Chapter 1: Acceptance

I still can't help but think that if this were a real life, we would have received some kind of instructions on how to act, how to be... And we would have some idea of what things meant, and why we did them, and why we reacted to things a certain way.

Jordan's hands, roughened by shop, playing the guitar and working at the garage, were surprisingly gentle as he ran his thumb across Angela's cheek and over her lips. She shivered slightly under his touch and closed her eyes.

"So..." his thumb made its way towards her ear.

"So..?" she breathed, opening her eyes briefly to look into his deep blue ones. He smiled, a bit shyly, his hand moving to the nape of her neck. He momentarily broke eye contact, glancing downwards, then back into her eyes. His blue eyes were intense but still held some of the puppy-dog expression that made her melt. They subconsciously moved their faces towards one another, still studying each other. Jordan leaned in first, eyes closed, grazing his lips against hers, taunting her, it seemed. She responded in kind, planting tiny kisses along his bottom lip, watching those lips curve into a lustful smile.

"You trying to drive me crazy or what?" he growled, pulling her towards him again until their lips met. She was aware of her heart beating rapidly in her chest, the heat rising up her neck as he pushed his tongue into her mouth with exactly the right amount of pressure for exactly the right amount of time. It really seemed as if time stood still during those moments, Angela thought, as they separated breathlessly after what could have been minutes or hours. She could feel his heart beating under her fingers. It felt just as fast as her own, and she was glad that she wasn't the only one who was reacting this way.

Jordan planted a kiss on her forehead, then leaned his own forehead against hers. She watched as his eyes closed, which always gave him such a deep, contemplative expression. Her hand wound its way to the soft hair at the back of his neck.

"You surprised me today," she began, as his eyes opened and he looked at her for what seemed to be the first time. "Hanging out with my mom and all."

"Yeah, I do that sometimes," he said offhandedly, pulling away slightly, tracing his fingers over her face again. 'Like an artist or a blind person,' Angela thought happily.

"You do what? Like surprise people, or hang out with their moms?" she asked teasingly.

"So like, you and Brain were like, talking." His index finger was sweeping across her cheek to her lips and across to the other cheek. "When I came out of your place."

"Yeah," she murmured, trying hard to concentrate but finding it impossible with his finger touching her face like that, shooting sparks up and down her spine.

"So what were you talking about?" His hand stopped moving near her face as he tucked her hair behind one ear.

"Why do you want to talk about Brian Krakow right now?" she asked, as her thoughts shifted abruptly back to Brian and his half-confession. 'Oh god...'

Just like that, her mind had now left the car with Jordan and she was back outside, standing with Brian between their houses, unsure of how to react to this new information. Jordan hadn't written the letter. Brian hadn't just been helping Jordan. Brian... wanted her to be happy, but not in a just-friends way. Jordan... had whisked her away with his sexy blue eyes and his red car before she'd had a chance to process anything that had happened. In a flash, she suddenly recalled staring out the rear windshield at Brian, numb with shock, until they turned a corner and she couldn't see him anymore.

"What's wrong, Angela?" Jordan's husky voice broke through her racing thoughts. "You're like totally spacing out."

"I know about the letter," Angela said abruptly. Too abruptly, she would lament later. She could feel herself pulling away.

"What about it?" his voice flat, his expression blank.

"You're not - you didn't - you kinda lied," she fumbled with the words, then groaned inwardly at the words that finally came out. She didn't want to look at him. She held her breath as the silence descended between them, counting to five silently, then finally she turned to look at him. He was staring out the window of the car now, suddenly engrossed in a bush or a tree outside the window.

"I didn't lie," his words were just above a whisper.

"I'm not mad, I just feel kind of stupid now, you know, with Brian involved and everything..." she could feel herself talking more and more quickly to hide her nervousness, "and it's not a big deal, I don't care if you don't want to say that kind of stuff to me. I mean, it would be nice, but if you don't really want to, I'm okay with that, you know?" Really, she wasn't okay with it, but the words had taken on their own momentum. It was just like the time she pretended that she was okay with him hiding him from his friends. She wasn't actually happy about it, but she couldn't see any alternative in that moment. She wanted him to look at her, to reassure her, anything.

