I hate walking into the classroom every morning. I'm the quiet girl, and when that door opens, I got all eyes on me.
The spotlight makes it harder to breathe. It's making my skin crawl.
My heart beats faster, and even though there isn't straight-up laughter or name-calling like in high school, the silence speaks louder than volumes.
I hate not having any friends.
I hate not having any new clothes.
I hate not being normal.
I hate not being... Happy.
I'm lonely, and it makes me feel vulnerable. Thomas definitely used that to his advantage when he...
Tears prickle behind my eyes.
I think I'm suffering from PTSD. Sometimes I experience flashes of Thomas's face and how he pushed me against that wall at the party. It makes me want to scream.
But I refuse to cry.
Don't ever look back. I keep my eyes down not to meet any of the sneers in the classroom.
Sadly, I can't ignore the whispers. The popular girls are already at it, talking about me while throwing me dirty stares.
"Oh, look, it's the ugly duckling."
I'm the ugly duckling.
"Does she ever change her clothes?"
No, I have no money or parents to pay for new ones.
"Aren't her parents like... Alcoholists?"
"I heard they threw her out."
"She lives in an apartment together with Ciara and Zendra."
Because I can't pay an entire rent on my own.
"It must be hard for them to live with a weirdo. Michelle rarely speaks, and when she does... It's like a stammer."
I've been stammering ever since the rape happened...
I press my laptop to my chest and try to walk quickly. I sit down in the back of the classroom.
One of the girls pouts my way and whisper, "I actually feel bad for the ugly little duckling, though. She is so weird and awkward that no one wants to be her friend."
Those words hurt, but I try to keep my calm.
"Did you sleep well?"
Shock seeps into my bones.
I lift my eyes to face Maddox. What is he doing here? He pulls out the chair next to mine and sits down with a tired expression.
"I did..." I say in a low voice, unsure why Maddox is sitting with me. We are project partners, but this is our history class—not the communication for which the presentation is required.
"Good for you..." Maddox cracks his shoulders. "I slept like shit."
I glance at Maddox and... What the hell? Those mean girls from earlier? They are staring at us.
I almost blurt out laughing.
Are those girls jealous of me or something? I hope they are. Wait. Am I terrible for wishing that?
But it's just that they were so mean to me, and revenge is sweet.
Maddox breathes a laugh. "Ah, great, you're having those conversations with yourself inside your head again."
I look at him, and he sighs. "Anyway, you're cool with taking notes for me today, right?"
I widen my eyes when Maddox tries to give me what must be his attempt at a charming smile, but he looks more like a grinning lion.
Or a hyena...
I repress the urge to roll my eyes. "So that's why you're sitting with me..."
"Yeah? What other reason would I have?" Maddox questions and crosses his arms over the table to rest on them. "I woke up at five to run to the gym, and then I worked out until every limb screamed... My arms are so fucking sore from lifting."
"N-not my problem..."
He narrows his eyes. "Did you... Did you just give me attitude?"
My heart is pounding, yet I manage a shrug. "You're angry at me when you're the one who is using me..."
He blinks but quickly recovers. "Well, you're a nerd, aren't you? I bet you have top grades in each one of your subjects."
"Yes... I-I do have top grades..." I blush.
For some reason, I'm embarrassed about Maddox pushing forward that I'm a nerd. It's true that I only think of school.
But can anyone blame me for working hard?
College is everything to me; it will help me build a brighter future since most of my life has been dark.
"See?" Maddox yawns. "Your written notes will be way better than mine. Send them to me after our class is over."
"W-why do I feel like I've just become your servant?"
Maddox's eyes are closed, but his lips form a smile. "Thanks, Michelle."
My heart stops, then speeds up again. I should fear Maddox. He is a jerk, and he is massive—a dangerous combination.
Yet I experience flutters seeing that smile.
What is wrong with me?
"I'm going to take a nap," Maddox mumbles. "Poke me if the teacher comes over to our table..."
"Uhh..." I wet my lips and whisper-yell. "You would bite my head off if I tried to wake you."
"I don't bite."
The teacher is here now. He is talking loudly in his microphone, yet I whisper-yell again.
"That's a lie, and you know it."
One of Maddox's eyes cracks open. "Are you going to shut up at some point? I need my beauty sleep."
"See, the point made! You're an asshole..."
Did I just show Maddox's attitude?
Jesus Christ, my heart is pounding. It might seem like a tiny thing for anyone else, but holy shit—I'm a rebel!
His eyes narrow, and his expression is bewildered. "Did you just call me an asshole without peeing in your pants?"
Is he angry at me?
I return to my screen since I better not continue this conversation with Maddox if I wish to live.
My heart is pounding too fast already; I don't need more reasons for it to thump.
