You're beautiful. Just kidding.
She still can't get over that one moment, frozen there, almost embarrassingly - how she nearly fell for Noah's cheap joke. Since then, she's avoided talking to him for too long - avoiding those weird almost heart-to-hearts that they had so often.
"Hey Rebecca," he says lightly, sneaking up from behind her and poking her sides because he knows she's only ticklish when she gets poked there.
"Oh, hey Noah," she replies, flinching away from him. She'd never admit it, but now that she's been called beautiful, she can't look at him without blushing - even if he was only saying it to get her off of his back. She wishes he meant what he said, but she'll settle for a joke. It's not everyday, after all, that Rebecca Harper is called beautiful, when there is always a-little-more-gorgeous Amanda there standing in front of her, where people cannot see anyone but Amanda Amanda Amanda.
She pauses. Should she say Not much, like she usually does? If she does, should she use her perkier tone, or her more laid-back tone? She hates these kinds of dilemmas. So instead, should she say something interesting, like I got three hours of sleep last night because I drank too much coffee, or if she really wants to get him thinking, Just wondering about... stuff.... So that he'll have to stick around and ask about what stuff, but their conversation won't go too deep because when he asks her, she'll reply, Oh, just some homework and what kind of tea I'd like to drink right now and how many sugars and creams I'd like in it, and whether or not I should skip the next class or not, because everyone's always telling me I'm such a prude.
She's paused for too long, and Noah gives her a weird look.
"If you didn't want to talk to me, you coulda just said so, R. See you later," Noah shakes his head a little and goes to talk to Wilder instead. Rebecca cusses at herself mentally for being so slow.
I'm serious, but I'm not, you know?
Noah doesn't get girls. They're all giggly and gossipy one second, and the next second, they're glaring at each other and all sobby and he can't stand them. Amanda is a pretty good example; she's jolly good friends with someone one second, and suddenly, she's spreading rumours about them wearing woolen underpants because they did something she didn't like. Really? What's with girls?
An even better example is Rebecca. She pretends to be so in love with him, but when he actually goes to talk to her, she's off somewhere else, like she's intentionally playing with him. It's not that he doesn't like Rebecca, but he needs to find a way to stand out in her view - not just be Noah who happens to write in the same office for the same magazine and is her friend who sometimes has conversations that run a little too late into the night. He doesn't just want to be that; just Noah. He wants to be Noah who makes her think and fall in love and smile at.
The question isn't whether he can be all that to Rebecca, but more along the lines of if she'll let him. After all, there's always that slightly bigger chance that she likes Michael, because they've known each other for so long and they get along too darned well and they're like each other, only Rebecca is more honest and Michael is more catty.
There's one thing that Noah would admit only to himself, among many, many other things (because he isn't a very public person at all): Sometimes, when Rebecca and Michael are talking so freely and it feels like they have this air around them that nobody can break into, Noah is extremely jealous.
Say it to my face, won't you?
She hates the labels they give her. What a nerd, what a geek. She knows it, but they can't even get past the part where she likes to do homework, to see that she has a personality, and isn't just a person you can shove your homework at and leave it with her and expect her to get it done, done well, done better than her own 'cause you're better than her. Rebecca is not a nerd. She is studious. She's fucking smart, and it's not her fault you're not. But she's too polite to say so, and gently helps anyone who comes her way.
"You're creepy," Noah whispers beside her, as they sit outside against the school walls. She only agreed to sit out with him because he'd cornered her, but now she remembers why she likes Noah - he's good for her health. "You're too chirpy."
"No, I'm just a naturally happy person," she frowns, contradicting herself already. He snickers, and she smacks his shoulder. "Honestly, Noah, grow up," she laughs.
"Hey, I've done loads of that." It's only been a couple months since their first year of high school, but she can tell that, too - he's taller, his shoulders a little broader, his grin a little more like a confident smirk. She tells herself that he's just Noah, whom she had a crush on a few months ago.
"Hah! You're only taller than me by a bit!"
"Like, 4 centimetres!" He grins cheekily. "That's not a little bit, R. I know my math; 6 centimetres is an inch, or some'in; like that. I'm almost an inch taller than you!"
"Noah, you're a sixteen year old teenaged boy. Don't you think you should be aiming a little higher than an inch above your sixten year old teenaged female friend? And anyways, that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard - an inch being 6 centimetres? Really, Noah? Honestly! Everyone knows that it's roughly 2.5 centimetres to one inch!" Rebecca realizes how nerdy she sounds, but there's no way to fix it.
"Hahahha, you're such a dork, Rebecca," he noogies her, knowing she hates being messed with.
"No-ah!" She whines, shoving him off of her. "Grow up, honestly!" (She finds she's saying that a lot to Noah.) She gets up to leave, fussing over her hair, and he pulls her back.
