Happy New Year to new and old readers alike!!I'm excited to kick start 2014 with a new chapter and hopefully a bigger following to this growing movement. Hope everyone had a joyous festive season and feel refreshed enough to take on the New Year with a bang or a fizzle...to each his own.

A big thank you to my editor Flip McHooter! This chapter wouldn't be nearly as appetizing without your aid. Hope you're well aware of that fact.

And lastly here's a New Year's resolution, if like me you don't have any...Write me! Feedback is like getting texted back by your crush. It lets me know how yall are receiving the story and gives the added punch of inspiration to keep us writers going.

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Best Wishes


All rights reserved. No parts of this story may be transmitted or reproduced in whole or in part in any form or by any means, mechanical or electronic, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the Author, except where permitted by law.


Copyright ©2013 Black Arrow


Chapter 6

My Love's A Revolver

8 AM Saturday morning

Apprehensive...that's the word. Yeah that must be it because regretful came along with a negative connotation that I would not have classed with the events of yesterday. The real problem here was the mechanical malfunction going on with my own circuitry. How can I rationalize and react to my surroundings when my inner workings were baffling me?

Point blank. I couldn't begin to describe what it was that I was experiencing since it was a completely alien feeling. I rolled over onto my back, still in bed and facing the ceiling I ran a finger gingerly over my lips, trying in vain to recreate the feeling he had left tingling on them. I guess part of the problem was that I couldn't reconcile what I was thinking with what I was...feeling.

I knew...well, I think I could remember how I felt being around Ryan. I liked it and oddly enough, he found something about me endearing. And then a sinking feeling makes its presence known to me, this could never work.

I was no good for him...I was no good for anyone. It was probably best for all parties involved if I forgot about Friday and Ryan Grant completely.

"Sweetheart you're going to be late for practice if you don't get out of there soon," my mother's voice rang out on the other side of my closed door. Thoroughly shattering what I was thinking about; I was grateful for the reprieve though; this was an awkward subject matter at best and bleak at its worst.

The early morning sun was already dancing through my Champaign colored curtains. I was normally long out of bed at this point; it was an unusual occurrence for mom to have to come up for me. I got myself ready and down stairs in less than 20 minutes. This is how Saturday mornings usually were like, just me and mom. She was on duty at the hospital and I had gymnastics to get to, everyone else were barely part of the living passed out in their respective beds.

I headed for the fridge as soon as I entered the kitchen and grabbed myself a bottle of water as opposed to the fruit juice I knew would be placed on the breakfast bar. My mom eyed me with a slight eye of disdain before shaking it off and probably marking it as another loss in her `Hunter trials'. She was always trying to add some variety into my diet, I guess she felt like I deprived myself of my childhood with the specifics I refused to ingest.

"It's all sugar," I said as my sole defense before sitting down and joining her for breakfast in our large kitchen.

`'What did you get up to last night?" mom asked as she took a drink of her third cup of coffee this morning, giving me a pointed look with those piercing eyes of hers. I knew this because she was not a morning person despite her many years of being a mother and a doctor. And the volume in the coffee maker was down the equivalent of her favored mug-three times over...I noticed things like that in my immediate. I was always observing details; it wasn't even an active task at this point, just second nature.

I swallowed a little hard, hoping we could bypass the morning dialogue. I wouldn't mind the change in program. This was not a topic I'd be comfortable with for a while.

"Friends," I answered way too quickly. Okay, that made me look suspect, why am I acting so skittish? I hadn't done anything wrong. I guess I just didn't want anyone else knowing my previous day's whereabouts because then I'd have to put more thought into what it all meant.

She arched her left eyebrow and continued to eye me, admittedly making me feel uncomfortable under the scrutiny until I remembered myself...I was not the fidgety type. I ran a lazy hand through my dark hair and like the strength of Samson I regained my patent composure and met her eyes.

She cracked first, as expected a genuine smile crossed her radiant face. The smile lines faintly marking her face just reminding me of what a beautiful soul my adoptive mother was, inside and out.

"Alright honey, why don't you finish up your food and meet me in the car," she said as she gracefully stood and placed her now empty cup into the sink. Her shoulder length blonde hair was down in a polished wave and she was dressed pretty casually so I surmised she'd only have a few patients for today. She then proceeded to straighten out her lavender blouse before she placed a light kiss on my forehead on her way out of the kitchen.

