"She took it! I know she did!" I yell, pacing my dorm and all but tearing my hair out.
Alexis seats herself on my bed and sighs. "No, you don't know that. Are you sure you didn't just misplace it?"
"Positive! I only ever put it in one place!" Trying to stop freaking out, I flop down onto my bed. "UUUGH, I'LL KILL HER!" I groan/scream, then roll onto my stomach and cover my head with a pillow.
I barely hear a response from her, but it sounds something like, "You need to calm down."
I scream into the pillow to muffle the sound, then sit up and frantically cry, "I can't calm down! The one person in the whole school who wants to destroy me has my damned diary! HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO CALM DOWN!" Angry and upset, I whip the pillow across the room.
"Ow! What was that for!"
Both Alexis and I turn our heads towards the door and find Jaden standing there, the offending pillow at his feet. Jesse and Syrus are behind him with matching expressions of confusion.
"We heard your yellin' all the way down the hall, V," Jesse comments. "What's all this about killin' someone?"
Syrus actually takes a second to look around my dorm. "And what the heck happened in here? It looks like a tornado blew through!"
Alexis answers for me, probably sensing that I'm about to cry. "Vivien's diary is missing. We've searched the room, but it's not here, and V swears up and down that Carmen stole it..."
"Carmen?" Jay asks.
"A girl in Ra Yellow. She's been out to get V since the second week of the semester," Lexi elaborates briefly.
"What for?" Jesse ventures, stepping carefully over my stuff to sit next to me on the bed.
"I kicked her sorry butt in a duel," I finally say. "She was one of those newbies who think they're invincible after winning one duel. She challenged me and lost after bragging about how 'unbeatable' she was. There were a lot of people watching, she was totally humiliated." I'll admit it; an evil smirk crosses my face as I remember it. "It was her own fault for being so conceited..."
"But why take your diary? You don't seem like the type to pour everything into a journal..." Alexis points out. "Do you even have any secrets?"
I sigh, "Honestly? Just one. It's nothing bad, but it's in there. And on top of that, my dueling strategy is in it, too, along with just about everything I've ever thought about anyone!"
"So, basically," Jaden starts, "It's your brain in writing?"
Jesse gets up again and decides, "Well then, we better find 'er. If that girl really did take your diary, she could go around showin' it to everyone."
Jaden looks worried all of a sudden. "What if she tells everyone your dueling plan! You'd have to start from scratch!"
"Ugh, don't remind me!" I groan, slapping a hand to my head.
"Where should we look?" Sy asks, trying to be productive.
Alexis get up and answers, "Carmen and her friends usually hang out in the auditorium between classes. Let's try there first."
Jesse offers me a smile. "C'mon, we'll get your diary back. No worries!"
I really, REALLY hope he's right.
"Over there," Jay points out a group of four girls in one of the lower rows of seats. "Is that them?"
I nod, then advance on them without a word.
"V, wait up!" Lexi calls, hurrying to my side with the three boys.
Carmen notices me before I reach her and smirks. "Well, well, look what the cat coughed up..." Her eyes land on Jesse, though, and she straightens up instantly. It's no secret that she's got a thing for him; probably another reason for her to hate me.
I ignore her staring at my best guy-friend and get straight to the point. "I think you have something that belongs to me."
She shifts her attention back to me with a scowl. "Why would I have anything of yours?"
"Because you're a conniving thief, why else?"
Her eyes narrow dangerously, but then she turns to one of her friends. "Hey Denise? Didn't you say you found a book or something the other day?"
Denise nods with a fake smile, removing said book from her bag. "Right here," she confirms, passing it over.
Carmen holds it up. "This it?"
Red cover, black music notes scribbled all over it; my freaking diary.
"Hand it over," I demand, my voice hitting a scarily low tone.
She pulls it back a little. "Hmm, I don't know. How can I be sure it's yours?"
"You know damn well that it's mine." It's a wonder I haven't launched myself at her yet.
Alexis decides to step in. "That book never leaves Vivien's room. The only way you could've gotten it is if you went in her room and stole it!"
