Chapter Eight

I think I literally shat myself when I seen him standing there. Immediately, I felt horrible. He looked so disappointed and, almost sad, in a way. I looked at him. Just staring into those golden coloured eyes. They showed nothing but disappointment. I didn't know what to say. Or what to do. I knew I had done something stupid. Heck, I had done a lot of stupid things since I moved to Forks! But now I actually felt bad, just seeing Paul's expression. I opened my mouth to speak, and shrugged my shoulders slightly, but nothing came out. I sighed, shook my head, and looked away, closing my eyes; disgusted with myself. Why did I have to be so Goddamned stupid! And selfish! I was so confused. Normally I wouldn't give a damn how other people felt, or thought of me and my behavior. But now, I was mentally kicking myself for being such .. such a bitch. Wait. Why should I care what other people think of me? I'm just being me. Well, perhaps not lately. But, there has been a lot of drama in my life lately, so I'm not entirely to blame. But, I had been a bitch to Paul. I know, he has only tried to help me. Although, that didn't mean his overprotective shit wasn't annoying. God. Isn't life so damn confusing? Urgh.

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Paul move closer. He sighed, and sat down beside me; his legs crossed. He began fumbling around with the grass on the ground, and pulling it out. If I was being honest, it was very distracting. Then, he stopped. All was silent. I wondered why he hadn't said anything else. Normally if I hadn't replied, he would have started talking, to fill the silence. But today was different. 'Why did you run off like that, Ruby?' he asked, his voice quiet.

That, was a very good question. But, even I didn't entirely know the answer to. 'I – I just – ' This was going very well indeed. I hadn't even stringed three words together yet, ' – I just needed to get away. I was … scared. And, I didn't want to have people asking me what happened, and people fussing over me and people – '

'Caring?' Paul said; I glanced at him, looking at him indifferently. 'People caring about you isn't a bad thing, Ruby. Even when I try to show compassion, or help you, or try and stop you from doing something reckless – you just seem to brush it off. It's almost impossible to get through to you.' I scowled and furrowed my eyebrows. Exactly what was he saying? I don't have to listen to everything he says! I am the boss of myself, he doesn't have a say in anything. 'Don't look at me like that, Ruby. You know it's true.'

'Well, excuse me. It's not my fault that I'm going through a rough patch in my life. Forgive me for not accepting your 'compassion',' I said, using my fingers to show quotation marks. See what I mean about the 'love/hate relationship'? One minute I feel bad about the things I have done to him, the next he annoys me and I snap at him. Still, he should know better than to say something that will offend me. The last time he did that he ended up with a broken jaw. Oh, wait. I ended up with a few broken knuckles. Which are now mended, but still feeling rather wonky. And they look rather wonky too.

Paul sighed; although it sounded more like a growl to me. He had a pained look upon his face; clearly he was annoyed. 'Oh come on, Ruby! Grow up! Maybe you should open up and tell people about your problems instead of doing things that you think might help them! It's just stupid! Do you even realise the pain you're causing some people? Your mother, your – '

'My mother!' I snapped ferociously. 'My mother doesn't give a damn about me!' Paul looked at me incredulously, and I was sure he didn't believe me. 'She doesn't. All she cares about is herself! No one else matters, not even my Dad! She's a lying, cheating, whore – who, if I had my way – I would have nothing to do with!' All of a sudden, I was overcome with anger. I felt as though I was going to explode. I quickly got to my feet, walked away from him whilst taking deep breaths, trying to calm myself.

'Ruby... I don't think –'

'NO!' I screamed, spinning around to face him; he too had got to his feet. I just couldn't bottle the anger up any longer. This was the explosion. I stared at him, 'You don't understand! She cheated on my father! I saw her! I walked in on her having sex with another man! Do you have any idea how scarring that is? And to think, she wanted to 'sort things out' afterwards! And still, to this day, my father knows nothing. NOTHING! I don't even have the guts to tell him – I can barely look at him!'

