19

Chapter 1

I ducked behind a doorway as he walked past. My dark hair hid my face and the long sleeves of my dark purple sweatshirt hid the fading scars on my arms. He glanced in my direction and sneered, then continued walking with his friends; his red and white football jersey blending in with the ones that surrounded him, only to be told apart by the fifteen on his back and 'Moore' written across his shoulders.

His name was Garrett and he was the quarterback of our schools winning football team. His blonde hair curled slightly as it fell into his eyes; his blue eyes that shown in the sunlight as his tan skin remained flawless and unblemished.

There's a reason why he's perfect, and it's not his daddy's money, his popularity, or the fact that he is undoubtedly gorgeous. He's perfect because of everything I feel from stolen glances at him. There's something he hides under his perfection that leaves me aching to find out what makes him tick.

"Hey girl." Lisa said as she popped up beside me. Her long, raven black hair and pale skin were flawless as always. Her red and white cheerleading uniform clashed with my dark outfit.

"Why do you even talk to me?" I asked and stepped back out in the hall and started on my way to second hour.

"Because you aren't like the rest of the people here and I thought you might want someone to talk to." She said as she followed me.

I stopped walking. "Look, I don't need your charity, okay? I have friends, even if they aren't super popular preps like you. We go through this every year and every year it's the same. I don't want to be friends with you and you don't want to be friends with me. I think it's fair if we just walk away and pretend like we've never had any kind of conversation." I continued walking until I could no longer feel her cold stare on my back. I hurried down the stairs to my AP Language and Composition classroom with Ms. Lames.

I looked around and saw an open seat next to my best friend, Morgan. Her curly, dirty blonde hair was pulled back and her green eyes were softly ringed with black eyeliner. I sat down next to her and smiled. "Hey."

"What's up, girl. It's been so long." Her voice was full of energy and life.

"Yeah a whole two days since you spent the night at my house." I scoffed. "How did we ever survive?"

"You mean it was a whole two days of torture since I spent the night at your house." She corrected me.

I laughed for the first time that day. She laughed alongside me and we were like normal best friends. But an emo chick and a drama kid make an odd pair of best friends if you ask me, not as strange as Lisa and I would have been, but still it's pretty far up there.

Ms. Lames, a thirty year old with shoulder length cork screw curls in a deep red color, walked into the room. "Okay, class. Seeing as you all have chosen to sit next to your friends, I'm going to give you assigned seating. This is not alphabetical; I created it randomly last night."

She went table to table and touched each one, calling out the name of the student who would occupy that seat for the remainder of the year. Morgan was in the center of the first row with her friend Andrew, I personally didn't know him that well, but he seemed nice enough.

In the back row she reached the last desk. "I'm sorry Guinevere, but you will have to sit alone until someone new comes in."

"That's fine." I said in a soft voice and took my seat.

"Okay class, today we are going to go through the syllabus and then tomorrow we'll go down to the library to get your copies of In Cold Blood by Truman Capote."

The door creaked open slowly. "I'm sorry to interrupt, but I was just transferred into this class."

Ms. Lames looked up and smiled. "That's quite alright, I'll just write you into my list. What's your name?"

I recognized his voice from the one time I had heard him talk to me, telling me to get out of his way on his way to class last year after one of his friends had knocked my books out of my hands.

"Garrett Moore."

Of course he got to have the only open seat in the class room, the one right next to me. I think that the only person less happy about that than I was, was him. His blue eyes darkened as he took his seat next to me and he scooted his chair as far away as he could.

I rolled my eyes at him and listened to the droll explanation of class rules that are the same for every teacher, just worded differently. I groaned slightly when she said that since we had ten minutes of extra time that she wanted us to get to know our table partner, then right a one page essay about them, which was due that Friday.

I pulled out a notebook and looked at him. "It's obvious that you don't like me, and I don't like you. So why don't we play nice and just get this over with?"

"That's fine with me." he said with no emotion at all. "Why don't you like me though? I don't recall doing anything that was hurtful towards you."

