He knew that she was watching him go. He could feel her eyes on his back, could almost sense her opening and closing her mouth like a goldfish as she tried to say something to stop him but couldn't. Sometimes Tristan wondered why he was going through all this. Sure, he had done something similar with Rory, but Rory hadn't lashed out at him nearly as vehemently as Tara did. On the first day of school, when he had first seen the ice goddess that was Tara, his main thought was that she was a prime piece of ass. She had an ethereal beauty, like something from a fairy tale. She had such good posture, perfectly manicured nails, and actually hadn't tried to manipulate the Chilton uniform to expose more skin, as most girls did. In short, she was a complete babe. Of course, anyone with eyes could see this and it wasn't long before it was very obvious that along with her amazing looks came a stick-up-her-ass personality. Tristan had dated bitches before, it hadn't really mattered much as long as they were hot. In the beginning, it was the thrill of the chase, the refreshment of a true challenge that had intrigued him. He wanted the conquest just because she was so resistant upon giving it to him. And then he wanted the benefit of being given trust from someone who was so untrustworthy. It was going around the school that she was a man-hater, or a possible lesbian. Mainly people just sneered that she was a complete snob who thought she was too good for everyone else. As if the Chiltonites didn't have superiority complexes.

When Tara, to his undying surprise (cough) not, didn't say something to stop him Tristan shook his head and slid back into his car. He tried to think of another place he could go. This was his park and he was a bit pissed that Tara had taken that from him. He didn't even care that she had tried to apologize. He was sick of the mind games. And now he had to sulk soberly, since she had grabbed his last bottle. Tristan angrily put his seat belt on and started the engine. He'd figure out someplace to crash.

As he pulled out, he saw Tara looking at him from a distance. With a heavy sigh, he rolled down his window. "Are you going to say something or would you prefer to stare at me in silence?" She only shook her head. "Look, do you need a ride or something?" She shook her head again. "Suit yourself, then." He just barely stopped himself from calling her a bitch. He sped up the car and drove off, window rolled all the way down and stereo blasting.

The next morning, the annoying ring of his cell phone woke Tristan up. He seriously needed to change that ring tone. He forced his eyes open and blinked a few times, realizing that he was lying on a patch of grass. He had found a deserted piece of nature and plopped down. He was surprised that he hadn't crawled back to his car; the chill of the night normally drove him away from staying outside all night, much as he loved the outdoors. The cell trilled again. With a mumbled curse, Tristan fumbled in his pocket and found his cell.

"It took you long enough! I called you like a dozen times in the last two hours! Where the fuck were you? They're going to have your house called soon. You have to get here, now." Oh shut up, stupid little ass kissing twit.

"I'm not coming in. Thanks for the warning, but let it go." Tristan sighed. It felt way too early to be awake.

"But-"

"Bye." He hung up on her. His trusty fake ID, coupled with his good looks and the female bar tender, led to Tristan having a little dose of alcohol after all. He hadn't drunk enough to be hung over but at the moment the blonde just didn't feel much like going to school. Besides, his dad had left last night for a business trip so it wasn't like he'd get in shit for missing one day of school.

Tristan didn't move from the ground for a good five minutes before he finally dragged himself to his car, and then back to the house.

There was no one home but the hired help. Tristan found this to be a relief. He trotted to the kitchen and filled a jug of cold water for himself and grabbed a glass. The chef smiled at him. Tristan knew he wouldn't tattle to his parents. None of the staff would. He liked to think that he had a decent, polite acquaintance with the staff. At least, he saw them as human beings, not lower life forms, as his parents seemed to.

