A Beck Oliver Carol
In which Beck learns a thing or two about being a good person.
I flipped my head to the left, squinting as I saw Robbie Shapiro striding toward me, his eager face illuminated by the sunlight. I had no clue why Robbie had some sort of odd obsession with calling me by my full name, but I supposed it was preferable to Jade, who (after our breakup) insisted on calling me Oliver all the time. Stifling a groan, I lowered my head and hoped that Robbie wouldn't spot me amongst the girls who were surrounding me.
No such luck.
"Beck," Robbie said breathlessly, pushing through all of the girls who were surrounding me – and, well, the guys too, asking for tips on how to get girls. "I wanted to talk to you."
"Obviously," I huffed, running a hand through my (admittedly gorgeous) hair. "What do you need?"
"I just..." Robbie ducked his head, looking embarrassed. "I was wondering if you wanted to go, like, bowling or something with Andre and I tonight. You know, guys' night or somethin' like that."
"Look, I totally would," I replied, giving him a look that was clearly full of false pity – I am a fabulous actor, after all – and frowning slightly, "but I already have plans with May over here." May, a perky blonde, gives Robbie a smile and a wave, an attempt at marking her territory. "Another time, maybe."
"Yeah, sure," Robbie responded, looking dejected, but there was an edge to his voice that I wasn't aware he knew how to use. No matter, I thought as he walked away. I'd have time to get back on his good side later.
Quickly I hooked my elbow through May's and went back to detailing the time I'd auditioned for a movie, smiling at the girls who hung on to my every word. Oh, this was the life. Since I'd started my climb to fame, I didn't have much time for people like Robbie. In this dog-eat-dog world, only the strong survive.
Later that day, someone slammed the locker door in my face. It resounded down the hallway, and I recoiled in surprise – after all, I'd thought that no one else would be in the hallway; I was ten minutes late for class already. I was able to get a pass from my teachers though, no problem. Of course, the other person in the hallway was the only other person who had no qualms about skipping class.
Jade scowled at me. "Look, Oliver, I knew you were a jerk, but I guess I didn't really know how much of one. You're out of control."
"I don't need you to tell me when I'm out of control, thanks," I hissed back, shoving my hands into my pockets. "Especially considering you can't keep yourself under control."
Her eyes flashed. "Rip on me all you want. I'm your ex-girlfriend, guess it's to be expected. But when you start messing with my – my acquaintances that I reluctantly hang out with – that's when I get vicious. Watch your step or I'll watch it for you." Her voice was breaking, I could hear it, and it made me more upset than I let on. (Like it or not, I still cared about her.) "They said – they thought you were their friend."
A wave of guilt crashed over me, but I just glared at her. "Tori's my friend."
"What about Cat?" Jade shot back immediately. "What about Shapiro, Andre, heck, Oliver, what about me? Have we all become invisible all of a sudden, or has your fame really gone to your head that much? Because unfortunately I expected more from you." Jade shook her head. "Guess I was wrong."
"Jade, I..." I began, but I trailed off and she marched away, the noise of her combat boots hitting the ground echoing around the hallway as she strode off. I could only watch her, knowing somewhere deep inside of me that she was completely and utterly correct.
"I'm actually not." May giggled quietly into the phone. "Look, Beck, you're cute and all, but when it comes down to it, Jay's just better, and he called and asked me out. How could I refuse?"
I winced inadvertently – first, because Jay sounded like Jade, let's face it, and then second because their names rhymed. Could you get any cheesier? Jay and May. But I suppose they deserved each other. With a scowl, I replied, "You could have refused."
"But I didn't," May told me impatiently, as if she was actually upset with me. "Maybe some other time if it doesn't work out with Jay. But for now – ciao, Beck!"
She hung up then, leaving me holding the phone up to my ear. For the first time, I started to seriously reconsider what exactly I was doing with my life. Oddly enough, I was starting to miss the time before my sudden fame – before girls flooded me, before I ditched my real friends – back when we had our little dysfunctional group and I was dating Jade. And oddly enough, I was also starting to miss Jade.
It really is funny how these things work.
I almost considered dialing Jade's number, but I had a feeling that would only lead to disaster. Then I shook off the feeling, tugged on my jacket, and sighed, telling myself there was nothing to worry about. After all, I was living the life. I had everything I ever wanted, so I was completely satisfied, right? I mean, I was totally gorgeous. I confirmed this with a look in the mirror.
Slipping out the door, I jumped into my relatively expensive car and drove down the road. I kept glancing in the mirror, ensuring that my hair was completely perfect, and then I found myself at some restaurant with a French name that I couldn't even pronounce. Swooping in, I announced, "Who wants a date with le Beck Olivier?" I figured that made it sound more French.
Like ten girls ran up to me then, and I glanced at them, eventually selecting one with chestnut brown hair (familiar much) and shocking blue eyes.
"My name's Jane," she informed me as she plopped down, and I inwardly sighed.
As if their odd facial resemblances weren't enough.