"How about ten minutes ago when you glared at me in the hallway? Or last year when you and your friends bullied me? I'm sure I could give you several reasons why I don't like you."

"I'm sure you could." He growled and forced get to know you questions at me for the remainder of the class time. As soon as the bell rang he faced me and gave me a smug smile. "Well, this was fun, sweetie, but I gotta run." He placed a finger under my chin for a second then hopped out of his seat and bounded towards the door.

I stared after him; yup, utter perfection.

Morgan was sitting on my desk when I turned back around. "Earth to Gwen."

"Oh, sorry. Did you say something?"

She laughed softly. "You are totally pre-teening over him, sweetheart. It's not good for your tough girl attitude."

I rolled my eyes and stood, pulling my backpack onto my shoulder. "I was not pre-teening. I was simply staring after him in a dazed and confused manor."

"You were so pre-teening." Ms. Lames said as Morgan and I left the classroom.

I blushed slightly and pulled my hood over my head. She had heard us. How embarrassing is that? I mean, it's day one and I bet she already thinks that she's part cupid or something.

Ugh, that boy. I hate him with every fiber of my being. His chiseled face and strong hands are deadly and his personality can cut as deep as a knife. And who got stuck writing a paper about him? Who else but the emo chick that lives with her grandmother?

Chapter 2

I slogged through the rest of the day and sat alone on the bus ride home. At my stop I got off and trudged up the street to my house. I unlocked the front door and threw my backpack on the ground.

"Why so upset?" My grandma asked from the kitchen.

I followed the sound of her voice into the room, then reached in the cabinet and grabbed an oatmeal cream pie, my personal favorite. "I have to sit next to Garrett for an entire year." I complained as I plopped down across from her at the kitchen table.

"I thought you liked Garrett." She said.

"I don't, he's a self-obsessed, egotistic, arrogant, jerk, football player with beef for brains." I growled at the thought of him.

"I can tell you don't like him." She said sarcastically.

"Nanny, I'm serious. If I liked him it would hurt my pride."

Nanny smiled at me. "And pride is more important than love, dear? I don't recall that being the way your father raised you."

"At the moment," I sneered. "I think pride is more important. I mean, he has enough of it. He had the nerve to call me 'Sweetie.' Does anything about me look sweet to you?"

She laughed. "I guess you look sweet to him, darling. I bet you'd look sweeter if you pinned that hair out of your face."

I pushed the strands that fell into my line of vision behind my ear. "Better?"

She smiled. "Yes, ma'am. Wear your hair like that more often and he'll be nipping at your heals in no time. It shows off those ice blue eyes of yours."

I rolled my eyes. "I'm pretty sure he's already nipping at the heels of every cheerleader with a b-cup or larger." I got up and threw the wrapper in the trash and started to leave the room.

"I got a letter from your father this morning." She said softly.

I froze in my tracks. "And?"

She swallowed hard. "He has to stay in Iraq until December, commanding officers need him there."

My face fell. "Oh, okay."

She came over and wrapped me in her arms. "I'm sorry."

I pulled away. "I've got homework. I should probably get started on it."

"It's the first day. What teacher gives students a homework assignment before they even have a chance to learn anything?"

I shrugged. "Lames gave us a writing assignment, no biggie."

She shook her head slowly. "What do you have to write about?"

I sighed. "Garrett Moore."

I laid on my bed and stared at the blank paper in front of me. I never had a problem with writing before, in fact, I would consider it one of my strong suits in English. Why was he so hard to capture on paper? Why did it have to be him? I could write about anybody else, just not him.

I looked at the title, Garrett Moore. I wanted to write: Garrett Moore: Perfection Personified, but that would give Lames more of a reason to believe that she is a professional cupid.

I finally closed my notebook and shoved it in my backpack. It was due Friday and I still had all day tomorrow to write it. I just don't understand how I was able to be so fearless with him earlier when I was telling him off, but now, fear was what was keeping me from writing.

Sure, Lames was the only one meant to read my paper, but I'm pretty sure that he would find some way to weasel his way into reading it from her. Crafty little devil, that's what he was: a perfect, gorgeous, stunning little devil; but a devil nonetheless.