"Nuh-uh, I've done loads of that," he whispers into her ear, and shivers go down her spine from the close proximity. His mouth is brushing her ear, and she thinks she might be blushing.
"I think - I think I should go," she stammers, blinking rapidly. She takes the garbage left over from her lunch and runs without looking back.
I can't be serious just for you.
"Noah," DJ's voice rings through the hallway. It's been a while since Buzz, but still, DJ remains in close contact with everyone. "How are you?" She smiles, running a tanned hand through her fluffy hair.
"Good," Noah says, shifting from foot to foot, guiltily. "You?"
"I'm great," she replies warmly, smiling as though she doesn't know that he's been avoiding just about everyone from the Buzz crew since they disbanded - high school work became more and more troublesome, and within two years, they'd decided to stop the magazine. Since then, Noah only kept in close distance with Rebecca, because in truth, he didn't have anything in common with them otherwise, and Amanda was now at the top of the food chain, Michael and Wilder lurking around the middle, and with Rebecca constantly blending top to middle to bottom, Noah was tired of the whole high school food chain.
"How're the others?" He rubs his neck with one hand, wishing she would just leave.
"They're great, too, actually. I've been planning a reunion for the end of the month, just for the Buzz office crew. You're invited, of course. I mean, it's basically a get-out-of-class-free card. It'll last two periods, and all you have to do is relax and mingle."
He lights up at this and instantly agrees, and DJ smirks, her work done.
Hello, good bye, I'll see if I can see you again.
As soon as Rebecca and Amanda see each other, they're all arms and excited whispering gossip. It's as if they live across the country from each other, not just half a hallway away. Wilder, Michael and Noah (as reluctantly as it seems) fall easily into their old Pizza Patrol habits, though Michael is less than enthusiastic about the full-day marathon. As they squeeze onto the couch, wondering how on earth they fit on the couch just one year ago, Rebecca and Amanda stay behind and drink their smoothies.
"Are you dating?" Amanda takes a delicate sip of her smoothie and nods towards the back of Noah's head.
"We broke up a while ago, remember?"
"Yeah, but it's not like you - wait, you broke up?"
"Mmhm, I thought you heard. I mean, aren't you the queen of gossip?"
"I didn't hear, thanks. Why?"
Silence, followed by more slurping, and some laughter erupting from the couch before them.
"I don't know. We just kind of ended it."
"Well, Wilder and I are together," Amanda smirks, flipping back her shiny dark hair. They mismatch, but Rebecca doesn't tell her that. Wilder now wears glasses (rectangular Gucci glasses, Amanda made sure of) from too many late-night video games. Rebecca muses over the hilarity of it - the couple that would never have happened, happened (that being Amanda and Wilder, of course), and the couple that everyone knew was going to be inevitable all throughout high school and college and everything - it happened and crashed (that being her and Noah, of course).
"Congratulations." Her voice has a bitter hint to it, but since Rebecca is Rebecca - warm and polite and tolerant, Amanda ignores it for jealousy (why wouldn't anyone be jealous of her, after all?).
We belong together, right?
They sit outside on her porch, the lantern dangling from the ceiling their only source of light. Mosquitoes and other stray bugs are spasming around it, and Rebecca squirms.
"Tell me, again, why you wanted me to tutor you out here," She complains, swatting bugs from her face with disgust.
"It's a good night to spend out here together." Unintentionally, he sounds sweet, and Rebecca catches that and blushes right up to her ears. Suddenly, she's glad for the dimness of the light. Long after they've finished going over the homework, they're still sitting on the porch in her backyard (her bobba is watching his favourite soap opera in his room, opposite to where they are).
"Hey Noah, didn't you call me beautiful once?" She asks cheekily.
"Mmmmnope," he replies lazily, scratching his head, full of spiked brown hair.
"Why would I lie about calling you beautiful? Honestly, R, grow up." He mimics her with those last two words, and she rolls her eyes, sighing with exasperation.
"I've done enough of that, thanks." Without her even noticing, Noah's shifted in front of her and she's trapped between her chair and him. "N-Noah? What are you doing?"
"Seeing if you've grown up half as much as I have," he murmurs, leaning in towards her, and they spend the rest of the night outside. When morning comes around, he's asleep in her lap, and she has four hickeys (she counted).
Since she's polite, she doesn't shove him off her lap. Instead, she muses over how they're still not together, and how long his eyelashes are, and how suddenly -
"NOAH! How long have you been awake!?"
"Long enough to see you make that gooey face at me," he purrs, burrowing his face back into her lap.
She then goes on to muse about how they'll ever get to school on time, before he reminds her that it's Saturday. So they sit for a while, just a little while, and then she asks him why he waited until Friday to finish the homework that was due the Wednesday before, and he just grins, reddens a little, and says not a word.