He was still feeling sluggish. Not to mention damp and with a dull ache all over for sleeping in an uneven and wet area outside. He trudged upstairs. Then upstairs again. He used to love having the attic as his room but now he just despised the miniature hike every time he felt like collapsing. Well, there were two guestrooms in the main floor; he normally crashed in one of them if he was feeling particularly hazy and actually bothered to come home. The second level had a few guestrooms too, and one of them had once been his room- that is until he couldn't stand sleeping on the same floor as his parents. The attic was a large, but not huge, room. It gave him enough space without feeling as hollow as some of the other parts of the house (the master bed room, for example). His room had deep blue walls, most of the room was hardwood but there was a portion that had soft grey carpeting. The walls were mostly bare, with the exception of a Jessica Alba (in revealing spandex) poster on the wall opposite his metal double bed. He liked his space, but too much of it frankly scared him. His bed was against a wall, a window looming right beside. He liked having the night sky to look at so closely. On the other side of his bed was a tiny night stand- holding mainly his clock, lamp, and cell. There was an enormous bookshelf covering half of a wall, and a couch beside it. Under his Jessica Alba poster there was an expensive stereo, which he had on almost every time he spent time in his room. He had a closet full of clothes, his mother occasionally sticking in a few new outfits, each more preppy, posh, and pathetic than the last. Then there was his box of salvation- his mini-fridge filled with all types of booze, water, pop, and some junk food. His room was, for the most part, bare. He liked his room the most out of all the rooms in his house but he wasn't in the house all that much to begin with.

There was a small bathroom up by his room, just big enough to fit a bathtub, shower, toilet, and sink. On the sink rested his bright green toothbrush, a brush, and razor. By the shower were his shampoo, conditioner, and a massive towel. He didn't wear cologne, confident that nothing could smell better than he did, anyways.

Under his bed there was a huge white poster, half filled with photos of girls. The first girl he slept with decided to take a photo of the two of them- just so he would never forget her. She had signed her name and date under it. Funny, how it was her who had decided not to answer his calls after that night. Anyways, somehow it became a sort of ritual. He had every girl he'd ever slept with on that poster. It hadn't really been about keeping track of his conquests, at the time he did want to have some sort of keepsake from those nights of fun. Something to remind him that it was real. Of course, it was a bit of a stupid idea but after he realized this, there were already three girls on and he figured he might as well keep it going. It had once been a goal of his to have five hundred girls up on the board by graduation. Tristan had been a bit scummy, he was fully aware of that. The part that actually guilted him was the fact that as he glanced briefly over the faces, there were a fair few he wouldn't remember the names of if not for the signatures underneath the photos.

Ah well. Such was the life of a player. And the result of sleeping around with a dizzying frequency while slightly intoxicated. He didn't break hearts intentionally, but he wasn't cut out for a true relationship with a person actually relying on him. He would only disappoint them. The way he saw it, it was better to disappoint them early on, before they really got involved, before it would really hurt.

Tristan fell onto his bed and slowly fell asleep thinking about all the things he had managed to screw up in his relatively short existence. It wasn't as if his parents were actually abusive… his dad was harsh but would never actually physically beat him. His mom may have been emotionally distant, but she was harmless. Except for the negligence and a bit of emotional pain, they didn't screw up his life for him- he was doing it himself. He lapsed into a dream of when he was ten. His father was yelling at him, his mother was looking impatient behind him. He was getting lectured on giving one of his many useless gold pins to one of his friends. Apparently, if his friend couldn't afford to get one for himself, then Tristan should not have been spending time with such filth. Even though it was Tristan's pin, he was told it wasn't his to give to whatever bum he saw. Being drilled about being generous with a pal, Tristan hadn't understood. Nice to see how his morals were shaped, huh?

The dream shifted, Tristan was in a field. An angel was calling to him. She looked strangely familiar. "I'm having a dream about angels, now?" the blonde's dream self chuckled.

"You want me, why don't you get me?" the angel was laughing at him.

"What?" he asked.

She shook her head. "The key is to come after me, idiot." This dream was getting stranger by the moment. The angel disappeared and Tristan woke up. The doorbell was ringing.

Tristan considered letting one of the maids get it, but thought what the heck, and got up. He had just reached the ground floor when he saw that he had been too late. One of the maids was walking away, and Tara was looking around nervously.

She finally spotted him and quickly blurted, "A maid let me in. I didn't just, you know, barge in."

