By the end of the week, Jade had decided that the school really needed to have a dress code or a uniform. Pants, robes, full-body armor, anything really that would prevent Cat from wearing those damn shorts and dresses. It seemed like no matter what the temperature, or what the weather was like Cat always showed up in minimal clothing, and it was starting to drive away the last bit of sanity that Jade had left. At least, she was pretty sure that she still had some sanity left.
Neither of them had even spoken to each other since the beach, and Jade made sure that it stayed that way by making it so that she was never alone with Cat. Despite her best efforts to avoid Cat entirely, Jade found that it was impossible since she and Cat spent quite a bit of time together in their little group of friends. Luckily, none of them had even seemed to notice that something was off between the two of them. They were, after all, actresses.
Several times, Jade had seen Cat look over like she wanted to say something, but she had always bit her lip and turned away. Jade had never been more thankful for Cat's self-restraint, even if it was minimal. She wasn't sure how she would react if Cat did bring it up, but she was pretty sure that she would not react well.
Jade wasn't entirely sure just what she should do.
Avoiding Cat was impossible.
Acting like everything was normal was clearly not working either.
That meant she had only two options left.
The first was to completely distance herself entirely from her friends, so she would never have to see Cat and her incredibly short shorts every again. As much as Jade hated certain people in their group(a certain nosy brunette to be specific), she didn't want to leave them completely. There was also the fact that an abrupt departure would definitely draw suspicion from Beck and Andre. Probably Vega too since she was always so preoccupied with other people's lives. Besides, she had already determined that she didn't want Cat completely out of her life.
The second option was even more unthinkable than the first, and Jade had buried it the second it had come up. There was no way (absolutely no way) that she was going to actually consider pursuing her attraction for Cat. It was simply ridiculous.
It was definitely strange; thinking through her actions. While she was by no means impulsive, Jade didn't spend hours weighing the pros and cons of something. She normally just went with whatever her gut told her to do after a little consideration, but Jade wasn't particularly keen on listening to various parts of her body for advice at the moment; especially not the muscle that was pounding away in her chest.
"Jade, let me join the ping-pong team!" Vega's insistent whining was really starting to get annoying.
"No." Jade turned back to the girls she had been talking to in an attempt to shake Vega off, but the other girl was now prodding her in the back with her finger.
"Jade, I'm not going to go, and you just can't say no."
She was right of course. Jade could also sing the word. "No." Say it in a high pitched voice. "No." Say it a low voice. "No."
"Alright, well you can." The bell rang and Jade made for the exit when Vega spotted Lane walking by and ordered her not to move.
"I'm staying here because I want to stay here," Jade said defiantly as she took a sip of her coffee. She might as well see what Vega was going to do about it.
"Jade is the captain of the ping pong team, and I want to try out, but she says I can't." Vega was explaining to Lane.
There were quite a few reasons Jade didn't want Vega trying out for the "ping pong team," the primary reason being that it wasn't a ping pong team.
Two years ago, Jade had stumbled across a ping pong table in one of the school classrooms with Andre, Beck, Cat, and Robbie, and Robbie had suggested that they start their own ping pong team.
Of course, it was a stupid idea since nobody played ping pong and Jade had made her opinion on the matter clear with a solid slap to the back of Robbie's head. The idea was soon dropped and forgotten.
A few days later, Cat had told them ("them" being herself, Andre, Beck, and Robbie) about a fancy restaurant her parents had taken her to. Apparently, the food was amazing, but expensive, but that didn't stop the rest of the group from wanting to try it.
Jade, in her brilliance, had remembered that Beck had once told her that all Hollywood Arts sports teams received a minimum of $1,500 a year for travel and equipment. That's when she had gotten the idea to start the fake ping pong team to pay for a trip to the dinner.
Then Robbie had ruined her brilliant plan by reminding them that all sports teams had to have a faculty member which meant that they had gone to the only teacher who wouldn't sell them out. Sikowitz
He had refused initially because it was "illegal" or something stupid like that, until they had decided to take 400 dollars to buy a ping pong trophy for their school, and bring Sikowitz out to dinner with them. That way, their principal wouldn't have been fired for having a school with the worst sports record in the county, and they could all have the most amazing food they had ever tasted.
There was no way Vega could find out about any of this though. She would just rat them out to the principal and they'd all get in trouble.
"Oh come on, why do you all have to drag me into your problems?" Lane was complaining as Jade made her way to the base of the stairs where he and Vega were now standing.
"You're the guidance counselor here." A totally useless one. "Can we have some guidance?" Not good guidance at any rate.
"Look what it says here on the official Hollywood Arts website." Vega took out her phone and showed it to Lane.
