The Art of Fencing

I stared at myself in the bathroom mirror, conscious of how bare my neck felt. My hair hadn't been long, barely shoulder length, but in a fit of emotion last night I had taken a pair of scissors to the blond strands, the control I had over the snipping soothing the roiling in my chest. Weevil had made me swear upon our friendship I wouldn't resort to my usual methods of releasing tension, so my hair was the closest thing I could come to the same act.

The door behind me flew open and banged against the wall heralding the arrival of one Lilly Kane. I snorted softly to myself as I watched her through the mirror, pinpointing the exact moment when she realized no one else was in here but me. The haughty mask of self-entitlement fell, though she still kept a blank look on her face. We were friends of a sort, I guess, but honestly I was just waiting until the other shoe fell. Girls like Lilly don't befriend girls like me without ulterior motives; already she used my friend as a shot in the endless war with Logan and it was another point in the con column against her. If she'd truly been attracted to Weevil, I wouldn't have cared, but I could see her machinations a mile away the moment her ex showed up.

"Lilly."

"Ronica."

I gritted my teeth against the stupid nickname. Was the "ve" sound too much for her gold-plated mouth to say? I didn't bother correcting her because it wasn't worth the headache in the long run, and I knew enough about her to know she'd ignore my wishes anyway. We had a reckoning coming – I could feel it in my bones – but it wouldn't be over this.

"Nice haircut. Very pixish of you," she cooed sweetly, and completely falsely, as she pulled her lipstick from her handbag. The red lips were vampy and bold, exactly the shade she was going for, and I wanted to tell her to wipe it off so she would stop looking like the whores who used to ply their trade near my old house, but again, self-preservation kept my mouth shut. It wasn't a good place to be, high up on the mountain, because the fall down could kill you. I had learned that to my detriment and wasn't keen on repeating it here.

"Thanks. I was needing a new look. New school and all that," I retorted, turning my eyes to the sink where I began washing my hands.

"I totally understand. Maybe a new wardrobe while you're at it? I mean, if you want boys to take you seriously you don't want to look trashy."

I could respect her first thrust, soaked as it was with cloying concern. I concluded this was part of a longer con she was running and decided not to retaliate. I needed a distraction from the mess of my life outside school and I figured Lilly could be an interesting way to pass the time. Plus I knew it drove Logan nuts trying to figure out why we were friends. He understood Lilly and seemed to truly care for her, if I could believe his about face at the beach yesterday. I still had no desire to get in between these two because I would just end up collateral damage, but since I knew the score, I could watch their antics from a safe distance. I shuddered internally thinking about the type of obsession those two shared; it was so unhealthy, and this was coming from me, not exactly the poster girl for functional relationships.

So I turned towards her with wide eyes. "You think I look trashy?" My lower lip wobbled a bit, but I bravely bucked up. "I'm not exactly, you know, rolling with it."

If I hadn't known to look for it, I would've missed the tiny spark of triumph lighting her eyes or the blink-and-you'll-miss-it smirk that whipped across her whorish lips. She thought she had me in the palm of her delicate hand and I did nothing to disabuse her of the notion. Hell, if this scored me some new clothes I wouldn't exactly cry over my good fortune. I dressed like I did because it was all I could afford.

"Stick with me kid, and you'll go places."

I wanted to roll my eyes at her shitty paraphrasing from Cocktail, but I refrained. It wouldn't do for her to realize I could see right through her; girls like her needed to be handled gently, like an unpinned grenade, if you wanted to get out of range of the blast.

"Uh, hey, what's going on with you and Logan?"

I watched her face like a hawk, though I tried to disguise it behind a sweetly concerned expression. I didn't exactly want her to know I myself had ulterior motives; I owed Logan and I always paid my debts. I really hated owing people anything, be it money or favors because I could never be sure it wouldn't come back to bite me in the ass later.

There was a small tightening of her mouth and narrowing of her eyes, but nothing else passed over her face. I didn't know her long enough to be able to read her that well, but I definitely knew the signs of an angry girl. Something had happened yesterday – either before Logan found me or after we parted ways – and it pissed her off something fierce.

She threw her lipstick into her purse and turned away from her reflection to face me. "Why do you want to know?"

I shrugged. "I ran into him at the beach yesterday and he was asking me all these questions about you. I didn't know what to say." I had no intentions of ever telling her what actually went down and could only hope Logan wouldn't either. And keep a muzzle on his friends. It was weird trusting someone not of my inner circle, but I had no choice in this case. I still couldn't understand why I confessed what happened; it wasn't exactly a secret, as my arrest and allegations were part of the public record, yet he wouldn't have known enough to put the pieces together without my big mouth opening up.

She smiled coldly then, and I was thankful I was made of sterner stuff because it was not nice at all. I wondered if she realized how much she revealed but figured if she did, it wouldn't matter to her since I was a nobody and she was Lilly fucking Kane, Queen of Neptune High.

