A/N: more! woot!

Chapter 4

Ana was waiting for me, as I knew she would be, when I arrived home later that night, many shopping bags in tow. She took in the bags and then looked up at me. "You went out again?" she asked, voice curious but cool.

I shrugged, indifferent. "You can never do too much shopping." I answered gruffly and then began unpacking my bags.

Ana sighed behind me and said, "Please don't put me in the middle."

I slowly stopped folding my clothes again and turned around. I shouldn't put her in the middle. "I'm sorry." I said softly as I sank down on the other side of my bed from her.

"He's just looking out for you, Iz," she told me solemnly. "Sure, he can put it in a rude way, but he really cares about you. And he hates seeing you getting hurt all the time."

"Yeah, him and me both." I snorted. She glared at me, tilting her head to the side in disproval. "I know he cares." I sighed. "It's just… I make mistakes. But I learn from them, right?"

"

That's true." Ana allowed shortly, looking reluctant to admit it. "But Izzy, he's-"

"I know how old he is." I interrupted shortly. "I know, I know how old I am, and I know how old he is," she looked at me for a long moment. "All I'm trying to say is I don't even know if he'll call. So let's drop it."

This time it was she who snorted. "Iz, when do they not call?"

"That's beside the point." I snipped back.

"No need to be snippy, it's the truth though," she replied. "Did you shop with someone or were you wandering around the mall by yourself, asking to get raped?" she asked dryly.

"Of course not." I replied with a wave of my hand as I got off the bed and went back to taking out my clothes. "I went with Nicole."

"Oh good," she said, sounding relieved.

I walked over to my dresser, new shirt in hand, and found myself pausing and staring off into the distance for a moment. I should tell her I saw Jason. I should tell her. I shouldn't keep it from her. She'll flip out no matter what, sure, but she'll flip out even more if she finds out later then today.

Well call me immature, I prefer private, but I didn't tell her. Not only would she fly off the handle and freak out but she would tell Andrew, who would make her flying off the handle look like a mild reaction to the news. And I didn't feel like dealing with him twice in one day.

"You okay?" Ana obviously noticed my pause.

"Yep." I replied, opening my dresser drawer.

Later that night, I left my room and walked down the hall to Andrew's. I knew Ana was in her room, she was studying on her bed when I passed, and I needed to talk to him. I knocked on the closed door and waited.

He opened the door and looked at me. "Yeah?" he asked, sounding not happy to see me, not upset to see me, just… bland.

"Hey, could we have a chat?" I asked.

He raised his eyebrows for a second as if to say, "A chat?" but let me in anyway.

I looked around his room as he shut the door behind me. I caught sight of a framed picture of Ana and him at my debut ball on our birthday… they weren't looking at the camera, they were wrapped up in each other's arms, dancing, resting their foreheads against each other, eyes shut. It was too adorable for words. "Nice picture." I commented, jerking my chin at it.

"Ana gave it to me," he replied, looking bashful. "So what's up?" he asked, clearly impatient.

"I wanted to apologize for my attitude earlier." I replied. "I know you were getting on my case earlier because you care about me, it just… annoyed me."

He shrugged, looking only slightly surprised. "No big deal," he shrugged.

"We cool?" I questioned.

"Yeah," he agreed.

"Cool." I nodded again and then left the room.

The next day, on the way home from school, I stopped at the grocery store. Not a usual stop, let me tell you, but our housekeeper was sick and we were out of milk. Or so our chef Andre told me.

I walked into the store, a stranger in a foreign land. It had been a long time since I had been in a grocery store… why would I come if I had a housekeeper, a chef, and maids?

I caught sight of dairy products on the opposite side of the store and made my way over.

I glanced down the aisles as I passed and paused at one.

Three guys and one girl were standing in the cereal aisle, playing around. "We're out of Lucky Charms," one announced.

"Dude we just got some last week," another, who had his back to me, replied, annoyed.

"That was then, this is now," yet another guy chimed in.

"Just buy the Lucky Charms," the girl advised, looping her arm through the one who had pointed out they still had some from last week.

He turned around and caught sight of me. "Isabella Walters!" he exclaimed.

"Erik Masterson!" I exclaimed in reply, breaking out into a grin as we approached each other. He gave me a huge hug. "How are you doing?" I asked him, slightly worried. The last couple of weeks had been rough for him too… in fact, the last time I'd seen him had been at his mother's funeral.