Stupid Lames. I thought. Why did she have to put me next to him? His blonde hair and blue eyes brought light to the room that I tried very hard to take away with my use of dark clothes, make up, and emotions.

His perfect, movie star good looks were very distracting and I probably wouldn't learn much this year in English. Heck, I'll be lucky if I pass.

Why does he have to do this to me? Why is it every time I'm around him my brain turns to mush? Why do I have to like the same guy that every girl in the school swoons over when he walks by? Why me? Why him? Why do I have to make my existence on this planet any more torturous? Why put myself through this for a guy I have no chance with?

Then the thought came to me and knocked me back into my mental corner. Because you want to be loved, just once.

It had never occurred to me that I had never had a serious boyfriend until that moment. I had some that lasted a few months here and there, but in the end I usually broke it off, to me it wasn't worth it to be with someone I was sure I didn't love.

Isn't that we're put on this Earth to do? Find someone who loves us and live happily ever after and all that Disney princess crap? So why was being with Garrett, a guy way out of my league, so important to me?

Because I, Guinevere Allison Knotch, am desperate to be loved.

Chapter 3

I walked into McClain High School, home of the McClain Meerkats, at about seven thirty am. My friends usually hung out by the bus doors until the bell rang, signaling us to head to class. Today there was only Serria, her boyfriend Jay, Morgan, and my exboyfriend Tyler. I mumbled my good mornings and tossed my backpack on the ground and sat in between Morgan and Jay.

"Hey, Gwen, I've got a question for you." Tyler said as he turned his head so that he could see me from the other side of Morgan. His shortly chopped hair and loose plaid shirt clashed with my long, dark hair and tight clothing. It's a wonder how we ever were attracted to each other.

"Is it the same question I've said 'no' to the past three times?" I countered.

He laughed and shook his head. "No, I was gonna ask if you knew why Garrett Moore was asking questions about you."

I swallowed back a blush that threatened to invade my cheeks. "He probably just wanted more information about me so he could write his essay." I said nonchalantly.

"And he asked what kind of guys you like, why?" He said and raised an eyebrow.

I rolled my eyes at him. "Maybe he wanted to know what I saw in you." He looked shocked and I continued. "Now slowly apply cold water to that burn."

"If I didn't have a thing for strong women, the only thing I'd like about you is that you're pretty."

"Oh, darn. Guess I'll just have to make myself look like those carbon copy, blonde bimbos who will do anything just to gain approval to get you off my tail, huh?" I turned my back on the two and looked at Serria. "And how was your first day?"

"Horrible! We don't have a single class together. At least last year we had Biology together, even though Mrs. Harris constantly separated us." She laughed.

"Yeah, but she liked us. We didn't cuss her out like everyone else in the class did."

She nodded in agreement. "It's true. Even you were considered a good kid."

Another bus pulled up and dropped off a fresh crop of students who are either nerds excited for another year of learning, juniors who are excited to be considered an upperclassmen, or seniors just waiting for it all to be over. I am neither. I am a junior who wants to get out of here as fast as I can and move somewhere better.

Then the devil himself swaggered in dressed in a tight black t-shirt and jeans, his red backpack swung over one shoulder. He walked past my group and stopped. "Hey, sweetie. I finished my paper already. You are an excellent muse to an excellent writer, if I do say so myself."

"Well, you do say so yourself. But congrats, you found a way to mock me with words. Guess a Neanderthal like you needs a backup if playing football doesn't work out." I rolled my eyes.

He placed a hand over his heart. "That hurts, Darlin', that hurts me somethin' fierce." He said in a mock southern accent.

I stood up and walked over to him. "I'll let you in on a little secret," I whispered. "Southern accents don't work on me."

He straightened and removed his hand from his chest. "I'll be sure to remember that." He said, his accent now gone. He lifted my chin like he had the day before then disappeared into the commons.

"Wonder what he wrote." Morgan said as I returned to my spot beside her.

