AN: Project Team Beta officially rocks!!! I owe a great deal to their awesome group of betas. Thanks, girls!
Mike Newton is not mine. Jessica is not mine. Nothing is mine. Everything is Stephenie's. No fair.
"Mike, are you listening to me?"
"Huh?" I hadn't been; I had been thinking about my hair. I hadn't gotten it cut in a while, and it was getting too long. Oh, wait, Jessica. We were sitting on her couch, her parents out for the evening, and she had obviously said something that required a response. Maybe I could fool her. She usually just needed a smile and a nod.
"Oh yeah, I know."
No suck luck. She glowered.
"I asked if you wanted to watch A Cinderella Story or She's the Man. You told me you hadn't seen either."
"Oh." Great. Was 'neither' an option? I should have gone to Austin's to play his new Playstation game. But I had been hoping to get some action tonight. Maybe a romance (shudder) would put her in the mood. "Uh, A Cinderella Story."
The movie sucked. I tried to look like I was paying attention while also trying to kiss Jessica's ear. It wasn't working so well.
"Cut it out! I want to watch this!"
Ugh. I turned my attention back to the movie. The next hour was pure torture. Didn't girls have any taste? Well, girls besides Bella, anyways. She wouldn't have made me watch the lame girly movie. She would have been perfectly content to watch The 40-Year Old Virgin, laughing with me the whole time, probably. And then I would have gotten some.
Why did she have to be with the weirdo?
My unpleasant 'Bella and the Freak' thoughts were brought up short when I realized the movie was over and Jessica was looking at me expectantly. Hoping that she was waiting for what I was, I leaned in to kiss her.
Wrong again. Couldn't I get anything right tonight? Or last night? Or the night before? I didn't think we'd had a conversation that didn't end in shouting in over a week.
Jessica leaned away and glared at me.
Think fast! She probably asked about the movie. "That was really great. Thanks for making me watch it."
She raised an eyebrow. "What was your favorite part?"
Crap. I searched my mind frantically for something I remembered. "Uh...the sisters trying to dance." Or something like that.
She almost smiled. "I know, right? But I thought Austen was so hot. And quoting poetry and everything. How come you never quote poetry to me?"
That was a land mine if I ever saw one. "I don't really know any," I said lamely. It looked like I wasn't getting any tonight. Maybe tomorrow? "What do you want to do tomorrow?"
"Lauren's having a party, remember? You were supposed to make her a playlist. Didn't you?"
Oops. "Oh, uh, I forgot. I can do that tonight. Who's coming?" Please say Bella. I could add those songs I remembered she told me she liked. My favorite bands. Her favorite bands. The same thing. Jess only ever wanted to listen to Taylor Swift.
"The usual. Tyler, Conner, Katie and Eric, Angela and Ben. I think she invited some juniors too."
"Is Bella coming?" I had blurted out the question without thinking about it, just because she was already on my mind. She was always on my mind.
Jessica's eyes narrowed. "I don't think anyone invited the Cullens. They never come anyway."
"Bella's not a Cullen." I could see that I was headed toward hot water here, but couldn't seem to stop myself.
"She might as well be."
"No one ever invites her to stuff anymore. I think we should."
"So you'd rather have Bella there than me."
Duh. "That's not what I said."
"You were thinking it."
"So you can read my mind now?" I probably wouldn't have bristled so much except for the fact that she was dead on.
"Mike," her voice was rising in volume, "this is ridiculous. I'm your girlfriend. Start acting like it."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Stop drooling over Bella and start drooling over me!"
"I'm not drooling over anyone!" I was matching her shouting.
"Yes, you are! I've seen the way you look at her at work. And you always try to make sure she's invited."
How had this turned into an argument about Bella again? It seemed like all we fought about anymore.
"Aren't we all supposed to be friends?"
"You don't act like you're her friend. You act like a pathetic puppy who's following her around." Jessica had her arms crossed over her chest, her nostrils flared while she glared daggers at me. I knew that I should've backed down if I wanted to ever get back on her good side, but tonight really wasn't my night.
"I'm not a puppy! Look, she's a friend, that's all. That freak somehow got to her and now she barely gives me the time of day. So give up on the Bella attacks."
About the time that Jessica's hand connected with my face, I realized I must have said something very wrong.
"I can't believe you just said that, Mike Newton!!!"
She hadn't hit me very hard, but the slight ringing it put in my ears combined with my already muddled brain left me very confused.
"If you're so stuck on Bella, why should I even bother with you?!"
"I'm not stuck on Bella!"
"You just said you were!!!"
How on earth did girls do that? You say one thing and they twist it around until it means something totally different. I would never get people who did that. Bella always understood what I really meant.
My anger was getting the best of me. "I'm not stuck on anyone!!! I'm my own man!!" That came out sounding a lot stupider than it had in my head.
"OH!! Meaning you don't need me? Of course not. Why would you? You're your own man!!" Jessica was moving to stand at this point, and, like an idiot, I was moving with her.
"Well, it's just too bad that Bella doesn't think Edward's his own man!! Then she'd be nice and available for you!"
"What do I care about that freak? He thinks he's so hot, but Bella would be far better off without him!"
Jessica was livid. I could almost see the darts coming out her eyes. "Fine! Why don't you go show her then! Go show her how much you love her and stop wasting all your time with me!"
"I think I will!!!"
I grabbed my rain jacket and stormed out of the house. The night air and light drizzle cooled me off pretty quickly, but I was still fuming enough that I had no desire to go back inside. Honestly, this was the worst fight Jess and I had ever had, and I didn't think we'd recover from it. That was going to make things awkward.
There was no way I'd follow through with my threat to ask Bella out again. The last time I had tried, making use of some quiet time near the end of our shifts, Edward had materialized out of nowhere and stared at me till I had slunk away like a coward. Creep.
Maybe Jess had heard about that. I hadn't really meant much by it. Jessica had been busy and I thought Bella might like to see a movie. And then have dinner afterwards. And maybe do some stargazing with a blanket for two. No big deal.
But Cullen clearly thought it was a big deal, so being straightforward was not an option. Maybe I could get her to dump the freak, but how?
I took a deep breath and ran my hands through my now wet hair, still standing on Jessica's porch. Definitely getting longer. Suddenly, an idea hit me, and I jumped in the car to head to the grocery store to buy some hair gel. And maybe a magazine for picture ideas. Longer, casual hair was definitely sexier than short and spiky.