(8/6/14 A/N: I'm going back and editing all the chapters. Enjoy!)
PLAYING THE PLAYER:
"All the ways that you think you know me, all the limits that you figured out. Limits that you figured out. Had to learn to keep it all below me, just to keep from being thrown around. Just to keep from being thrown around. Every single time the wind blows, I see in your face. In a cold night, there will be no fair fights. There will be no good nights, to turn and walk away. So burn me with fire and drown me with rain. I'm gonna wake up, screaming your name. Yes, I'm a sinner. Yes, I'm a saint." -Christina Aguilera, We Remain.
It all started simply.
No. Simply was the wrong word. There was nothing simple about my relationship with Percy Jackson. It was complex; forever changing, teetering between the small line of love and hate. I'm not even sure now if I know what those words mean. I know how it felt to be in love. And it wasn't perfect. The experience itself was vastly horrible. I detested every argument, every word that we were unable to take back, and sometimes, even the happier moments. Love filled me to the brim with confusion, masking my senses. And hate- well, what's the difference? Between love and hate? I've come to realize that there is no difference. It's one-sided, you see.
Someone can hate a person without loving them, but you can't love a person without hating them.
I was naïve back then. Percy was too. He drowned himself in self-pity. It was, in all honesty, pathetic. He hated himself so much that it soon became selfish. He did bad things because he thought it made him and the universe even. He wanted to be happy, but kept stopping himself. Hatred turned to selfishness and selfishness transformed into self-pity.
I was far from perfect- I still am, but now I know a lot better than I did. I was ignorant and believed I was smart enough not to get hurt. I believed with every inch of myself that I could play him without getting sucked into the mess. If Percy Jackson was pathetic, I was rock-bottom disgusting. I was stereotypical. My beliefs were hypocritical. I thought I could be just as manipulative as he was.
Then everything changed, and I found myself drowning in problems I wasn't strong enough to handle.
Life made him the way that he was, but he didn't do anything to stop it either.
Manipulation. He thrived on it. Percy Jackson enjoyed toying with girls. It was like a hobby, really. Closely similar to fishing. He would flatter them with compliments- things they were insecure about- and slowly reel them in. He would give them enough space to flee if they grew uncomfortable, but they never did. It's because he was an expert. In a way, it was impressive. I watched, from a distance, as my old best friend seduced girls. I knew all the basics. What I didn't know is how badly emotions can get in the way. Feelings. Pesky things. What made me able to play him was, if it comes down to it, peer pressure. And as much as I hate to admit it, I wanted to play him. I wanted to be special. Didn't everyone want to be that one person to get someone to change their ways?
That was my first mistake.
And it started a few months after he hurt one of my closest friends- a friend who would slowly turn to an enemy.
"So Jackson, I hear you gamble," I commented, my voice wavering slightly. Thankfully, he didn't seem to notice. And if he did, Percy made no attempt to call me out on it. I didn't dare look at him as I continued to write our school paper- by myself, of course. I didn't want him to psych me out. I had to be level-headed. I had to push everything aside. In agitation, I prodded myself gently with the end of the pencil. He didn't bother to help. In a way, I was grateful. Less conversation. It wasn't that I was awkward around him. Quite the opposite. I was usually abrasive and overly hostile. And yet here I was, sitting across from him, my stomach doing flips as I came to terms with what I had to do.
The Percy Jackson leaned back on the sofa casually, his arm stretching across the top. I rolled my grey eyes, brushing a stray curl from my cheek. I scribbled down more notes, occasionally leaning over to read a definition off the textbook or the book. His sea-green eyes were glinting in vibrant amusement and I gritted my teeth in irritation, but I knew I had to keep myself calm and collected. That is, if I wanted to make this bet. I was most-likely going to make a fool of myself, but I was tired. I was tired of Percy hurting the people I cared about.
"You heard right, Chase. Best one there is." Resisting the urge to snort at his brag, I tapped on the eraser, pulling a forceful, playful smirk to my face. I had to look confident- as confident as he seemed. "Why? Care to place a bet?" Still smiling, I dropped the pencil and folded my tan hands on the coffee table. Now, it was all down to the orders of business. If there was one thing I knew my old friend couldn't refuse, it was the chance to gamble. He had a reputation for it. Overall, it was convenient. I would do it just like he did- start out slowly, giving him enough leverage. And then I would reel him in.