"I bet the title is something along the lines of 'Guinevere Knotch: Goth Queen of McClain High.' Wouldn't that be fun to read in class?" Tyler teased.

"I wish I could write mine about you." I countered. "I could have titled it 'Tyler Holland: Master of Horrible Jokes.'"

"Okay, children. Play nice." Morgan said from between us.

"Fine." I said while standing and reaching for my backpack. "I'm gonna go to Algebra anyway. I don't want to risk talking to Garrett again until I have to."

"Have fun with that in second hour. He seems smitten with you." Morgan giggled as I walked away.

I slunk into my seat a second before the tardy bell rang. Garrett looked at me and smiled a thousand watt smile but I ignored him, and started copying down the bell ringer from the board. Ms. Lames called Garrett to her desk and ask some questions I couldn't make out. He nodded vigorously then returned to his spot next to me.

At the end of class Ms. Lames stood in front of the class holding a paper. "Class I want to read you something that shows the true purpose of this assignment. The true purpose is to make the subject of your paper, your table partner, shine with your words. Capture them timelessly for generations to come."

Then she read from the paper. "Yet in the face of peer pressure and adversity, she is willing to stay strong and hold her beliefs high. She does not try to fabricate some kind of perfection as others do with designer clothes, tons of makeup, and eating disorders. No, she creates perfection with all that she is. As a truly beautiful young lady, Guinevere Knotch generates peace, grace, and, yes, perfection."

My jaw hit the ground when I heard my name. Garrett wrote this about me? Where are the jokes about being gothic, or about being an outsider? Where were the tasteless facts about high school popularity?

"You wrote that?" I asked softly.

"You wrote this?" He replied. He had my notebook in his hands and was looking at the page where I had been writing my essay on him. There was a page that I hadn't ripped out. It was halfway decent and I thought that maybe I could work with it. All I had written were the first three sentences.

Garrett Moore is the Hollywood poster child for every 'Mr. Popular.' Yet unlike the movie versions, he has something that separates him from the stereotypical high school football quarter back, something that makes women swoon and men look on with envy. Moore actually has substance.

"Is substance a good thing or a bad thing?" he whispered.

"It's a great thing." I said honestly and reached for the notebook.

He grabbed my arm in midair and pushed back the sleeve, revealing the scars that decorated my left arm. He released me and grabbed my other arm, pushing up that sleeve as well. This time the scars were barely scabbing.

He wouldn't meet my eyes as he released me again. Instead he licked his thumb and rubbed his right wrist, revealing pale scars that were slowly healing. The bell rang again and he grabbed his stuff. "Where's your third hour?"

"Civics with Mr. Patton." I answered.

"My class is right around the corner from there. Come on, I'll walk you."

"Alright." I said as I followed him out of the class room.

Chapter 4

We walked past Lisa on the way to class. She caught sight of who I was walking with and changed her path to walk with us; actually between us. Her hand slid into his. "Hey, Babe. We still on for this weekend?"
"Lisa, we've talked about this." He said, pulling his hand out of her grasp. "We weren't working out, so I decided it was best not to carry on when we didn't love each other."

She stepped in front of him. "But I did love you."

He stopped walking and sighed. "Well then I'm sorry to tell you that I didn't feel the same. Now is not the time to talk about this. Call me later and you can yell at me all you want, but not now."

He tried to walk around her but she stepped in front of him again. "But I gave you everything. You can't just up and leave me!"

"You gave me something that you have given every one of your ex-boyfriends since the time you started eighth grade. It's nothing out of the ordinary. We dated for three months, so it's not like we were serious and I just decided to end everything suddenly." He shoved around her and grabbed my arm, pulling me up with him. "Come on, Gwen, you're gonna be late for class."

"Is this why you don't wanna be my friend, Gwen? Because you were planning on stealing my boyfriend?" She grabbed my other arm.

I pulled out of her grasp. "I don't want to be your friend because for you, friends are possessions. Friends rocket you into either popularity or loserdom. And if I was your friend, you would lose all of your so called friends, your popularity, and your status as head cheerleader as well. By not being your friend, I'm protecting your reputation. That what a true friend would do."