I can't believe I showed Maddox sass!
"Hey, I've been thinking about something," Maddox suddenly says. "You should go to my games."
I peer down at him. "Why?"
"Because you're supposed to be my fake girlfriend? You have to act the part convincingly. If I had a girlfriend, she would definitely be at my games and wear my jersey. Oh, and with a big smile on her lips!"
I blush. "Uh, I'm pretty sure your jersey wouldn't fit me."
"That's the point," Maddox mutters. "It's supposed to look cute."
"Why do you need a fake girlfriend again?"
"Mostly because my parents won't shut up about me having to find a woman and get married and yada-yada, but also so most gold diggers keep away from me..."
"Your parents wish for you to get married already?"
He shrugs. "It's important to my parents, I guess... They have been trying to make me marry a girl named Vanya."
"But you're not interested?"
"Nope, but... My parents value love over marriage, so if I can convince them that we love each other, they will get off my back. And you want to eat real food, right?"
I sigh heavily, with my cheeks burning. "I kind of do... I don't exactly have a lot of money... Sorry for being a food digger..."
Maddox grins like a hyena again. "No problem. It's actually great. The deal is still on because we both can gain from this, but we must practice doing couple-stuff."
"Okay. Like what?"
"Fuck if I know! Pottery and pumpkin carving and other stupid shit girls love? Dates and oh! You should sit in my lap in the library later. That way, the rumor will spread that we are dating."
I stare at him with my heart racing.
The thought of sitting in Maddox's lap and going out on dates with him... Is it wrong that it kind of sounds a little bit exciting?
I have no friends, so maybe I could gain something else from this that is more than just free food.
"I-I can do the lap thing..."
"You're stammering again."
Because I'm nervous.
"And stop apologizing all the time," Maddox sighs and averts his eyes while scratching the back of his head. "We also need to be kissing each other more often."
I gulp. "Okay..."
"Like a lot."
Can I do that?
The last time we kissed... I'm not sure if it's normal, but I felt sparks, and I'm not sure if that is a good sign. But let's be realistic here; I couldn't possibly fall for this asshole.
I look at Maddox, and my insides turn to mush. That reaction tells me that I need to be careful with him.
He is attractive, and I could develop a crush on him if I don't keep my guard up.
"Lots of k-kissing," I nod at him. "Got it."
Kissing Maddox and entering a fake relationship with him—what could possibly go wrong?
Maddox The library is peaceful and serene. I'm here with Michelle and eating an apple while she is working on our project. Everything would be damn near perfect. IF ONLY THAT GLASSES-WEARING GUY WOULD STOP STEALING GLANCES AT HER! The bloke is sitting at his own table. Tie and slicked-back hair, all proper, with a nervous smile on his lips. He is undoubtedly in love with Michelle, and it bothers me. Who the fuck does he think he is staring at her like that?! Can't he see that Michelle is here with me? Michelle isn't my girlfriend. She will never be anything like that, and I'm DEFINITELY not jealous, but come on! That idiot better stop fucking staring at her! I move closer to Michelle while glaring at the other guy. I would be barking at him if I had been born as a rottweiler. "Uhh..." Michelle glances up at me. She seems uncomfortable, frightened by the proximity even. "W-why you sitting so close?" I narrow my eyes, muttering. "No reason." "Okay..." Michelle returns to ta
Michelle I'm running, and I manage to make it outside the library before tears run down my chin like rain. I wipe them away with a trembling hand and dry my cheeks with my sleeve. "I'm stupid, so fucking stupid for thinking Maddox could be nice!" I yell at myself and quicken my pace down the street. It's dark and scary, but I don't give a fuck. I'm so humiliated. Why would Maddox pick up the letter and read it out loud? Why would he do that to me? What the hell is wrong with him?! I don't understand. My heart is shattering. Of all the damn people to develop feelings for, why did it have to be that idiot?! He is a big, fucking bully! More tears crawl out of the corner of my eyes. I'm working up a sweat while sobbing in the dark. Maddox Daniels is a heartless jerk. I don't understand why the girls at campus love him so much! How could he possibly be popular?! Well, I do know—girls don't care about his cold-bloodedness. All they want is his looks and money. He is hot, but f
Maddox "Please just put me down..." Michelle begs. I'm still carrying her like a hunting trophy. She is seriously lightweight and needs to eat something. But the fact that I can handle her so easily kind of turns me on. What is wrong with my head? Michelle keeps squirming. "This is embarrassing! Please put me down! Maddox..." Embarrassing? Pfft! I don't give a fuck. I've glared at every fool who has stared at us, and not a single one has kept looking. This is fine. "We are almost by your apartment." "Maddox... P-please... Blood is rushing to my head..." A sigh escapes me. I don't do friends or girlfriends. Relationships aren't for me, yet I relent when the little thing begs me to put her down again. She is like a tiny little rabbit. Defenseless, and it does weird things to my brain. It shouldn't be legal for a girl of this stature to walk out alone... "Maddox..." "Fine," I grumble. I grab Michelle and put her down next to me. The fabric of her jacket slides up her flat st
