You're dripping like a saturated sunrise
You're spilling like an overflowing sink
After lunch, the rest of the day had passed pretty quickly. I kept to myself, as usual, vaguely aware of the feeling that I was being watched. But I chalked it up to paranoia and anxiety, doodling hands and eyes in my notebook throughout the rest of my classes, heaving a sigh of relief when I got a text from Dylan saying we didn't need to take the bus home today.
"Thanks for picking us up dad," Dylan started, pulling open the passenger's side door of our fathers truck.
"No problem sweetie." He gave her a kiss on the cheek as I climbed into the back, taking Dylan's backpack from her and throwing it onto the empty seat next to mine.
"We're on dinner duty. What are you guys in the mood for?"
"Tacos," we said in unison, neither of us batting an eyelash. Our dad laughed, pulling away from the curb and navigating through the busy parking lot.
"Okay then, tacos it is. How did your first day back at school go?"
"It went," I responded, staring out the window as we passed the busses, watching the rowdy teenagers pushing each other off the seats.
"That bad, huh?"
"What did Mrs. Arnold want? You never told me at lunch!"
"That's because I didn't want our entire lunch table knowing." I emphasized, narrowing my eyes at her to let her know that by entire lunch table, I meant Scott McCall. I mean sure, the whole 'almost-started-a-fight' thing was a lie, but I didn't need king-of-all-that's-good-and-pure Scott McCall to hear something like that at all.
Dylan waved me off, leaning further around her seat to listen to the story.
"It was nothing really. Violet said some stuff to me on the bus, and then I said some stuff back and then apparently someone told Mrs. Arnold that I tried to start a fight."
"You tried to start a fight?!" My father spoke up, pulling into the nearest Taco Bell parking lot.
"No, someone started a rumor that she tried to start a fight." Dylan clarified, reaching over to turn the keys in the ignition, removing them and plopping them into dad's hands. "We want the usual." She smiled, shooing him out of the car. He sighed, but went, his blue nurse scrubs looking bright and stark against the suburban setting.
I watched him hold open the door for an old man, smiling broadly at him in a way I could only describe as a "Dylan-smile." Dylan was so much like our father it was kind of terrifying. She was literally the female version of him. She had his brown hair and brown eyes, his sparkling personality, she even scrunched up her nose when she lied like our father (the unfortunate tell that alerted us to the fact that, spoiler alert, Santa Claus is not actually real. Bummer, right? Life is just all downhill after that).
"Noah!" Dylan snapped her fingers in front of my face, jolting me back to the here and now. "Do you ever listen to me when I speak? For the love of god, maybe if you stopped living inside of your head and started living in the real world, Scott McCall would notice you!"
The words hit me like a slap across the face, and as soon as they came out of Dylan's mouth I could see the brief sense of regret flash across her features. It was gone as quickly as it had appeared though, and instead she just repositioned herself and softened her expression slightly. Dylan Paige had no regrets. I blinked at her once before turning my head back towards the window.
"So? What did Violet actually say to you?"
"I don't know, I was too busy living in my head to actually hear her."
"Noah, don't be like that."
"Well how would like me to be Dylan?" I tugged at the sleeves of my flannel, before crossing my arms over my chest and glancing back over to her with narrowed eyes. "Oh wait, I know that answer."
"And what exactly is that supposed to mean?" Dylan mirrored my posture, cocking her head to the side in annoyance.
"Well you're not exactly shy about telling me all the ways in which I need to change myself."
"I'm just trying to make you happier!" Her expression grew exasperated, her arms rising up for a minute before falling to her sides. I felt an invisible string inside me snap, all of the calm composure I could usually manage to fake completely evaporated. I could practically feel the fire burning in my eyes as I turned them on her, my cheeks flaring up in rage.
"Do you even hear yourself Dylan?! You constantly telling me I'm not good enough the way I am is never going to make me happy!" I screamed, leaning forward in my seat. Her eyes went wide as she leaned away from me, looking somewhere in between shocked and appalled. "All that does is let me know that I don't live up to your standards. And maybe I am unhappy with my life right now. But that doesn't mean I want to be what you want me to be either!"