Jesse also adds, "I wonder what Chancellor Sheppard would think of your stealin' from the Obelisk dorms..."
A flash of panic crosses her face, but she does her best to cover it up. "You can't prove anything."
I hold my hand out, getting desperate to hide the diary ASAP. "Give it back now and I won't have to. I won't say a word about this to Sheppard."
Syrus obviously doesn't agree with this decision. "What? Vivien, are you sure?"
"Yeah, V, think about it. She stole something really important to you," Jaden says.
"I don't care. I just want the stupid thing back." A huge part of me wants to see Carmen get in serious trouble, but the itty-bitty, logical part of me says to suck it up, get the diary back, and find a better hiding place for it.
She eyes me as though I might suddenly pounce on her with a vicious battle-cry, but finally hands it off to me. "Fine."
I immediately clutch the book against my chest and threaten, "If you ever step foot in my room again, I'll personally break your fingers one by one. Got it?"
Jesse grabs my shoulder. "Easy, V. Deep breaths."
Alexis takes hold of my other shoulder and starts leading me away. Once we're all out of earshot, she asks with a smirk, "So, how close were you to losing it on her?"
She and Jesse laugh at my response, but Syrus frowns, "I still think you should go to Chancellor Sheppard, Vivien. She deserves it."
"Yeah, she does, but I'll get her for something else, I'm sure." I notice Jaden staring into space. "Uh, Jay? You still with us?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah. Sorry, it's just..." He glances back at the auditorium doors. "Doesn't it seem weird that she gave up so fast? I mean, from what you told us, she really hates you. If she went to the trouble of stealing your diary, why give it back without a fight?"
For once, he actually makes a good point. "Hmm... dunno. Maybe she doesn't want to lose her goody-two-shoes rep with the teachers."
"Ya know, Jay could be onta somethin'," Jesse agrees. "Maybe you oughtta go through it and make sure everything's in order."
"Couldn't hurt, I guess." Better safe than sorry; Carmen might've scribbled on the pages or something. I start skimming through the pages, looking for anything that shouldn't be there. I get about halfway through without incident. "Everything looks the same," I murmur, turning another page. Another clean entry, then... Oh, no.
"V?" Sy asks, "Why'd you stop walking?"
"Now I know why she gave in so easily..." I lower the book so they can see. "There's a page missing."
Alexis groans. "Great; I knew it couldn't be that simple! We've gotta go back and get it!"
With her leading the way, we backtrack the way we came, only to find the auditorium empty.
"This can't be happening..." I mutter, defeated and depressed all over again.
"They could be anywhere by now, "Sy adds, just as shot down as me.
Jesse, ever-optimistic, tries to improve the situation. "Well, we'll just have ta keep a lookout for Carmen and her friends. Sure, the academy's big an' all, but they can't run forever."
Jaden agrees wholeheartedly before turning my way. "Do you know which entry she took?"
I shake my head miserably. "I don't write every day, and I don't remember every entry, either. I know it wasn't my duel tactics, though; they're still in the diary.
"At least there's a bright side then," he grins. Leave it to Jay to brighten the mood, even just for a minute.
"All clear, Carmen," Denise signals. "They're not following us."
The blonde "leader" smirks. "Perfect." She fishes a slightly wrinkled piece of paper out of her bag. "This'll teach her to make a fool of me..."
Another of the girls, Miranda, laughs excitedly. "Oh, she'll be SO embarrassed! You're a genius!" she gushes.
"I know," Carmen boasts, continuing to lead the small group. "I hate to admit it, but we're actually doing her a favor. Jim is totally out of her league in more ways than one."
The four stop outside one of the dorm rooms. Carmen sets the paper on the floor a few feet away from the door and knocks. When footsteps are heard inside, the girls take off down a hall and hide around the corner.
The door opens, revealing the confused face of Jim Crocodile Cook. He steps out into the hallways and looks for the one who'd knocked on his door, but finds the corridor deserted. "That's odd... Huh?" The lone sheet of paper has caught his eye. Curious, he picks it up and reads the neat script decorating the page.