"Uggh, my life is slipping away," Jade groaned.
"Read it," Vega said, ignoring her and handing the phone over to Lane.
"All students are encouraged to participate in school sanctioned events, clubs, and sports teams," Lane read aloud.
"And how can I participate in ping pong if the team captain," Vega shot her a look, "won't let me try out?"
"You gotta let her try out," Lane said. There was no way.
"We don't need any more players," Jade argued.
"Read the phone Jade," Vega stuck the phone in her face and began waving it around. "Read the phone."
Jade could only glare and shake her head. Unfortunately, it seemed that she didn't have a choice.
"Fine, I'll let you try out."
"Awesome, I'm going to go to class now. Bye!" Vega said as she dashed off down the hallway, phone still in hand.
"So, Jade," Lane ventured once the two of them were alone. "How are things going with you and Cat?"
"Everything's just peachy," Jade deadpanned.
"That's nice to hear. I'm glad you two worked things out with each other." Jade feigned a smile as Lance departed.
Worked things out? Yeah, right.
She and Cat had done the exact opposite of "worked things out," and now she was stuck at a crossroads with no idea as to which direction to take.
As much as she hated to admit it, she needed advice and that of course, only left one person.
"Jade? What are you doing here?" Beck's weary face greeted Jade as the door to his RV swung open.
"I needed to talk to someone." Without bothering to wait for an invitation, Jade strode passed him and sat herself down on his couch.
"So you decided to barge into my RV at 10 o'clock at night?" Jade ignored the infuriating smile on his face and stared at the carpet while Beck shut the door and sat down next to her on the couch.
"Is this about Cat?"
"Am I that obvious?" Jade said bitterly, not really caring much about the answer.
"Not to most people, but I know you." There was a long silence. Jade spent her time plucking at the cloth of Beck's couch. Beck was tapping his foot anxiously: a sign the he wanted to say something.
"Well spit it out. I know you want to say something," Jade finally said after she could no longer control her patience.
"Are you attracted to her?"
"Jade, I can't help you if you don't tell me anything," Beck groaned into his hands.
"Fine, I am. Happy?"
"Do you love her?"
"What?" Jade sputtered in confusion. "I haven't even dated her yet. How the hell could I possibly love her?"
"Not like that. I mean, do you love her as a friend?"
"I'm not answering that," Jade snapped. It didn't matter who she was talking to, there was no was she was going to start talking about her feelings unless it involved hate.
"Do you want to date her?" Beck tried again, just a tinge of annoyance in his voice.
"I," Her voice wavered. "I don't know."
"You don't know? It's a yes or no question."
"If I knew do you think I'd be here?"
"I'm not asking if you want to marry her and spend the rest of your life with her, I just want to know if you want to go out with her."
It should have been an easy question. Jade always knew what she wanted. That's the kind of person she was. It didn't matter what other people thought as long as it made her happy. So why couldn't she come up with an answer?
"Forget it," Jade mumbled, not wanting to think about the issue anymore, as she stood up from Beck's couch and headed towards the door of the RV. "Forget I ever mentioned anything. It wouldn't work."
"Hold on," Beck grabbed her by the wrist. "You can't just forget about it and run away."
"I'm not running away from anything!" Jade growled vehemently as she snatched her hand back from Beck's grip.
"Yes you are! Stop lying to yourself. Stop trying to run away from your feelings." Under any other situation Jade would have felt amused to see Beck's calm exterior slip, but she was too focused on her own words to think about anything else at the moment.
"I'm not running away!" Jade reiterated, but the words sounded empty and meaningless to her ears.
"You are, Jade. What are you afraid of? You already know that Cat likes you. There's no way she'd ever reject you. It's not like our break up hurt you in anyway. You're the one who broke up with me. You have nothing to be scared of."
"It doesn't matter. We would never work out. She's like a goddamn kid, Beck. I would corrupt her and hurt her, and she wouldn't be able to handle it. There's also the fact that she's my best friend," Jade was on a roll now, spitting out anything and everything you could think of. It occurred to her later that she must have sounded quite deranged and desperate as she talked, but she just needed Beck to agree with something. "And did you forget that we're both girls? Last time I checked, people aren't exactly accepting of that kind of thing. Can you imagine Cat getting harassed by all the kids at our school?"
"We go to Hollywood Arts, everyone there is different. This is ridiculous, Jade, and you know it. Stop trying to make up excuses."
"I thought you were the one who cared about everyone's feelings. Do you want to see Cat get hurt?" She was scrambling to find any semblance of a reason now.
"Is that your way of saying you're going to hurt her if you date her?"
