Title: Alive [Chapter Six + Seven]
Summary: Sage Alvi’s whole world turned upside-down when she lost her mother to cancer. Now forced to live with a father she never knew, she’s trying to navigate her way through a new home, city and school. To make things worse, her half-siblings hate her and she’s being bullied by the cool crowd.
They say high school is hard, but this is just ridiculous.
As soon as Marcus Ashler walked into her second period English class, Sage realized why the students of Belleville had been gossiping about him since that morning. With his head shaved, neck tattooed, and a link chain attached between the hoops of his belt to his pocket, he stood out like a sore thumb in the preppy crowd.Although a part of her was relieved there was someone new for the students to whisper about, she also sympathized with him knowing how out of place he probably felt. The defiant glint in his eyes,however, and his proud swagger as he took the empty seat next to her, suggested he probably wouldn’t appreciate the sentiment.
The most persistent rumour circulating about Marcus was that his father had to cash in a huge favour to get him into Belleville. Apparently he had a history of dealing drugs which led to him being kicked out of other prestigious schools until Belleville finally took him in. Sage doubted the rumor was actually true. For one thing, the very same people had once gossiped she was a sleeper cell. Plus, despite his physical appearance, he just seemed too green to be a dealer – especially in comparison to the ones in her previous school. Her instincts screamed Marcus was not really a thug, only pretending to be one to score points with girls.
Throughout class he remained quiet, staring out the window. At one point he turned his head unexpectedly to catch her glancing at him; she averted her eyes right away.
At lunch, Marcus was once again the topic of conversation. Already David seemed enamored by Marcus’s bad boy reputation.
“You think he still deals?” David asked.
She shrugged her shoulders. “Don’t know.”
“Think he’s ever been in jail?”
“No,” she scoffed. “He’s got a rich daddy, remember?”
“Whatever he’s doing, it’s working. He’s hot.”
“I guess. He’s not really my type.”
David shot her an exasperated glance.
Later that day she was on her way to class when Marcus caught her attention again. He was standing in the middle of the hallway, checking his phone.
“No cell use during school hours,” she advised. “I would put that away if I were you.”
He looked up at her, a surprised expression on his face. “You’re not me.”
She didn’t bother to respond and kept walking. Soon, he fell into step beside her.
“People here have nothing better to do than talk shit all day long,” he mused.
Sage chuckled. “Guess you heard the rumors about yourself?”
“And the ones about you too.”
“Don’t believe everything you hear.”
“So you’re not a raging bitch?”
“Only on weekdays.”
His unexpected giggle, a far cry from the tough guy image he projected, brought a smile to her face.
“Anyway, I gotta jet. Talk to you later?” he said.
As he walked away, she had to admit there was something about him that intrigued her. And David had been right about him, Marcus was definitely adorable.
While in the midst of reading Wuthering Heights for a book report that night, her cell phone rang. Sage glanced at the screen; it was Aidan. “Hello?”
“Yeah. Everything okay?”
“You think I only call when I’m in trouble?”
He chuckled softly. “Maybe I just want to hear your voice.”
“And maybe you’re full of shit.”
“Say something sexy.”
“Not what I was expecting but it’ll do.”
“When you start paying me by the minute, I’ll put in more effort.”
“I’m not going to buy the ride before I take it out for a test drive.”
“Wow, such a charmer.”
“Must be why you have a fan club.”
“Want to join?”
“Nope. Not interested.”
“It’s a lot of fun.”
“I doubt it.”
“You have no idea what you’re missing. There’s a monthly mud wrestling challenge. Winner gets me all to herself for the night.”
“I’d rather lose.”
“Loser gets a kiss too.”
“How generous of you.”
“I’m a lover. Talent like mine needs to be shared with the masses.”
Hearing the smugness in his voice, it was easy to imagine the cocky smile he was wearing at that moment. “You’re so full of it, Aidan.”
“Isn’t that what you like about me?”
“Don’t flatter yourself.”
“Someone has to, since you obviously won’t.”
“I don’t think your ego needs any more stroking.”
“No, it’s not my ego that needs it.”
She burst out laughing at his incorrigible tone.
“You sound like you’re doing much better,” he said.
“I was worried.”
“I told you I was fine.”
“And you would never lie, right?” he muttered sarcastically.
“Only when I have to.”
“I don’t want you to lie to me.”