"What are you doing here?" he frowned.

"Did you just get up?" she exclaimed, taking in his hair sticking up in random places and his rumpled Chilton uniform, which he still hadn't taken off. He ran a hand through the messy hair, knowing that it wouldn't do much good. She shook her head. "Anyways. I was just wondering why you weren't at school."

"Maybe I'm horribly sick." He rolled his eyes. "I just didn't feel like going."

"Oh."

"Is there anything else?" He wasn't in the mood for this.

"I-" she visibly hesitated. "You've been more off than usual, and I… was concerned. About you."

"That's sweet, precious. But nothing's changed. Maybe you've just slid your head slightly out of your ass, and finally noticed." He was finished with this conversation. Without warning, he turned around and started back up the stairs.

"Why can't you just let me help you?" Tara snapped, her voice rising. "I come all the way over here and actually admit that, yeah, I was worried about you, and I don't want to see you all pissy and reclusive. So stop being such a brat! The whole first step stuff you were rambling about? I'm trying. Olive branch is extended."

"The first step crap was a bunch of trash. And you can take that olive branch and stick it elsewhere. I was drunk, you saw me with the bottle. I'm sure you can show yourself out." His words were biting but he didn't care.

"You're impossible." She yelled.

"And you're a frigid bitch." He called back without even looking back. A moment later, a very loud slam resounded all around the house. Tristan smirked and kept walking.

Of course, that smirk was pretty much completely wiped off after two other girls came to visit him that day. They had giggled and asked if he had an interesting night, and had clucked that they so understood. He couldn't forget how annoying some of the Chilton girls could be. On further thought, Tristan supposed he had been rather harsh to Tara. After all, he had went on a rant about how she didn't care about anyone but herself, and then when she actually showed up out of concern for him, he had blown her off. With a sigh, the blonde drove over to her house.

"Tristan." She was surprised, but quickly masked it with coldness.

"Tara." He smiled. "Okay, so I wasn't being very nice earlier. But maybe I thought that I should be the one making the first step, anyways. I've been making all the other ones. It surprised me that you actually listened to my words. And, obviously since I missed school, I wasn't feeling exactly chipper. Is the olive branch still offered?"

"Every time you show that you are human, after all, you feel the need to cover it completely. I don't even know what I think of you any more. You're an ass. Or maybe you're just really insecure. But I'm sick of getting snapped at for trying to help your undeserving rich-boy self." She bit out.

"Can the undeserving rich-boy come in?" Tristan asked, smile still shining brightly.

"I'm busy." She said.

"Well, you woke me up when you showed up at my place today. We have to deal with life's little interruptions." He was spouting crap, but whatever. "Besides, life is what happens when you're busy making other plans. Start up your life."

"Quoting Lennon, now, are you? And please. Are you trying to say that you're my life?" she snorted. "Besides, when I woke you up at 4 in the afternoon, you swiftly kicked me out. So I think I'm entitled to do the same."

"You can't know if I'm your life if you won't let me into it." Tristan replied, "And it's true that I kicked you out, but I believe that you're a better person than I am. Don't you?" a very cheeky smirk was playing on his lips.

"Oh, Tara, is this one of your friends from Chilton?" a woman Tristan vaguely recognized appeared in the doorframe.

"No." Tara bit out at the same moment Tristan heartily answered, "I'm hoping to be."

"Wait." Her mother was looking over Tristan with a look of recognition. "Aren't you the boy that we drove home after Tara saw you wandering drunkenly in the street?"

Shit, so he did recognize her. Tara was smiling victoriously. "Yeah, he is."

"Um, yes. And I'm really grateful to both of you for helping me home. I'm trying not to drink so much anymore, it's really just a waste of money, I think." Tristan said, trying to sound reverent.

"It is." The elder Ms. Wong nodded. "And, unless I'm mistaken, are you not underage?" Tara was looking quite gleeful.