I released a breath I was not aware that I was holding in once she was out of sight. She was a highly intuitive woman; she saw the falter in my eyes before but she chose to let it go. That respect of my privacy made me smile a bit before I finished the last of my muesli and ran upstairs to grab my gym bag.

I belonged to one of the larger gyms in the state, outside of the inner city of course. All Olympia was a two story building with various shades of blue making up the general appearance of my home gym. I couldn't guess how many people trained here because I only concerned myself with whoever was in my level, meaning my teammates. I've pretty much trained with the same guys since I joined this gym at 5 so these people knew me just as well as my family. Again a relative term since no one really knew me; I kept people at arm's length.

The drive downtown was pretty peaceful since our conversation was held up exclusively by mom. She was gushing over one of her patients, a little 6 year old boy who sang for her the last time he was in her office. She really enjoyed working as a pediatrician, I couldn't understand why.

I got to the gym and it was usual order of events: warm up for 20 minutes; strength and conditioning and then some stretching. I couldn't help but notice that everyone around me was acting sort of funny. It was an unsettling feeling as if they were aware of something I wasn't privy to. Overly chatty in the lockers although they knew I was not one for idle chitchat. Even ignoring my glares that meant `you're acting weird, stop talking to me'.

Unlike the people at school who pushed and annoyed me, I had a peaceful cohesive relationship with my teammates. We had a mutual understanding, years' worth of trial and error before we reached our higher level of symbiosis. I even considered some of them `friends'. Funny thing is back when we were kids, Mason was jealous of the camaraderie I shared with my team. I still found that ridiculous but that was how comfortable I was here at the gym.

We all shared a mutual goal to be better athletes and that was always the focus. Yeah, of course it was a bunch of guys and there would be the expected amount of horsing around but these guys understood something about me and shared it...DRIVE. So at first they were easier to relate to than my new family. The gym is where I could let go of the outside world and just concentrate on myself; it was a great place to just be. But this morning was odd...

At first I was overtaken by an irrational bout of paranoia and believed they were behaving strange because they knew about Ryan. That did not go down well with me, like dry swallowing a large pill it was uncomfortable. I was questioning every greeting and every smile shot my way. Yeah I was being overly analytical but it couldn't be helped.

I decided to ignore it for the time being and concentrate on the matter at hand. I was in the beginning of my stretches when one of the first people I'd met when I moved here sat next to me. I regarded him guardedly, something was up.

He just sat down and took to the splits which is what I was doing at the time and carried on quietly for a while. Nate was a year older than me, Italian and all with the dark, shapely features. He was also one of the taller gymnasts I knew -over 6ft. I gazed at him for a while, regarding him with suspicion before continuing my flexibility work out. The silence though did not last for long.

"How you feeling for Conference?" he asked with an all knowing smile on his face. The New York State Conference was one of the bigger meets we'd get to compete in as a team. More importantly though for me, it's one of the opportunities to qualify for nationals. He knew very well how I felt about it, I was practically salivating.

"It's whatever," I gave a severely lacking attempt at faux nonchalance and reached for my foot still seated in the 180 degree position. That's when I received a jab to my ribs and I glared at the perpetrator.

"Don't even try that shit with me Haynes!" he laughed as he changed positions alongside me.

"Then don't ask me stupid questions," I retorted with a small grin playing on my lips. Nate is a jovial character off of the competition mat and the loudest cheerleader in the entire state. He's voice could always cut through the sound of a filled arena when one of us was competing. But right now I was still questioning the atmosphere in the gym and I somehow knew I could link it to him.

I shrugged at him and tried to clear my mind of all the clutter that seems to have an occupying presence. I didn't like being distracted; a scattered mind was a weak mind. I had learned to control myself first, so that I was in a better stand point to predict and react to my surroundings. So whatever funk I was in, I just had to shake but addressing that would directly lead me down a path I would much rather avoid. I was deeply preoccupied with my own reflecting that I was slightly startled by Nate speaking.

"So I have a proposal," out of my peripheral vision I could see he was giving me a pointed look.

I didn't bother facing him while he spoke so I guess he took that as his cue to elaborate.