I was so angry. And I hated taking it out on Paul, but I needed to do this for myself. I needed someone, anyone to know what I was going through; and Paul just happened to be there. 'And if that isn't enough, I was stupid enough to get drunk because of it! Then there's you!' Paul furrowed his eyes in confusion, and opened his mouth to say something, but I cut him off. 'You just confuse me so much!' I said, running my hands through my hair. 'I don't know whether I love you or hate you half the time! I love spending time with you, I really do! But you annoy me so much some times! All this protectiveness – I didn't need protecting! But .. '

I felt my eyes welling up with tears. Normally I could hold an emotional argument without crying, but this was too much for me. I needed to talk about last night. 'I'm not so sure anymore because.. I'm scared.' Then, the tears began to spill down my cheeks. In a way, it was a sort of closure for myself. The tears just kept coming, and I couldn't stop them. My breathing became uneasy; I began to sob. Paul walked slowly towards me. I kept eye contact with him even through my tears. 'I'm scared of – of M-Mark. I-I'm... scared of what - what I'll d-do to m-myself if things get b-bad again .. I – I – '

Paul reached his hand up, gently cupping my face. His hand was warm, very warm. Like he had a fever or something. But it was comforting. And I felt comfortable with him touching me, even after last night. I thought I could never let a guy touch me again, even in the slightest. But I guess that showed how much I trusted Paul. 'You don't need to be scared, Ruby. Though I know you don't like it, I'll protect you. I don't want to see you getting hurt again,' he said, slowly and quietly, as if hoping that the message would sink in easier.

I managed a small smile, but I couldn't stop crying. 'I'm very – thank you, P-Paul. But .. I just – I can't get it out of my head. What – what h-happened .. last night,' I sobbed, tears spilling down my cheeks, my breathing coarse and uneven. Paul immediately dropped his hand from my cheek, and wrapped his arms around me, pulling me close to his warm chest. I didn't protest. Instead, I buried my head in the crook of his neck and sobbed my heart out, whilst he rubbed my back soothingly. I played over every memory of the night before, even if it did make the tears fall heavier, but I hoped that would rid me of the memories forever. Soon, I forgot all about why I was crying. I was just crying. And Paul was just there for me. Holding me, comforting me, being a friend.

Though I thought my parents didn't actually care about me, on Sunday evening, I found out that I was so, so wrong. Paul had offered to take me back home after I had had dinner at Emily's, and since I had no car, I had no other option. I could have walked, but I would have probably ended up getting lost again. Not that it would be an unfamiliar circumstance for me. As we got closer to my house, much to my surprise, there was a police car sitting in the driveway. Now, either my dad had got a new job as a policeman, or I was in big trouble. The latter sounded most realistic. Let's just say I wasn't particularly comfortable about this, and almost begged Paul to drive off. He didn't sympathize. At all. Not even when I gave him my 'puppy dog eyes'. He ended up dragging me to my own front door, where I walked in to find my mother sobbing her eyes out, whilst trying to speak to a police officer. Father was standing over her watching gravely. Once they saw me, I was jumped upon by my mother who began sobbing on my shoulder. That was the last bit of 'relieved emotion' that my parents showed. After that, all hell broke loose. And I was grounded. For three weeks. But, let's face it, where in this town, would I want to go after these awful last few days? Nowhere. So sitting in my room all day was completely fine with me. I didn't even argue with said sentence; in fact, I wouldn't have minded if it was longer! I still had to go to school, of course. And if I'm honest, my parents type of grounding really doesn't suit me, or affect me in any way. 'You're grounded. And you know what that means; no going out with your friends. You will stay in this house when you come home from school and at the weekends. School projects are the only exceptions.' Pfffft. Big deal.

Paul was questioned by the police officer. Although, it seemed the officer was more intimidated by Paul than what Paul was of him. He was asked why he had brought me home so late from a party which was the night before. He asked how he knew me. He asked what had happened at the party. And he asked if he was the owner of the car he was driving – maybe he thought Paul has stolen it? I didn't know if I should press charges against Mark. It had scarred me, but I wasn't sure if I was ready to tell someone I didn't know. Especially about a topic as sensitive as that. I figured I should wait, and build up my confidence again. It seemed a wise thing to do. And anyway, Mark wouldn't give me any more trouble. Paul definitely wouldn't allow it.