"You don't get it, do you." It was a statement, not a question.

"What is there to get? That this was just another stupid game of yours to get me to like you again? You think that you can just call me, like I'm some kind of dog or something, and I'll come running?" her voice broke, and she realized that she was beginning to sound hysterical, but she was starting to feel out of control. Again. He kept making her feel this way, like her blood was boiling one minute and the next, she was in love with him again. "I know you're like, used to getting what you want from girls and stuff, and I know you think I'm a challenge or something -"

"This was a bad idea," Jordan muttered, more to himself than her. "I'm not going to sit here and listen to this. I'm taking you home." He reached down and turned the ignition over. The car roared to life, the headlights illuminating the park before them.

"Jordan..." she could feel a lump starting to form in her throat. 'Shit!' she thought fiercely. 'I've screwed everything up now! Why did I open my big fat mouth?' "Just let me explain."

With a sigh, he put the car back into park and shut off the ignition, rolling down the window. "If you're going to start saying bullshit to me, I don't want to hear it." He turned his eyes back towards her. "I need a smoke," he added almost as an afterthought. She watched as he pulled a pack out of an inner pocket of his jacket and cupped his hand around a cigarette to light it. The flame illuminated his features, which gave little away.

It's so strange how things can change in the space of a second. One second ago, we were like totally connected and on the same wavelength, or whatever, and now we're practically fighting, except he's become totally distant. This is what he does when he's upset, he shuts down and I have no idea how to deal with it.

"I don't know why I said that," Angela began, willing her voice not to tremble. "I just... never know what to say to you."

"And you think I do?" he inhaled and blew out a thin stream of smoke.

"I don't know, I guess..." she fidgeted with her hair, looking away. "I really don't know, actually." She looked back at him, and their eyes met. She wished that he would take her hand, or touch her face, anything to let her know that things were alright.

"Wow, ironic," he muttered under his breath.

"What was that?"

"Well like, you get mad at me cuz I can't write you a letter cuz I never know what to say, and... and..."

"And?" she waited breathlessly for his response.

"And you look at me like you want me to say something important - " he paused and took another drag of his cigarette.

"I don't mean to -" she stopped when he held out his hand, realizing that she was interrupting him.

"And then you're like all disappointed when I don't. I just... don't know how to deal with that." He took another impatient drag of his cigarette and flicked it out the window. He turned back to face her, this time reaching down to take her hand. Angela swore that her heart skipped a beat as his skin touched hers.

"I'm sorry, Jordan... I was just so surprised about all this. Like Brian confronting me and then you showing up, which was obviously the best part..." she smiled shyly and glanced down at his hand as he rubbed his thumb against the back of her hand. "I say stupid stuff when I'm not thinking. And like, Brian totally took me by surprise and I still don't know how to deal with him." She groaned a little, picturing their awkward interaction in the near-future. She looked back at Jordan and found that he was actually smiling a little bit, a cute half-smile.

"I like it when you're happy," he said simply. She found herself smiling back at him, a genuine smile. "Come on, I'll take you home." Once again, he reached for the ignition. This time, though, he took his right hand off the steering wheel and found hers, squeezing it when he found it. Angela continued to smile contentedly as they wound their way through the familiar streets.

I don't know if we resolved anything, and I still don't know how I'm going to deal with Brian, but it feels like Jordan Catalano and I have reached some kind of understanding. I still don't really know what I want to say but at least I can say something crazy or inappropriate and still be sort of... accepted. And I think Jordan feels a bit safer too... I never thought Jordan would need to feel validated by me, but I'm slowly starting to see that he's a real person too, with feelings and insecurities. It's sort of nice to see him that way.