"The guys were thinking about throwing a party. Well not a party per se, more like a team rally," he looked at me eagerly. I just moved on to the next position, wondering since when did they need my approval or input to throw one of their get-togethers. Our routine was, they plan, get all worked up then just let me know what to bring...simple. So what's the fuss now?

"They wanted to know if you were interested?" he said taking a slight pause at the look I was giving him. In all honesty, now I was just curious as to what he's getting at. I felt like he was stalling, like there was more to it than what he was letting on. And his use of the word `they' was indicative of his apprehension, like he was somehow removing himself from this united movement.

"...Whoa maybe interested was too much of a strong word. I meant willing" he finished with a comical arch of his eyebrows.

He gave me an apologetic smile just for good measure. This is what usually happened when someone was feeling guilty about something around me. They usually dug out their own grave with little to no assistance from me.

"Why don't `they' ask me themselves," I sighed while using my fingers to air quote the word `they' for further emphasis. Okay, now I was helping. I was amused by his nervous behavior which I believed was unwarranted. Nate and I go way back, he knows I don't particularly care for socials but I'd always go if he asked.

"Well...dude" he sort of gestured to the floor mat as a whole -as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. I scanned the room and saw the expectant looks that everyone was giving me. They were all intently watching this conversation play out, none to subtly I may add. These looks were familiar to me for one reason alone-they'd all been looking at me that exact same way since I arrived this morning.

I lazily shrugged at his unspoken message. I was starting to feel like they had suddenly developed a knack for the dramatics. This was a gross exaggeration of my non-conformist behavior. Like I'd said, I'd frequented team parties all through the years, so what was up with this?

"Fine, I'll come to whatever you have in mind," hoping to put a dead end to this talk.

But the hesitant expression marring Nate's usually charming face did little to assure me of peace. There was more to it.

"See...you're the only one with a big enough back yard to fit-"

"No," I cut him off before he finished rambling.

"No?" he had the wisdom not to look shocked. He'd expected that, so the question that permeated through my subconscious was why. Why go through this whole charade if he knew the outcome... Nate was a lot of things but stupid was not one of them.

"You haven't even heard me out yet. It would mean a great deal to the guys...makes for a happy team?" he phrased that as a question. He was grasping for straws here, even he knew that argument held no water.

Silence. That was what he received from my end. I didn't see anything I could further contribute to this discussion so it was closed as far as I was concerned.

"You're awful, I don't know why I'm friends with you," he stated with an exaggerated pout of his lips. That was funny, real mature negotiating going on here. I believe this was supposed to be emotional blackmail...wow that was a moot tactic to use.

"Fine, I knew you'd refuse. So I'll raise the deal, what if Mihai okayed you to compete your new vaults at Conference?" he said with a smug smile on his face. He knew he had me at the mere mention of my new vaults.

"I could convince him it would be beneficial to test them out now". It was a given that Nate had quite a bit of clout being a senior, national team member and captain but even his powers of influence had their limits. Mihai was impervious...I would know, I've tried.

He was the only man or woman I had met that I could not get to bend to my will, even slightly. He was a very sharp, stern figure in our gym. His heavy Romanian accent just added to the overall gruffness of his character. So you could imagine how I was dubious of this whole ploy. I was unconvinced Nate could do a thing about changing Mihai's mind.

"Bull," is the single word I uttered.

"Ye of little faith, give me a week. And your A-game during the next few work outs. You already have the skills down," he pressed like a salesman in the boardroom. In truth he actually was driving the deal home.

It was no secret within the guys I shared training sessions with that I was -mildly put- frustrated with the prolonged pause on me competing my new skills. Mihai claimed it was too early in the season and moreover my career to be competing such skills. The irony was sickening considering the fact that HE taught me the vaults. It was equivalent to handing me a loaded gun with the condition that I don't use it. I couldn't see the sense in that at all.

All he succeeded in doing was coax my hunger to unprecedented proportions. It was actually inhuman...I hate the bastard. He was among the few people outside of my double life who could get a visible reaction out of me, one in particular the entire gym had grown accustomed to witnessing. FRUSTRATION.

"15," was my response. That was the maximum amount of people I would allow into my home which was conveniently the same number of people as our team.