Because of this small disaster, I decided to switch off girls every so often. Wasn't like money was a problem or anything, after all, and they all seemed more than willing to date me, even if we weren't 'exclusive'. Who wouldn't be? I was gorgeous and fairly chivalrous, not to mention rich and famous.
By the end of the evening, though, I was hyped up off some sort of expensive soda, so I ended up driving down to my favorite spot in the woods. I used to take Jade there back when we were dating, due to the fact that you could see the moon perfectly from this one spot, and also the perimeter to the woods was exactly beside the outer edge of the graveyard. Jade had always loved graveyards, after all.
Silently, I slipped out of my car and walked over to the edge of the woods, but before I knew it I was falling forward and fast. Since I was unable to catch myself, I hit my face against the edge of a rock.
Pain seared through my body. I bit my lip and dusted off my scraped hands, then pushed myself up and touched my face. My hand came away coated in red. I muttered some not very nice words under my breath and cleaned my face off with my shirt. "Seriously? I damaged my perfect face? I need this face to, you know, get parts. And look good. And other chiz like that!" Groaning, I picked up a rock and tossed it out into the darkness.
It hit something hard and then bounced off. Which, considering the fact that I was in the middle of the woods, surrounded by crunchyleaves, really should've been a dead giveaway. But since I'm me, I didn't really think anything of it.
That is, until I heard the cracking.
Quickly, I walked over to the site of impact and drew my flashlight out of my back pocket, where I always kept it. I switched on the light (which, terrifyingly enough, was flickering), and realized that I had thrown the rock hard enough to break a gravestone.
It definitely meant I was strong, but at the same time, it meant I had broken a grave. Which wasn't really something that was approved of anywhere.
And then something white rose up from behind the broken grave.
Other people might have screamed. I just stood, transfixed, staring at the white thing as it began to take shape, forming itself into a figure. It took the shape of a human, an old man, to be precise, and it glared at me from cloudy spectacles. "Beck Oliver, I presume?"
This shocked me, though I didn't let it show on my face. "How did you know that?"
"Well, you're a bit of a celebrity," the ghost thing said with a shrug. "At least as far as I've heard. It's a bit hard for those like me to get news."
"Ghosts?" I muttered, my voice low. It was an odd word to say, and honestly I was beginning to believe that I was delusional.
"I prefer the term adviser," the ghost said with a low laugh. "My name's Uncle Ben."
Honestly I thought this was an odd name, especially for someone – something – that I didn't even know. But I didn't comment on it. Who knew what unspeakable powers it possessed? Instead, I clamped my mouth shut. "What do you want?"
"As I told you, I'm an adviser. And as far as I can tell, you definitely need some advice, or, well, at least some direction. And that, my friend, is what I'm here to help you figure out. What you want." A grin took over his chubby face. I was starting to feel suspicious now, to say the least. How could I trust this man? He wasn't even human!
"I don't need your advice," I said coolly. "I think I'm doing pretty well for myself, thanks." And I was, really. I had everything I'd always wanted, I was good-looking, and girls pretty much fell at my feet. Then I realized that I was only speaking inside of my head, which meant that I was really convincing myself more than I was... Uncle Ben.
"I guess that's something you'll have to figure out for yourself once I'm done with you," Uncle Ben chuckled, glancing at me. "Look, Mr. Oliver, you seem a little sure of yourself. And while that's not a bad thing.. the world doesn't exactly revolve around you, either."
"Are you saying I'm conceited?" I inquired, feeling my automatic defense mechanisms go up.
"Yes, I'm saying exactly that," Uncle Ben said simply. "Son, I know fame, girls, and riches may seem like the only important things in the world right now, but trust me, there's so much more."
I stared at him. "Like you would know what's best for me."
"You sure don't seem to," Uncle Ben remarked, sending a surge of anger through me. I quickly let it pass, though; I wasn't exactly the emotional sort of guy.
"I – why should I trust you?" I inquired at last, folding my arms (which were very impressive in terms of muscles) across my chest and glaring at him. Really, I had no reason to trust him.
"Why not?" was Uncle Ben's eloquent response. "Come on, Beck Oliver, what have you got to lose?"
What had I got to lose? Everything. My fame, my riches (though honestly, I wasn't all that rich), the girls, my fans – but suddenly, all of that didn't seem to be such a big deal. I bit down on my lip apprehensively, my eyes following Uncle Ben's pale frame as he ghosted back and forth.
"Show me what I'm missing," I commanded at last, trying to avoid the creepy ghost guy's gaze.
"Your wish is my command," replied Uncle Ben, and then suddenly the graveyard and the forest were fading away.
When I was finally able to see again, I realized that we weren't in the forest anymore, though really I wasn't sure what I had been expecting. Blinking, I glanced around me and realized that I was at school.
At first, I thought perhaps the whole thing with the freaky Uncle Ben dude was a dream, until suddenly he resurfaced beside me. I let out a yelp. "Whoa. I didn't... why are we here?"