"I could. It wouldn't be on purpose, but you know I'm not a nice person, and Cat's so sensitive. I'd probably end up hurting her feelings the second we started dating."
"So you do want to date her? That's just another reason you should give it a shot."
"Are you listening to me?" Jade fired back. Beck heaved a sigh, and he got up in front of Jade's fuming figure, taking her hands in his.
"Are you listening to yourself? You care about her, Jade. You care about her a lot. How many people can you say that about?"
"Just because I care about her doesn't mean that I should date her."
"Well then who would you date? Why did you even date me? Because I'm good looking? If that's the only reason, then Cat's perfect for you." Jade didn't fail to notice the bitterness hidden in his words.
"You know that that wasn't the only reason, and this has nothing to do with you. Why are you getting so pissed off because of this?"
"Why are you being so difficult about this?" Beck finally snapped, dropping Jade's hands in frustration. "Are you afraid that people are going to judge you or something?"
"This isn't about me, Beck. She's going to get hurt and I'm not about to let that happen ," Jade wrenched the door of the RV open, and the last thing Beck said as she slammed the door behind her was, "You're already hurting her by not telling her."
But Jade didn't hear what he had said. She was too focused on the voice in her own head.
What are you really scared of?
A few days later, Jade and the rest of the ping pong team met Tori in the recreation room so she could "try out." They would each play her in a game and if she won she would move on to play the next person until she beat everybody.
Beck was losing.
Jade wasn't incredibly worried though. She had a trump card to play if Vega did win. In fact, this whole thing was just for show. There was no way Vega was getting into this. It was one of the few things Vega hadn't invaded yet, and she would spill their secret without a doubt.
"Go Beck!" Cat was jumping up and down and waving her arms around like some kind of cheerleader. The only things she was missing were the uniform and pompoms. Jade quickly steered her thoughts away from the image of Cat in a cheerleading uniform. God, she was acting like some sort of horny teenage boy.
"Thanks for the support, Cat," Tori muttered sarcastically as she won another point.
"You're welcome, Tori."
Andre was up next.
Jade watched from her new position on the couch as Vega beat him too.
How could that girl be this good at ping pong too?
"At this rate you're going to have to let her join. The only people left are Cat and Robbie and they suck at ping pong," Beck commented from the other side of the couch.
It was Cat's turn next.
Jade knew that there was no way Cat even stood a chance. A few more minutes and Robbie would be the only person Vega had left to face before she revealed her plan.
"Eek!" Cat shrieked as Tori served the ball. She dropped the paddle and dashed to the safety of the far wall.
"Are you okay?" Tori asked in concern. Jade groaned into her hands and the urge to throttle the girl was building up quickly. Yes, you idiot, she's screaming and freaking out because she's okay.
If Vega hadn't suspected that something was going on before, she certainly did now.
"I'm okay," Cat gasped, pulling herself up from the wall. "I just wasn't ready. I can play now." Jade saw Cat sneak a glance in her direction and Jade realized with a start that Cat was doing this for her.
"Forget it." There was no way she could sit through more shrieking from Cat, especially when it was because of her. "She forfeits. Shapiro, you're up."
"Okay!" Robbie cried eagerly. He handed Rex off to Beck, and leaped to the side of the table opposite of Vega.
Jade could only watch as Robbie was thoroughly throttled. For a moment she almost felt bad for him.
"Way to go, Tori. You beat all of us," Andre congratulated as Tori gave a mock bow.
"Ah hem." They all turned to look at the puppet in Robbie's arms. "I think you guys are forgetting someone."
"Robbie," Jade growled. She wasn't in the mood to deal with him and his stupid puppet.
"What?" Robbie threw his free hand in the air as a sign of surrender. "It was Rex, not me."
"Just hurry up and get it over with."
Rex, surprisingly, fared the best out of all of them. Unfortunately, he still lost.
"Well?" Tori prompted, a victorious smile covering face as she approached Jade. Jade simply smiled back. Finally, the moment she had been waiting for.
"You didn't make the team."
"W-What? I beat everybody."
"I don't care." Jade raised the phone that had been in her hand and opened to the school's website. "Read the school website."
"When a student tries out for a sport for which there is no coach, the team captain shall decide if the student is granted or denied acceptance to the team."
"Captain says, 'denied!'" Jade said gleefully as she took her phone back.
Oh, revenge was sweet.
Jade had always loved the game of Twister. It was a game designed to cause people pain and discomfort. What wasn't to like?
Even as she toppled down, nearly crashing into Robbie, Jade couldn't help the smile that spread across her face.
"Okay, let's start over," Jade said as she got up.