Nate watched me intently as a slow smile of realization crept on his face. He knew he'd successfully baited me. But I didn't view this as a loss. If he in fact was triumphant with Mihai I would get what I wanted, it was a win-win.

"30," he said with a determined expression on his face.

"No vault, no-"I started to say.

"No party, got it. Jeez, you drive a hard bargain" he said as he got up to leave. With a departing smile and a pat on my shoulder he was off to whichever apparatus he was starting on. So apparently I just became a party host...

I got up a little begrudgingly wondering if maybe I had gotten the short end of the stick...no. I wanted to compete those vaults, I was ready. I had been training into the foam pit for way too long, he hardly let me do it even on our competition mats. Any and every possible, even remote opportunity to throw my news skills was a welcomed one.

I walked over to the water dispenser for a quick drink before getting it on with the rest of my work out. I was pulling up a plastic cup when another one of my long time teammates ,Mark ,walked up to me. Unlike Nate he was the complete opposite in stature, he was 5ft4 with reddish-brown hair and very round facial features. He had really broad shoulders and a very tapered waist ala Jonny Bravo.

"Man! You just made my day," he grinned up at me with his large eyes.

He was a goofy character to say the least. He had an affinity for getting hurt; no one I knew had worse luck then him. In or out of the gym, he would always have a new bump or bruise to sport. The stories behind his accidents left you at a moral crossroad, whether to pity his misfortune or to laugh at him. I had no morality to speak of so I found them humorous. He took it like a champ though, that's what made him so likeable. Funny thing is, they were always minor injuries, you'd figure someone with his bout of bad luck is bound to be in some cast or brace sooner or later but no...I guess that's why against popular belief, he stated adamantly that he's a pretty lucky person. He could always walk away from his `accidents'.

"I haven't done anything yet," is said flatly.

"Still, we didn't think you'd agree ya know? I thought different of course" he said confidently.

I stopped drinking and gave him an inquisitive look.

"Unless you were planning on spotting yourself on Highbar?" he said with a self-satisfied grin.

I gave him a small smile before turning to locate Mihai. We had experienced coaches and assistant coaches to spot us on the various apparatus but there was this grisly one called Heinrich. He was a creep; I didn't like him touching me in any way, shape or form, even if it were absolutely necessary. His hands would linger for far too long. The guys found it funny when we realized that he only did that with me, the others were unaffected by his perving.

Dismissing Mark's crude reminders with a slight shake of my head, I walked away from him. Mihai found me before I had even crossed the gym to the floor mat. That's where we usually started for the day so I was about to do a few tumbling passes to get into the swing of things.


"Today we start on pommels" he said in his barely comprehendible tone. If there was one thing I loathed about gymnastics, it was Pommel Horse. And he knew it. Every other event came naturally to me. The recommended movements were just so peculiar to me and I'd find that I would keep my muscles tightly coiled all through the routine.

I like being in control, I love having structure. That was just how I was wired so telling me to `let loose' wouldn't score you any points. Regrettably my coach had no interest in scoring any brownie points by me. One of our many issues.

Mihai knew about my aversion to the piece of apparatus and saw the look of discontent I gave him.

"You do now, get it out of way," he carried on as he stalked over to the side of the gym where we have our pommels with me trailing. This man was like a freight train when on a mission; obnoxiously forceful and nearly impossible to stop.

"I thought we were concentrating on making the world's team this year?" I was attempting to ration this out with him. If there was a man completely immune to my silver tongue, it was my Romanian coach, Mihai Nistor. He put all my spy training to shame, if any of my handlers saw this I'd die. Maybe not just figuratively .I never won with him.

"You are not pulling out of the all-around because of one event, that is pitiful. You are next Alexei Nemov, champions do not quit," he commanded in his gruff voice. I couldn't be bothered with the life lessons he was `attempting' to instill in me, as I have been told. My mind was trained on the fact that he used the word pitiful and me in the same sentence. Did I mention we butted heads more often than not?

I hadn't even touched the piece and I was already thoroughly annoyed. No wonder I was constantly tense during that particular apparatus because of my joint irritation with the event and the maniacal direction I was subjected to.