On Monday, I wasn't sure if I wanted to go to school or not. But father did not make staying at home an option. Apparently it was my fault that I looked like a battered zombie because I went to a party. And that was that. I was made to go to school. I was very thankful too. More publicity for Ruby Taylor – as if the last couple of weeks hadn't been enough! So, as usual, I had my shower. Then I threw on a pair of navy skinny jeans, and a red top – I skipped breakfast. I opened the front door to find Paul parked outside in his red car. I definitely didn't remember asking him to pick me up. But apparently, I wasn't allowed to drive myself to school, or so he said. At school, everyone stared. What else did I expect? I had a bloody great, green, purple, and yellow bruise on my cheek. Not to mention, I was pretty sure everyone knew what had happened. Even then, I didn't even get asked if I was okay. Hmmph. Monday wasn't very eventful if I'm honest. People steered clear of me. Again, I didn't really care. But I didn't want to be considered an outsider either. Paul left me home again at the end of the day, and didn't leave until I had closed the front door. It was as if he was making sure I was safe. It wouldn't surprise me if that was his motive for bringing me to school either.

It was now Tuesday morning, and I woke up to the sound of rain battering my window. It had never occurred to me that I was actually shivering from the cold. I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, and peered around my room. It was a dark and dreary morning. I sat up, only realising then that my window was open. I furrowed my eyebrows, confused. I hadn't opened it the night before. And I certainly hadn't gotten up in the middle of the night to open it. I pulled myself out of bed; there was a puddle of water below my window where the rain had got in. I groaned as I pulled the window closed – more cleaning up to do. And more being yelled at, especially if the water was dripping through the floor and to the ceiling below. I quickly ran into the hall, and grabbed an old towel from the hot-press, and took it back into my room where I set it upon the puddle of water. I was already running late, so I didn't have time for a shower. I walked towards my wardrobe, and picked out a simple, red top, and black jeans. I pulled on my grey combat boots, and tied them up. I looked in my long mirror, smoothing off my jeans, and the creases on my top. I decided I couldn't really do much with my hair, so I left it down, just pinning my side fringe back with a black bow. Once again, I kept my make-up simple. It wasn't as if I was trying to impress anybody, so the minimum would do.

I left the towel to mop up the puddle of water on the wooden floor, and walked downstairs. I hung my bag and biker jacket over the banister, and walked into the kitchen. My parents had already left for work. Mother had found a job in Port Angeles, which was an hour away, so it meant she had to get up pretty early. I opened the larder, and pulled out a box of Cornflakes, before walking towards the fridge. As I reached to open the fridge, there was a post-it note stuck to it. 'I know you're grounded; but we've ran out of food. Could you go to the store after school please – Dad. P.S, money's in your cereal box.' As though it was a reflex, I looked down at the box of cereal in my hand, shaking my head in amusement at my father's inventiveness. I opened the fridge and grabbed the pint of milk, before nudging the fridge closed again with my shoulder. I set cereal and milk down on the table, before I began to fumble around inside the box for the money dad had left me. I found it easily and pulled out eighty dollars – we must need a lot of food. I went to get a bowl from the cupboard, but realised when I looked at the clock, breakfast was the last thing on my mind. I had ten minutes to get to school. I grabbed the money, and ran into the hall, putting it in my purse, and hiding my purse at the bottom of my messenger bag. It was still raining outside, so I put on my biker jacket. I grabbed my bag, and the car keys which were sitting on the desk in the porch and opened the front door. Immediately, I was hit in the face with a gust of wind. I frowned; I sure did miss the weather in California. It was a struggle to try and close the front door, but I eventually got it shut, and locked. I was about to open the Mercedes, when a car came skidding to a halt at the end of the driveway.

It was red. The passenger side window, was rolled down. Paul was sitting at the wheel, looking very serious. 'Get in,' he said, without offering an explanation. I had told him yesterday that I would be fine to drive myself to school – but apparently he knew better.

'Paul, I told you. I didn't need a lift to school today. I can drive myself,' I said, having to shout for him to actually hear me over the blustering wind. My hair was getting in my face, and I could barely see I front of me. But, I could certainly see that Paul wasn't in the mood this morning.

