intrigued, I could tell that for sure.
“A little over two months,” Melody replied.
“Okay, so what does this have to do with me?” he asked sincerely. He was interested and the way we’d explained didn’t annoy him that we didn’t immediately jump to his role in this little scheme. He was perfectly patient and perfectly sweet about it.
“The way we figure it,” I continued, “is that what these two really need to jump-start their more-than-friends relationship is a little jealousy.”
He understood within seconds. His quick wit and sharp mind were often another one of those things that attracted the women in flocks. “Ahh and you thought of me to ‘woo’ the lucky lady of your acquaintance so her man will get jealous.”
“Precisely,” Melody agreed. “We’re banking on Starr either blushing like a fool, or feeling guilty about talking to you because she’s in like with Andy, and vice versa when I sidle up to Andy.”
“A devious plan, ladies, but I must admit that now that I’ve been told I cannot resist. This interests me greatly and I would love to see the happy outcome if this plan of yours really works.”
“It’ll work,” I assured him. “It’s hard to resist such charm. So you’ll help us out?”
“Of course,” Chase bowed graciously. “For a price however.” His eyes sparkled.
“A price?” I repeated.
“A price.” He reached over and took Melody’s hand and kissed the back of it once more. And he turned and walked away.
I squinted at his receding form. “What was that all about? What price?”
Melody didn’t seem to hear me. Instead she waited until he was around the corner and did a little jig on the spot, squealing with delight. “Yes!” she exclaimed scaring a few first years that came around the corner.
“What ‘yes’? Please help me out here.” I grabbed her hand and started pulling her back towards the Great Hall.
She sighed but her smile did not fade. “I’ve liked Chase for years and last year when we were dating things got really bad in his personal life, like home life, his parents were getting divorced and he said that, to be fair, he didn’t want to put that strain on me. So we separated, oh but I’ve never stopped thinking about that time we spent. So now…his price, the kiss on the back of my hand, it’s a sign!”
“How is it possible I did not know all this? And a sign, he kissed me on the back of my hand too, you know?” I was baffled as we climbed down the stairs.
“You did not know because I didn’t tell anyone. It’s been me and mine since then, but now, now we say it out loud. By the end of this week I am going to be dating Chase Hamilton! And he didn’t give you the look he gave me when he kissed my hand. There was a moment!”
“Ah, a moment, right. The moment when worlds collide and stars explode and everything in the universe stands still, all at the same time!”
“See, you understand it. That’s how it was for me.” She grabbed my arm and hugged me tight. “Oh I feel like dancing.”
“Sit tight until we gather the gang and hit the dorm please. Then we can jam out all you want.”
I started laughing as I sat back down at the table. I was so happy for Melody. I was so happy for all my friends who were equally happy. I returned to my bowl of pudding and struck up a conversation with Gigi as easily as if nothing had changed, as if I’d always been this carefree, focused-on-me person. It was great.
Then I saw Nikki and Jase. And my happy world did a dizzying revolution and my happiness landed flat on its ass.
So I was able to admit to myself that I wasn’t impervious to Jase and that despite my resolve I was still head-over-heels in love with him. I would just remember that whenever he looked my way and gave me that deep wounded stare that I wasn’t going to let him drag me down any more.
Even when Jase caught me outside my dorm room that night and I wasn’t even close to being prepared to talk to him, I knew that I would be defensive. Because if I wasn’t I would just fall back into a horrible and depressing mood. I was better than that.
“Hey Allie,” Jase said as I came around the corner. He was standing beside the room to my dorm with a bag of chips in his hands. His hello was so soft that I almost didn’t hear him.
“What are you doing here Jase?” I demanded crossing my arms.
He held up the bag in his hand as if that was going to explain itself.
“What? Do you think that just because I’m back and I’m smiling that means I’ve forgiven you? Well sucks to be you because you can take those chips and eat ‘em yourself. I’ve had enough.” I reached for the doorknob.
“You don’t get it,” I said turning to face him again. “Let me spell it out for you. I. Don’t. Want. To. Talk. To. You! Go. Away.” I turned the doorknob and went inside.
Before I could close the door however, Jase was there. “Allie, come on, we need to talk.”