There were two reasons I put up with this prematurely senile old man- he knew what he was doing. Mihai was part of the former unified team...you guessed it, the Soviet Union, which dominated both men's and women's gymnastics for quite a while before the disbandment. Call it an indirect form of patriotism or my intuitive search for a faint sign of familiarity when I first came to the States and shopping around for a home gym. The second, well the man was a three time Olympian and vault gold medalist in the 1976 Montréal games. I guess he saw part of his junior self in me, the only hindrance in his own all-around aspiration was a particular weakness on the pommel horse.

"One problem with that...I'm American...and African, how many black people did you guys have in old Romania?" I asked. I couldn't resist adding my two cents worth, since I knew I was going to do what he instructed in any case. This was our norm, the back and forth before the dagger-stares and under-breath curses on my part.

"None with that attitude -now mount" he retorted, end of discussion.


"So how was Mihai?" Mom asked with a knowing smile playing on her mischievous face. This was now 5 hours after she had dropped me off earlier.

"Insufferable," was all I had to add. I ran a deliberate hand through my hair to smooth the elastic out of my dark tresses and letting it fall down my shoulders.

"I haven't seen him in a while; I should pop in the next time I'm around. Or better yet, we should invite him over for supper?" she asked with an exaggerated amount of zeal. I knew what she was doing, she was mocking me. I was honestly too tired to attempt humoring her.

"I prefer being with dad," I said lazily gazing in her direction. Okay, I lied; I wasn't too tired to prod back. I knew how she was `not so secretly' concerned that I preferred being with my dad over her. My maternal grandparents always used to point out the quiet chemistry me and dad shared. We had a silent understanding and could comfortably be around each other with no vocal exchange necessary. They teased that she was overly abrasive and pushed me into favoring dad over her. Truth be told I had no favorites, she knew that, but it didn't remove the complex she had gained.

She gave me a faux hurt expression and a playful shove. In return I decided to grace her with a small smile. She had the most playful blue eyes with an innocent glint that danced in them. She always seemed to beam whenever I'd show even the smallest return of affection for as long as I could remember.

We drove down the highway for a while before she interrupted our peace with more unnecessary talking.

"Do you mind dropping by the grocery store on our way home? I need a few things for later," I just shrugged at that since I had no intention of actually leaving the car.

"Did you need more tape for practice or are you still good? Gosh, the way you plough through that stuff..." admittedly I had tuned her out at that point because the passing traffic seemed to hold a greater appeal.

I watched as different shaped vehicles and various colors passed by in no particular hurry. It also seemed like a good afternoon to go swimming, the late summer air being welcoming- maybe I'd do that after my nap-

"Oh yes, and Mason called, several times actually. Are you guys fighting again?" she asked seeming concerned. The worry was misplaced, Mason and I never fought. What would happen was always a sever overreaction on his part. Our past being of any indication, our pattern was: He'd annoy me and I'd ignore him in return, then he'd overcompensate by calling and apologizing profusely because he'd be worried I wouldn't talk to him again. That's another one of our quirks.

"No," I answered as I cranked up the AC, I always liked it colder than the rest of my family. In fact my room was frequently 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the house, including winters. Mom continued to regard me skeptically as she drove us to the Kroger on our way home. The side eye she was giving me was achieving nothing besides grating my nerves.

Pulling up to the relatively quiet store parking lot, mom turned towards me after putting the car in park.

"Don't you wanna go inside with me? I'll be quick".

I gave a slight lift of my lip similar to a wince to show my displeasure.

"Sweetheart-"she began to coo. Now she was using unwarranted tactics. I hated being smothered; my mother was already a 22 out of 10 on the overbearing chart on a good day-worse when she's actually trying. I'd rather be spared the anguish of her doting over me like a stray puppy. How do you get a snake out a hole? You smoke it out. I was being smoked out the car.

I opened the door without sparing a second glance in her direction; I knew she was grinning though. Honestly, Justin gets his annoying antagonistic behavior from this woman here. I was still clad in my gym clothes, loose fitting grey sweat pants, a blue tank top and Nike trainers. My hair was more disheveled than normal and I still had remnants of chalk dust on my hands and arms. This was apparently the best attire to go grocery shopping according to my mother, not that I cared of course. I'd just rather not do it at all.

The walk up to the large store was littered with your typical suspects' housewives with their large minivans and mini-soccer teams, people of various ages stocking up on liquor for the weekend, the PDA couples and the occasional employees.