"I guess you'll see," was Uncle Ben's ominous response. "Why don't you try going about your daily routine?" His tone was odd, as if he knew what was up while I was still in the dark, and it infuriated me for some odd reason.
"Fine," I snapped, walking over to a crowd of girls and flashing them my trademark smile. "Hey, ladies," I said in a smooth tone, but instead of crowding around me, they just gave me a dirty look and then walked off. I stood in shock – this had never happened to me before, not ever, and it was perplexing to think that it was now.
Quickly, I strode over to my locker and pulled it open to see that I looked a bit different – slightly less attractive, really, but nothing that should make this big a difference. Uncle Ben resurfaced behind me. "Confused, Beckett?"
"Yes," I snapped, running a hand through my hair as I always did when I freaked out. "What did you expect? You bring me here to this place that looks like my school, except suddenly I'm a loser?"
"You're a nobody, Beck Oliver," Uncle Ben corrected. "Contrary to popular belief, there is a difference."
"And how is this helping me at all?" I grumbled. I had been a nobody once, after all, before I dated Jade. I suppose that was really what threw me into popularity – everyone wanted to see the poor boy who had dared to date Jade West. (I had Jade to thank for that. Actually, I had Jade to thank for a lot of things, now that I thought about it. I quickly pushed these thoughts out of my mind.)
"I suppose it'll help you to see who really cares," was Uncle Ben's quick response. Then he vanished, and I was really and truly alone for the first time in ages.
I walked over to my locker again, sliding open the door. There were no notes from 'Secret Admirers', no chocolates, nothing of the sort. I reached into my pocket and slid out my phone, but there were no new texts or missed calls. It was as if I didn't even exist.
With a slight frown, I made my over to Lacey, one of the girls who had fangirled over me before. "Hey, Lacey," I said with a smile.
Lacey glanced up from her phone and raised a perfectly plucked eyebrow. "Do I know you?"
"Apparently not," I sighed, gritting my teeth. It appeared Uncle Ben was right; I was a nobody. The sensation that ran through my body was not pleasant in the least.
"Beck!" someone called in a cheery tone, and I turned to see Cat Valentine running toward me. Surprised, I arched an eyebrow – did Cat know me, then? What about Robbie, Andre, Tori, Jade?
"Hey, Cat," was my simple greeting.
"Wanna go to the movies after school?" Cat fired off, a smile making her way onto her face. "Tori's going, and I think Robbie is, and maybe Andre, also Jade might bring her new boyfriend..."
"Hang on," I interrupted, raising an eyebrow. "Jade has a boyfriend?"
"Well, yeah, she's not exactly ugly," Cat replied, biting her lip. "And Ryder asked her out. He's kinda pretty, so you can't exactly expect her to say no. I mean, why are you angry? Not like you and Jade ever went out or anything."
This shocked me. First, because I couldn't really imagine a universe where I hadn't dated Jade at some point, and second, because maybe that was the reason that I was such a nobody, apparently invisible to everyone but my ex-best friends. (And third, because Ryder Daniels? Seriously? Jade could do so much better.) My eyes wide, I quickly told Cat, "Never mind. I'll be there, I guess."
"Yay!" Cat chirped. "I like when we all hang out together. It's fun." She grinned at me, then skipped off to class, looking perfectly content. Her ability to stay positive no matter the circumstances was something I'd always admired about the redhead.
I turned and started walking to class, feeling another surge of loneliness. Normally I had girls swarming to walk me to class. Now I had no one. Not to mention, I was feeling irrationally angry about the fact that Jade had a date with Ryder Daniels.
I know, I had no reason to be angry. But perhaps I was just jealous.
(That, though, was something I would never admit to anyone.)
The rest of the day was equally as torturous, or at least that's what I told myself. Occasionally I thought it was kind of a relief to not have people following me everywhere, talking to me about random chiz I didn't care about, but on the flip side it was kind of a disappointment to see my former friends' disinterest in me as soon as they realized that I wasn't famous in the least. Maybe Uncle Ben was right. Maybe my new friends were as fake as Hana Reynolds' new tan.
For example, I walked over to Dylan James after class. Dylan and I had been good friends when... well, when I was famous, and I was thinking that he was a decent guy, really. So I said, "Hey, Dylan."
Dylan, though, just stared at me like I was insane, then slammed his locker door in my face and walked away, leaving me in the dust.
Well, I could take a hint.
All of the girls that had been all over me just the evening before were now treating me like I was a dead bug. They glared at me when they saw me in the hallways. And I was beginning to wonder if it was worth it, having people who didn't even like me for who I was, but rather for what I was. After all, I could lose my fame and riches and heck, even my good looks at any given time. Nothing was guaranteed. And it seemed to me that if I lost all of those things, I would lose all of my 'friends' and admirers as well.
I did end up going to the movies with my ex-best friends, though. We went to see some chick flick that Cat had insisted on going to, and Jade did bring stupid Ryder Daniels. The worst part was that Jade gave her usual commentary (she always did this during chick flicks), but instead of commentating to me, she whispered in Ryder's ear. Ryder did seem to be enjoying it, too.
