Warning to all first readers: This is the second story in a series, my "The Girl I Like.." series. I am rewriting the entire 1-800-WHERE-R-YOU series in Rob's POV, and this is the rewrite of Code Name Cassandra. I already rewrote When Lightning Strikes, and you might want to read that story first. It's not entirely necessary; if you know the books well enough you should be fine, but it's still probably a good idea. It's called The Girl I Like Was Struck By Lightning.
To all returning readers: Yes! I actually started the next one the day after I finished the first! It's kind of crazy, but hey, I'm not questioning it.
This entire chapter is really just an introduction, but it brings us up to date from the end of the last book, all the way to CNC's chapter 9. It's another one that's all me. Really. There's only three sentences that are taken from the book, and those are just Rob talking. Anyway... enjoy!
It didn't work.
Maybe I should have expected it; Mastriani had already proven to me that she wasn't just taking no for an answer. But, I mean, her plan had worked. Her plan to rescue a kid and his mom from the Feds and hide her own psychic powers so they'd leave her alone too. And, well, it was a good plan – really, it was – but it wasn't like she'd even planned her plan.
Well, you know what I mean.
Her plan was a spur-of-the-moment idea that got out of hand and we were incredibly lucky that it had worked at all. But my plan, the one I'd worried about and tortured myself over for weeks, didn't work.
Now, how is that fair?
Yeah, yeah, I know. Life isn't fair. I've known that ever since I was six, and my dad left us. Which also happened to be the year I attended first grade and found out that, in this town, all men are not created equal. No, here we're delegated into two very separate groups: Grits, and Townies.
The Grits are kids like me, who grew up outside of town limits and never went to preschool. Kids whose parents work at the plastics factory (or at least until recently, when it shut down), and who speak in more pronounced southern accents than Townies. Grits are people like me, who don't want to go to college, and work at a garage for a living – and intend to keep right on doing so. Grits are the ones who wear cheaper clothes and ride on Harleys or in old Toyota pickups rather than their brand new Ferraris or Porsches. We're the ones that are seen as less educated, less intelligent, less worldly, less political, less capable of taking care of ourselves, and overall just less than the Townies.
Then, of course, there's the Townies. The positive to our negative. The doctors and lawyers and the people who fired our parents from the plastics factory. Townies are the kids in school who are noticed, and praised, and popular. The cheerleaders, the football players, the drama club, the band geeks and the science prodigies; you name it, there's a Townie. Except for one place. Detention. Sure, occasionally some of the jocks got thrown in there for minor infractions, but us Grits are the only ones who consistently stay there. That's our territory, and that's the way it's always been. Because no matter how much the Townies look down on us, we think they're just as bad, and we resent them. Sometimes even enough to act like they expect us to, which leads to them treating us even more that way, which provokes us more… It's a vicious circle.
Or at least it was, until Jess.
Jess was always different than the rest of the Townies – you could tell that just by looking at her. Or by seeing her punching a football star because he insulted her friend, something that no other Townie would ever dare do.
It was that very action, in fact, that led to me meeting her. She and I had just got out of detention, and were walking home, when I offered her a ride. Because I recognized that she was different, and I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, and do what no Grit had ever done before: ask a Townie out on a date.
Well, okay, maybe it's happened before. But I highly doubt any Townie has said yes before. Oh no. But Jess… yeah, she didn't mind. Didn't mind at all.
Of course, then she got struck by lightning and developed psychic powers, and I found out she was only sixteen and therefore jailbait to my eighteen, and never asked her out again. Not that that stopped me from blowing up a helicopter and breaking into a secure military facility for her, or anything.
Yeah. Jess Mastriani was weird like that. She made me… do things.
Things like watching her, rather than the plays being performed in front of me each afternoon in detention, like she thought I was, and daydreaming about the three kisses we've shared. Things like driving past her house occasionally, idling at the top of the street. Things like not telling her to go away.
That last one was my big mistake. I mean, sure, it was my first real crush. Big deal. I would have gotten over it, had I just told her, flat-out, to leave me alone.
But I never did.
Not even when she started showing up sometimes, at my uncle Randy's garage, to talk to me. She'd just walk in, look around until she saw me, and then she'd come over and perch on a workbench or lean on the wall, and start talking.
Just like that.