I felt the tears welling up in my eyes before they started falling, and managed to swipe my hands quickly across my face as our father opened the door. He handed me the two bags of tacos and started up the car again, trying to make small talk. I stayed quiet, refusing to even look Dylan's way, answering my father only when directly spoken to. As soon as we pulled into the driveway I grabbed the food and my book bag, hopping out of the car and hastily making my way inside. I dropped the bag of food onto the kitchen counter, taking as many tacos as I could carry from it, a plate from the cabinet, and some napkins from the table, before climbing the stairs and barricading myself into my room.
After eating my weight (and half of Dylan's) in Mexican food, I decided that my sorrows were officially drowned. But that didn't mean I wasn't going to put on my sad music and stare out my window until the sun went down.
As soon as it was dark enough, I propped my window open and climbed out onto the small ledge of roof below it. Equipped with my slingshot in one hand, and a handful of paintballs in the other, I tucked my knees up to my chest and let the sweet, sweet sounds of You Me At Six engulf me and my problems.
There was a knock on my door and I ignored it, loading a paintball into the slingshot and aiming it at the nearest tree. The door opened a crack, and then all at once, as Dylan silently tiptoed across my floor. I didn't even need to turn around to know it was her though. She had such light and graceful footsteps compared to my father's heavy trot and my mother's careful and measured walk. Dylan was effortless in everything she did.
"Please, don't shoot me!" She exclaimed, pitching her voice a few octaves higher to impersonate the tree currently in the center of my mental bullseye.
I ignored her completely, squeezing one eye shut as I braced my tongue against the inside of my teeth. I released the slingshot with a snap and watched as the bark bled yellow.
"Ouch. What did the tree do to you?"
"Nothing. I was imagining your face pinned to it." I turned to look at her, a sarcastically pleasant smile strewn across my face. She pursed her lips forward and nodded slowly, before ducking her head through the window and climbing out onto the roof with me.
"Oh-kay. I deserved that one." She folded her feet underneath her, smoothing out her dress.
"Yep." I popped my 'p', loading another paintball into the slingshot and firing. A splotch of pink paint bled down over the yellow and I twirled a strand of hair around my finger. "You deserved that one too."
"I'm sorry Noah."
I gasped, bringing my hand to my mouth in mock shock. "Do my ears deceive me? Did the Dylan Paige just apologize?" She rolled her eyes and nudged my shoulder with her own, earning a smile from me.
"Will you shut up? I'm trying to be sentimental here." She bit back her own smile, turning to look out across the empty street. "I don't mean to put you down like that so often. I just want you to be happy. But I don't want to change you. I wouldn't trade you for the world, you have to know that."
"Of course I do. Who else would put up with all of your perfection with such a unique mix of admiration and disgust?"
"You're so encouraging."
"I try my best."
She stuck her middle finger up at me and I bent forward, placing a kiss on her fingertip. "I'm not perfect though."
"You're the closest thing humanly possible to it."
"Tell that to-" There was a loud crash at the end of the street, followed by bellowing laughter, as Garrett tumbled around the corner inside someone's garbage can. "Garrett."
"Well Garrett is trash, and he seems to have finally realized that himself." I pointed out, warranting a slap on the arm from Dylan. Violet came running into view, giggling as she helped Garrett out of the plastic bin and onto his feet. Liam followed, along with three other kids I had known (and hated) since kindergarten.
"All he ever talks about is Violet."
"Violet is a great big bag of dicks. My extreme distain for her is actually starting to affect my everyday life. I can't look at anything purple without feeling mild repulsion." Dylan cracked a smile at that, and I reached behind me to produce a purple paintball. "Look at this. I might vomit."
She threw her head back and laughed, scrunching up her nose. "Ew, please don't!" I felt a small pit of rage open up inside my stomach, thinking of how Violet, nasty bitchy Violet was stealing away some of my sister's happiness. I reached behind me again, grabbing my slingshot and placing it in Dylan's hand.
"Here," I handed her the small purple ball of paint and nodded towards the tree.
She bit her lip for a moment, staring down at the weapons I had just equipped her with. Violet made a particularly loud squeak from down the block as Garrett picked her up and swung her around.