Michelle I'm so out of place. I came to watch Maddox's football game but didn't realize the stadium would be so PACKED with people. My nerves are jittering around, and I'm close to puking. I've never once before went to one of these games. My heart is racing, and I think I might be sick AND broke. Stupid as I am, I bought the ticket with my own money, and now I'm surrounded by shouting and whistling fans. I didn't realize this game would be so huge. Outside the stadium, children were getting their faces painted. There is a freaking orchestra playing music, and I'm staring at some girls holding up these banderoles. It feels like I've stepped into a movie. A trio of good-looking blonde women with colors painted on their faces holds up this thing that says, "WE WANT MADDOX'S BABIES!!" I find that sickening to write since they don't know him. But maybe that kind of thing is normal to write? Further down, another says, "Jason, call me!!" Sighing, I sink into my seat. Maddox of
Michelle There is a jarring feeling in my heart. All I want is to continue kissing Maddox, but he slips me down from his muscular torso and proceeds to hug me from behind. The back of my head is faced with his broad chest. He is warm and big and runs his fingers through my hair. I shudder, and I think I hear him breathe a laugh. He continues to run those rough fingers over my scalp. It's sweet. It gives me butterflies. But it's all fake love. We are putting on a show for his parent or parents, and I fight tears when he carefully brushes my hair to the right side of my face. Down my collarbone while tilting his head. The gentleness is killing me. I glimpse up, and his relentless eyes find mine. He seems a bit irritated, but I have this notion it's an emotion reserved for his parents. "It's only my mom. My dad must have strolled back to the car or something," Maddox grunts. "I can see my mom walking here, though. Her name is Catharina, but everyone calls her Cath." My v
Michelle I don't belong at this fancy restaurant, and my only comfort is that Maddox doesn't fit in either. Not when he is wearing sweatpants and a hoodie—the only thing he had with him to the game. The rest of his stuff is in the back of his car. I eye his chest, and even though his muscles are hidden behind the fabric and some cheesy slogan from our college, they are still visible. Firm and snug. Maddox is in peak condition. My cheeks turn molten when his eyes catch me looking, and I stare at the floor instead. We finish our drinks in silence. There is no sign of our food, and the atmosphere is thick. Awkward. Tense. "They usually aren't this slow," Maddox comments. "Maybe they burned our food or something." "I bet it would still taste good even if they burnt it. I've never eaten at a classy dinner before. The chefs here could probably serve me dog shit, and I would still like it." Maddox chokes on his drink and laughs tears. "Did prim and proper Michelle just say the wor
Maddox Jason waltzes into the kitchen and gasps. "Are you making homemade chocolates?" I'm wearing a pink apron and mixing brown stuff—what else would I be making?! There are forms on the table! "Dude, are you blind? Because it ain't fucking dog shit I'm melting and mixing on the stove." Jason slowly blinks, and I wonder if he is hungover or has an itchy eye or something. "Are they... For a girl?" I continue stirring. "Uh, yes? I'm sure as hell not giving these to you or anyone else on the football team." "Huh," Jason smiles like the dumb, tall idiot he is. "I'm happy for you. You and Michelle are finally dating—it was about damn time." I almost choke and spit out the water I'm drinking. "Dating?! We ain't dating! We are friends." "Wait. You're making homemade chocolates for a friend... Who is a girl... And you're not dating?" "Yes, and yes," I shake my head at Jason. I don't understand his deal or why he is staring at me. "When did you become such a detective? I read that g
Michelle My stomach is tied in a tight bundle of nerves. Maddox is walking ahead of me, holding up the door to the fraternity house. A carpet is rolled out on the cobblestones outside. It's yellow—just like the color of Maddox football pants. It somehow adds to my nerves. I feel like I'm visiting the royal family, but the members are all insanely big, muscular men. Maddox peers down at me. "Ladies first." "Thank you," I step inside and immediately freeze when I catch a dude as tall as Maddox raking me up and down. They are both walking mountains, but this guy's arms and hands are tattooed. Dark eyebrows lift guiltily when I catch him staring at me, and a slow-spreading smile takes over his lush lips. "Ah! You must be Michelle," the tattooed guy reaches out his hand for me to take. His expression is actually friendly, and there is a lowkey, husky Spanish accent. "I'm Jason, the mutt." Oh, he is referring to the phone call... My heart hammers as I look Jason up and down to s