I stepped aside and Gigi took my place. She might have been tiny but she was tough and she would look out for me. “Jason, get it through your head,” she said shoving him back from the door. “When she wants to talk to you, she’ll let you know.” And she slammed the door in his face.
“Thanks, Gigi,” I said sitting myself down on my bed. I was really tired for some reason.
“No problem,” she said as she went back to her own bed and started untying her boot laces. “That boy is thick!”
“Ha,” I laughed shortly, “I suppose he is.”
There was only one thing that came out of that day. Well two actually, because of our little rendezvous with Chase, and those were that plans were in motion to knock some sense into Starr’s and Andy’s little heads, as well as the fact that my friends had my back when it came to matters of my heart.
One thing I hadn't missed about being away from school for the past two weeks was that the professors couldn’t mail all their homework assignments over those fourteen days. But now that we were back again they kept on piling it on us despite our complaints, stress, illnesses etcetera. There was nothing we could do that would alleviate our minds, nor ease the pain in our wrists from writing at least twelve inches a day for every single subject. I swear that I have never felt like my hand was going to fall off before, not even in my fifth year when the OWLs were coming up. But no, now, in NEWT year, I felt like my hand, wrist, hell my entire arm was going to flop down on the desk beside me and lay lifeless for the rest of the year because it simply could not go on.
By Thursday there was a terrible ache in the middle of my back as well from being hunched over all the work assignments. The only good thing about the homework load was that Brad was keeping off my back because his ass was on the line doubly so. He had always been a good student, kept good grades and never really failed an assignment, but seeing him hustle as I did in the last four days was something of a miracle. I guess he wasn’t as good a student as I had thought. But I didn’t mind because his hands were kept busy and his mind was too occupied to think about kissing me most days.
The downside of all this work was that the girls and I still hadn't been able to get the “Andy and Starr Matchmaking: Jealousy” session underway. I had said I wanted it done by the end of the week, but somehow I didn’t see that happening. I was laden down with too much homework to think of much else anyways.
Melody came up to me on Thursday afternoon however, and informed me that her mind had done little else but think about the ‘Jealousy’ session, which made everything easier on my part.
“I was thinking,” she said, “that this afternoon should be perfect. We just need to get them separated for a few minutes and then we can pounce.”
“What about Chase?” I asked looking around the deserted hallway. The others were either still in class or going back to the dorm room before we started our kick-ass homework session. And by kick-ass, I mean that we would be cleaning the slate tonight or else.
“I’ve already talked to him today and he thinks sooner rather than later would be the best approach.”
I raised my eyebrow at her, “Is there something else I should know about this sooner rather than later approach?”
She looked at me feigning innocence, “What ever do you mean?”
“Oh I dunno, how about the sooner rather than later means you twos can be together sooner rather than later? Does that ring any bells?”
“Why Allie, you are so deliciously funny. I don’t have the faintest idea what you’re talking about.” She started walking down the hall away from me.
“Uhuh, sure you don’t.”
We went down the stairs from our last class to the library as usual. It seemed that it was our regular hang-out spot these days except when we got rowdy, which was next to never these days. Rowdy wasn’t on the homework schedule much to the boys’ disappointment.
When Melody and I arrived I saw that everyone else was already there at our regular table, so regular in fact that we’d asked the librarian to put a little ‘Reserved’ place card in the middle of the table for us. Apparently some people got very edgy and very upset when their daily routine was jostled from one table to another.
I sat down beside Gigi who had taken a spot next to Starr. Melody sat in between Andy and Alec. Jase, Nikki, Brad, Victoire and Teddy took up the other seats. My eyes shifted momentarily towards Jase but then when I thought better of it I bent down and shuffled through my book bag and pulled out my homework. For once, I thought, homework was being helpful in my life instead of messing it up.
I bent over and went to work, looking between my text book and my parchment as my pen scribbled over the page, my only thoughts were those of defense techniques against an Alaskan Banshee who screamed until you were paralyzed and then once she got her hands on you, you would freeze on the spot, blood and all, and never see the light of day again. Lovely creature, I remember thinking. But the defenses of such a terrifying beast were clearly outlined; always have a burning torch, when she screams, scream back to keep from hearing just her piercing scream alone, never attempt to plug your ears because then you’re just defenseless period, and sometimes direct wand combat works, but Banshee’s skin and mind are less penetrable than wizards and witches.