"Will you need anything before your upcoming meet?" mom asked as we made it down the frozen food aisle.

"Mm-hmm," I hummed as I shook my head slightly to emphasize the negative.

"Alright, just let me know if anything pops up-Linda!" she suddenly exclaimed. I looked up from the freezers at that point to see a short round woman with mouse colored hair in front of us. Great, more company.

"Katharine, Hunter how are you?" she asked beaming at my mother like most people did when they see her.

"Wonderful, just picked him up from the gym," mom said gesturing to me. Was this my cue to participate in this conversation?-I'll pass.

"Ah, Charles told us about your national ranking as of last year, Congratulations," she said and smiled at me. Well this was thoroughly awkward; I decided to take my leave at that point.

"I'll get the rest of the stuff," I said to my mom while prying the shopping list from her. She gave a bit of a fight there, gripping the piece of paper a little tighter, earning her a small frown from me.

"Meet you at checkout? "she called after me. I gave a nod in ascent and swiftly departed.

"Still such a shy one," I heard Linda say to my mom as I rounded the bend to the next aisle. I had very little interest in passing pleasantries, even more so with anyone related to Charles Meyer.

We weren't actually getting a lot of things so I grabbed a single basket and went on my way. There were a lot of things that I was good at and even more that I could easily pick up on but apparently navigating the aisles of a grocery store was not one of them. It only occurred to me then that I'd never done this on my own before, I was always the passive tag-along accompanying mom or Tori while they did the scourging. How can such a menial and mundane task be so increasingly annoying? Some of the locations of the different food types made no logical sense. At that point I had convinced myself an absolute idiot had worked this system out.

Speaking of idiots...while grabbing the whipped cream another larger and fairer hand covered mine over the can. I knew who it was without looking up; I was just so annoyed with myself that I hadn't seen it coming. The contact sent a ripple through my skin at the unwelcome contact. Raising my eyes slowly I took in the features of the black-haired; green-eyed boy in front of me. More like a man from his sheer size and 5 o'clock shadow but unfortunately maturity was not promised with age.

"Chuck, let go," I said in a low voice. I hadn't the least bit of patience to play nice with this one. Chuck is the aforementioned Charles and also Justin's dipshit best friend. We had just ran into his mom, why hadn't I figured that there was a chance that he was lurking these aisles somewhere being a skeeze.

"Fancy seeing you here," he smirked down at me. The Neanderthal had the nerve to look pleased with this discovery.

He let go of my hand after a brief stare off. He had built up a resistance after several years of being subjected to my glare. Pity he had no idea my bite really was worse than my bark. I dropped the can and carried on searching the racks for what I was looking for. I was fully aware of him falling in step beside me. He would occasionally reach for something in the higher racks before I did, not that his assist was necessary since I was 5ft10, I'm pretty sure I could manage.

"Your brother did mention that I was sleeping over next weekend, right?" he asked looking expectant. Whether I had prior knowledge of this slumber party or not wouldn't be of consequence, it would happen anyway. Justin didn't need my permission to have his friends over so I'm guessing he was making conversation.

I didn't spare him a glance as I proceeded to drop more things into the basket, scratching out some of the items for healthier alternatives. Seriously? Mom is a doctor, how is she the one who made this list?

"So I was thinking, once we ditch your brother-" he said with that smug smile appearing on his face. Here we go again, this is why I call Chuck Meyer a skeeze. He's the dirtiest, sluttiest scum you could imagine. No further depth to his character, he's the embodiment of the jock stereotype. He's on the football team with my brother and they do everything together. I swear Justin believes Chuck can do no wrong `Bros before hoes' and all.

Unfortunately my brother had zero knowledge of Charles's interest in me since I was like 14. It started out subtly, he'd hang out around the house a little longer, sometimes before Justin was even back home from school. I'd just assumed he was into Tori and knew he didn't stand a chance because she was way too smart to fall for his vapid charms. I was wrong about that one, I admit.

He'd only become more open or aggressive about his attraction to me in the last year or so. Sometime last year the two with the third member of their group Jarod came back drunk and I was the only one awake to let them in. Little did I know after offering Chuck a pitcher of water as my form of hospitality-he could get himself a glass- he would try to kiss me in the kitchen while the other two were off somewhere else in the house.

