Thanks to the following reviewers: Kates Masters Sister, mrdarcylover, Kates Master, somuchformyhappyending, grumpirah, jftheater, jekodama, Meggie Moo, gigl2mutch, Sylvia Marri, lostindreams1001 and frostlily.

I'm overwhelmed! I love all of you! And thanks to the reply service I can now reply to your reviews! Sweet!

A/N: Alright I know it's late. Excuses, firstly, this chapter just would not go onto computer. It physically did not want to be finished. It's also a really big chapter so that probably didn't help.

Also I had my first major deadline yesterday so I've been working on that. Thank God its over.

And as I'm sure everyone is aware, fictionpress has finally caught up with fanfiction and got their new services installed and their new smarter layout. So that's also my reasoning behind not updating till now.

But this chapter is extra long to make up for it. This is probably the longest chapter I've ever written for this story (Twenty pages of solid work). So enjoy it!


Chapter 12 - So this is leisure?

Jodie's POV

I sat back and surveyed my painting. The ink was drying under the harsh classroom lights. I rather liked being in the art rooms after school had ended and everyone else had gone home. It was a lot easier to concentrate without people leaning over and commenting on your work all the time.

The painting was fairly simple. It was based on a photograph I had taken a while ago. It showed a white lily against a black background. I had been working on it ever since I had been dumped. In a way it was like therapy for my torn emotions. The white innocent flower was wrapped in the black background, like it was being consumed. Just like I had been consumed by misery and worthlessness.

Now leaning back and looking at it, it still showed how I was feeling. Even though it had been about two weeks since Gareth and I had split up, I was still a confused mess of feelings. Only this time it was over another guy.

Everyone had noticed that something was wrong with me. Natalie and Channie were trying to be there for me, but I hadn't told them what the problem was, thought I guessed they might have figured it out. Dannie was the only one who knew. She had been there with the hugs and reassurance that everything would work out. But I needed more than reassurance. I needed for it to actually happen.

It wasn't just Scott either. The whole day had started off badly, and this was bumming me out far more than any guy could do. And no one knew about the latest development in this problem, not even Dannie.

I had plodded downstairs that morning, feeling exhausted, as any normal teenager does at eight o clock in the morning. My mother was already at the breakfast table, scanning the stock market page of the newspaper and jabbing at her porridge venomously with her spoon. I pushed two slices of toast down, making sure to keep quiet. Mum didn't look happy, a stark contrast to her previously wild child party girl attitude.

"What's wrong?" I finally dared to ask, reheating the kettle for tea. Mum looked up from the newspaper and shot a scowl at a letter on top of the pile of bills.

"Brett's trying to get the house," she said shortly. I dropped my mug and the handle broke off with a clink.

"He wants the house?" I asked. Mum nodded.

"Why?" I demanded furiously. Mum shrugged and heaved a sigh.

"Trying to get to me," she said. "Either way, we're going back to court in a few weeks. Just when I think it's all over he does this. Trying to get back at me. Bastard. What was I thinking marrying him?"

I wasn't listening anymore. I couldn't believe that Brett would do this to us. I knew he was a scumbag, but this was a new low. Just when Mum was free of him he had to make life difficult. He did have rights to the house, technically. It was in both his and Mums names. They bought it just before they married. We thought Brett was leaving it for us. Apparently he had since changed his mind.

I jumped as my toast popped up and Mum stopped muttering under her breath. I was half way through buttering my toast when she spoke again.

"I'm meeting Angela Farmer at three, so I might not be here when you get back."

I nodded. If anyone could get Mum out of this, her lawyer could. Angela Farmer was one of the best.

"Jodie," Mum spoke again.

"Yeah?" I asked, taking a bite out of my toast.

"Never trust a man," Mum said. "They'll just leave you broken."

Those words had been following me all day.

I was broken. I had trusted men and they had only made me confused and complicated my life more than it already was.

But I was nothing like my mother.