I groaned and slumped down in my seat. Robbie just shot me a quizzical look and patted me on the back, which made me feel incredibly guilty. It seemed that Robbie's unwavering friendship was just one of the many things I'd taken for granted.
Aside from the whole Jade and Ryder, it was nice to be back with my old friends. We all joked and laughed like old times, and I suppose it was kind of like old times. Jade and I bickered, Tori burst in with random songs at dramatic parts of the movie, Cat squealed and covered her eyes whenever anything remotely scary happened, Andre made corny jokes, and Robbie explained the mechanisms behind the making of the movie. I hadn't realized how much I'd missed it until that moment.
At the end of the movie, I asked quietly, "Guys, if I was famous, would you like me more?"
Jade, of course, jumped in with a snort. "No. If anything, it'd just make you more conceited." Boy, did she ever get that one right. Ryder just rolled his eyes and nodded in agreement, the idiot.
"No," Cat responded, biting her lip. "I'd probably like you just the same." Tori and Andre nodded in agreement.
Then Robbie glanced up at me. "No. If you were famous, you probably wouldn't want to be my friend anymore. Or any of our friends, really."
And now I was starting to feel even more guilty about everything.
"That would never happen though," Cat jumped in, her eyes bright. "Right, Beck?"
I muttered something under my breath and dashed out of the theater, ready for some alone time and some fresh air, not to mention the chance to make all of this right. Desperately, I called out, "UNCLE BEN? Where are you?"
"Beck?" came an incredulous voice from behind me. I spun around to see Tori Vega, lifting both of her eyebrows suspiciously. "Are you okay? You look like you've seen a ghost."
I almost laughed. It was hilarious how my real best friends could so easily guess the truth, all the while not knowing how right they were. Shaking my head, I told her, "I'm fine, Tor. You guys go bowling or something. I'll meet you there in an hour."
As soon as Tori walked off, Uncle Ben appeared in front of me again. I fell to my knees at once. "Please, can you take me back? I've learned my lesson now, I swear."
"Oh, but I don't think you have," Uncle Ben chuckled. Then the room was spinning again.
I opened my eyes to find myself in my house. Uncle Ben, however, was nowhere to be found. Confused, I pushed myself up to find that I was sleeping in my room – not in the RV, where I usually slept, but my room, where I'd stayed for thirteen years before I met Jade West. This in itself was completely shocking.
Glancing around the room, I found that the walls were plastered in photos, but not the ones I had hanging in my room. The empty picture frame that had hung above my bed for months (since it used to hold a photo of me and Jade) was nowhere to be found. Instead, there were unfamiliar people – all of the girls looking the same, all of the boys looking like stereotypical preppy jokes. I picked up a picture and raised an eyebrow. Since when were these my type of people? I mean, I suppose I looked happy, but it was just so... boring. Complacent. Completely unexciting.
Setting down the picture, I picked up my phone, which had been precariously placed on my bedside table. Scrolling through the contacts, I realized none of them were my friends from Hollywood Arts.
Was this some sort of alternate universe where I hadn't met anyone from Hollywood Arts?
Then it hit me. No. This was a universe where I'd never met Jade West. Moreover, this was a universe where Jade West did not exist.
My first thought was that a universe without Jade would be fairly boring. After all, without Jade, I wouldn't have gone to Hollywood Arts (she convinced me to audition), wouldn't have met any of my Hollywood Arts friends, wouldn't have dated her. I knew that I had to keep going, though, if I ever wanted to get back to my own universe. I had to learn my lesson.
Glancing in the mirror, I decided that for once I couldn't care less what I looked like. I just had to get through this day and get home so that I could make things right.
I slipped out of my room and grabbed a bowl, hoping that my parents wouldn't come in so I could dash off to school – well, whichever school I went to, anyway. But no such luck.
"Beck, son, good to see you're ready for school," my father said, eying my outfit with obvious distaste. "You're going with a more casual look, I see?"
"Yep," was my simple reply, and I leveled him with a glare, hoping he wouldn't make any further comments.
"If you want to look like a hobo, feel free," he said at last. "Guess I can't control you anymore."
"Great," I answered, gobbling down my cereal so that I could leave. "Um, this may be an odd question, but where exactly do I go to school?"
My dad returned the glare now. "Beck Oliver, don't play games with me. You know that you go to Northridge. Stop acting like an idiot and get ready for school."
"Um, right," I replied, but my throat felt dry. Northridge? Horror of all horrors. No wonder those people looked fake. Northridge was the school we at Hollywood Arts laughed at, the school that no one wanted to go to, the school of fake people and losers. Not the school I wanted to go to. Slowly, I stood up, dumped my bowl and spoon in the sink, and dashed upstairs to ready myself a bit more.
As soon as I got upstairs, Uncle Ben appeared in my room. "Beck," he greeted me. "Having fun on your first day?"