The earnestness in his voice tugged at her insides but she chose to ignore the strange emotions he evoked.
“Did you hear me?”
“Yeah,” she replied. “Like you said, we all lie.”
“Maybe, but there are some people I’m honest with.”
“Theo.” There was a brief pause before he spoke again. “Cat.”
His response bothered her far more than expected and she chastised herself for her reaction. Of course Aidan would be honest with Cat; they’d dated for a long time and were still close.
Now that was even more concerning. “It’s late. I have to go.”
She remained on the line, quiet, unsure of what to say next.
“At least you’re not denying it.”
“What do you want from me?” she snapped.
“I’m bored. Entertain me.”
His sheer audacity brought a smile to her face but there was no way in hell she would admit that out loud. “You’re unbelievable.”
“Why don’t you invite your fan club over? I’m sure they’ll keep you busy.”
“Nah, they get annoying after a while.”
“Aw, must be so hard to be worshipped.”
“It really is,” he played along. “But that’s why I need you. You keep me grounded.”
“By reminding you you’re not as amazing as you think you are?”
It was a while before he replied. “Because even after knowing everything, you’re still here.”
She didn’t know what to say, or how to feel about that. From the silence at his end, he was in a similar position. As if sensing her hesitation, he changed the topic.
“Who’re you going to the dance with?”
“I don’t think I’m going.”
“Come on, don’t be a suck.”
“If I go, it’ll probably be with friends.”
“Oh, you have some?” he teased.
“Yeah, I do. Real ones, not assholes like yours.”
“Didn’t realise it was that hard for you to find a date.”
“Maybe I don’t want one.”
“Thought you might go with that new punk that started today. What’s his name? Manny, Monty, Monkey-”
“Marcus?” she interjected.
“Why would you think that?”
“Saw you talking to him today.”
“You guys were flirting.”
“We were not.”
“That’s what it looked like to me.”
“Even if we were, why do you care?”
“I don’t!” he snapped. “Actually, I don’t give a fuck.”
“Good. You shouldn’t. It doesn’t concern you.”
“Didn’t realise he was your type.”
“The wannabe thug. He realises he’s loaded, right? He wasn’t born in the ghetto somewhere?”
“So because he doesn’t act like you and your friends, he’s a poser?”
“Or do you like him because he reminds you of all the losers back in your old school?”
“You’re such a fucking prick, you know that?”
“Hey, at least I’m honest. I don’t pretend to be something I’m not.”
“Maybe you should.”
She hung up on him, furious, but the next second her phone buzzed with a new text message.
“I’m sorry. Call me. Please.”
Although Sage contemplated ignoring the message, she found herself dialing his number. He picked up the phone on the first ring.
“Sorry,” he said, sounding genuinely upset.
“You wouldn’t need to apologize if you just stopped acting like a jerk.”
“I need to watch what I say.”
“And control your temper.”
He sighed. “I know.”
Feeling a tad guilty for yelling at him, she said, “And I guess I should stop letting you get to me too.”
“Hope not. You wouldn’t be as much fun then.”
She laughed softly.
“Just be careful around that Monty.”
“I thought you said he was a poser?”
“Doesn’t mean he’s not trouble.”
“Yes, Dad.” A quick glance at the clock revealed it was almost midnight, she’d been talking to him for almost an hour. “It’s late. I should get to bed.”
“Is that an invite?”
“Only in your head.”
She smiled. “I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”
“Trying to get rid of me?”
“You want to talk more?”
“Yeah. I haven’t even started to tell you how I plan to take over the world.”
“Fine. You have half an hour.”
Thirty minutes turned into more than two hours with the conversation venturing far beyond than just his nefarious plans for world domination. They spoke about first crushes and kisses, their most embarrassing moments, and it was only when she almost fell asleep on the phone did he finally let her hang up.
Sage stepped out onto the patio. The sharp cold air was a welcome respite from the hot, sweaty atmosphere inside. At first the idea of clubbing had seemed fun but after being there for two hours she just wanted to go home. The place was overcrowded, everyone around her reeked of either sweat or weed, and she’d stopped enjoying herself a while ago.
She was pondering excuses to leave when her phone started to vibrate. Pulling it out of her clutch, she was surprised to find two text messages waiting for her. They were from Aidan.
“Call me as soon as you get this.”
Worried, she dialed his number. He picked up after the third ring.