I started walking again and Garrett caught up with me. "That was really brave what you did back there."

"It applies to you to. If you are friends with me, you'll lose everything you've worked so hard for." I readjusted my backpack on my shoulders and looked up at him. "Honestly, it's okay, I'm not worth it."

Before he had a chance to object I walked into class and took my seat behind Jay. "Were you just talking to Mr. Hunk Football star?"

I nodded and pulled out my civics book from my backpack. "Yeah."

"I thought you weren't going to talk to him."

I smiled to myself. "Well, sometimes things change."

His brown eyes widened and he stroked his scruffy chin. "I know that look, Gwen. You like him."

I shook my head and wiped the smile from my face. "I don't. He and I just were walking the same direction."

"Mmhmm." He nodded. "And why exactly did he stare after you when you walked away?"

"I don't know, maybe he was lost in space for a second." I shrugged and tried to look interested on whatever was on page sixty seven.

His hand slapped down on the book. I looked up and he smiled a knowing smile. "Just don't think about what your head says for once. Maybe you can be happy long enough for those to heal." He pointed at my wrist.

"How did you know? I haven't told anyone that I still do it."

"You can't hide that from the people who know you better than yourself. Serria told me as soon as she realized that you hadn't stopped. If you had, you wouldn't have been wearing long sleeved shirts because the scars would have been faded. We care about you, you know that right?"

I nodded. The intercom came on. "Mr. Patton, can you send Guinevere Knotch to the main office with her things, please?"

"Yes, ma'am." He said and dismissed me.

I grabbed my stuff, nodded to Jay, and walked out of the classroom. I reached the main office and signed the sign-out sheet. I waved good bye to the nice lady and walked outside to the parking lot

My jaw hit the ground. "Mommy?"

Her long, blonde hair cascaded down her back and her dark brown eyes were ringed with brown eye liner. I hadn't seen her in three years. I hadn't considered her a parent in ten. When I was seven, she walked out on my father and me and sued for custody. But with my father being a respected man in the military and my mother moving to a new area without a job or a source of income, the judge ruled that I was to stay with my father and my grandmother in Indiana, with yearly visits, as my mother wished, to California to see her.

"Hi, Gwenni! It's been so long!" she tried to hug me but I pushed her off.

"Yeah; three whole years' worth." I said in a flat voice.

"I'm sorry I haven't called in a while, sweetheart, life has been hard recently." She sat on the hood of her car.

I crossed my arms. "You mean you got in another fight with Aaron and he's threatening to leave you, again?"

"He did leave me." she said.

"So you called and checked me out because?"

She sighed. "I want you to come home with me. I have a solid job, house, and family life now. I can afford to raise you. I have a case now because your father is never home. You can come live with me in Cali and we can have the life we've always dreamed of."

"That dream ended when you walked out." I said. "Dad's never home because he's fighting for our country with his life on the line. You are never home because you decided that the affair you were having with Aaron was more important than your family with a daughter and husband that loved you."

"Those are all mistakes that I'm asking forgiveness for. I never should have even looked at Aaron, let alone leave my family for him." She reached out to me. "Please, dear, come home."

"I am home." I said as I shook off her hand. "Now leave me alone, I'm going back to school and you shouldn't be here when I'm done." Her phone went off and she opened it, and then smiled sadly at the name on the screen. "Answer it. He's the only family you have let." I walked back into the school and checked myself back in.

"Dear, you were gone a total of ten minutes. Was there a problem?" Mrs. Joette asked as I set the pen back down on the clipboard.

"Just a misunderstanding…" I said with a sigh and walked up to my classroom.

"Welcome back, Ms. Guinevere." Mr. Patton said as I reentered his classroom and sat behind Jay.

"My mom." I whispered to Jay in response to his questioning look.

"Everything okay?"

I nodded slowly and sat in my own silence until the bell rang. I gathered my things once again and hurried to the gym for my fourth hour gym class. That's probably the worst time to have gym class. Why give students a class where they work off all the energy that lunch gives them, before they even eat it? It's crazy.