"Okay, okay, let me get a drink first," Beck said, walking toward the vending machine in the room. Jade couldn't remember it being there before. Maybe someone had installed a new one recently.
Jade walked over to her bag to grab a dollar and Cat pulled out a fresh can of soda. The top popped open with a hiss. They both looked up and Jade was startled to find herself staring straight into Cat's eyes.
It was the closest they had been in a week. Her conversation with Beck was still fresh in her mind.
What are you scared of?
Cat opened her mouth to say something, but Robbie groaned and her attention turned to him.
"I think I pulled a muscle," Robbie responded.
"You can't pull what you don't have," Jade replied with a smirk. Sometimes they just made it too easy for her.
A loud thumping noise drew their attention to the vending machine that Andre and Beck were currently hitting which probably meant that the vending machine had probably taken the dollar.
"Guys, guys," Jade interrupted the banging and walked over. "Try rocking it." Together, the three of them rocked the machine back and forth, until Beck lost control and the whole thing tumbled down with a shriek.
The machine shrieked.
Oh god, she really was going insane. First, she was constantly hearing voices in her head that were telling her what to do and now even machines were starting to talk. What was next? Talking squirrels? Or maybe her favorite scissors were going to come to life and start attacking her.
"Did that machine just shriek like a teenage girl?" Andre asked with a baffled expression on his face.
Jade bit back a sigh of relief.
The back of the machine rattled and Jade watched as the entire sheet of metal that covered the back of the machine popped up and fell off, revealing an all too familiar head of brown hair.
"All right, who put me in the soda machine?" Tori Vega exclaimed in fake surprise. Jade could feel her fingers twitching by her side.
Unable to hide their story for any longer since Vega had been spying on them, the entire group pitched in as they retold the story of how they had started the fake ping pong team to get money to go to the restaurant.
"So, are you going to bust us now and ruin everything?" Jade asked, standing up to look Vega in the eyes.
"No. If…" Vega trailed off and Jade felt her stomach lurch.
"If what?" She shouldn't have even bothered to ask because she knew exactly what was coming.
A few days later, Sikowitz announced Tori Vega as the newest member of the Hollywood Arts ping pong team and that night the group headed out to dinner.
Jade gave her body one last look over in the mirror before she grabbed her purse from where it was resting.
She looked good.
Trying to impress someone? The annoying voice was back in her head, and it seemed to have taken up Beck's voice.
No. She answered back. The voice in her heard was about to respond when Jade heard her phone ring, and she snatched it up in annoyance.
"Hey, sorry to spring this on you last second, but I'm running late and I don't have time to pick up Cat. Can you get her on your way to the restaurant?"
"Beck, if this is some kind of stupid plan to get me and Cat together, then it's not going to work."
"It's not. I swear." The worst part was that Jade couldn't even tell if he was lying. "Come on, what's the worst that could happen if you're in the car with her for twenty minutes?"
"We could get into an accident, the car could explode, and we would both die in a fiery ball, all because you made me get into a car with her."
"If you're scared Jade, then I won't make you do it, but-"
"Fine, I'll do it." There was no way she was giving him any kind of satisfaction. "Goodbye."
The drive to Cat's house was much too quick, and Jade found herself parked in front of it before long. Climbing out of her car, Jade strode across the lawn and walked in front of the door, and rang it without any hesitation.
The door opened, and Jade was greeted with the back of a head with long brown hair.
"Cat, your friend Beck is here to pick you up. How are you do…" The words died as soon as Cat's mother turned around and got a clear look at who was standing in front of her door. "Oh, it's you."
"Yeah, it's me." Jade repeated mockingly.
"What are you doing here? I thought Beck was supposed to pick Cat up."
I thought he was too
"Well clearly, he's not here."
"Yes, clearly." There was a long pause as Jade simply stared at Cat's mother with one eyebrow raised in a challenge.
"I'm ready! I'm coming, mom. Beck, are you ready to…Jade? What are you doing here?" Cat's body appeared in the doorway, and Jade felt her jaw drop.
By any standards, Cat's dress was fairly simple. It wasn't too short, ending just above her knees, it wasn't particularly tight, and it didn't even show off ridiculous amounts of skin. Nevertheless, Jade thought Cat looked hot in it.
Jade was pretty sure that words were supposed to be coming out of her mouth. She was aware of the fact that her mouth was moving up and down and that her brain should have been sending the correct signals to her mouth to make noise, but no sound was coming out of her mouth.
"Jade, are you okay?" Cat waved her hand rapidly in her face.
"Yeah," Jade managed to grunt in what she hoped was coherent English, but at the moment she really couldn't focus on anything but Cat's body in that dress.