“Hey,” he said. “What are you up to tonight?”
Instead of sounding frantic as she had expected, he seemed relaxed, even flirtatious.
“I’m at a club. You said it was urgent?”
“Downtown? Who’d you go with?”
Irritation surged through her. “Focus, Aidan! Why did you text me?”
“Well, Theo’s wasted. And I’m halfway there.”
“Okay. Why do I care?”
“Because neither of us can exactly drive home. I was hoping you would pick us up.”
“Since when am I your chauffeur?”
“Since I asked nicely,” he declared. “Come on, I thought we were friends. Isn’t this what friends do?”
Even though she didn’t like admitting it, Aidan’s incorrigible nature had grown on her to the point where she found it charming. He was the complete opposite of her with his swagger and confidence, and she was strangely intrigued by it. Not that she would ever share that with him. “Fine. But you owe me one.”
“Text me the address,” she ordered before hanging up. Relieved at having a legitimate excuse to leave, she headed back inside to speak to David.
Parking along the street, no mean feat considering the driveway was over-packed with cars, Sage slipped on a cardigan before stepping outside. Noting the loud music and the crowd gathered on the lawn, she realised this was a full-blown party and not just a casual hangout as Aidan had implied. Great. She just hoped it wasn’t one of Cat’s friends throwing the party.
As Sage walked past a group of guys, one of them started whistling and making lewd gestures at her. In response, she buttoned up her cardigan. The blue cocktail dress she had borrowed from Angela was a little tight in the chest area, and although appropriate for clubbing, it wasn’t something she would wear normally. It made her feel too self-conscious around people.
Rushing into the house, she scanned the crowd for signs of Aidan and Theo and discovered them doing shots in the middle of the den. They were surrounded by some of the cheerleaders from school, including Tish who shot her a dirty glance. Great. This evening was just getting better and better. “Aidan!”
He turned to look at her. “Hey!” His face beamed with a huge grin. “Want a shot?”
Sage didn’t need super hearing to know Tish was whispering about her to her group of friends. They weren’t exactly attempting to hide it either as they all turned to stare at her and giggle. “I’m leaving now. If you and Theo still want a ride, you guys better be outside in five minutes.”
Shortly after, both boys met her outside. Aidan was holding onto Theo who looked too hammered to stand on his own and Sage quickly moved towards them to help. Slowly, they made their way to her car.
“Thanks for coming, hun. You’re sweet,” Theo slurred.
Aidan snickered. “Bro, shut up and stop hitting on your sister.”
“Ew,” Sage replied. “Why don’t you both shut up?”
She unlocked the back door and was helping Aidan slide Theo in when her brother wretched all over her chest. “Fuck!” she griped, pulling off her cardigan which was covered in vomit. Although the dress was fine, she couldn’t say the same about herself.Just watching Theo heave was making her stomach turn.
“Sorry,” Theo mumbled.
“Better puke it all out now,” Aidan advised. As if sensing her disgust, he offered her a smile. “Stay here. We’ll be back.”
As he helped her brother move to the bushes where Theo proceeded to vomit again, she was surprised by Aidan’s helpfulness. She didn’t think most guys would be as kind but Aidan stood beside Theo, patting his back and joking aroundto make Theo feel better while his friendcontinued to throw up. After what felt like forever, both returned to the car and Aidan helped Theo onto the back seat before joining her at the front.
“You alright?” Aidan asked.
Sage started driving. “Just feeling icky. I can’t stand vomit.”
“Whereas I absolutely love it.”
His dry humour brought a smile to her face.
“What was with the hissy fit inside?”
Glancing at the rear-view mirror to find Theo fast asleep, she shrugged her shoulders. “You didn’t tell me Tish was going to be there.”
She sent him an irritated glare. “Why didn’t you ask Cat to drive you guys home?”
“She wasn’t there. Must be out with her new boyfriend or something.”
With the way his jaw clenched, it was obvious he was still bothered by Cat dating other people, which only frustrated Sage more. What the hell did he want from her if he was still hung up on her sister? “Next time don’t bother calling me. You’re rich, you can afford a cab.”
“Why are you acting like such a bitch?”
“Because that’s who I am. Thought you’d realised that by now.”
“What’s really bothering you?”
“I just told you!”
“A lie, obviously.”