After my gym class I went to lunch and sat where my friends and I had been sitting that morning. The chicken nuggets that the lunch ladies have halfheartedly tossed in a disposable basket for my eating pleasure made me lose my appetite. I swallowed past the lump in my throat and made it home with what little of my dignity my mother and Garrett had decided to let me keep.

Chapter 5

"Okay class, I have another surprise for you all today." Ms. Lames said as she wrapped up her lecture on parallel structure. "This is the rebuttal for Mr. Moore's essay that I read to you yesterday."

She had my paper clenched in her right hand and nodded to me slightly. I nodded back and stole a glance at Garrett, he looked calm enough.

Then she started reading. "After making every straight woman within a thousand yards swoon at the sight of him, Moore flawlessly carries about his day like most of us. He fights with his ex's, walks the same hallways, visits the same classrooms, and even fails the same chemistry tests that we do. Probably the nicest thing I can say about him is that Garrett Moore, with his movie star good looks and flawless grace, is normal. And normal is something that only the best of us achieve."

She pressed the paper to her chest and sighed. "Wasn't that lovely? You sure do have a way with words, Ms. Knotch. As do you, Mr. Moore. I'm telling you, this is why I give out this assignment. Rarely students are able to create as much kindness about someone that they are forced to sit next to for the remainder of the year after merely talking to them for twenty minutes tops. Bravo to you two."

Then the class gave a halfhearted clap to praise us but it was far from overbearing. Ugh, she definitely thinks she's cupid now. I stole another look at Garrett. He was smiling as if he had just won an Oscar. But whether that was from my essay or the teachers praise I couldn't tell. I also noticed that his cheeks had acquired a soft pink tint, almost as if he was blushing.

But he wasn't blushing. Maybe he was running a slight fever or he was in a theatre class the period before and was doing stage makeup. There was no way that he was blushing from my paper. If anything I could have written better if I didn't hate him as much as I do.

The bell rang and I grabbed my backpack and slung it over my shoulder. Garrett stood motionless until I started walking to the door. He kept my pace and shook off Lisa like the day before. But the silence was killing me.

"Did she call you last night like you told her to?" I asked, trying to get some kind of conversation going.

"Yeah, she cried and yelled and called you a relationship wrecker and other foul names like that, but I think she's finally over it." He kept his eyes forward.

I glanced over my shoulder at her long enough to catch her glare. "She is so not over it."

"Well, I tired. But you," he said while turning the corner into the history wing, "You are what really pissed her off. I mean, she could have moved on to a new guy the second I dumped her. Instead, she targeted her anger at you. I'm sorry that you have to put up with her."
"Don't be." I said with a shrug. "I always knew she hated me, and now, at least she's open about it."

"Don't be like that!" he practically yelled at me. "I got harassed yesterday because I was walking with you, just like I will be today. My friends found out what I wrote about you somehow and they aren't happy." He lifted my chin. "You deserve more than the way you allow other you treat you. The way you treat yourself. At the moment, I'm fighting for someone who isn't willing to put up a fight."

I pulled away from him. "Why would you be fighting for me?"

"Because you don't fight for yourself! Gwen, don't you get it? You deserve so much more than the girl in the corner of the classroom who everyone makes fun of. You deserve to be treated like the wonderful person you are. Everything I wrote about you was true. Lames believes it, I believe it. When will you?"

"I'll believe it when you believe what I wrote about you. Don't think you can lie to me, Garrett. I know from the way you were smiling when Lames read a part of my essay that you were excited to have someone finally get that you aren't just looks and a body. Someone finally realized that there is an actual person hidden behind your golden waves. When you believe that, I'll believe that I'm worth more." I tucked my bangs behind my ear, revealing my ice blue eyes. "Now go before you're late for class. We wouldn't want our teams' chance of winning to be messed up by the only girl who doesn't go to the games."

He raised an eye brow at me. "But if you don't go to the games, how do you know I'm the only chance we have?"

"I went freshman year." I shrugged. "If you're half as good now as you were then, you are our only chance."