My eyes flitted over them, landing directly on Liam. He stood off to the side with his hands shoved into his pockets, smiling slightly at his friends wrestling each other in the middle of the street. Kiernan (a red haired boy who was pretty tall for his age, with green eyes and a spattering of freckles across his nose, who happened to live in the house they were currently loitering in front of) snuck up behind him, diving to the ground to grab Liam's ankles and take him down.
After a few seconds of laughter and shit talking, Liam had flipped Kiernan over and pinned him to the ground. I felt my eyebrows instinctively rise, and I nodded, somewhat impressed. I mean, Liam was literally half the size of Kiernan. And yet, there he was, sitting on Kiernan's back with the kid's arms restrained behind him.
"Noah?" Dylan waved a hand in front of my face and I snapped back to attention.
"Yep, still here. Sorry."
"I was saying, how far does this thing shoot?"
I drew my eyebrows together, giving her a skeptical look. "I guess it depends on how hard you draw it back. Why?"
"Would it reach, say, down the block…?" Dylan bit her lip to hide the sinister smile spreading across her face. The lightbulb clicked in my head, and I did my best impersonation of the Cheshire cat, grinning ear to ear.
"Why don't we find out?" I extended my arm in front of me, gesturing towards the group of boys (and Violet). "After you."
I watched as Dylan raised the slingshot up, ammunition already loaded, and turned to me for one last nod of approval.
I obliged, giving her a wicked grin as I nodded. "Bombs away."
At that she let it fly, and I watched with an almost childlike glee as the paintball collided with the back of Violet's denim jacket. She fell forward onto the grass from the impact with a thud, and I had to clamp a hand over my mouth to muffle my laughter.
"What the HELL?" I heard her shriek, twisting around to get a better look at what had caused her to lose her balance. She brushed herself off, giving Brad (a boy with mousy brown hair and crooked teeth and pretty gray eyes) a hard shove, accusing him of some type of treachery.
Dylan fell onto her back next to me, her body convulsing as each wave of laughter shook through her. She dropped the slingshot into my lap and I happily loaded another paintball (green this time) into it, took aim, and fired it right at Garrett's shoes.
He jumped, looking around frantically as if someone were shooting at him with real bullets. Dylan was slightly less amused at my change of targets, so I gave her a small shrug before firing another paintball at Violet. This one missed her, crashing into Brad's chest and painting his white t-shirt red.
He looked down and let out a high pitched wail, throwing himself down onto the ground in a panic. "I've been shot! I've been shot! Call 911!"
"It's paint you dipshit!" Violet snarled, yanking him back up by the front of his t-shirt, and I felt tears sting my eyes from laughing so hard. But it was Dylan's roar of laughter that compromised our position. "What was that?" Violet spun towards our general direction, and I pulled Dylan up by her shoulder.
"Go go go!" I yelled, urging her back through the window. She landed on my floor and let out an annoyed grumble, but quickly scrambled up and ran out my door as I threw one leg over my windowsill, straddling it as I fired.
"I'll lock the door!" She threw over her shoulder as I heard her slide down the stairs.
I wasn't even really aiming at this point, I was just trying to buy us enough time for Dylan to get to the front door before a very angry and paint-covered Violet , Garrett, and company could knock on the door and either a) assault us or b) tell our parents.
I locked eyes with Liam and fired my last paintball so hard that I fell backwards into my room, tumbling into the side of my bed. I didn't look back outside to see where it had landed, partially because I didn't care and partially because I did. But there was no going back now, so I slammed my window shut and drew the blinds down as Dylan reappeared in my doorway.
"That. Was amazing." She panted, throwing herself down onto my bed in a fit of giggles.
"And you thought your big sister wasn't 'cool' enough. Pft."
"Eight minutes does not make you the 'big' sister! Besides, I'm taller than you."
"Only because you wear heels!"
"Still counts." She folded her arms seriously across her chest, hanging her head off the side of my bed to give me a smug look upside down.
"You know the only way to settle this, right?"
"Of course. And you're going down."