She was too furious to respond, the air thick with tension. After a while, Sage regretted snapping at him; she didn’t want to reveal how much his relationship with Cat really bothered her. Knowing Aidan, he would use that information to get under her skin.
Aidan leaned back in his seat, still partially turned towards her, and the close proximity between them was starting to play havoc with her thoughts. She was keenly aware of his eyes lingering on her, studying her with an intensity that was nerve wracking, but she forced herself not to react and concentrate on the road ahead.
His voice was smooth as velvet when he finally spoke again. “Nice dress.”
“It’s not mine.”
“Whose is it?”
“A friend’s. Why?”
“I want to buy it.”
“You don’t have the figure to pull off a cocktail dress.”
“But you do.”
There was no physical contact yet it felt like there was barely any space separating them. Her heart started pounding in her chest.
“I would get it for you,” he murmured.
“Yeah well, what I really need is a cardigan. I had to leave the other one behind.”
“A cardigan? Fuck that!”
Despite her resolve to be cold, she couldn’t help chuckling at his offended tone.
“I want you less covered, not more.”
She refused to look at him, but could still see his amused smirk from the corner of her eye. Fortunately, they reached home shortly after.
Minutes later, Theo was snoring softly in his bed. In his ensuite bathroom, she washed her hands while Aidan stood behind, drying his own. “You think he’s going to be okay?” she asked.
“One hell of a hangover tomorrow, but he’ll be fine.”
Turning off the valve, Sage glanced up at the mirror to find Aidan fixated on her reflection. His piercing gaze languidly roved over her breasts, consuming her with a hunger that was disconcerting. She swallowed an audible breath and proceeded to wipe her hands, telling herself to ignore him. That resolve, however, quickly melted once their eyes locked in the mirror and he swaggered closer until standing behind her.
“Who did you go out with tonight?”
As much as she wanted to avert her gaze and break the intoxicating hold he had over her, it was impossible. “A friend.”
“That Monty guy?”
“His name is Marcus.”
“Fine. Marcus. Did you go out with him?”
She contemplated lying and telling him ‘yes’, but instinctively knew that would hurt Aidan. “I was with David.”
“That guy you’re always hanging out with in school?”
“Let me guess. You don’t like him.”
“I didn’t say that. He seems alright.”
A playful smirk shaped his lips. “And he’d rather fuck me than you. He obviously has good taste.”
She rolled her eyes while simultaneously fighting the smile that threatened to spill over. “Goodnight, loser.” She spun around to leave the room when he blocked her path in one swift motion.
He was standing entirely too close, his darkened eyes fully concentrated on her and an unusually solemn expression marking his features. Intoxicated by him, unable to think or breathe, she trembled in his embrace when he cradled her face.
“Hey, it’s okay,” he consoled in a soothing tone.
The knot in her stomach tightened further while his thumbs stroked her skin ever so gently. She wondered if it was anxiety that flickered in his eyes, the hazel flecks slowly transitioning into green. The thought of him being nervous was touching for some reason.
Reacting instinctively, she reached up to kiss him. Her lips closed over his, suckling him, tasting him, while her fingers curved around the back of his head. Warm, sweet, he tasted like licorice, and she wanted more.
When he remained unresponsive, she worried about being too bold. Maybe he really wasn’t interested in her, and she had just made an ass out of herself. Suddenly, his mouth came alive under her touch, responding to her with a ferocity that left her breathless. He stroked her tongue with his own, exploring the contours of her mouth, while his hands scanned her back, pressing her tightly against his body.
“Aidan, you in here?”
He jumped away instantly upon hearing Cat’s voice, his face flushed with guilt and eyes panic-stricken. By the time her sister entered the bathroom, however, he had recovered enough to ensure there was enough distance between them so as not to arouse any suspicions.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Cat asked, hostility flaring in her eyes when she noticed Sage.
“She gave us a ride home,” he replied, maintaining a deliberately casual tone.
Too busy focusing on Cat, he didn’t look at her once; Sage couldn’t believe how easy it was for him to pretend nothing had just happened between them. Hurt and furious, she stormed past him but not before pausing beside Cat. “I’m not a fucking chauffeur. Go get your boyfriend yourself the next time he’s hammered.”
She rushed out of Theo’s room, slamming the door behind her.
Copyright © 2012 All Rights Reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced without written consent from the author.
A/N – I’m taking a short break for a couple of weeks (hence, the two chapters). As always, thank you for reading.