"I am." He nodded guiltily. "I think it's a bit scary how easily we can get fake Ids in this country." He cleared his throat. "The reason I'm here is because I said some things that were a bit rude to your daughter and I'd like to make up for them."

"Apologies for mistakes in your past don't erase what you've done." Her mother sounded suddenly sharp.

"I know that-" Tristan started.

To his surprise, Tara jumped to his defence. "He didn't really do anything, it's not like that at all." She took in a breath, looking as if she knew she'd be regretting this-but, "Okay. Fine. Come in."

Tristan smiled in amazement but quickly walked into the house.

"What is it you have to say?" she sighed.

"I'm sorry for being rude. I'm just sick of this." He answered honestly.

"'This'?" Tara arched her eyebrow.

"Fighting with you. Playing these mind games. Being led around in circles by you." He expanded, nervously glancing at Tara's mother who had hovered over to the next room but was still giving him an apprehensive gaze through the glass door.

"I haven't been-," she protested.

"Like hell you haven't. You've been pushing me away since we met. Sometimes I think I'm making progress, that maybe you're warming up a bit towards me. And then you turn to ice again. This morning was one of your sunny periods, but I know you'll decide you were making a mistake again. So stop it." Tristan snapped.

"I'm not the only one going in circles. You can be pretty decent sometimes, Dugrey. And then you're suddenly a cocky, shallow bastard, just as I thought when I had first met you. You've been alternating your personas so many times that I'm not sure anymore which is the mask- the shallow jerk, or the decent human being." Tara retorted. She looked down at the floor for a moment before she met his eyes, trying to decide if she should say what was on her mind. "What happened at military school, Dugrey? What happens in your home life? What is there in your life that's driven you to alcohol?"

"I just like the taste." He said angrily, hiding the fact that he was shocked that she just asked him point blank.

"Don't give me that shit! You think I don't notice how your eyes close up when you talk to anyone about your parents? You think I don't see how hard you try to be the person the people at school expects you to be? It's like you sit there and think up ways to act so that no one sees anything you don't want them to see. You're calculating, and probably colder than I am. So don't be such a hypocrite. You've been attached to me since I showed up at Chilton, claiming that you want to get to know me. Well, open up. I'm listening, and you feed me lies." Tara exclaimed.

"Why should I tell you anything?" he hissed.

"What do you want from me, then? I thought you wanted me to want to know more about you." She challenged.

"This is complete bull shit." He muttered, running his hand through his hair roughly. "You always want me to open up. What about yourself?"

"God. You are an immature child. Every time I ask you to tell me something real, you whine for me to do it first. Scared, are you? Or just too stubborn? Fine, you want to know something? I love Chilton. And the main reason I love it is because it got me away from here. Every girl at my old school thinks I'm a stuck-up bitch for leaving, and I've lost most of my friends here because they think I've ditched them for high society." Tara glared.

"My parents never cared about me. They only cared about how I made them look. My father's been hoping for another son every day since he discovered what a screw-up I am, and if he had anyone else, just one other child, I know I'd get nothing out of his will." He glared right back.

"What happens on Wednesdays that make you look so empty at the end of those days?" she asked.

"My mother hooks up with her newest affair. I first saw her cheat when I wasn't even a teen and the only reason I'm not in military school anymore is because she was scared I'd tell my dad of her affairs if she didn't bust me out. When I came back from military school, no one really cared about what happened there- they thought I was still the same guy. Not one person noticed the scars on my body after the so-called instructors there whipped, belted, beat me for being insolent, as they said. I would be raw and bloody, and the funny thing is, I knew that my dad was paying them extra to be harsher to me, to beat out the wild side to me. It was like a prison. And my dad knew what was happening. And he's been threatening to send me back if I don't meet his standards. So yeah, I drink to drown out the voices in my head that tell me mockingly that no one in this damn city gives a shit about me. All my friends don't even know who I am. Girls want to be with me because I'm rich and popular. I don't fail my classes even if I barely show up for class. So forgive me if I don't broadcast this news, all right, Princess? Is that good enough for you, Tara?" Tristan yelled.