We parked ourselves in front of my TV, playing Mario Kart for the next three hours, and after many vigorous rounds, I emerged victorious, and consequently, the bigger sister. I didn't understand why Dylan was so hell bent on me having other friends. The relationship we had was perfectly fine with me. Besides, I knew no one else would ever be able to understand me like she did. I mean, it was a miracle in itself that somehow Kayleen liked me enough to call herself my friend. I wasn't gonna get that lucky twice in one lifetime.
My life was plain and boring, but it was a life. Some people didn't even get that. There wasn't really much to complain about. I had a loving family, a great friend, food on the table every night and a roof over my head.
I told myself this every night, that I should be grateful for the life I had. But still, something felt like it was missing. I felt an emptiness encompass me, a kind of emptiness I would have thought only to be associated with losing a limb or an organ. It felt like something inside of me was switched off, but I couldn't figure out what it was.
But one thing I did know was that a sudden influx of friends wasn't going to fix it. I was just better on my own. And there wasn't anything good or bad about it. That was just the way it was. I thought myself to sleep, with Dylan snoring softly at my feet.
I was awoken a few hours earlier than usual, with Dylan groggily shaking me awake and telling me to get my ass in gear or my ride was leaving without me. She had laid out a nice teal dress for me to wear, and I rolled my eyes, burying it back in my closet and pulling out jean shorts and a black t-shirt with "I've got nasty claws" scribbled on the front of it. I threw a teal flannel over it, just because I knew how much my sister hated it. I barely managed to tug on my shoes before I was being thrown out the door and into the back seat of the truck.
Fifteen minutes later and I was seated on the side of the lacrosse field, my head propped up in my hands as I tried to nap with my eyes open. It felt like hours had passed, and yet every time I checked my phone, it had only been another five minutes. At best.
When an hour had finally passed, I was fading fast. I fought my eyelids as they desperately struggled to close, drowsiness setting in like a wave taking me under. I did everything I could to keep myself awake, from trying to draw, to reading, to untying and retying my boots.
"-Try paying for an MRI and a visit to Eichen House."
"Yeah, this one said final." Stiles and Scott's voices drifted over to where I was holed up in the bleachers, and I spotted them within seconds. They stood a few yards away from me, in between the bleacher sections, and I quickly picked up my bag and made my way over to them, eager for something to keep me awake.
And a chance to talk to Scott again.
If I didn't mess it up.
"What the hell are we even doing here anyway?! We got like one hundred and seventeen million problems, and worrying about our status on the lacrosse team is not one of them!"
"It is now…" Scott nodded towards the field, his eyebrows ascending on his forehead. Stiles turned his head, and I halted, following their gaze to the boy in goal. Garrett and a boy with long hair were relentlessly firing shot after shot at the net, and yet not a single ball actually made it past the goalie. Not a single one. It was almost inhuman.
"Who the hell is that?" Stiles asked, narrowing his eyes in thinly veiled aggravation. The goalie removed his helmet, revealing chocolate brown hair, flushed pale cheeks and piercing blue eyes.
"Liam?" I asked, feeling my eyes widen slightly. I wasn't exactly a lacrosse aficionado, but the kid was impressive.
"Noah! Hey!" Stiles turned toward me in one quick motion, throwing him slightly off balanced. "How long have you been standing there?" He scratched at the back of his head while I blinked at him.
"Um, not long?"
"You know him?" Scott asked, throwing another glance towards the field where Liam stood talking to Garrett. He gave Liam a pat on the back, and I felt my eyes instinctively roll.
"Sorta. He's in a few of my classes. He's new. He just transferred here from Devenford Prep. " I shrugged. "Um, I mean I think. I think I heard that. I'm not really too sure, it's not like I know everything about all new students who transfer here, cause that would be weird, right?" I gave a nervous laugh as I watched myself crash, burn, and do an interpretive dance in the flames.
I ran my fingers through my hair and cleared my throat, wincing at my general awkwardness. "But anyway, um, ha, so wh-what are you guys doing here?" I gave a bright smile as I mentally face palmed. "Um. Never mind that. Of course you guys are at lacrosse practice to practice lacrosse. But then again I mean you could be here to not practice lacrosse! You guys probably don't need to practice, right? Yeah, you could be here to not practice. I'm…I'm obviously here to not practice lacrosse."
