~Chapter 1 – Day 3: Clare Edwards - The Incident~

...since then, the three of us remained as a strong brigade. Eli had taken to calling us the Misfits. In his eyes, they had corrupted me as well. It wasn't something that I liked to admit, but I thought the name sort of fit us well. After everything that had happened, we were like rebels, those on the outskirts of the rest of the school. Misfits. It was perfect.

Today was already an odd day. Alli and Jenna usually sat alone now. They were their own sort of outcasts, though I knew that Alli secretly was scheming some new way to become popular. Today, however, Jenna had a doctor's appointment, so Alli was sitting with us. It had taken nearly all of yesterday's lunch period to convince Eli and Adam to let her.

"Too loud," Adam had said.

"Too obnoxious," Eli had added in.

Alli, for her part, didn't look particularly happy about the situation either. "Couldn't you give up one lunch with them for me? As your best friend ever. Please, Clare?" She'd begged.

My answer was simple: "No."

So, I was crazy; I wanted my best friends to somehow all get along. They could at least get through one lunch together. For me.

"Please, Eli." I had said, batting my eyes. I knew he was the one to win over. I could just threaten another of Adam's 'special-editions' if he complained. "For me."

"You look ridiculous." But nothing else was said on the matter, so I'd known I had won.

So, the four of us sat together on a picnic bench. Boys on one side, girls on the other. We sat... staring at each other for five whole minutes. Or in the case of my friends, glaring at each other.

"Okay, let's talk about something..." I said, finally. I felt like I was leading a class. Or maybe, I was a group therapist. "Does anyone have a discussion topic we can all be interested in?'

"Doubtful." Eli said, smirking.

"The new issue of-" Adam started.

"Sizzler Teen?" Alli said at once, turning to me. "Did you see the article about-"

"Ugh," Adam and Eli said, simultaneously.

"How about schoolwork?" I suggested. "We can all relate to that."

"Who wants to talk about that?" Alli said. "How about music? What are your favorite-"

"Dead Hand." Eli and Adam said, instantly.

"Ew, you and Sav." Alli said, sticking out her tongue. "Who would want to listen to a band with a name like that?"

"This is ridiculous, Clare," Adam said. He started to get up. "This group lunch thing isn't going to work."

"Whoa, whoa," Eli said, suddenly. "We haven't heard about your date yet."

Adam paled. "I don't want to talk about it."

"Ooh, okay... dating, now that I can relate to," Alli said, looking mischievous.

"Adam doesn't have to talk about it if he doesn't want to," I said. Though I had to admit I was dying of curiosity, myself.

"Yeah, right," Eli said. "After you made us have a sit-down interview with her? Now, I don't even get to know how far he got?"

"Eli!" I scolded. "And it was not a sit-down interview. It was a casual couple of questions to make sure Fiona-"

"Wait," Alli said. "Are you talking about Fiona Coyne? Like... the girl whose brother you-?"

"Stole a story from!" I said, quickly. Eli raised an eyebrow.

"Yeah, sure," Alli said, laughing. "But I heard... well, isn't she craz-?"

"You'd better not finish that," Adam threatened. His cheeks were on fire now, and his fists were clenched on the table.

Alli closed her mouth for a moment, annoyed. Then, she started back up. "So, you're dating Fiona Coyne? A senior? A rich, practically famous senior?"

"Well, we went out like twice... I don't know if you'd say we were dating," Adam said, frowning.

"Okay, but how far did you get?" Eli asked.

I rolled my eyes. "Can't you save that kind of talk for boys' night?"

"You want to know, too..." Eli accused. I blushed.

"I want to know!" Alli said, excitedly. They ignored her.

Adam was still very red. "We didn't do anything. I didn't- neither of us wanted to. We want to take it slow for now."

"Yeah, I got it." Eli nodded. "There's nothing wrong with that." He gave me a quick glance; my heart floated, somehow.

"Did you kiss her goodnight?" I asked, trying to distract myself.

"...Yeah." Adam said, embarrassed. Eli patted him on the back, and I gave him a big smile.

Alli looked disheartened. "And that's it? That's all you have to say after dating a Coyne?"

I sighed. "Guys don't talk about their dates the same way girls do, Alli," I said.

"I know that, Clare," Alli grumbled. "It's just something interesting was finally happening at this boring table."

We quieted down for awhile. I glanced at Eli. He had a strange look on his face.

"Something wrong, Eli?" I asked.

"Uh, well... I was just thinking," he said, looking at Adam. "If you were going to, how would you?"

I tilted my head, confused for a moment. "What do you mean?"

"That's right," Alli said, ignoring me. "You're not... I mean, you don't have... male parts."

I went scarlet. That's what he meant. Adam looked frustrated with my friend, though I could tell she was trying not to offend him. He turned to Eli and shrugged. "I guess a vibrator...?"

Alli suddenly burst into laughter. Eli and Adam glared at her.

