Going Under Page 10

I didn’t make a move, and neither did Jessie, making us partners for the hour. “What have you and the others discussed?” I asked, while staring at our options remaining on the board.

“She speaketh?” he asked sarcastically.

I looked at him and rolled my eyes. “You and I covered Seeing In New Ways on Monday. What did you cover with Brad yesterday?”

“Recognizing Patterns.”

“That’s good because Kara and I covered that one yesterday. Do you have a preference for today?”

“I think Challenging Assumptions is appropriate, would you agree?”

“Challenging Assumptions is fine with me.”

I opened the assignment envelope provided by Mrs. Tanner and read the directions aloud, “List three assumptions you have made about your partner and provide evidence why you have made the assumption. When your lists are completed, be prepared to agree with your partner’s opinion or persuade the opinion of your partner.”

“That doesn’t seem a whole lot different than our preconceived notions activity on Monday,” he complained.

“All of these partner exercises are intended to make us more comfortable with each other to promote our creativity without fear of rejection. This exercise is a little different because you must show evidence for your assumption, rather than accept it simply as opinion,” I explained.

He looked a little worried. “This could get interesting. I might learn how little you truly think of me. I hope I don’t get my feelings hurt too badly.”

I didn’t respond to his comment as I opened my composition book to begin my list of assumptions. He finished before me, and although I didn’t look up at him, I felt his stare as I continued working on my list.

“If you don’t stop staring at me, I’m going to make the assumption that you are creepy,” I threatened.

“You haven’t looked up at me, so what makes you think I’m staring at you?” he laughed.

“I don’t think, I know you are because I feel your eyes on me.”

“Should I assume that makes you psychic or psycho?”

“Whatever!” I said through my gritted teeth.

“Whatever is what one says to admit defeat without actually admitting it,” he taunted.

Whoa! That got my attention and I looked up from my notebook to ask, “Where did you come up with that bull? Do you make it up as you go?”

He seemed pleased with capturing my full attention and said, “I did not make it up. It’s a well known fact.”

It was time for us to get on the same page. “Let’s get one thing straight; I’m not easily defeated, but if I ever am, you won’t know it unless I want you to know it.”

He looked at me and hesitated before asking, “Are you finished tearing me down with your list of assumptions because I’ve been finished with yours?”

“I’m ready so let’s do this. I’ll even go first,” I offered.

“Not a problem, Princess.”

“You smoke cigarettes, so I assume you do not care about your health.”

Hah! I’d like to see him argue that one.

He nodded as though he was caught and said, “You partially have me on that one. I smoke, but it doesn’t mean I don’t care about my health. I didn’t understand the risks when I started smoking because I was so young. Now that I am older, I want to quit, but it isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do.”

“So, you are telling me you are too weak to quit?”

That got his full attention. “Addicted to nicotine? Yes. But weak? No. Never mistake me for weak, Princess.”

He didn’t have to convince me he wasn’t weak because I heard his strength when he spoke. I saw it in his eyes and in the persistence he showed when he didn’t give up on talking to me this entire week while I ignored him.

“You’re next, so enlighten me and tell me something I don’t know about myself,” I challenged.

He grinned and I had learned in the short time since I met him that there was always mischief behind it. “Okay, I hear your family is friends with Forbes’ family. Considering the fact that he is a complete ass, I can only assume you date him because it’s what your parents want, not what you want.”

How could a school assignment get so personal? This was so not working for me and I oozed sarcasm as I said, “Please, don’t be afraid to get personal about things that are none of your business.”

“I don’t believe the exercise said anything about avoiding personal issues, so spill. Are you madly in love with Forbes or are you just sleeping with him until someone better comes along?”

There it was, another speculation about me. “You are a jackass.”

“I’ve been called worse, but you’re avoiding the question, Princess.”

I hesitated and considered my answer before saying, “Forbes is my boyfriend and that’s all you need to know.”

He leaned back in his desk and folded his arms across his chests, smirking. “So, you aren’t in love with him.”