See, and here was where my plan was going wrong. The talking, and the visiting at all. Because that meant we were still seeing each-other, despite the fact that I was already out of high-school, and she was just on her summer vacation. We were still seeing each other, and sometimes I gave her rides home, and once she kissed me when I dropped her off.
And it's not like I did anything to stop her, either. I mean, she didn't exactly pounce on me, or anything. I had plenty of time to pull back, to put my helmet on again, to drive away.
But I didn't. I didn't pull away, not at first anyway, not until after my hands were on her shoulders and hers were around my neck and it was most definitely not the kind of kissing friends do. Not that we were even that.
And then all I could seem to say, once I'd pulled away – well, more like jerked away – was, "We're not dating," in a voice that, just like the last time she'd kissed me, couldn't seem to remain steady.
But that was a one-time thing. The visits to the garage were more regular. Well, okay, they only occurred about three or four times, but I think that was only because she left before a month was up.
She came to tell me about it. I mean, I was working on a car at the time, so she was talking more to my boots, but she told me all about it. Mastriani was going to some band camp, to work as a councilor with – here I finally learned the name of her best friend, whom up until that point I had referred to only as 'that fat chick'… but not to Mastriani's face because you would not believe how sensitive she gets about people insulting her family and friends – Ruth, where, I was informed, she would watch over budding musical prodigies as they honed their already considerable skills.
I just scooted out from under the Volvo I was fixing, and said, "Oh yeah? Well, that'll be good for you, to get away for a while. Hand me that wrench right there, will you?"
Well, I wasn't exactly going to start weeping and begging her to stay, was I? I mean, really. The way I thought of the whole thing was, if Jess went away to some camp for the summer, maybe when she came back she would have, well, forgotten about me somewhat. And then maybe my plan would start to actually work, for the first time since I had concocted it, months ago in math class, right after I'd found out she was only sixteen and my probation officer might have something to say about me dating her.
And besides… it wasn't like she was going to meet some other guy and run away with him, right? I mean, she was working as a camp councilor. What kind of self-respecting guy would take that job?
You might be confused, what with me talking about ignoring Mastriani forever one second, and then worrying about her finding someone else the next. Well… I can't exactly help it. I like her, okay? So sue me. Even if I am the one who's always trying to get rid of her. I still like her. And sometimes, I can't exactly control myself.
Like when she kisses me.
But, for the most part, that had never been an issue – that being my tendency to get very protective of her/jealous of other guys. I mean, yeah, when we'd first met there had been that time that I threatened to snap Wendell's arm off if he didn't leave her alone, but nothing since then.
Which, I will admit, was due mostly to the fact that no other boys in this town seem to have an interest in going out with Mastriani. I can't really see why. She is definitely very hot – just not in a conventional way. I mean, yeah, her hair is even shorter than mine, and she wears t-shirts and jeans most of the time, and she doesn't put on make-up… but let me tell you, all that works very much in her favor. It makes her genuine, unlike everyone else in this damn town. And besides, her natural looks are more than good enough.
But I guess she drove any potential dates away, you know, with her attitude. She can be pretty… abrasive at times. And then there's the whole punching people issue. And the Lightning Girl thing.
But anyway, I never ended up jealous or anything, because she never went out with anyone else. Which is good. I mean, not really, because I should want her to go out with other people. I should hope that some other guy, some guy her age, asks her out, and she says yes, and they kiss, and…
But even just writing this is making me really want to go find her and kiss the hell out of her, just to prove that she's mine and not his, right before I punch his lights out for even thinking he could touch her – and he doesn't even exist!
So, it was good that she was going off to camp, for several reasons. Not only could I hope that maybe the prolonged absence would make us both stop liking each-other, but I also wouldn't have to worry my head off about whether or not she was dropping me for some other guy while she was gone, because there wouldn't be any other guys.
…I never claimed to be logical.
But anyway, for those reasons I was happy she was going away – and also because what I had said was true, it would be good for Mastriani to get away for a bit. After the whole Lightning Girl fiasco, it might do her some good to lay low for a while, away from where it had all occurred.
So basically, I was happy Jess had gone, and I even managed, during the first couple of days, to stop thinking about her all the time. Maybe, if we hadn't contacted each other all summer, well, maybe I would have stopped liking her. Or at least I like to think so.
But it didn't stay that way for long. Because on only the third day after she left, she called me.