Meanwhile, the four girls watch from a distance. Carmen smiles smugly when Jim's expression shifts from confused to shocked.
After reading the whole thing, he looks both ways down the hall again, then, with slight hesitation, goes back into his room.
Denise, Miranda, and Collette giggle, praising Carmen's plan. The blonde smiles sadistically and says, "Now she'll be just as humiliated as I was. We're even."
I can't believe this. Twenty-four hours, and Carmen's nowhere to be found. The paranoia's started to set in; I keep imagining her lackeys helping her plot my downfall. We still have no idea what she took out of my diary, but I'm sure it was something important, something that'll help her get under my skin. ...Or maybe I'm even more paranoid than I thought.
As I lay staring up at my ceiling, a million and three scenarios flood my mind, all ending with Carmen laughing evilly over my grave. I groan out of frustration and curse myself again. "This is what happens the one time I forget to lock my door..."
"Vivien? Ya in there?"
Hearing the distinct Aussie-accent, I smile just slightly and sit up. "Yeah! C'mon in, Jim!" I quickly run a hand over my hair to make sure it's presentable.
He walks in with a trace of a smirk on his face. "I hope there's a good reason why you're in here instead of watchin' Jaden's duel."
Oh, hell. "That's today!" I slap a hand over my face.
Jim chuckles and makes his way over. "No worries, mate. When I left, Jay was about to end it. The match didn't last long."
I sigh, shaking my head. "But now I feel bad for missing it. Jeez, I can't believe I forgot!"
"I can," he argues, sitting next to me. "Alexis tells me you've had a run of bad luck lately."
Right. That. "I don't want to talk about it," I mutter, instantly downtrodden.
"That's a lie." His smirk actually grows at my reaction. "I'm willin' to bet you'd like nothin' more than to go into a rant about it."
Just because he's right, that doesn't mean I'm going to let him know that. "I'm fine."
He casts me a teasing glance. "When did ya get into this habit of lyin', sheila?"
...Damn him. "Alright, so I'm mad about it. But it's just a bunch of drama between girls; you don't want to hear about it."
"Does it have somethin' to do with this?"
I ignore the anger for a second and look back at him. Curiosity takes over when he draws a folded piece of paper from his pocket. "What's that?"
"I was hopin' ya'd be able to answer that for me. Here," he hands it to me without any other explanation.
Hopelessly confused by his response, I open the paper up.
Oh, my god.
~In the last entry, I wrote that some exchange students had come to D.A. for the semester. As it turns out, two of them are pretty cool, and good friends of mine now. Jesse acts like I'm his long-lost little sister or something, and Jim... well, I'm not sure where to start...~
No, no NO! This can't be happening! "W-Where'd you get this?"
I don't have to look to know that he's still smiling; I'm not sure whether that's a good sign, or I'm about to get laughed at. "Someone left it outside my room. Not sure who it was, but I know that's your signature at the bottom."
The urge to tear the paper to shreds is almost irresistible. "It was Carmen. She wanted you to find it." I calmly set it aside and keep my gaze on the carpet.
"Carmen? That nasty sheila from Ra Yellow?" After a faint nod from me, he goes on to ask, "What's she got to do with anythin'?"
"I beat her in a duel at the start of the school year. She's hated me ever since. Yesterday, she stole my diary, probably so she could look for dirt on me. When I got it back, there was a page missing..." I summarize without looking up.
Jim's quiet for a moment. "...Well, that explains a bit. But why leave it for me?"
"Probably because she wanted to humiliate me like I did to her." It all makes sense now. She was trying to mortify me, and she did a damn good job.
"...You are eventually gonna look at me, aren't ya?"
"I'm not sure I can right now," I answer honestly. The joking tone in his voice just makes me feel worse. This is probably all a joke to him. I knew-
"Carmen must not be all that bright," he snickers.
And now he's laughing. I've never felt this pathetic in my entire life. Despite my misery, I manage to ask why he'd say that.
"Because the way I see it, this would only be really humiliatin' if I didn't like ya back."
Then explain why I feel so horri-wait.
Now that I'm finally looking at him, his grin widens. "I think ya heard me, V."