"Are you going to take me to the restaurant?" Jade nodded, turning on her heels and forcing her legs to move in the direction of her car.
"Make sure she's back by 11," Jade vaguely heard Cat's mother yell before the door slammed shut.
That's when the reality of the situation hit Jade like a barreling freight train, and two realizations were shining out with brilliant clarity.
The first was that this was the first time they had been alone together in a week, maybe more.
The second was that they were both dressed up, she was taking Cat to a fancy restaurant, and Cat's mother hand ordered her to have Cat back by 11. It was almost like…
It was almost like they were going on a date.
No, it's not a date. We are not dating and I don't want to be dating.
Sheesh, Jade. I thought you were supposed to be good at lying. There was Beck's annoying voice again.
We are not going out, and nobody said we we're going out. It just resembles the start of a date. We're going with other friends.
So, it's like a double date.
It's not a date. You-Beck!, Andre, Robbie, and Tori are not dating either.
No, you just wish it was a date, and that you and Cat were all alone together in a restaurant… God, now the voice was starting to sound like Vega.
No, I don't.
Jade's going on a da-ate!
IT IS NOT A DATE.
"Jade, are you okay? You haven't said anything." And that's when Jade realized that she was having an argument in her head with two imaginary people when there was a living, breathing human being right next to her who was looking at her like she was crazy.
"I'm fine, Cat."
"Okay." Jade watched Cat bite her lip, and Jade waited for her to say whatever she obviously wanted to. "You look really pretty."
"Thanks…You look," Nice. Good. Great. Hot. "Fancy." Even in the low light, Jade could see Cat blushing brilliantly.
"We have to go," Jade shut the door of her car rather violently after she climbed in, gripping the steering wheel tightly as Cat climbed into the passenger seat. Cat almost immediately started fiddling with the radio as Jade started the car. She spent the entire ride switching from station to station, belting out songs whenever she heard one that she liked.
If Jade were to write a list of her favorite things about Cat (not that she was going to do that), Cat's voice would have definitely have been one of the top things. She could make almost any song sound half decent. Hell, she could probably sing the phone book and make it sound good.
At the moment however, just the presence of Cat nearby was making Jade feel on edge, and she was desperately trying not to break any traffic laws in her rush to get out of the car and into a restaurant where she could sit far, far away from Cat.
"Ooh, or maybe I'll get the…" Jade tuned out the rest of Cat's sentence as she pushed open the doors to the restaurant. She spotted their usual table, and she wasn't surprised to find that she and Cat were the last ones there. The detour to Cat's house had made them late.
As Jade scanned the restaurant she couldn't help but feel that there was something a little off about the place. The tables and decorations were still the same, the lights were glowing just as they normally were, there was still a grand piano resting on a small platform at the front of the restaurant….
"Table for two?" Jade turned at the sound of a squeaky male voice and found herself face to face with a nervous looking boy who couldn't have been too much older than herself.
A glance at his name tag told Jade that his name was, "Ethan."
She forced herself to remain calm when she noticed that his eyes seemed to be glued to Cat. Cat grinned up at him with a coy expression on her face and Jade could feel her stomach curl into knots.
"Actually," Jade grabbed Cat by the wrist, "we already have a table." And with that, she dragged Cat away to said table.
They were greeted with a chorus of "His," and that was the moment when Jade noticed that her usual seat was occupied by one, Tori Vega, which meant that the only two seats available were the two empty ones that were right next to each other.
If Beck's smirk was any indication, this was no coincidence. Jade, not wanting to give Beck any sort of satisfaction, sat down without a word and picked up a menu. This night was just getting better and better.
Jade really had no idea why she was so freaked out. It wasn't like she'd never sat next to Cat before, and she should have had no problem ignoring the other girl. The only problem was that Jade was aware every time they touched, and it seemed to be happening a lot.
"Hey, can somebody pass the salt?" Jade and Cat both reached at the same time, and naturally their hands collided, causing them both to pull back abruptly.
Tori looked at them strangely before reaching over and handing Beck the salt. It was only much later when Jade realized that Beck had been eating a salad, and that she could never remember him ever eating a salty salad before.
The only highlight of Jade's night had been insulting Tori. In addition to the fact that Jade had conveniently left out the fact that she had to bring a fancy dress, which left Tori in nothing but the ping pong uniform she had been wearing earlier, she had taken every opportunity she had to irritate the other girl.
"You know, the food is already dead, Jade," Vega pointed out once their main courses had arrived and Jade was brutally stabbing at her steak.
"Oh, I know. I'm just pretending that it's your face."
"You…You are such a gank!"