I was a sentence from being done when a rolled up piece of paper landed on my essay. It nearly startled the living daylights out of me, but instead of screaming, as a Banshee would have done obviously, I looked up at Melody who was giggling at me. She obviously thought scaring me out of my skin was humorous. I picked up the paper and unfolded it.
There was an arrow pointed towards the top of my page in the direction of the windows over Jase’s shoulder opposite me. Chase was sitting at another table not far from ours looking devastatingly handsome and looking over every few seconds. When he caught my eye this last time he nodded and waved. I looked at Melody and she raised both eyebrows saying ‘it’s go-time’ and I turned back to look at Chase. I nodded my head curtly and nudged Gigi next to me.
Her head popped up and looked at me. I handed her the piece of paper and she followed the same train of thought almost action for action, save the nodding at Chase. It looked like we were all set, just to distract Starr…
Starr got up from the table just then as if playing right into our plan…yet we knew she wasn’t. Where was she going?! I started to panic as she walked away, but when I saw her stop at a bookshelf a little ways off from the table my eyes widened in Melody’s direction. I let off a cursory sigh of relief and looked back over to Chase but he wasn’t there anymore. He’d disappeared. Perfect!
I looked back behind me to where Starr was searching through the shelves and I saw Chase appear from around the bookcase. He was striding towards her with his usual strut that was neither pretentious nor snobbish, just so…hot!
I watched as Chase walked right up to her and struck up a casual conversation with her, and unlike when she talked to Andy, she looked perfectly calm, cool and collected. Chase didn’t have that obviously charming effect on her as he did on everyone else around him. Starr was smarter than to fall for his smooth moves and good looks. She was an athlete and she knew how to use her head, most of the time anyway.
As Starr chatting casually with Chase I looked back to where Andy was sitting next to Melody. He was also watching Chase and Starr but with less cool than Starr was taking it. His knuckles were whitening because his fists were clenched so hard, there was a hard line drawn in his forehead as a display of frustration, and with a slight squeeze I heard his knuckles crack menacingly. He was seriously considering going over to Starr and knocking Chase’s lights out.
I bit my lip nervously and made eye contact with Melody. She was almost squirming in her seat with excitement. I looked at Gigi briefly and she was merely grinning from ear to ear. Victoire who was sitting beside Teddy had also figured out what was going on. She was almost bouncing out of her chair.
I looked back at Chase and Starr and with Starr’s back to me Chase and I made brief eye contact as he signaled me that all was well and it was time for Phase 2. Melody saw the exchange and made a beeline for Andy, figuratively of course.
“Andy, do you understand this question?” she asked in her professionally flirty tone that would make a lot of guys melt.
Andy looked over at her question, whatever it might have been, and replied, “Um…I’m not sure Melody. I’m not in that class this year, remember?”
“Oh I know that,” she said, “I was just thinking because you were so smart in it last year you would have kept it up as a hobby, you know?”
Andy nodded, “Yeah, well I sort of have, but not to that extent. The question you need to answer is related to medicinal properties whereas I’ve kept up with the more fantastical properties.”
“Yeah,” he shrugged, “like the…uh…magically infused properties. Kinda like how this plant could be used to render a person unconscious, but it can also be turned into a sort of firework plant that sparks at passersby.”
Melody’s mouth dropped open; she was truly and genuinely surprised at this information. “Really?”
Andy smiled and nodded, “Yeah.”
I watched as they continued their conversation for another few minutes before checking on the progress behind me. Chase was trying so hard to get some kind of reaction other that a vague friendship with Starr, but she wasn’t biting. Andy had bit a big chunk out of that one so it was just about time for Starr to turn around and see Melody flirting veraciously with Andy.
Chase and my eyes met and he seemed to understand immediately, as if we’d totally planned it down to the nanosecond when we were going to switch and everything. Chase picked up Starr’s hand and kissed the back of hers, at exactly the time when Andy was looking up from Melody’s perfectly planned distraction.