"No... no..." She said, trying to compose herself. "I'm not laughing... about that..."

"What, then?" Adam asked, irritation clear in his face.

"I was just thinking... of the time...Clare-" Alli giggled.

My heart stopped. "Okay, I think we should go get ready for class. The bell is going to ring any minute."

"No way," Eli said, his eyes gleaming with mischief. "I've got to hear this."

"Clare? ... and a...?" Adam said, analyzing me with his eyes.

"It's not what it sounds like,'" I said, frowning.

"Sure..." Eli said.

"It's not!" I said. I was aware that I sounded like a child, but I did not want Eli getting the wrong idea the way K.C. had.

"All right," Eli said. 'Tell us what happened, then..." He looked away from me. "Bhandari."

Alli smiled; it was her gossip smile. "We were in Math class, and Connor tripped over Clare's bag, and it started vibrating."

I didn't know how two boys could look so shocked while laughing so hard.

"But it wasn't mi-"

"And then, Mr. Armstrong was like... 'No cell phones in class, Miss Edwards.' " Alli continued. "And our silly Clare said, "I don't have a cell phone, Sir.'"

"Well, I didn't, but that wasn't-" I tried. No one was listening to me.

"So, he reached into her bag, saying 'Then, what's this...?' " Alli said, falling over in laughter again. "And he pulled out... the vibrator."

"Clare... had a vibrator... and in her school bag?" Adam laughed. Eli didn't seem able to form any words. His face was red from laughing so hard, and I thought I saw tears coming out of his eyes.

I must have looked ready to kill them. "Oh, come on, Clare." Alli said. "I know it was embarrassing then, but that was more than a year ago. Can't you just laugh at yourself for once, instead of being so serious all the time?'

"Okay," I said. "That part was kind of funny... I guess." I turned to the boys. "But I need to explain, the vibrator wasn't-"

The bell rang. "No," I growled.

My friends were getting up and gathering their stuff, still laughing lightly. "That was pretty funny, Bhandari." Eli said, before taking off towards the building.

Adam gave me a look and left as well. I shook my head. I couldn't let them think for another moment that I had... But they were heading in different directions. I couldn't get to both of them. I had to make the obvious choice.

Without even saying goodbye to Alli, I shoved what was left of my lunch into my bag and threw it over my shoulder. I raced after Eli. I caught up with him right before he turned the corner for his History class. I grabbed his arm, and he turned.

"What, Clare?" He was still chuckling. I pulled him away from the classroom. "Are we skipping again?"

"No, " I said, turning around to face him. "I just need to talk to you for second."

"It's fine, Clare," Eli said, smirking "It's not that bad. Everyone gets curious at some point. I'm sure God won't hold it against you."

"I'm not worried about God holding it against me, Eli," I said. Mostly because I hadn't actually used it...

"You think I would?" He asked, looking astonished.

"No, it's not that..." I sighed. "It wasn't really mine. Alli stuck it in my bag at Connor's house so that Mr. Simpson wouldn't know she'd been looking in his bedroom."

"Huh?" Eli said. "So, it was Mr. Simpson's?"

"Well, his wife's... I'm guessing." I tried to shake weird images from my brain. "It doesn't matter. I just wanted you to know it wasn't mine."

"But you kept it..." Eli said, giving me a look.

"No," I corrected. "I was trying to give it back to Alli, but she wouldn't take it."

"But then, you kept it..." Eli said, smiling.

I shook my head. "After Mr. Armstrong found it, I had to have the most embarrassing talk with the principal and my mother. The ridiculous Coach Shepherd took it away after that."

"So, you're mad at him for taking it?" Eli said, raising his eyebrows.

"Stop making things into what they aren't, Eli," I said, angrily. I knew he was joking, but I was flashing back to K.C.'s reaction.

"I'm just teasing, Clare," Eli said, chuckled. "I believe you."

I sighed. Thank God.

"But you had to be just a little curious," he said. "Right?'

"Well, I did have a talk with my mom after that..." I said, shifting my weight, awkwardly. "I asked a few questions..."

"You talked to your mom?" Eli asked, stunned.

"...yeah," I said. I gave a quiet laugh. "It was really embarrassing."

"Well, you know..." Eli said after a moment. He looked just a little embarrassed, himself. "If you ever get a little more curious, you could let me know."

"That's not going to happen," I declared.

He looked straight at me, eyes gleaming again. My breath caught.

"Never?" Eli asked in a teasing tone.

"Not unless we end up getting married," I stated, showing him a glimpse of my chastity ring.

"How about when we've been dating a year?" Eli asked. "Would you consider it, then?"

"No," I said, solidly. "Married."

"Engaged?" Eli proposed.

He looked so amazing: smiling, only half-teasing. In spite of everything, I wanted to believe we could really last all our lives. I smiled.

"That wasn't a no." Eli said, laughing.

I sighed. "I guess it wasn't."