"It does kind of look like a face if you shut one eye and tilt your head," Sikowitz demonstrated from the other side of the table.
Andre chuckled and tilted his head too. "Hey, if you look at it this way it does kind of look like your face, Tori."
"I can see it too," Beck said, following Andre's lead.
"You're eating Tori's face?" Cat whispered aghast as she looked anxiously at Jade.
"That piece of meat is not my face!" Everyone else laughed, and Tori glared at Jade from across the table.
"I hate you."
"The feeling's mutual."
"How are you all enjoying the meal?" Jade turned to see the waiter from earlier, Ethan, approaching their table.
There was a chorus of praises and the boy flushed proudly.
"That's good. Is there anything else I can get you all?" His eyes never left Cat's face.
"No, we're fine," Jade snapped. "You can go now. I'm sure there are other tables that require your," annoying, "presence."
"O-okay. Just let me know if you need anything."
"That was rude," Tori chastised after he moved after earshot.
Jade chose not to reply and she stabbed at her steak again. This time she was imagining the face of a certain waiter.
It was nearing eight o'clock when they finally reached the desserts. By that time everybody was filled to the brim with food, and Jade was sure that her stomach was going to explode any second.
She was relieved that the dinner was finally drawing to a close.
Oh, how wrong she was.
"What the hairballs!" Sikowitz cried as he scanned over their check that had just arrived.
"It's 1,300 dollars," he hissed.
A flurry of gasps overtook them. They only had 1,100 to pay for dinner. What was going on?
"It's never been over 700," Cat said. And only one thing had changed since the last time…
"Way to go, Tori," Jade snapped.
"I ordered the same thing you did," Tori countered.
"Wait, wait, I see what the problem is. They mistakenly charged us an extra 600 dollars for a bowl of caviar," Sikowitz chuckled as he called the manager over.
"Yes? Is anything wrong?"
"We were mistakenly charged for 600 dollars worth of caviar."
"Oh, that's not a mistake," They all turned at the sound of another voice to spot the waitress that had been serving their table. "That awkward young man over there ordered a big bowl of caviar."
Awkward young man? That could only mean one person.
"Man, what were you thinking?" Robbie sputtered at Rex as everyone at the table turned to him.
"I didn't order any caviar," Rex said.
"Robbie!" Cat cried.
"I didn't know it was that expensive," Robbie said defensively. The table erupted into chaos as everybody began shouting at Robbie. Even Cat was furious (that in itself was never a good sign).
Just as Robbie looked like he was on the verge of breaking down and crawling underneath the table, Sikowitz hushed them all.
"Robbie can't help what he is. Nevertheless, we don't have enough money to pay the check," he explained to the manager.
"Well sir, I'm sorry but payment is required or I'm going to have to call the police."
The police? They couldn't call the police. If her father…if her father found out about this than there was no way he'd ever let her live it down. He'd probably pull her out of Hollywood Arts because it was turning her into some kind of "punk."
"Jade, what's going to happen to us? I don't want to go to jail. It's scary there and jail is for bad people," Cat whimpered in a quiet voice. Before Jade could reply, another voice interrupted all of them. A quick glance at the man's suit let Jade know that the owner had just arrived.
It soon became apparent that he had come to speak with the manager about the lack of live music.
Live music! That was what had been bothering her before. There was normally someone singing along to a piano in the restaurant.
Apparently, the performers had gotten until some sort of accident and the manager had neglected to hire a new act.
That's when Tori came up with the solution that (even though Jade was reluctant to admit it) saved all of them a trip to jail.
"Give me your dress," Tori hissed at her.
"What?" Jade asked in confusion. Her dress? The one she was wearing? Why on earth did she want her dress?
"Give me your dress."
"So, uh, what's up between you and Cat?"
"I'm already letting you wear my clothes. Don't make me talk to you too." Jade threw her dress over the side of the bathroom stall as Tori handed her a pair of pants from underneath.
"Whose fault is that for not reminding me to bring a fancy dress?"
"You need a reminder? What are you, five? Did you not hear us going on and on about a fancy restaurant?"
"Okay, okay, I get." Jade grabbed the jacket that was tossed over the top of the stall. "Can we just not fight for five minutes? I want to know what's going on between you and Cat. She really likes you, you know?"
"Does Cat know you're telling me this?"
"Yes. She wanted to know if you like her back or if you hated her because of 'that'. She wouldn't tell me what 'that' is though." Jade stomped out of the stall and turned to see Vega already standing outside in her dress. Well, she didn't look that bad.
"Will you just leave it alone? Cat can deal with her own problems and I don't need you sticking your nose into mine." Jade walked out of the bathroom without another word.