'Ruby, just get in the bloody car!' He shouted. I didn't dare not comply.

I ran towards his car quickly, eager to get out of the cold, wet Forks weather. I pulled open the passenger door, and hopped in before slamming the door closed. As soon as I had closed the door, Paul sped off down the road. I didn't even want to know what speed he was doing. 'So... What's got your tail in a knot this morning?' I asked lightheartedly, glancing at Paul, who was watching the road intensely. He didn't reply. I rolled my eyes. 'Oh, that's okay. Don't reply. My morning was okay, thanks. Although, I woke up and my window was lying right open. The rain had poured – '

'What did you just say?' Paul growled angrily, staring at me.

I racked my brain, trying to think of something that I might have said to offend him. I mumbled, but I still couldn't think of what I had said. I looked out the window for some inspiration – I gasped with fright. 'Paul! Watch the road!'

'Shit,' Paul cursed; he slammed on the breaks, and swerved past a truck which was parked on the side of the road. I swear, I thought I had seen my life flash before my eyes. I scowled at Paul; mainly for not watching the road and driving too fast. 'Sorry about that,' he said, glancing at me with an apologetic smile. 'You said something about your window?'

I contorted my face bewilderedly. 'My window? It was lying wide open, and I had closed it before I went to bed and I definitely didn't get up in the middle of the night to open it,' I said, still confused as to why he was so interested in my window.

I watched Paul; he didn't seem very happy at all. 'I knew I couldn't trust that idiot! I swear, I'll kill him when I see him! Couldn't even do one simple thing I asked him to do!' he grumbled angrily; he was gripping the steering wheel so tight his knuckles had turned a shade of white.

'Paul, what are you talking about?'

He took a deep breath, and swallowed, before glancing at me; 'Never mind,' he said with a smile. 'I – em – just thought you'd like some company going to school today,' he said, although, I wasn't sure if I believed him entirely. 'Did you do that Biology homework? I didn't have a clue what half of it it meant; all those long words didn't make sense to me. But I got most of it done.'

I looked at him confusedly, 'What Biology homework? We didn't have any.'

'Uh.. yeah, we did.'

'No we didn't! You're making this up.'

'I swear we do! Honestly!'

'Mrs Bannerman didn't set up any homework, Paul. I'm positive she didn't,' I said, and I couldn't help but smiling at what we were arguing over. How petty. It was five to nine, and we had just pulled into the school car park – maybe Paul's fast driving had paid off after all. He stopped the car in an empty space, a few metres away from the entrance of the school building.

'Well, whatever you think, Ruby. And don't you worry if you find out we did have some; I'll let you copy mine,' Paul said, grinning with a wink. I giggled and shook my head. It was amusing how even though we could argue over anything, he still managed to make me laugh.

'I'm not sure I'd want to copy yours, Paul – the answers would be all wrong,' I jibed, with a small smirk. I opened the car door, and stepped out of the car, leaving Paul looking rather taken aback. I walked around the front of the car, waiting on him.

I heard the car door open, and close again. 'Are you calling me stupid?' he asked.

I laughed, looked back at him, and winked, before walking on ahead of him. Water was splashing behind me, and all of a sudden, my hood was pulled up and over my face. I spluttered, and pulled it back down. I scowled at Paul who was now walking front of me. 'That was totally uncalled for.'

'You were the one who called me stupid, and it was simply payback,' he said, plainly. He didn't bother to look back at me, but I could see that he was smiling. I liked spending time with Paul. I mean, I couldn't deny that he did annoy me sometimes, but he was good fun and he could take a joke – well from me anyways. I smiled to myself, and watched my feet splashing in the water on the tarmac. Then I reached a pair of feet; I looked up and Paul was looking down at me with a raised eyebrow. 'No comeback?' he asked, watching me carefully. I shook my head, maintaining the smile on my face. 'Who are you, and what have you done with Ruby Taylor?'

'It's still me,' I said quietly.

