He stares across the line of lunch tables, to the opposite side of the schoolyard, where Jade sits with a group of senior guys. She probably threatened them to do it, he thinks. And the only reason he's okay with it is that just yesterday, he had dumped her.
A year and a half ago, she was what Beck had wanted, but after going through the experience, he didn't feel the same way. He had just moved out of his parents house, no matter just to the driveway, and he was in the mood for something dangerous. Jade was in the habit of getting whatever she'd like, and Beck was no exception. Even when the newness wore off, Beck stuck with her, because there was no one else to go to. No one else was quite up to his standards. Until, suddenly, one day there is.
Beck switches his focus to the girl sitting five feet away from him, just across the table, and tries to deny what he is thinking. Cat Valentine? She is nowhere near what he likes. He likes the dangerous ones. Not the ones that are so sweet they probably taste like frosting. Stop thinking about what she tastes like, he tells himself.
Cat has loved Beck for a long, long, time. Who wouldn't? She never tries to do anything about it, she just lets it sit in the back of her mind, a constant knock, saying Isn't Beck beautiful?
Of course he is! Cat answers back, but there's nothing she can do. She's not like Jade, she never will be, so she just accepts it.
"Hey Beck, can I have some of your cookie? I love orange frosting, it's my favorite... please?"
"Sure." He breaks off half and hands it to her. And at the very last second, he winks.
Beck flirts with everyone. Even when he was with Jade, he flirted with everyone. It made Jade extremely mad, but she didn't know that making her mad was one of Beck's favorite activities. Thinking back, he was unhappier with her than he had first thought. So really, when Beck winks at Cat, she doesn't think anything of it. But Beck does.
Did I just wink at Cat? Is that a weird thing to do? He doesn't think about it for too long, he just goes back to eating his cookie, and now Cat is doing the very same thing. Beck tells himself it's just a coincidence that he and Cat have the same favorite kind of frosting.
He glances across the classroom towards her during drama class, even though he's trying not to. Jade, not even pretending to pay attention in class, is filing her nails in a way that seems a little furious. But Beck doesn't care because he's free of that now. Now he's wondering what a kissing scene would be like with Cat, which would be totally acceptable because it's only acting. He pretends that Cat is wondering the same thing. She's actually not thinking about much; she's a pretty simple girl. When she looks out the window, she's only imagining herself twisting and twirling along with the wind. It's the kind of freedom that Beck doesn't even know he's searching for. They're told to break into pairs and he almost topples three desks over trying to get to her. Of course Cat says yes; who would pass up the chance to read from the same textbook as Beck Oliver?
But, Why are we reading from textbooks in drama class? Beck thinks. Aren't there some kissing scenes or something we should be trying out?
It's like his feet are moving on their own. He's not capable of stopping them.
Cat is humming to herself, laying face down on her bed when the doorbell rings. She opens it to a very frazzled, confused-looking Beck. She almost asks what he's doing here, but decides it's better not to question things.
"Hey. Can I come in?"
He's been to her house before, although it's never been just him, but Cat's brain still tells her to not get her hopes up. She smiles and lets him in, and he follows her to her room because that's where she was last, and anyway her brother is playing video games way too loudly in the living room. She climbs back onto her bed and he sits a little awkwardly on the other side because she doesn't have any chairs, and while Cat feels like she's having a mini heart attack, Beck is trying to decide whether or not he's sane. He settles on a no. But straightforward is all he knows, so he just tells her.
"I'm used to spending all my time with Jade. Now that she's gone, I don't know what to do." For usually being so honest, it's a pretty big stretch of the truth. There's tons of things he could be doing. But this is the only place he wants to be.
Cat gets a DVD off her bookshelf and sticks it in the player. And while Cat is perfectly satisfied with watching two animated robots fall in love on the screen, Beck's mind is full of frustration. It's perfectly understandable, it's only his whole world that's been flipped upside down, but he's wondering if dumping Jade was the right thing. Because right now would be when he'd put his arm around her and settle down into that familiar manufactured contentment. At least it was something. Now the only thing Beck has to hold onto is the tiny hope that being here with Cat won't end up in disaster. Because she's really not the type he goes for. He likes the hot ones, the demanding ones, not the ones that find peace in an animated Disney movie. But then again, he did secretly kind of like this one about the robot.
The next day at school, Beck makes a conscious effort to sit next to Cat at lunch. It's not like it's never happened before, it's not like there's a seating chart, but it's the first time he's ever done it specifically on purpose. He picks up his napkin, uncovering an orange cookie. He glances sideways at Cat, who smiles, and breaks it in half without saying anything. He keeps staring into her eyes, forgets he's been doing it for longer than socially acceptable, then jerks his head away.