"Look, I appreciate what you're trying to do, but I'm fairly sure I've learned my lesson," I begged. "I need Jade in my life, now and forever. Now can you put me back into my old life?"
"No can do," Uncle Ben responded, and then suddenly we were inside of the school.
"Beck!"called a girl as she strode up to me. She put her hands on her hips. "I called you like, ten times last night. How come you didn't answer?"
"My phone's malfunctioning," I managed to mutter.
"Malfunctioning's a weird word," she informed me. "Plus you look like you've been through heck today. Honestly, what is up with you? You're supposed to be like, hot. And popular." She eyed me with distaste. "Ew, and your hair is looking greasy. Seriously. I can't be seen with you if you look like this. Bye, Oliver."
I watched the girl walk off and shook my head, running a hand through my 'greasy' hair. It was then that I spotted Cat Valentine, and I remembered that Jade had convinced Cat to come audition as well. I decided to go talk to her.
Smiling, I walked up to her. "Hey, Cat."
Cat glanced up at me, and all of a sudden the difference between this Cat and the Cat I knew at Hollywood Arts became glaringly obvious. First of all, her hair was a slick brown instead of the red velvet I was used to, and her eyes were coated in makeup. There was a distinct frown on her face as she spoke, and not in a high voice like before, either. "It's Caterina."
"Caterina, sorry," I apologized at once, since I was quite scared of this new Cat – Caterina. "Uh, how are you?"
She bit down on her lip, looking sad, confused, and worried, then shook her head. "Wash your hair," Caterina said at last, then she walked away, her brown hair swooshing behind her. Something about that look of misery got to me. It was so unlike the Cat I'd known before.
Jade wasn't a horrible person; this much I knew, despite it all. And today I was seeing just how much happiness she'd brought, if just to Cat and I.
I should've appreciated her more, I really should've.
Maybe I was the horrible person.
Throughout the rest of the day, nothing improved. If anything, things got worse. Everyone at this school kept commenting on my hair, on how greasy and ugly it was, and really my hair was the base of my pride, so this was a low blow. This was something that would never be tolerated at Hollywood Arts, but here no one seemed to care, really. By the time the day was over, I felt like I'd been beaten to a bloody pulp, though no one had touched me.
It was sad to think that had Jade not come along, I would've been going to this school and living this life every day.
"I get it," I begged once uncle ben showed up at the end of the day. "Can you take me back now?"
"Do you really think that you deserve to go back?" Uncle Ben asked me. "Do you deserve to get the chance to make things right after what you've done?"
"Excuse me, what?" I replied faintly. Hadn't I suffered enough?
A grim smile made its way onto Uncle Ben's face. "Well, Beck, you might not know it, but you were a bit of a jerk to everyone before... this."
"I know," I told him darkly. I was a jerk, this much was true, but I deserved the chance to make it right! Everyone deserved that much!
"Oh, do you?" Uncle Ben inquired. "Do you really deserve the friendship of Tori, Andre, Cat, even Robbie? Do you deserve Jade?"
"Y-yes," I stammered, but I was starting to doubt it myself. Jade was a jerk; everyone had told me that. Everyone had implied that it was Jade who didn't deserve me, but now that I was seeing things differently... it startled me, angered me, surprised me. I wasn't sure how to feel. I just wanted to go back and fix everything.
"Oh, Beck, how naïve you are," Uncle Ben chuckled darkly, and suddenly the world was spinning again. In front of me, I could see Robbie, cheering me on at some play, defending me against some gossiping girls, listening to me as I ranted about my parents. "Robbie Shapiro, the sweet young man who only desired your friendship. Yet instead you declined his offers of friendship time after time because you were so concerned about popularity." Now I saw me speaking to Robbie just the other day, but this time I saw him as he walked away, dejected. He walked up to Andre with a frown on his face and shook his head. "Again, the answer's no."
"And then there's Andre," continued Uncle Ben, a frown on his face. "Andre, your best friend for who knows how long. Did you know that when you were dating Jade, he was in love with her?" Suddenly Andre was in front of me on Tori's couch, saying "I'm in love with Jade!". "But he hid it from you," uncle ben informed me, "because he couldn't do that to a friend." "She's Beck's girlfriend," Andre said. "It's evil."
"And what did he get in payment? A friend who thinks he's a loser." It was true, I realized as I watched Andre shake his head and wince in response to Robbie's answer. "Maybe Andre would be a better boyfriend to Jade than you ever were."
Another surge of undeniable jealousy ran through me. It was beyond obvious at this point that I was still in love with Jade; the only question was how I was going to handle it. I bit my lip as Uncle Ben kept going. "And then little Caterina, never been anything but loyal to you." Cat was suddenly in frong of me, handing out a lollipop she'd bought for me and saying, "I saw this and thought of you, Beck!" Then suddenly the scene changed and Cat was standing with Jade, asking my ex-girlfriend, "What do you mean Beck doesn't wanna hang out with us anymore? What happened?"