"I'm not half as good, I'm twice as good."

I rolled my eyes at his huge ego. "Yes, yes, you are perfect. Now go, or else I'm gonna be late too."

"Alright, I'll see you tomorrow, Sweetie." He smiled at me over his shoulder and trotted off to his third hour class.

"A new boyfriend?" Mr. Patton asked as I walked into the classroom and took the worksheet he handed me.

I shook my head. "If I'm lucky a new friend, but I don't think it will amount to more than that."

Mr. Patton was a stout man. Stout and plump. He kind of resembled a pumpkin sitting down. That is, if pumpkins could grow beards and mustaches. "It's a shame, Moore is a nice kid."

"He has his moments." I said and then walked back to my seat.

"Did he walk you to class again?" Jay said when I sat down.

"Yeah, what about it?"

He sighed. "Just, try to make sure Tyler doesn't find out, he still has a thing for you."

I laughed. "Really? I hadn't noticed."

"I'm serious, Gwen. You didn't see him after you dumped him last year. He slashed the tires of every guy you talked to, including me. He said that he had to show the bastard that stole you away from him what he was dealing with."

"No one stole me away, I was just tired of putting up with him." I said.

"I told him that, and he beat me up. Luckily Serria helped me cover the bruises so that you wouldn't notice. After that week, I will never again mock a woman's dependence on makeup. Ever."

Chapter 6

The next day I walked home, I didn't feel like fighting my way into a seat on the bus. Besides, I needed to clear my head. Garrett still walked me to third hour but he didn't say anything. Could I seriously have pissed him of because I wanted to protect his reputation? I sighed and tucked my black hair behind my ears and readjusted my backpack on my shoulders.

"You really should wear your hair out of your eyes more often." A male voice said behind me.

I groaned softly and kept walking. "Why do you even talk to me?" I said and quickened my pace, putting as much distance between me and him as I could.

"Because I need to." He said.

I turned around. "You need to?"

His blonde hair fell into his eyes and he pushed up the sleeve of his grey t-shirt, once again revealing the scars on his wrist. "You're the only person who knows and the only person I can trust." He rolled down his sleeve again and came to stand next to me. I rubbed my arms nervously and started walking again. "Why do you, you know… cut?" he asked in a soft voice.

"I have for years." I sighed. "I used to fight with my mom a lot and my dad was never home. I figured that they both left me because I wasn't worth it. About four years ago I was just drifting through life with no purpose, no direction, no value. I didn't even know if I was real or if I was just a ghost in a world of humans. So I started cutting to see if I bled, to see if I could feel the pain. Now I do it to remind myself that I have value and one day someone is gonna see it."

"Why is your dad never home?"

I swallowed hard and was silent for a long time. "He's in Iraq. He was supposed to be home next week but his troops need him and he won't be back until December."

"Is your dad Commander Knotch?" He asked suddenly.

"Yeah. Why?"

"He's my dad's superior. As far as I know, the only bad thing he's ever said about him is that he has a tendency to get homesick too often because of his daughter." Garrett slid his arm around my shoulders. "Which, I'm guessing is you."

I shook him off. "Garrett, we've been over this. My friendship will be the end of your reputation, it's best if we don't even smile at each other."

He turned my chin to him and flipped the blonde hair out of his eyes. His left one was surrounded by dark rings of purple that were slowly bruising. "Did you get in a fight?" I asked.

"Yes."

I sighed and shook my head. "Now why would you do something stupid like that?"

"They were making fun of you." He grabbed my hand from where I was trying to reach in my backpack for cover stick.

"They?"

"My friends." He said softy.

I smirked against my will. "Some friends."

"Tell me about it." He sighed and shook his head. "And all because I wanted to do this." He started leaning into me and I felt helpless. His soft breath tickled my face as he came closer…

"No." I said and turned away as soon as I felt his lips on mine.

"Did I do something wrong?" he looked hurt and rejected.

"Yes, I'm not just gonna stand here and let you play the sympathy card just so you can get the goth girl in your bed. I have standards and I would prefer to keep them." I turned and started walking again, not even stopping when he called my name.