She's like a kid, Beck thinks. I mean, she's cute, but not like that. Cute like little kid, not like hot. In the back of his mind, he can feel the lie, the evil that he's trying to run away from. But when Cat throws her head back and laughs at one of Andre's jokes, and the sun is hitting her shoulders, and she smiles to herself while eating half a cookie, Beck allows himself to admit what he knows he's been thinking.
He decides to ignore her. He is successful in this for one class period. For one whole drama class, Beck keeps his eyes glued to the front of the classroom. Did Cat glance over at him? He doesn't know, because he is too busy trying to bore holes into to the chalkboard.
You just miss being with a girl, he thinks, You're just not used to being alone. And that hits it.
Beck Oliver is just way too used to being alone.
Because that year and a half of being with Jade was just an excuse. He never loved her. He didn't feel happy when she showed up outside his door. He never has. And now there's a girl who makes him feel something other than pain. And it scares him. But he knows he can't fight himself anymore.
After school he runs to catch up with her, tunes out the disorientation of feeling torment and elation at the same time. He doesn't want to face his trailer, where every day feels like the last, and it never feels good. He asks her to just walk with him.
They walk in silence, away from Hollywood Arts, across the street and past the strip malls. The enter the local coffee shop.
Sometimes Beck drinks coffee, sometimes he drinks tea, but today he buys them both strawberries and creme frappachinos, the happiest drink they could ever serve.
Cat sits across from Beck in a dark green pinstriped armchair, criss-crosses her legs under her and just feels grateful that she's with someone else and not alone. She sucks her drink through her straw and it feels cold, but so sweet at the same time. She looks up at Beck and thinks he looks like he wants to say something. Cat's always been pretty straightforward as well.
"So why are we here?" She puts her drink down. "Did you have something to tell me?"
Ever since the first time he met a non-family member girl, he'd known exactly what to say to make them fall in love. But sitting here in front of Cat with a mix of whipped cream and pink ice cream in his hand, his mind isn't coming up with any words. Still, he furrows his eyebrows and his answer comes out extremely casual. "We're drinking frozen coffee. What else would we be doing?"
"Oh, I know. It's good, too. Thanks so much!"
Beck sits back in his chair. He does have something to tell her, but he's not exactly sure what it is. So for now he avoids the question.
Cat is beginning to regard the period of time when almost all her day was spent alone as the distant past. She's spending a lot of time with Beck, and she doesn't mind at all. She figures it's probably because he's just broken up with Jade and he needs to distract himself. And she is half correct. It's true that Beck has just broken up with Jade not too long ago, although it becomes more like ancient history every second that passes by. And he's definitely trying to distract himself, but not from the breakup. Honestly, he hasn't thought about Jade for a few weeks. But he has spent a fair share of time thinking of someone else, and of that, Cat is completely unaware. Years ago she told herself that staring at Beck when his head is turned is fine, but to never expect anything to come out of it. Now she's just glad to be there for him when he needs it, and sticking to what she's trained herself to do. When she's sitting on a bench under a tree outside Hollywood Arts trying to escape from the sun, someone sits down next to her, and she wishes it was Beck out of habit. This time it actually is.
The last bell has rung, the school day is over, and Cat and Beck sit in the shade watching students hustle by. They don't even say anything. Beck is thinking back to the day he first met Jade. The thoughts come in a sporadic rush. Math class, the teacher was boring, he rolled his eyes and Jade laughed. More like smiled. Somewhat resembled smiling. Mysterious new girl. Cat shuffling her feet across the grass breaks his concentration and he looks up at her. How long has he known Cat? Years? Has it really been that long? His mind drifts back to Jade and he skims over the details, not wanting to go through the whole spiel again. Remember the day when... the first day I met Jade? He had been standing next to Jade's locker. She was complaining to him about the math class they were going to have to suffer through for a whole year, and he leaned forward. It was the first day Beck had met her, and he kissed her. Straight on the lips. And now he's sitting next to Cat, a girl he has apparently known for years. Beck leans in an unnoticeable amount towards Cat, who is now sitting still. Should I... should I really? he's thinking. But in the back of his mind, Beck Oliver has never been more sure of anything in his whole life. Cat is watching a school bus leave the parking lot and Beck fixes his eyes on her face. He leans over again, but this time all the way, and kisses her cheek. Cat jerks her eyes towards him, shocked. And unlike the last time, Beck knows that this time he's got it right.
Jade sits across the schoolyard from him, surrounded by a group of senior boys, with an actual, legitimate smile on her face. But it doesn't come anywhere close to Cat's. He watches her drink from a juice box, and grabs her hand under the table.
"Y'know, Beck, she only likes you for your cookies," Andre calls out.
Beck laughs. "Is that true, Cat?"
Beck smiles. He's never realized how absolutely beautiful a cookie could be.