"Girls want to be with you because you're hot and charming, Dugrey." Tara said.

The blonde stared at her in surprise for a moment before bursting out in astonished laughter, "You hear all that and that's what you choose to comment on?"

She supplied a small smile and then cautiously wrapped her arms around him in a tight hug. "You're annoying, stubborn, rude, lewd, and I care about you."

He smiled into her smooth hair. "Do you?"

"Yeah. I like you. For some reason I can't fathom, you make me angry and stupid, and, well, like you said, you unfreeze me. You make me feel something when I'm around you." She admitted. "And besides, you just word vomited all over me, I have to give you something for your co-operation, right? You finally listened to me and did what I asked." She patted his cheek. "Good doggy."

"I just confess my life's troubles that I've been hiding from everyone in my life, and you call me a good doggy?" Tristan said incredulously. He spent about half a minute trying to look angry, and then gave up and grinned, "Who am I kidding? I'd rather be your dog than another Chilton bimbo's man."

Tara laughed, "You really are infatuated over me. Can I ask you why?"

"You judged me for who I am, not who I tried to make you think I am." He answered simply. "And, that seriously surprised me." She shook her head. Tristan had to add, "And, of course, you're sexy and seemed so determined to hate me with such a passion."

"You had to add that, didn't you?" she said reproachfully.

"Couldn't help myself. This conversation had been too dark, altogether. And I think we've realized by now that I deal with nerves by hiding them with lewd jokes." He half shrugged.

"Look, I know I've asked a lot of you tonight, and I'd understand if you didn't want to, but, where are those scars?" she asked him nervously.

"You actually want to know?" he said sceptically She nodded. "Everywhere." He lifted up his shirt an inch to show the beginning of a painful-looking welt starting just above his waist. Tara gingerly touched it, wincing. He took her hand as she dropped it and gave it a squeeze. "Hey. It doesn't hurt anymore. At least not that one, and at least not physically."

She finally didn't say something sarcastic. Looking genuinely sad, she interlocked their fingers on the two hands that weren't currently in contact and murmured sincerely, "I'm sorry. For everything that's happened to you. I'm so sorry."

"Hey, it's not your fault. And I did break into Bowman's dad's safe." He said.

"You're not a screw-up and you sure as hell didn't deserve any of this. All right? You didn't make you parents not love you, and some prank didn't make the delivery of those scars warranted." She let go of one of his hands and ran it through his messy blonde hair. "You were so brave."

"Careful, Tara, if you go on anymore like this I'm going to start worrying if I'm actually talking to the true Tara Elden." He laughed.

"I've always been worried about you. I didn't acknowledge it, but the way you were so off-hand about everything unsettled me, even in the very beginning." She shook off his remark. "I'm not a complete block of ice, you know."

Tristan chuckled. "This was really…good. It felt nice to get that off my chest. But I have to go now, princess."

"Are we good?" she asked.

"I don't think we've ever been better. As long as you don't turn your back on me again, ice queen." Tristan said.

"I won't turn my back on you," Tara stated.

"Until next time, then." He smiled, bending over to kiss her hand.

"Wow, you are a gentleman, aren't you?" she smirked.

"The very best kind." He wriggled his eyebrows.

He turned to go but she said, "Listen, you can call me. If you ever need to talk. Or, if it ever gets to be too much. You, you don't have to turn to alcohol. I know you like the taste, but I'm concerned."

"All right, but I'll hold you to that." Tristan said. Tara nodded and to his amusement, she launched herself onto him again.

"Three hugs in one night? Must be something in the air." He joked.

"Maybe I just like he way you feel." She said. He looked smug. She pulled back. "Or maybe I'm just in love with that cashmere sweater you're wearing."

He laughed and stepped outside. "You know how to make a man feel loved."

"You're my dog, remember?" she said, watching him go.

"Tara's bitch, then. You should get me a leash." He called over his shoulder, slipping back into his car. He smiled as she waved at him from her door, glancing at her through his rear-view mirror as he drove off into the evening.