Often times, however, the fish steals the bait unscathed.
I brushed my blonde bangs from my eyes, determined to keep eye contact with this selfish womanizer. He would get his karma soon enough, if I had anything to do about it.
I could tell his comment was all for laughs, a teasing banter, but I was going to surprise him. "Yes, actually I do." His eyes widened, startled, showing a glimpse of actual emotion. Then, he had covered it up as he always did, turning his expression into something I couldn't read, and then he was smiling like the player I knew he was. The guys called him cool. The girls called him heartbreaker. And I called him Seaweed Brain. He was too arrogant. And when you're trying to play the role, you sometimes screw up. I needed him to. He had to. I wouldn't him get away with this, as cliché as it sounded.
"And what is it that you'd like to bet, Miss Chase?" I leaned forward on my armchair, glad I wasn't on the couch with him. I made sure my grey eyes were calculating as I began to come up with a decent response.
I had to keep stringing this fish along, or else I'd lose the whole game.
"Me. I'd like to bet on me." Percy's eyebrows furrowed in confusion, puzzlement was drawn out of his hidden looks.
"I don't understand."
"Aw, come on Seaweed Brain. I heard you talking to Luke Castellan. You've made your own bet- trying to sleep with all the virgins in Goode. Am I wrong?" His jaw tightened abruptly, but there still was that easy-going look in his emerald eyes.
"It's rude to eavesdrop, Wise Girl." I scowled scornfully at his nickname for me, but then covered it up with another flirtatious teeth-showing smile. It most-likely looked strained and half-assed, but I was too far to care. Surely he was too. I had to be one step ahead, which is what I was lacking. Percy Jackson may look stupid, and be worst in all of his classes, but he was smart. He was good at what he did. I was sure he could read me like an open book if I slipped up, and that wasn't going to happen. Hopefully.
"I still am confused why this has to do with you."
"Well, this may come as a surprise to you, but it's the truth. I'm a full blown virgin." My cheeks flushed as I spoke the last word. I always was a prude. His puzzlement faded, and impulsively his hand shot out to my thigh. I wanted nothing more than to swat his hand away as my thigh prickled and my skin heated, but I managed to keep my twitching hand intertwined with the other.
I had to play to win.
Even if that means cheating.
My breath caught in my throat, hand curling into a tight fist.
"How interesting," he murmured his hand itching slowly up my thigh. My scowl deepened. My hand twitched to slap his hand away, my bare skin growing prickly and warm. "And why would you like to bet on that?"
"I think it will be fun. Up to it?"
I shoved his hand away, finally. A look of disappointment flashed across him, but I knew it wasn't legitimate.
"Here's the game, Jackson. We date. We hold hands, we kiss, we hug. We do all that couple stuff I know you despise. We see who falls in love with each other first-"
"-And what makes you think I'll lose?" I shrugged aimlessly, because I honestly didn't know. I hated doing this; it's irrational, and it makes my gag reflex go when I even think about kissing him. Maybe that last statement wasn't completely true, but it's not as if I'd admit that.
But Thalia's right.
The player needs to get played.
"And let's say you do win," he leaned forward, his face inches from mine. His raven hair falls over his emerald eyes, making it difficult to make complete eye contact. That was a fortunate thing; it made me less anxious. "What do you want from me?"
My eyes shot into a fierce glare. "I won't lose. And if I even possibly, remotely do; I think the heartbreak is payback enough."
He chuckles, but slowly stretches out his hand. I can tell he's slowly beginning to realize what my plan is, but it's too late now.
Percy Jackson never backs down from a bet. I was counting on it.
"It's a bet. May the best player win." My hand shot foreword, shaking his hand firmly.
"And may that player be me."
That's how our bet began.
And a few months later, there was a winner.
I'm still not sure if I won or he did.
The plan was set into place, the beginning of senior year, the first day of school. And the day my best friend Rachel got her heart broken.
The day when it all started.