Paul smiled, and put his arm around my shoulders. He bent down and whispered in my ear, 'Or maybe this is the happy, content Ruby Taylor, who hasn't been bottling everything up and has finally told someone her problems.' I couldn't help but grin. I bit my lip, and felt my face firing up. I was blushing – again. I swear, this boy has it in for my theories! 'I mean you might be a bit ugly at the minute – ' I fake gasped, knowing that he was joking. I pouted and removed his arm from my shoulders. 'Wait, Ruby, I was only joking!' He grabbed my hand and pulled me back; I looked up at him with my eyebrow raised. 'Even with that ugly bruise on your face, you're still beautiful.'

I blushed. Big time.

I was still blushing when I turned around and began to walk with him towards school. We were still holding hands.

'Not to mention, you look cute when you blush too,' Paul laughed, poking my side playfully.

'Awhk shut up,' I said, but I couldn't hide my grin, so it didn't seem like an order at all.

To my surprise, he didn't say anything else at all. He seemed content to just hold my hand as we walked through school. I don't even think he noticed the looks we were getting. I did; but I didn't care. I was feeling more like me, than what I had done in months. Maybe my theories were wrong. I did need friends. I needed someone I could tell anything to and someone that I could trust. And Paul was being exactly that person. He didn't judge me, or tell me I was wrong. He was just there.

When we reached our Biology classroom, we walked in, still holding hands. Although, no one seemed to notice, not that I would have cared if they did or not anyways.

Paul leaned down to my height as we reached our desks, 'Now, I promise I won't say 'I told you so' when Mrs Bannerman asks to collect in the homework,' he smirked, letting go of my hand and turning to go and sit at his desk.

I shook my head, smiling, and rolled my eyes, as I made my way to my desk, where Mauve was already sitting patiently. 'Good morning, Mauve,' I said cheerfully, with a smile. She didn't reply, and continued to stare at the front of the room. She had a moody frown on her face, and I furrowed my eyebrows. 'Is everything okay? Are you feeling alright?'

'Well,' Mauve said, turning to stare irritatedly at me through her milk bottle – like glasses, 'I was feeling okay, and then you and Paul arrived.' I was very, very confused. We had done nothing wrong. In fact, we were always very nice to her. 'I thought you knew I like him!' she snapped quietly. I gasped slightly, and opened my mouth .. Ohh. We were holding hands when we came into class.

'Uhm, no, Mauve – we're just friends,' I said, with an attempted smile. 'I just haven't been feeling very well, and Paul was just cheering me up. I mean – we – he – we're just friends.' Of course, in the pit of my stomach, I did like Paul more than a friend. But I was no where near ready to have a relationship with anyone. Not after what has happened in the last six months of my life. And, I didn't want to hurt Mauve's feelings – she had trusted me enough to tell me that she liked Paul, and I didn't want to undo that.

'Oh, well that's okay,' Mauve said, with small smile. 'I knew you weren't like the other girls, Ruby. You wouldn't steal someone else's man.'

'Of course I wouldn't, Mauve.' Not intentionally anyway...

Soon, the chattering within the classroom died away as Mrs Bannerman entered the room. She was an adorable, wee, old lady, but you shouldn't be fooled by the cotton wool exterior – she was a woman that took no nonsense. She began fumbling away on her desk with many sheets, and papers, before she looked up at the class. 'Now, before we begin today, I believe I have some homework to collect in.'

My jaw dropped and I stared at her. Paul was right. How on earth did I miss her handing out the homework? Oh bollocks. Detention for me, I guess. I glanced around at Paul, with an apologetic grimace on my face; wishing I had believed him. He simply sat back in his chair, his arms folded, a smug smile on his face.

'Now, Miss Taylor, do you have your homework?'

'No, I don't Mrs Bannerman. Sorry.'

'Well... I'm afraid that means a detention, Miss Taylor. Friday afternoon, in this classroom, please.'

Maybe I should listen to Paul more often.

I finally updated! I'm so sorry that it's been so long since my last update, but I've been so, so busy! Anyways, I hope you liked the chapter; it's not as long as the others, but I'm just getting into my stride after not writing this story for so long. So, tell me what you think? REVIEWS! PLEASE :-D

Thanks so much for your patience! Tori