“I didn’t say that.”

He grinned at me like he had the upper hand. “Oh, but you did. Just not in those words, so it’s back to you.”

I picked up the sheet of paper I had jotted my assumptions on and gave it a quick rip down the middle. “Okay, two can play this game.”

“I’m not afraid, so give it your best shot, Princess,” he challenged.

“Okay. You talk this talk and walk this walk like you don’t care about a thing in the world, but you didn’t want me to be mad at you about what you said. You put on a front because you do care what others think. You care what I think.”

“What’s the evidence to back your assumption?”

Screw the plan. We would have to adjust accordingly because I wasn’t letting him win this. “Come on, you immediately flew into apologizing to me for what you said the second you saw me after it happened. Don’t you remember? Let me refresh your memory.” I puffed up my chest and did my best impression of him as I mocked, “This is me being real and I am sorry for what I said about you,” then I laughed at how easily I wiped that cocky grin off of his face.

He looked down at his paper and began to doodle as he said, “I apologized because what I said was wrong, but it doesn’t make me a wuss.”

I clearly touched a nerve. “I didn’t say you were a wuss, I said you cared about what people thought of you. You have spent the whole week trying to get me to forgive you because you care what I think of you.”

“I believe it’s my turn, now,” he said and broke into a beautiful grin. “With such a deep, thoughtful opinion like that about me, I can only assume that means you’ve been thinking about me. A lot.”

The boy was bold, if nothing else, and he had no idea how right he was. I thought about him way more than I should all week long, but I would die before I admitted that to him. “Hello? That was the assignment. I had to think about you because it was a requirement for Mrs. Tanner’s assignment. Duh!”

“You’re lying and it’s all over your blushing face.”

I was getting tired of everyone reading my face and I felt the heat rising in my cheeks. “My face is red because you make my blood boil.”

“You’re hot for me, that’s why you feel like your face is on fire.”

None of this was part of the plan. I was supposed to be the one in control. How could things have gone so wrong so quickly? While I contemplated what to say next, I was saved by the bell. Literally. I quickly gathered my things without looking at him, all while not denying his speculation.

Before I walked out the door, I looked up at him. Smug arrogance spread across his face and my inner beotch stepped forward to take control because I refused to let him win this round. I waited outside the building exit by the picnic tables used by the freshmen class during break. He walked out of the building in my direction and I used my finger to motion for him to come over. He grinned, believing he had me where he wanted me, and I grinned because I knew he didn’t.

“Have something to admit, Princess?”

Easing into the warming up stage might not be an option like Payton and I discussed. What I was about to do could be considered more like jumping in head first. “You might have announced in front of the entire football team and cheerleading squad that I fictitiously liked what your hands did to me, but I just made you come with one finger, so tell me now who has the skills.”

I gave him a wink before I walked away, then heard, “Is that the game we’re gonna play because I believe I heard a challenge and I don’t think I could accept it if I didn’t give you fair warning. I don’t back down, Princess.”

I never feared he would. Panic set in and I wondered; what had I just gotten myself into?

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This version of the Princess was fun. I could toy with this one without the fear of real rejection. As long as I didn’t look serious, I could accept her dismissal, so I decided to push my luck to the extreme to get a reaction out of her.

I needed some time to strategize, so I avoided sitting next to Claire in third period history. I sat across the room, but I couldn’t keep my eyes from wandering in her direction. Based on their serious facial expressions, her conversation with Payton was deep.

She refused to acknowledge my presence by looking in my direction, but Payton looked right at me and gave me what I perceived as an ‘Awe, it’s on now’ nod. I didn’t think Claire had it in her to do too much damage, but Payton I wasn’t so sure about and I spent the hour pondering what they could be up to.

I got to Physics class early and I hoped Claire would follow soon after without Forbes so I might have a moment to play with her. When she walked in the door alone, I was pleased and swiveled to the side to see her better. I realized too late that I must look like a grinning hyena when she asked, “What’s with the shit eating grin?”

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