"And Tori," Uncle Ben kept going, looking fairly sadistic. "Oh, Tori. The girl you tried to kiss despite your ex-girlfriend's inhibitions about the girl. Despite the fact that you promised over and over that your interest in her was nothing but platonic. Oh, but she rejected you because of Jade. Because she cares more about Jade than you do. That should really tell you something right there."
My eyes were starting to burn. I knew what was next. "And Jade," he said. "Jade, the love of your life, the girl you yelled at in front of a crowd." That was me, I realized as an angry boy yelled "I'm not happy with our relationship!" to a hurt-looking girl. I never realized just how hurt she looked after I said that. Then the scene changed, and Jade was standing outside of the door to Tori's house.
This was the night of our breakup, I realized. And now I was getting to see the look on her face as she left. Jade West looked completely and utterly devastated, completely broken. I was the one to do this to her. I was the one to break down the ice girl's frozen walls.
I could feel the tears stinging at my eyes for the first time in years. All I could do was stand there, completely broken, and tell the ghost man, "I want to go home."
"Are you sure?" Uncle Ben inquired. "I have much more, much much more, such as this.." He waved a hand and suddenly Jade and Ryder were sitting in front of us, attached at the lips. Another ripple of pain shot through me.
"I want to go home," I repeated, choking on my own voice. "I want to see Jade. I don't deserve her, but I deserve a chance."
"As you wish," Uncle Ben told me with a shrug, and then the room was spinning.
The alarm went off.
I shot up, my eyelids flying open, and glanced over to see that it was 6:45 (my normal time to wake up), and that I was in the bed in my RV. The proverbial empty photo frame hung on my wall, like it'd been there the whole time, and the pictures pinned up were those of me with my Hollywood Arts friends.
I breathed out in relief. I hadn't been sent to yet another Jade-less universe, thankfully. It seemed that this time, I'd been allowed to return to my universe, to my friends, to everything I had to make right.
Quickly, I got ready, grabbed a banana, and headed out the door. I knew that Jade was always early to school; whether it was habit or just preference, I had no idea. Slipping into my car, I quickly began to drive, but I was stopped at a stoplight. I huffed, then glanced at myself in the mirror. My hair wasn't exactly looking its best, nor were my clothes – they were slightly rumpled – but it was okay, I knew now that Jade West was one of the few people in the world that wouldn't even care.
I burst in the door to the school and proceeded to trip over my own feet, then faceplant right on the floor. My cheeks burned with humiliation at the scattered laughter that emulated from the few people that were actually at school, but truthfully, it was no worse than anything else I'd experienced in the past few hours (or days, I still wasn't sure if it was just a painfully long dream or not).
Then suddenly there was a hand in front of me, a pale hand with black fingertips. Gratefully, I took it, and let Jade West pull me up to my feet. She just raised an eyebrow at me. "You look ridiculous."
"Thanks," I huffed out, giving her a genuine smile. "Thanks for helping me up, though. Really. I appreciate it."
"Whatever," Jade responded simply, frowning at me. "Don't go thinking I'm going soft or anything. You just looked really pathetic down there."
"I don't think you're going soft at all," I told her, a smile playing at my lips. "And I'm sure I did look pretty pathetic. I mean, I've been acting pretty pathetic the past few weeks or so." Ever since I didn't open that door, I added in my mind, but I figured there was no need to get into all that right now.
This seemed to spark Jade's interest. "What do you mean?" she inquired.
"Look, Jade," I started, running a hand through my hair. "I know that... ever since we broke up, I haven't exactly... I mean, I've been a jerk. Not just to you, to everyone. But you – you're the most important. I just... I'm sorry, Jade. For everything."
She studied me, her eyes darkening. "I don't know what to say."
I shouldn't have expected anything, but now I didn't know what to say. I lifted my head a bit to stare at her, but before I could say anything else, we were interrupted by – May, was it? May glanced between me and Jade, then said, "Why are you talking to her?"
"I don't see how it's any of your business," Jade said coolly, but I placed a hand on her shoulder, telling her I'd handle it, then glanced over at May.
"I'm talking to her because I care about her," I hissed. My first reflex was to say "I love her", but I doubted that would go over too well with Jade. "Because even though she might look scary sometimes, she's twice the friend you'll ever be. Any of your friends will ever be. She cares – cared about me for who I am, and I took that for granted." I sighed, running a hand through my hair again. "So go ahead, kick me out of your little clique. See if I care."
May didn't even look concerned as she said, "Bye, then," and stalked off, but Jade started laughing behind me. I turned around, dumbstruck, and Jade just shrugged. "You can't have meant that."
"I did," I said, staring at her. "I meant all of it."
"It's just that..." Jade laughed, a genuine laugh, a surprised laugh, something I hadn't heard from her in ages. "People have been telling me for ages that I'm the worst person ever, that I don't deserve you, that I'm a horrible friend, and here you are saying it's the other way around. That it's you."
"It was me," I corrected her, noticing now that people were starting to stream in. I supposed that meant it was getting late and we'd have to finish up so that we could get to class. "I'm trying to be better now, Jade. I'm trying to change. I need to change."