So now Tori knew too. Fantastic, now everybody knew what was going on.
Jade settled back in her seat beside Cat, trying her best to ignore the other girl who was engaged in a conversation with Robbie. The only other person at the table was Beck as Andre and Tori were warming up at the piano.
"I heard your friend is going to be singing tonight." Jade almost slammed her head into the table in frustration. Waiter boy was back.
"Yeah, she's really good at singing," Cat replied and Jade could practically hear the smile on her face.
"We go to Hollywood Arts, and Tori got in because of her singing," Cat explained and the waiter's eyes bulged out of their sockets.
"Hollywood Arts? The performing arts school? You guys all go there?" They all nodded.
"Yeah, this is our teacher, Sikowitz," Robbie pointed to the vacant chair on the other side of the table. "Where'd he go? He was here like ten minutes ago!"
"He must have left after they gave us the bill," Beck said.
"I tried out for the school," Ethan continued as if he hadn't heard a word they had said. Seeing his excitement, Jade was pretty sure he actually hadn't heard a word they had just said. "I didn't make it, but my friends say I'm not bad at singing. It's my dream to be a performer." He eyes sparked with a fierce determination that made Jade want to laugh. Guys like him were pathetic.
"Really? I love singing too. I'd love to hear you sing," Cat said with a patented smile and a quick bat of her eyelashes. Jade felt her stomach curl into knots. There was no doubt about it, Cat was flirting with him.
Why was she flirting with him?
He was a nervous, stuttering, overzealous, unattractive boy who clearly had no life. Why on earth was Cat flirting with him? She couldn't actually like him, could she?
"Ah, really?" He asked excitedly. Before Cat could respond, he seemed to realize something. "Are you good at singing too?"
"She got a great voice," Beck piped up from the other side of the table.
"She's really good," Robbie concurred.
"She's amazing and totally out of your league." Jade was initially confused at the sound of a third voice until she realized that the words had just tumbled out of her own mouth.
"Her singing!" she quickly amended. "Her singing is amazing and totally out of your league. Though," Jade continued as she fixated him a glare, "she's totally out of your league too."
Robbie was staring at her open-mouthed, Cat looked stunned, and Beck was poorly concealing a smile as he took a sip of water.
Jade waited for the reprimand that was sure to come from Cat. She already had a response prepared, but when she looked over, she was surprised to find that Cat didn't look mad at her interference at all. In fact, she looked incredibly pleased with herself, almost victorious.
"O-oh. Well, I've got tables to serve and I've taken up enough of your time." Waiter boy quickly took a step back, whether it was from fear or surprise Jade didn't really know. "It was nice talking to you."
"Did you just say something nice about Cat?" Robbie asked in disbelief once the waiter had left. His mouth was still hanging open and he looked as if he was going to pass out from shock.
"I can be nice if I want to be. Besides, I didn't say that to be nice. That guy was being annoying and I had to get rid of him somehow." Yeah right, just keep telling yourself that.
"You're never nice to me," Robbie protested.
"That's because there's nothing nice about you. You're weird, awkward, a nerd-"
"And now performing 'Tell Me That You Love Me' are Tori Vega and Andre Harris,'" the manager announced, effectively cutting off whatever else Jade was about to say.
The lights in the restaurant dimmed and Jade begrudgingly turned to watch Tori and Andre's performance. Jade watched as Tori pranced around the restaurant in her purple dress.
As much as it pained Jade to admit it, Tori wasn't awful at singing though Jade was sure that she would have done a much better job.
"Tori's voice is really nice," Cat commented as Tori continued to sing.
"It's not as good as yo- mine," Jade quickly corrected. Luckily, Cat didn't seem to notice her slip up.
"You're right," Cat said with such conviction that Jade was taken aback. Cat didn't really like her that much…did she?
Things only got more confusing on Jade's part when she found that she was actually touched by Cat's words. Even stranger still, she realized that a small part of her almost wanted to thank Cat. Maybe even hug her in thanks.
Jade could feel her resolve starting to falter as she drove like a maniac on her way back to Cat's house.
"…food was so yummy…" Jade was barely paying attention to what Cat was saying. Then again, she barely paid attention to what Cat was saying most of the time.
"Don't cha' think, Jade?"
"Don't you think that we should sing together some time?" Out of her peripheral vision, Jade could see Cat fidgeting in her seat. "We haven't done a duet in such a long time and I miss singing with you."
"I don't care."
"Cat!" Jade yelped as Cat undid her seatbelt and leaned over in an attempt to hug her. There was an angry screech as the tires of her car abruptly turned on the gravel. "Don't do that, I'm driving!"