"They're better now, thanks," he grinned back. He really was pretty hot, with short brown hair, blue eyes like Ana's, and he clearly worked out, but he was Ana's brother so I knew better then to flirt.

Plus there was the matter of his frankly gorgeous girlfriend, who slid up next to Erik. "Hey," she smiled at me.

"Hey." I smiled back politely.

"Christine, this is my sister's best friend Isabella." Erik introduced me to her, putting his arm around Christine as he did so.

Ah so this was the infamous Christine. I'd overheard Ana ranting to Andrew about how much of a enormous bitch she was a few weeks ago, but I think they sort of patched things up, apparently Christine had done a 180 in her personality. "Nice to meet you." I replied with a smile.

"You too," she replied with a smile.

"Hey, what are you doing here?" Erik asked me suddenly. "Don't you have maids or a chef to do this kind of thing?"

"Yeah, definitely, but the housekeeper is sick." I replied. "I'm a stranger in a foreign land."

"Allow me to assist you, my lady." I recognized Jake Carlson not only from knowing Erik but because we'd made out in a drunken moment at a party a few months back. As far as I could tell, he didn't remember, and I wasn't about to remind him or tell Ana about it since I knew she'd flip out.

But I smiled nonetheless at Jake and said, "You'd help me?"

"Anything for a lady," he replied chivalrously, putting his arm around me.

"Jake, I don't think her boyfriend would like that." Erik warned dryly.

"You have a boyfriend?" the third guy asked as he joined the conversation, interest clearly written all over his face. From what I could remember, his name was Adam.

"Used to." I corrected him and then looked up at Erik with a shrug. "We broke up."

"You have the worst luck with guys, Isabella," he shook his head.

"Tell me about it." I rolled my eyes.

"Well here's one guy who wouldn't break up with you." Jake interjected into the conversation.

Jake was gorgeous, that was for sure, but that drunk make out session stuck out every time I saw him, and while that wasn't a bad memory… no, it just couldn't work between us. "I'm flattered but I'm not upset about being single right now." I answered dryly.

"Come on…" he pleaded flirtatiously with me.

"Let me check back with you when I get out of high school." I answered sweetly.

"High school girls are Jake's specialty." Adam announced brightly. Jake let go of me and punched Adam hard on the shoulder. Apparently I wasn't the first girl who was still in high school that Jake had fooled around with.

"Can we please not talk about Jake and his girls?" Erik asked, expression clearly pained. "I'm still getting over the last psycho who tried to practically move into my room after a single one night stand."

Jake, instead of getting flustered, merely complained, "Hey, come on… Heather was a sweet girl."

"Except for the whole psycho part." Erik retorted dryly.

"She had to go home and finish the 11th grade anyway." Adam added gleefully. Clearly insulting Jake's past, albeit young, lovers was a favorite past time. Jake grabbed Adam around the neck in a headlock and they began to wrestle.

Erik rolled his eyes and then turned his attention back to me. "So what are you getting?" he asked me.

"Milk." I replied. "Nonfat."

"Are you going to find it okay?" he asked me like a true older brother.

"Got it covered." I smiled back; touched that he was making sure I was going to be okay. Erik truly was a nice guy.

"All right, cool. I'm going to go break up their catfight before they get to hair pulling but it was good to see you." Erik gave me a quick hug and then headed over to the wrestling boys.

"Nice meeting you." Christine smiled at me.

"You too." I smiled back and headed over to the dairy section.

It was when I was paying for my milk that Jake and Adam were escorted out of the grocery store by security. "Come on, Snatch is a perfectly harmless game!" I heard Jake exclaim as they were dragged out. I didn't even want to know what Snatch was.

Erik came out of the aisle to watch, shaking his head, and then caught sight of me. He shook his head at me and I shook mine back… Jake and Adam. Nothing like them.

I walked out of the kitchen later after putting the milk in the fridge and getting profusely thanked by Andre. I could hear my mother's voice from the study faintly and walked over to see if she needed anything. Okay, fine, I was going in to eavesdrop on her conversation, happy?

"…be happy to have you there!" she was saying as I quietly entered the study. She looked up from her desk, smiled, and then motioned for me to give her a minute. I nodded and walked over to sit down on one of the ivory upholstered chairs. She paused for a moment and then said, "I'd be thrilled if they came too!" she then made a face and I hid a smile. She looked at me and mimicked shooting herself with her finger and thumb. I smiled back. "All right, see you there, Mr. Connors! Uh huh, bye!" she hung up and looked more then a little perturbed.

"Trouble with the charity ball?" I asked innocently.