He couldn't catch or throw balls using his right wrist for a week afterwards. Most would be perturbed after the encounter and be put off by the blatant rejection. That's where his clear lack of intellect falls in, I think being drunk had dulled the pain of the grip I had on him and we never spoke of it since. Yet he's continued to come onto me, frequently...when Justin was not around.

He had a reputation for being a complete man-whore, yet girls and guys continuously threw themselves at him. Succumbing to his advances as if it were an honor of sorts. Yeah he was openly bisexual but he failed to disclose his sexual interests towards me to his best friend. He was sadly praised as modern day royalty in our sadly misguided high school halls.

"Sick," I hissed not hiding my revulsion at his insinuation.

"Seriously? You're going to start hurting my feelings. What's wrong with me?" he asked with his arms out stretched with an incredulous look on his face. A testament to his arrogance.

I actually laughed at that. Well my equivalent being a single huff. Yeah, I would rather not unleash Pandora's Box. An easier question would have been what's not. Should be a shorter list right? Actually no, I was stumped he had no redeeming qualities besides his physical appearance. That's all he had to offer.

"Never mind, don't answer that," he back tracked checking himself. I was growing tired of this conversation though, and beyond that something else had caught my attention that had me instantly tense.

My eyes darted like a hawk over the expansive premises; I had watched people, studied behavior over the years to know what's deemed as normal. My instincts told me to be on guard and Chuck was an inconvenience at the time. If there was a single thing I knew about staying alive, was never doubt you instincts.

I read the rest of the list and moved towards the direction of my disturbance. But I quickly remembered the excess baggage I was carrying.

"Is Justin still seeing Stacy, `cause I swear if-"

"Do I look like Justin?" I cut him off by standing directly in front of him. For two reasons, one I wanted to stop his movements; this is where our casual stroll ended. Two, I had made eye contact with the strange man wearing a fishing hat in the adjacent aisle. He'd been matching our pace since I had bumped into Charles and his cart was still empty. I thought the whole point of shopping was to make a purchase.

I couldn't make out his eyes from my standpoint because of the thick brimmed glasses he wore. They were tinted and obscured clear vision, almost opaque in their color. The next thing I noticed was that he knew that I had become aware of his presence and somehow I knew that behind those dark glasses, he was meeting my gaze.

I must have lost track of time while trying to size up the mysterious man in the next aisle. I couldn't make out much of him since most of his body was blocked from view by the rows of products stacked on the racks. Even so, there was no confusion that we had spotted each other. It was like he had started a real life game of chess and now it was my move...

I don't play games. Losing was never an option where I was concerned. The idea of a game gave the impression that winning was a contested spot. Where the winner takes all, a game of keeps-there was no room for any kind of sportsmanship. So that left me with the next thought, he let himself be seen, he wanted me to be aware of his lurking. Why?

There was an annoying buzzing going on in my near surroundings that was obnoxiously loud. In that instant I remembered Chuck was still talking to me; he was surprisingly perceptive enough to know that he had lost my attention.

I reluctantly tore my eyes off the furtive man long enough to shoo the unwavering pest. I did not like for anyone in my everyday life to catch the attention of any mercenaries that interacted with me, no matter who it was, that included getting Chuck away from me fast. The two had to remain separate and exclusive of one another. The little they knew about me already unsettled me to no end. Everyone was a threat until proven otherwise.

I leaned into the taller teenager and brushed the side of my face against his. He instantly stiffened and took in a sharp breath of air. I had two reasons for doing this, first to hide Chuck's identity from the man who was regarding us intently. Two, I knew if I didn't do something unexpected, I wouldn't be able to lose him fast enough. I knew the effect that I had on him, feeling my body heat through his clothes, my scent wafting up his nose, this is the closest his ever been to me before. I moved my thigh between his legs and made sure he felt the slow but deliberate rise of my knee.

"Talk to me again, and you'll be coughing out your balls," I whispered near his ear before turning and making my way further down the aisle.

I looked back and saw that I had achieved the desired effect on Chuck, a brain malfunction. He was rooted to the spot I had left him in; probably replaying the close proximity he had to me. I looked down briefly at the list mom had drawn up, pasta. That was next and it was on the other end of the supermarket so I made my trek. If my presumption was correct, he would follow me.


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