Stiles had seemed to stop listening to this train wreck (whether it was for his sake or mine I was unsure, but I appreciated it nonetheless), and was now glaring intensely at Liam, still positioned in front of the goal. His nostrils flared as he huffed out an annoyed, "Maybe we should just practice a little bit…"
Scott kept his attention focused on me and laughed, a genuine smile plastered on his face. "Yeah, we're here to practice. What are you doing here anyway?"
"O-oh, I'm here because Dylan had a singing lesson, so my options were to a) accept a ride from my father and come in two hours early to sit by myself and count the blades of grass on the field or b) to take the bus. So it was a no brainer, really."
"Not a fan of the bus?" He smiled at me again, looking down to kick one of his cleats against the end of his lacrosse stick. How was he real? Was he real? Was I dreaming? I may be dreaming. He's looking at me with those warm eyes and that reassuring smile and he's looking kind of expectant now and that's-shit that's because I still haven't answered him.
I shook my head quickly, snapping myself out of whatever teenage hormonal trance I was stuck in. "I would rather be mauled to death by angry wolves. It's essentially the same thing, accept actually being mauled to death would involve less public humiliation."
"Well I'm glad that you haven't been mauled to death by angry wolves, or by angry freshman on the bus." Scott gave a nervous laugh (Nervous? Was he nervous? Why was he nervous?) and for a moment I stood there paralyzed. Everything was Scott McCall and nothing hurt.
A whistle blew from the field, followed by an angry "MCCALL!" and I jumped at the sudden increase of volume.
"Ah, I gotta get going before coach kills me, but I'll talk to you later?" He took off running towards the field, throwing on his helmet as I gaped at him, my eyebrows slightly rising on my forehead. I nodded wordlessly, more to myself than to him since he was already joining the circle of boys huddled up in front of the goal.
"Hey stranger," a hand clamped down on my shoulder and I let out a sharp scream, causing every single helmeted lacrosse player head to turn and look at me. "Oooh, invisible girl no more. It's a bit of an unconventional approach but I like it." I shoved Kayleen back behind the bleachers, giving her an extra slap on the arm.
"Are you trying to kill me? Death by embarrassment is an actual thing, ya know."
"Haha sorry! I didn't think you'd scream that loud!" She doubled over in a fit of laughter as I felt my cheeks grow redder.
"You know how sensitive my ears are!"
"You're fine, walk it off champ." She slapped me on the back again while I glowered at her, envisioning an alternate reality in which feeding your friends to sharks was an acceptable way to deal with your aggression towards them. "So what were you talking to Scott McCall about?" She wiggled her eyebrows at me and I felt panic rise in my chest.
I grabbed her by the back of her head, pulling her down to me so I could clamp my hand firmly over her big mouth. "SHHH!"
Her laughter was muffled, but still present, and I kicked her in the shin for good measure. "Will you chill? He can't hear us over here." She snorted, prying my hand off of her face.
"You don't know that!"
"Um, yes I do. It's not physically possible." Her eyes flicked back over to the field, where the boys were gathering up their equipment and heading towards the locker room.
"Whatever, humor me." I rolled my eyes, clenching my jaw stubbornly.
"Fine," She hunched closer to me, lowering her voice. "What were you guys talking about?"
"Thank you," I smiled, giving her a pleased nod. "We talked a little bit about that new kid, Liam? And then I proceeded to ramble and make a complete fool out of myself. The usual."
"I'm sure it wasn't that bad."
"Oh it was. BUT! He made sure to tell me he'd talk to me later, so he doesn't think I'm a total loser yet. That's a good sign, right?"
"Oh definitely. That's like, the best sign you can get from a guy. It's just under cheek kisses, and right above a punch in the face."
"Why do I still talk to you?"
"Because you refuse to talk to anyone else?"
"Yeah well I'm starting to rethink that decision." I mumbled, folding my arms across my chest.
"You're such a grumpy little kitten when you have to wake up early." Kayleen brushed her fingers across the top of my head, mussing up my hair. I ducked away, elbowing her in the ribs and biting at her hand.
"Aggressive too." She noted, and I gave her a smile as she looped her arm through mine, leading us back towards the school. "Where's Dyl?"