"No, I'm pretty good at kissing up to people," she drawled in reply as she gathered her papers on her desk. "Just had to convince "Lord" Connors to bring him and his horrible son and wife with him to the ball," she rolled her eyes and then asked me curiously, "Did you get the milk for Eliza?" Eliza is our housekeeper, the sick one.

"Yeah, I went on the way home from school just now." I replied.

"How was school?" she asked me, glancing at me over her reading glasses.

"Swell." I deadpanned. "Nothing quite like it."

"Did you hear back from any schools yet?" she asked me.

"No, there was no mail for me today." I replied.

"Strange… it's April," she mused distractedly to herself as she sorted her papers into separate files. She looked up and pinned me with a gaze.

"I'll check into it next week if nothing is here by the end of this week." I promised.

"Your brother has already heard back from UCLA, UCSB, UC Davis, and USC," she told me seriously.

"Yeah, I know, he told me." I answered.

"He's even decided on UCSB," she told me, still fixing me with a piercing gaze.

"Fine, I'll call admissions tomorrow." I sighed.

"Don't act so pained, Isabella," she mildly scolded me. "This is, after all, your education we're talking about."

"Yeah I know." I mumbled as I stood. "Speaking of, I've got a huge paper to write."

"Dinner's at seven," she told me. Like I already didn't know that, when was dinner not at seven?

"I'll be there." I answered dutifully and then left the study, trudging upstairs.

Ana and Andrew began walking down, whispering to each other quietly as they held hands. "Hey!" Ana said when she noticed me. "You disappeared after school, where did you go?"

"Off to meet your new boyfriend?" Andrew asked lightly.

"No." I scowled at him for a second. I knew he was just waiting for me to get a new boyfriend so that he could mercilessly tease me about him as usual. I turned to Ana and told her, "I had to go to the grocery store and get milk since Eliza is sick."

"You went to the grocery store?" Ana pointed at me, surprised.

"Yes." I answered irritably.

"When was the last time you were in one of those?" Andrew asked curiously.

"I don't know, when was the last time you were in one?" I turned the finger right back around at him.

"A billion years ago," he answered with a shrug. "When we were between housekeepers since Bridgette-" he abruptly stopped talking. I needn't ask him why. Even Ana looked uncomfortable.

"Where are you guys off to?" I finally asked.

"The beach," she answered with a smile. "Do you want to come?"

And be the third wheel to the perfect couple? Negative. "Nah I've got some work to do." I replied, showing her my backpack.

"See you at dinner." Andrew replied and then they headed down the stairs, off to the beach.

I sighed as I walked into my room and tossed my book bag down on my made bed. I grabbed my slim laptop off my dresser and powered it up. While I waited, I crossed the room and shut the door.

I walked into my closet and turned on the light then knelt down to the floor. I pushed aside my long dresses to reveal a few shoeboxes. I grabbed the first one off the top of the stack and opened it.

Many envelopes lay in the bottom of the box. On top of them was a full bottle of Smirnoff green apple vodka. I set the bottle to the side and pulled the envelopes out.

I pulled out the letters one by one.

"Miss Walters, it's our pleasure to inform you of your acceptance to the University of California, Los Angeles…"

"…acceptance to the University of California, Santa Barbara…"

"…acceptance to the University of Southern California…"

"…acceptance to the University of California, Berkeley…"

"…acceptance to the University of California, Davis…"

"…acceptance to the University of California, San Diego…"

It wasn't that I didn't have any options. It's just that I had too many.


A/N: okay well first of all, if it wasn't clear, UCSB is University of California, Santa Barbara, USC is University of Southern California, UC Davis is University of California, Davis.

there is a reason for isabella's indecisiveness. this will be addressed. when? la la la la la i'm not telling la la la la la.

yeeee yes there was erik! i just love him... i can't let him go. it's like how i had ana in erik's story, i just can't stop writing about her or erik. oh and yes... jake and izzy made out. oh the things you do when you're drunk... AHEM not that i would KNOW anything ABOUT THAT, MOVING ON! i'm too honest for my own good.

QuOtAtA: i'm glad you caught the chapter title. wow i'm sorry you're so tired!

sexy paperclip: yep, that's izzy's type all right... hot and not so safe. hahaha yep it's definitely been a long time since we last saw nicole but yeah, she didn't really have a place in erik's story. hahaha i'm glady ou love izzy! i'm glad you like it, it's good to know that at least someone likes what's coming...

until next time,

a smile that explodes