His fists clenched, knuckles whitened, the vein in his neck pulsed and he looked like a fuse ready to be lit. All Chase might need to do is kiss Starr on the cheek then and Andy would shoot off like a rocket in that direction.
Instead Andy sat there staring and watched as Chase walked away. Chase looked behind him and waved at Starr over his shoulder, prompting a wave in response. Starr turned and the strategically brilliant Melody picked that moment when Starr’s eyes clasped on Andy’s to place her hand on Andy’s arm and ask impishly, “Andy, are you alright?”
Andy and Starr’s eyes left each other and I could see something ignite and erupt inside each of them. Andy hadn't let go of his frustration after seeing Chase with Starr, and Starr was now blinking in surprise that Melody was almost attached to Andy’s hip. I watched closely, and hopefully somewhat inconspicuously, as Starr’s cheeks reddened with anger, her fists started mimicking Andy’s earlier actions, and she took the book she was holding and brought it to the table before slamming it down, hard.
Gigi looked up shocked at the aggression and looked up at Starr. “Starr, is everything okay?”
“Fine,” she snapped out.
“Doubtful,” Gigi put in. “Come on,” she whispered loud enough so that only I could hear, and possibly Alec on the other side of her, but he wasn’t really paying attention as he was too engrossed in his homework.
“I…I feel funny,” Starr admitting letting another glance slide in Andy’s direction. “What is it…I can’t understand.”
My eyes lit up when I heard this information and my eyes probably sparkled across the table at Victoire who was looking very eager towards Starr and Gigi’s heads together.
“You’re going to have to explain a little better, hun,” Gigi pressed trying to get the confession out of Starr, something we all knew but she still needed to realize.
“It’s like, when I saw Melody’s hand on Andy’s arm a great flaring fire lit up inside me. One word came to my mind.”
“What word?” I leaned over and asked.
“Oh, um...‘mine’,” she whispered in a growling tone as she flushed a deep scarlet colour.
“Don’t you figure you should do something about it then?” Gigi said. “I mean, Melody is flirting with your man, isn’t she?”
“But I’ve never seen Andy like that though, I mean, it wasn’t like that.”
“Well maybe it should be,” I told her, “especially if you feel like this.”
“Yeah…I guess so. What should I do?” Starr glanced towards Andy and Melody again and I knew she felt that flaring feeling again.
Gigi beat me to saying, “Go over there and kiss him.”
“What?” Starr’s mouth dropped open. “You think?”
“What else shows he’s yours better, I ask you, please?” Gigi raised her eyebrows at Starr and I started nodding frantically. “Go,” Gigi urged again.
“Right,” Starr said as though trying to work herself up to it. “How hard can it be?”
“Starr,” I said, “you’re over thinking it, just go over there and do what feels right.”
She nodded despite the flurry of activity beneath her eyes. She was still thinking about it, but that was okay because she got up and walked over to where Melody and Andy were sitting. “Andy, can I talk to you?”
Andy got up curtly and I could tell he was still suffering from the refractions of Chase’s flirtations before. “Sure,” he mumbled. He stood in front of Starr and the two moved back from the table slightly.
Starr looked anxiously at Gigi and me, as well as Victoire on the other side of the table, before she threw her arms around Andy’s neck and smacked a huge kiss on his lips. For a moment there was a shocked silence around the table because as she planted the kiss on him he stood there with his arms at his sides as he was processed things. Then I saw his lips stretch into a smile and he wrapped his arms around Starr’s back and kissed her back.
Whoops of laughter went up around our little study table—all the guys had been secretly watching us the whole time—and I felt an overwhelming sense of glee in the pit of my stomach. Success was sweet and even more so because it meant Starr and Andy didn’t have to be in the dark any longer. It also meant one more thing…
My eyes met Brad’s across the table and instead of the pleasantly neutral smile I usually gave him I decided to smirk instead. I knew he had nothing left to hold over me. I was going to get rid of him for good now. He stood up and left quickly, fear flashing across his face, and I nudged Gigi as I got up to follow. Melody and Vic saw as well and we followed Brad out of the library up the first stairs into a deserted corridor. Bingo.
A/N: Cliffhanger...sorry everyone, just to keep you reading though :P. Please, please, please leave a review. Love ya! ~K :D
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