She stared at me, probably trying to judge if I was telling the truth. Jade had always been rather good at that, at judging people's intentions, at calling people out on their lies. The bell rang sharply, interrupting our little moment. Jade blinked and shook her head. "Well, prove it. And good luck. I've got to get to class."
But before she left, Jade grabbed my hand and gave it a squeeze, a sure sign that she believed me. I just watched her go, my heart pounding out a quick rhythm.
I would prove it to her. I had to.
At lunch, I plopped down at the table I'd been avoiding for the past few weeks – the table where Jade, Andre, Cat, Tori, and Robbie routinely sat. Jade sent me a small smile from across the table (that she quickly hid by glancing down), but all of the rest of them looked completely and utterly shocked.
Tori was the first to speak up. "Beck! Why are you sitting here? I mean, not that I don't want you to sit here, but just – why?"
"I wanted to apologize," I responded, running a hand through my hair again. "I've been a jerk to you guys, and you don't deserve that. You're some of the best friends I've had, ever. Really. I just... I'm really sorry for being such a jerk."
"Aw, it's okay!" Cat chirped, grinning over at me in that forgiving way of hers. "Everyone is mean sometimes. As long as you just don't do it again."
"Oh, trust me, I won't," I answered, glancing around the table at the rest of them. The dubious smile was still plastered on Jade's face, but all of the others seemed to be considering what I was saying, thankfully. At last, Tori spoke up.
"I get why you did it," she said softly. "You wanted to be famous and popular, a lot like that chiz I did when I wanted to perform at the Platinum Music Awards. So I guess I understand. You were a big jerk, but... I forgive you." She glanced around. "We forgive you."
This resulted in much 'aww'ing and then Tori pulling us all in for a big group hug. Even Jade, who hated hugs more than any other form of physical affection, relented and didn't pull away.
"Good to have you back, man," Andre told me, grinning over at me once we all sat back down.
"Yeah." Robbie laughed. "I was hoping you'd be able to help me fix my car, because it sorta broke down and I need to be able to get to school..."
"That thing is not a car!" Tori protested wildly.
I had to laugh at that. Honestly, I didn't want to help Robbie fix his not-car, but I knew I had to make it up to him somehow, so I shrugged. "Sure, I'll help you. Just... try not to damage your not-car any further. There's only so much I can do."
"What he's saying is that he's really not capable of much," Jade said in a snotty tone, but the look on her face showed me that she was teasing. Grinning, I elbowed her lightly, and she retaliated by shoving me in the arm (also lightly, which was odd for Jade). Everyone else at the table just watched us with wide eyes.
"Ooh," Tori muttered under her breath, sounding like she'd finally understood all the secrets of the universe or something.
"Got a problem, Vega?" Jade inquired, raising an eyebrow at the brunette.
"Not at all." Tori smiled. "It's just nice to have... um, Beck back here."
(Just for the record, I totally got what she was really saying.)
Apologizing really took a lot out of you. So during Theater History, I ended up falling asleep. Thankfully, Uncle Ben didn't make any appearances in my dreams, but for whatever reason I kept flashing back to all of the things I'd done wrong. And when Andre woke me at the end of Theater History, I was pretty much a sweaty mess.
"You okay?" Andre inquired, giving me a you cray sort of look. "You look kind of..."
"Nightmares," I explained, shoving my hands in my pockets.
"Ah," was Andre's simple response. "What about?"
Before I could answer, Dylan strode up to me. He didn't look too thrilled at me, and I had a good idea of why. "Look, dude," Dylan said coldly. "I know we're like, friends or something weird like that, but that doesn't mean that I'm not gonna call you out on your crap. And whatever you're doing with those weirdos – that Cat girl and the Jade freak and puppet boy – that's crap and it's not helping you get anywhere in life."
"You wanna know something?" I said, keeping my voice even. "You're not going to tell me who I'm going to be friends with. I didn't ask for your opinion. And furthermore, they're my real friends, not you guys. Fame is temporary, but these guys are forever."
Then I walked off quickly, Andre following behind me. He cleared his throat. "What you did – that was a good thing."
"Yeah," I mused. "Probably not good enough."
After school, I pulled Jade aside. "Um, Jade. I was thinking that maybe, if you don't have plans, I could... um, thank you. For everything you've done."
Jade just stared at me. "I'll consider it, I guess. Weigh it against my other options."
I couldn't help what came out next. "What other options?"
Jade suddenly looked uncomfortable. Gazing down at her feet, she muttered something along the lines of, "Well, Ryder Daniels sorta asked me if I wanted to go on a date. I said no, of course, but I could always tell him that I've changed my mind..." She glanced up at me again, this time with a small smirk playing at her lips.
Inexplicable anger seared through me as I remembered the dream – the alternate universe, whatever it was – where Ryder and Jade were on a date. Biting my lip, I shook my head wildly. "No, Jade. You can't."