"Probably seducing anyone walking by the music room with her angelic harmonies." I clasped a hand on her arm and batted my eyelashes at her, pushing open the double doors with my free hand.
She rolled her eyes and swatted my hand away from her arm, grabbing it instead and twirling me underneath it.
"Well let's go see and show off our amazing on-the-spot choreography skills. I'm sure we can charm a few suckers of our own." She gave me a wink and pulled me back in towards her with a laugh.
"Let's ask Dylan to sing Time Of My Life. I'll be your Baby if you'll be my Johnny." She broke out into a grin and swayed me to the left and to the right, dipping me backwards.
"Okay but if we go down during that lift, I take no responsibility." She brought me back up in one swift movement, and without further warning, wound me up and spun me down the hallway with so much force I felt my hand disengage with hers. The world rushed passed me and I felt the wind get knocked out of me as I collided with something both hard and soft at the same time. Within seconds I found myself in a mess of tangled limbs on the floor.
"Yo, are you guys okay?" I looked up as Mason towered over me, grimacing as he watched Liam groggily rub at his head with a groan.
"Okay, that I take a little bit of responsibility for." Kayleen rushed over, reaching an arm down to help me up.
"I am so sorry," I pulled Liam up by the sleeve of his sweatshirt, adjusting it on his shoulders slightly and dusting him off as he stared at me completely dumbfounded.
"…Did I do something to offend you?" He squinted at me for a minute, a mixture of rage and confusion dancing across his face.
"…Wh-what?" I blinked at him a few times, completely caught off guard by his tone.
"I'm just trying to figure out why you keep assaulting me." The anger had disappeared from his voice, bewilderment rapidly taking its place.
"I…I didn't mean to…it was an accident. A-and you ran into me yesterday in math!"
"Yeah. But I didn't launch a paintball at you from my roof." He shrugged one arm out of his sweatshirt, pulling it forward to reveal a bright blue paint stain splayed across the side of it. I opened and closed my mouth a few times, digging around in my brain for anything coherent to say. Instead, all that came out was:
"Uh…i-it matches your eyes?" Liam gaped at me for a minute, his eyebrows climbing up his forehead. Mason looked between the two of us like he was watching a car crash in action and he wasn't wrong.
"Okay, yeah we're gonna go…finish homework and such. Uh…yeah." Kayleen caught my arm in an iron grip as she began pulling me away from this catastrophe. "Maybe run that under some cold water." She nodded towards Liam, threw Mason a smile, and ushered the two of us down the hallway and around the corner to my locker. I was still dazed by the time we got there, staring blankly at the blue metal door in front of me.
"Did I really tell him it matched his eyes?"
"Yes. Mhmm. That's a real thing that you did."
I leaned forward, propping my arms up against my locker and letting my head fall into them. "How could you let that happen?!"
"Listen, I tried my best." Kayleen held her hands up in defense.
"You spun me into him!" I turned to her exasperated, quickly turning the combination on my locker and popping the door open.
"It wasn't like it was on purpose! And I also didn't know you shot him last night…"
"It wasn't supposed to hit him! Well I mean it kind of was. Well not really. I mean, I don't actually know what it was supposed to do. I panicked."
"You do that a lot."
"I know!" I pulled out my notebook and slammed the locker shut, looking up at Kayleen helplessly.
"Oh sweetie, it's okay." She let out a comforting laugh, pulling me into a hug.
"It's not even 8am yet and I've managed to embarrass myself like, three times already." I mumbled into her shoulder as she patted my head.
"Well look at the bright side. It can't get much worse right?"
Wrong. That phrase is always wrong. Just the mere utterance of it completely reverses fate and changes the course of your destiny, in which things can and will get much, much worse.
A/N: Guest, BrittWitt16, neverforgetme12, Janedoee7, JackieOh, melissawtf, DetectiveKateTodd, kaljara, aPaperheaRt, Lin148, mel, Izaria, AlexisLyn72, laheytrash, and floralwoof for your wonderful reviews! I know there wasn't much Liam in this chapter but I promise the next chapter is veryyy Liam-centric. I really wanted to showcase some of the lovely ladies in Noah's life in this chapter. :3 Let me know what you think!