I blink. ...Twice. Only after the third blink does it finally sink in. "You... like me, too?"
"Yep." He answers so easily, I'm a little amazed at how relaxed he is. "I've been waitin' for the right time to tell ya, but after readin' what ya wrote about me, well, I figured I'd waited long enough."
Now his reaction makes more sense. "Then... that's what you thought was so funny before?"
"Why? Did ya think I was laughin' at ya?"
I nod, a little embarrassed.
"Why would ya think that?"
I shrug and lean back on my elbows. "I've liked you for a while now, but I always figured you'd never like me back."
He smirks again. "Don't tell me ya thought I'd make fun of ya."
"Well, when you put it that way..."
Jim chuckles, and I can feel a strong blush assaulting my face. "I'd never do that to ya, Vivien. In fact, I've got a plan to help ya get back at Carmen for messin' with ya and gettin' ya so upset."
Now that sparks my interest. "What did you have in mind?" I ask, trying not to sound too excited.
His blue eye shines with mischief. "Come on, I'll show ya." He gets up and grins down at me.
"Where are we going?"
He holds out his hand for me to take. "Don't ya trust me, sheila?"
"Did you really just ask that?" I remark sarcastically, taking his hand.
"I'll take that as a 'yes', then." Jim tugs me behind him, leading me out into the hall and towards the courtyard.
I don't bother asking again, since I know he won't tell me, but the suspense is killing me. I let him pull me along until we get outside, where he continues across the grass onto the academy's front stairs. I look around me and see that there's almost no one there. Wait... is that Carmen? "Uh, Jim?"
"All part of the plan, mate," he says coolly, answering my unasked question.
The blonde is, as always, encircled by her entourage of followers. They're walking down the steps, right towards us.
I'm not so sure about this plan of his anymore.
Just as the girls are closing in, he turns on me, backing me up against the stone siding of the stairs. "Ready?"
All I can do with him being so close is nod dumbly with wide eyes.
Smirking devilishly once again, he tilts his head down and catches me off-guard with a kiss.
I instantly forget all about Carmen, her friends, and just about anything else that might matter right now. All I can think about is how amazing his lips feel on mine. I let my eyes slide shut as I kiss back, ignoring the tingling feeling that's slowly enveloping my body. Hands on the small of my back, he brings me closer. My own hands slowly wander up to rest on his shoulders.
This fantastic moment is ruined, though, when we're interrupted by four simultaneous gasps.
Jim pulls away first, a satisfied smile on his face. He turns his gaze from me to Carmen, who stands stone-still a few feet away. "Maybe no one's told ya, but it's rude to stare."
...Ooohh, now I get it!
"W-What's going on here!"
"What's it look like?" He holds my around the waist with an easy grin.
The blonde looks about ready to start screaming. "But... But she's-"
"My sheila," he interrupts smugly, making my heart skip a beat. "Somethin' wrong with that?"
It takes all the restraint I have not to burst out laughing; I haven't seen her this mad since she lost our duel. Instead of ruining Jim's scheme, I put on a sweet smile and say, "Thanks for the hook-up, Carmen. You make a great matchmaker."
Now that there's practically steam spouting from her ears, she glares at us and, with a dramatic half-scream, stomps off, her friends not too far behind.
I watch her go, then, as soon as she's out of earshot, I say simply, "You're a genius."
He bows with a flourish, "I do try." Jim straightens up and meets my eyes again. "Take it ya liked the plan, then?"
"Oh, absolutely. I especially enjoyed the first part."
"That makes two of us," he remarks with a sly wink, resulting in a short laughing fit from me.
I know it's a little dumb to ask, but it's nagging at me. "...Did you mean what you said? About me being your... you know..."
"Sure did. That is, if it's what ya want..." he leaves the sentence hanging, but I don't miss the hopeful hinting in how he says it.
I roll my eyes. "As if you don't know after reading that page of my diary..."
He laughs aloud and takes my hand. "Then we'd better go get Shirley."
That one throws me. "What for?"
"To tell 'er that she'd better learn how to share."