He ran behind me and grabbed my arm, turning me around and pulling me to him. He squeezed me against his chest and I let him. Tears started to pour over my cheeks and I shuddered. He sat on the curb and pulled me into his lap. He didn't try anything; he just held me and let me cry.

"Why do you cut?" I stuttered.

He sighed deeply. "Well, as you have pointed out, you are the only one who sees me for who I am. But, mainly, it's because I have nothing to live for. Sure there's football, but I don't want my life to revolve solely around a sport. Then I have the girls, but they don't really mean anything to me, just like I'm sure that all I am is a chance at popularity to them. My life has no meaning, nothing."

I pulled away and looked at him. His blue eyes looked lost and alone. My heart hurt just looking at him and knowing I could never do anything to help. "You have everything to live for."

"Name one thing." He said, daring me with his eyes to say anything.

I looked nervously from side to side, then I crawled off of him and stood. "Well, there is one thing, but that would ruin everything else for you."

He stood too. "And what is that?"

I looked down at my feet. "You have me, but that's probably not the best thing for you."

He stood behind me, his breath tickled my neck as he spoke. "And why is that a bad thing?"

I sighed again. "Because, nobody will ever look at you the same again."

His hands ran down my arms, creating goose bumps over my scars. "But you'll look at me the same. And, as far as I'm concerned, that makes up the difference."

Just then a red car drove by and threw a thirty two ounce Big Gulp cup out the passenger window. "Take that, freak!" the passenger guy yelled as they sped off.

The soda covered me head to toe, but I was able to block it from hitting Garrett, he'd been through enough today. I wiped the soda that covered my hands on my pants and started walking again.

This time Garrett didn't follow me. I made it home and used the key that hung around my neck to unlock the door. I stripped and took a shower to wash the soda off of me. Nanny left a note saying she had gone grocery shopping and then going out with some friends, so I would have the house to myself for the night.

I changed into a tank top and a pair of boy pajama pants before I checked my phone.

Hey, its Garrett, I'm sorry about what happened earlier. Can I make it up to you?

How?

Come with me tonight?

Come with you? Where to?

It's a surprise, just say you'll come

Fine, I'll go. What time?

Seven.

I texted Nanny saying that I was going out at seven, then I closed my phone. Did Garrett Moore just ask me out? I shook my head, no it was probably just a friend thing. So why was I worried?

I went into the bathroom and blow-dried and straightened my hair. Then I retreated into my room to change into a pair of black skinny jeans and a purple baseball shirt. I didn't even bother about covering my wrists in make-up, what did I have to hide when he already knew?

I went back to the bathroom and reapplied my make-up then called Morgan. "I have a confession." I said when she answered the phone.

"You really are from outer space? I knew it."

I laughed softly. "No, I think I have a date with Garrett tonight."

"And where are y'all going?" she asked, suddenly interested in my love life.

"I don't know, he won't tell me."

She sighed, "So if you don't know where you're going, why do you think that it's a date? I mean, he could just be wondering why you wrote what you did."

"Because…" I was about to tell her about him trying to kiss me, but then she would ask for the whole story and it doesn't really make sense without going into the discussion about cutting, and she had thought I'd stopped. "Let's just say it's a gut feeling."

"Mmhmm," she knew I wasn't telling her something. "Well, call me and tell me about it when you get home." Then she hung up.

Yup, its official, I'm a horrible best friend.

Chapter 7

Garrett pulled his motorcycle up my driveway at exactly seven. His blonde hair was tussled and his cheeks were flushed a soft pink because of the cold air the cold air blowing past his face. "So where are we going?" I asked as I put the helmet on my head.

He mounted his bike again and helped me on behind him. I slid my hands to his hips. "You'll see." He said and laughed softly. "You might want to hold on tighter than that."

"I've ridden a motorcycle with my dad before, he didn't have me hold on that tight."

"You're dad also isn't a teenage boy." He laughed as I slid my arms around his waist, having to shuffle up the bike to do it comortable