"Logan just happened to run into you on the beach? After asking me questions about where you were all day?" She arched a perfectly plucked brow. "Are you sure I'm what you two talked about?"

I wanted to groan and slam my head against the wall at her words. I ignored the information about Logan asking about me – what was he thinking? - and focused instead on the crux of her anger. As part of her clique, I'd been inundated with more information about the Logan and Lilly show than I'd ever really needed or wanted, but I had discovered that as much as Lilly broke up with him (and cheated on him, though that was spoken about in whispers), she still considered him her property. And if Logan's reaction was any indication, he didn't want to let go either, despite her sexy snuggle with Weevil.

These two seriously put the dysfunction in dysfunctional relationships.

Her expression made it abundantly clear that me being in any proximity of Logan without her being there had crossed some line I'd been unaware of. I'd just jeopardized my prize position as her "bestie" and I needed to do damage control before she decided I was a Japanese village in need of Godzilla-like razing.

"Yeah! He kept asking me if we ever talked about him, what you thought about him, if you were really dating Weevil." I really deserved an Oscar for my role as empty-headed ingenue, two things I was definitely not. I wasn't stupid enough to think Lilly wasn't cunning or sly enough to see through me, but she hadn't taken the time to get to know me outside of school, so I was banking on her cluelessness to my true nature. I was a friend in the hallways and classrooms of Neptune High and not someone she hung out with at her house or even the mall.

"Oh really?"

I nodded, tucking a loose strand behind my ear, watching Lilly ease down from Def Con 5. I really needed to sell this next point if I was going to survive her wrath. "He kinda scares me. I mean, he's hot, don't get me wrong, but he's so angry, you know?" I visibly shuddered.

Lilly smiled again, though this time I couldn't quite read its meaning. Her blue eyes stopped boring into me and she flicked through her purse, looking for some eyeshadow. I docilely watched as she spread metallic gray across her pale lids, waiting for her to speak.

"Logan really is a powder-keg of emotions, so I can understand why you wouldn't be able to handle him." A sensual look replaced the unreadable one as she admired her handiwork. "But it's what makes him so delicious in bed. He really knows how to work a girl's body, if you know what I mean."

I tilted my head in true befuddlement. I really didn't know what she meant, even though I'm not a virgin. I'd had exactly three sexual partners, two of whom were boyfriends, so it wasn't like I was lacking experience, but I could honestly say I had never had the same religious experience she seemed to be describing.

"No, I don't."

She turned a scandalized face in my direction. "What? You've never had a guy spend all his time focusing on your pleasure before taking care of his own? It's one of the reasons I keep him around."

"Then why break up with him?"

Lilly shrugged, the material of her oversize blue shirt slipping off her shoulder to reveal a lacy bra strap. "The sex was good, but everything else was too much work. He so fucking needy!"

I startled at the first glimpse of real emotion from her. It also gave me an uncomfortable view into Logan's life, even if it was from a bad-mouthing ex. There was a story here and damn if my curiosity wasn't tingling. Or it could just be I wanted my own pound of flesh since I'd revealed something very personal to a virtual stranger.

Fortunately Lilly didn't notice my lapse and returned to her makeup, still nattering on about Logan, though the emotional tenor of her outburst was replaced by typical ex-bashing: he didn't pay enough attention to her (I wondered exactly how much attention a guy was supposed to give her since I'd personally seen Logan's obsession with every detail), didn't call when he said he would, forgot anniversaries (again I highly doubted this, though it was more a sense than actual proof), ad nauseum.

I was thankful for the first bell to ring as it broke into her barrage of words. I had no problem being the sidekick, but damn if it wasn't hard work listening and trying to keep a straight face at the same time. If this was the extent of her problems – an ex who seemingly worshiped the ground she walked on – than she needed to be dropped into the run-down neighborhoods in Los Angeles to see real suffering.

"I do hope if Logan asks you again for information, you won't tell him about this little session?"

I blinked. "What session?"

"Good girl." She ruffled my hair a little as if patting me, then rummaged through her purse again and retrieved a Cubic Zirconia hair clip before pushing some of my bangs to the side. I looked at my new hair-style and thought it actually made me look chic rather than choppy.

"Thanks."

"Don't mention it," she winked at my mirror visage, than locked arms with me. "Lets get to our lockers before we're late."

We both laughed hilariously at that because it was well-known no teacher would dare mark Lilly Kane tardy. I marched under her banner now, so that protection would extend to me as well. Hey, if you can't beat 'em, might as well join them and enjoy the perks.


A/N: Wow, it's been over a year since I last updated this story and I still have readers. Hopefully this chapter won't be too disappointing after such a long time; it took me a little bit to find the character's voice again and pick back up where I left off (I have most of the story outlined on index cards). It may or may not fit in with the previous chapters, but I feel this is an important character arc and story growth to explain a few things. Also, the picture I've used as the story image is Kristen Bell and it inspired the haircut Veronica has in this chapter (if you look closely, her hair is actually pinned up, but from the side it looks like a short haircut). Thanks as always for reading and reviewing!