"And why can't I?" she inquired, putting her hands on her hip. I knew that telling Jade what to do never went over well, but... well, I was in love with her. Not that I'd admit to that right now. Definitely not the right time.
"Jade..." I said, my eyes wide. She had to say yes to me. She had to. "I'm trying to apologize for everything, okay? Just give me a chance."
"Fine," she replied, and relief seared through me. I almost picked her up and spun her around, but caught myself before she could.
"Thanks," I told her with a grin. "You won't regret it."
"I'd better not," was her response, but a teasing grin was present on her face.
"I can't believe that you're making me ride in a limo," were Jade's first words as she climbed into the limo that I had hired to take us to our date. Probably she was the only girl in the world that wouldn't be excited at the prospect of riding in a limo like a rich person. I just laughed.
"I'm not making you do anything," I told her mischievously. "We can walk if you really want to."
"Um, no thanks," Jade retorted, sliding a little bit closer to me. "Where are we even going, anyway?"
"I guess you'll just have to wait and see," I answered, glancing over at her. She looked gorgeous, as usual; what with the long blue backless dress she was wearing. Her hair was curled and for once, she hadn't added any extensions. My hand went up automatically to tweak one of her curls, but then I realized what I was doing and stopped myself.
"Please," Jade snorted, leaning back in her seat. "Last time I let you 'surprise me' on a date, you took me to the freaking llama farm."
"You like llamas," I protested, a small smile on her face.
"I do," she confirmed. "But their poop still smells bad."
I gave a small laugh and shook my head. "You're one of a kind, Jade."
She stared at me, a smile tugging at her lips. "You're different. It's unnerving."
"Good unnerving or bad unnerving?" I inquired, raising an eyebrow at her.
"Good unnerving," she confirmed. The look on her face was slightly confused, like she was trying to decide if she wanted to take this risk with me again or not. The way we'd ended up last time admittedly hadn't been pretty, but things could be different. I knew things now that I didn't know before.
"Jade, I – " I began, but she cut me off before I could say anything more.
"Save it for wherever we're going," she whispered, leaning closer to me. "I'm sure we'll have plenty of time for deep conversations once we get there."
And sure enough, we did. I had taken her to her favorite restaurant (of course, I still remembered which one was her favorite; it wasn't like I could just forget), and we were given a booth that was far away from any other customers, much to Jade's delight. As soon as she sat down, she tore into the menu, then proceeded to take like an hour to decide what she wanted.
"I want the nachos," she said after a while. "And lemme guess, you want the mac and cheese."
"Mac and cheese is good," I protested with a smile.
"You're such a child, Beck," she retorted, but she told the order to our waitress anyway, and she didn't even flinch when the waitress started touching my arm and chiz, some weird kind of flirting. (I kindly brushed her away, though. I definitely wasn't interested.)
"You seem different too," I observed as soon as the waitress was gone. "Good different, I mean."
She glanced down. "I'm trying as well, I guess you could say. I mean, I could've been a little better to you. I got to thinking after the breakup that maybe if I tried harder..."
"Jade, don't say that," I reprimanded her. "It wasn't your fault."
"Still, I could try harder," Jade replied indifferently. "And if we both try, then maybe it'll work this time."
I hesitated for a minute, letting the gravity of her statement sink in before I spoke. "So what, you want there to be a this time? You want to try again?"
"Only if you want to." Her voice was barely a whisper, and I could hardly believe it – honestly, I was the one who should be begging for her, the one who should be trying to convince her that I had changed, not the other way around.
In response, I did the only thing I knew to do – I leaned forward and planted a short, simple kiss on her lips, a kiss that she responded to immediately, as if we'd just been doing this yesterday. Once we both pulled back, I whispered, "I love you." She didn't need to ask. She needed to hear it every day of her life.
She glanced down. "Love you too. Now let's not get all cliché."
I suddenly realized that she was getting embarrassed, which was more amusing than anything. "You know, you look beautiful tonight," I told her.
"Stop," she protested, her face heating up, and I couldn't help but think that there was nothing more gorgeous.
"Thanks," I said as the waitress brought the food. "For everything."
"No problem, Oliver," she replied as she glanced up at me. "For the record, I'm glad that you finally came to your senses."
"For the record," I said with a laugh, "I'm glad that I did too."
Maybe I'd lose my money. Maybe my popularity level would decrease. Maybe I wouldn't be quite so famous for my mediocre acting anymore. But maybe it was all worth it if I was a decent person, if I had my best friends, if I had Jade.
"Thanks, Uncle Ben," I whispered under my breath. Jade raised an eyebrow in question, but I just shook my head, wondering absently how I'd ever taken this girl for granted.
Maybe one day I would explain. But for now, it would just be my secret, how I finally came to my senses.
A/N: SORRY THIS IS SO BAD. Especially the ending. But really I just want something like this to happen in canon, aka Beck realizes he was a jerk and works to gain Jade back and they both try harder (and end up married because OTP). But anyway.
Thanks to my lovely friends on tumblr and twitter for the help, and please read and review! :) Don't fave without reviewing.