"Sorry." Cat really didn't look sorry at all.
They were silent for the rest of the ride, but Cat's constant fidgeting made enough noise to wake the entire neighborhood. Even in the low light, Jade could see Cat beaming in the seat next to her and she couldn't help feeling pleased that she had made Cat happy.
After what seemed like hours, Jade finally pulled up in front of Cat's house. Thank god, it was finally over. Now she could just go home and forget that any of this had ever-
"Can you walk me to my door?"
"What?" Jade threw her hands up in frustration.
"There aren't any lights on and it's scary."
"Cat, you door is like 20 feet away. Nothing's going to happen." There was absolutely no way that she was sending Cat to the door. That's what boyfriends did at the end of dates, and they were not dating.
"But what if someone attacks me?"
"Then I'll be watching from my car, and I'll call the police or something."
"Can you please come with me?"
"No." Sending her to the door, that would just be too much. Jade gave into a lot of things for Cat, but this was not going to be one of those things.
"Cat, just go."
"You have to come with me."
"What am I even supposed to do if I go with you? Let the bad guy attack me while you run away?"
"No, silly. You'll scare away all the bad guys. Nobody would ever hurt me if I was with you. Pleeeeeeeease?" Cat whined.
"Okay, I'll go! Just stop using that voice. It's so annoying." Jade could see Cat's 1000 watt smile shining through the darkness.
"Come on," she grumbled once she had climbed out of the car and moved to where Cat was waiting on the other side. She walked up Cat's lawn with a furious pace, not looking back at her once. She was internally berating herself for her lack of willpower.
When they finally reached the entrance to Cat's house, Jade was pretty sure that she had never been more relieved to see a door in her life.
"Look, we made it safely. Good night."
"Thanks Jade," Cat said in a soft, almost tender voice. She reached into her purse and rifled through the contents in an attempt to find her keys.
Jade didn't move from the spot. She couldn't and she didn't know why.
She was struck by a sudden urge, a desire, to reach out a touch Cat. She wanted to reach over and feel Cat's smooth skin underneath her fingertips. She wanted to-NO!
"No…this has to stop," Jade whispered aloud, and the fingers in her right hand clenched into fist to stop them from moving. Cat looked up at her in confusion.
"What has to stop, Jade?"
"Shut up! Just shut up for ten seconds. I know you're not that stupid, you know what I'm talking about. This," Jade gestured between them, "has to stop. Whatever's happening between us has to stop. It has to stop now."
"But Jade, why can't we-"
"We just can't, Cat. We would never work out. We're just too different. Besides, do you know what's going to happen if we do this? People you don't even know are going to hate you. Can you handle that? Can you handle people judging you all the time?"
"We could just hide it from-"
"Don't be stupid. We both know that that's not going to work. There's no way either of us would be able to hide it," Jade was shouting now. She needed to convince Cat that it was wrong. It would be so easy to just let it go if Cat could forget about. "We just can't do it."
"I know," Cat's face crumbled and she dissolved into a pile of tears. Jade made no move to comfort her. "I just really really l-"
"Don't say it." She couldn't hear it. She didn't know what would happen if she did, but she knew it wouldn't be something she liked. Hearing Cat say it would make it too real. Jade felt her other hand curl into a fist and she bit down on her lower lip to keep from saying anything else.
"But it's true Jade! You're feeling it too! I know you are. On the beach, I know you were going to kiss me too. Please, just give me a chance."
"Just forget about it, Cat! I didn't feel anything and you should forget you ever felt anything. Just forget about it, for the both of us. Trust me, it's better this way." Jade knew that her voice, quavering and weak, must not have sounded very convincing, but Cat relented and she didn't say another word.
Jade wanted to say more, but each one of Cat's sobs felt like a slap to the face and she just couldn't take it any longer. Jade forced herself to walk away before she did something she regretted. She had to be strong.
It took all of Jade's power not to run. Her legs seemed torn between running away and running back to Cat's front door that she curled up in front of. But Jade forced herself to her car. Somehow, she managed to turn the key in the ignition, put her foot on the gas pedal, and drive.
It shouldn't have been hard.
It shouldn't have been hard to tell Cat to stop something that she hadn't wanted in the first place.
It shouldn't have been hard to get rid of these feelings she hadn't wanted at all.
It shouldn't have been hard to walk away.
But it was.
God, it was.
I know that no amount of apologizing will make up for how incredibly long it took me to finish writing this. I can't promise when the next chapter will be out, but I can promise that I will, without a doubt, finish this fic.
And yes, the next chapter is the one.
A huge thanks to all the people the reviewed/favorited/and put it on alert!