I sighed and got up from the chair. I could leave my work at the back of the room on the shelf. No one would touch it there. I didn't want to think of my coursework from last year, which had been damaged by one of the lower years just a week before the deadline. I had suffered greatly for that. I chuckled as I remembered Karl offering to beat the kid up. I had hastily declined before he could make good on that offer.

"Hey hot stuff? You ever thought about modelling?"

I gritted my teeth and turned to face the year twelve boy who had come in five minutes ago to use one the printer.

"Newsflash kid. I'm a year older than you and I don't date infants," I said irritably. I wasn't in the mood to be hit on by a lower sixth form. And who says Cat is the only one who can be a bitch?

"Come on sweetie. Loosen up."

God who does he think he's kidding. I hated to burst his bubble, but I was already irritable.

"Do everyone a favour junior. Go hit on a wall next time. You'll suffer far less embarrassment that way."

I picked up my painting and headed for the back of the room. I realised I'd need something to stand on in order to reach the top shelf, and I placed my work on the worktop before going to get a chair.

"Christ girl, get that stick out of your ass," the guy said, picking up his printing and heading for the door. "You're not that hot anyway."

I wanted to pound the little guy and I made a note to point him out to Karl later. I could feel myself grinding my teeth as I clambered onto the chair. I hate the year twelve's. Well, all year thirteen's do really. They think they're so grown up now that they're in sixth form. They think they rule the school. It's like we don't exist!

"Hey there."

I clenched my fist and whirled around on my chair, almost overbalancing as I did.

"Don't take a fucking hint do you…oh God! Sorry Scott!"

I clamped my hands over my mouth. Scott was standing there looking remarkably surprised at my reaction.

"God all I did was say hi Jode. What bit your ass today?"

I'm sure my cheeks were flaming from embarrassment. And I'm pretty sure he could see that. He slowly started to smirk again.

"Oh this year twelve kid…you don't wanna know." I shook my head and turned around to face the shelf, forgetting that in doing so he would have an eye level view of my ass. I'm fairly sure I saw his eyes flick from that direction when I twisted my head around.

"Could you pass me my painting?" I asked, offering a hand for it. He carefully picked up the canvas on the wooden frame and handed it gently to me.

"It's a good painting," he said.

"Ta," I muttered. I wasn't being unemotional because it was him. I didn't like people consistently telling me that my work was good. I personally didn't think it was anything special. But then again, I think every artist feels that way. If you trying to concentrate on your work the last thing you want is people complimenting you left right and centre.

"Why aren't you at practise?" I asked. "Don't you have a final to win next week?" Scott raised an eyebrow.

"You think we'd be practising in this weather?" he asked, nodding a head toward the doors that lead to the courtyard of the art department. The windows in the doors showed a layer of snow that was still blanketing the ground after the storm the night before.

"Point taken," I nodded. "So what are you doing here?"

Scott raised an eyebrow in a way that made me smile. He looked adorable.

"Well I was wondering if you wanted to go out to the movies. If you aren't to busy being the next Leo Da Vinci that is."

"Da Vinci was a guy," I reminded him. "I'm a girl." My head snapped around properly as the previous question registered. I almost toppled off the chair.

"You want to go out?" I asked. He nodded, not breaking my gaze.

"Like, on a date?" I blurted without thinking. I mentally smacked myself. My mouth had its own brain sometimes.

"Not if you don't want it to be," he shook his head. I wasn't a hundred percent convinced.

"It won't be like it was before…all this," I said shaking my head. "You know that." He nodded.

"I know," he nodded. Nothing would be the same now that we had let greater feelings get involved.

Did it matter what I was to him at the end of the day, I thought. Friends, boyfriend and girlfriend, we would still be together. As long as I could be with him, I didn't mind how we were, really. The only thing that bothered me was the possibility that it could go wrong. I knew our friendship had gone past the point of no return. We were fragile at the moment. Adding stronger feelings could destroy us completely…or bring us closer together.

I looked at him and decided to push everything that had happened in the last week out of my head. What would I do? I wouldn't pass up the opportunity to spend time with Scott. He was still someone I cared about in the end. Slowly I nodded my head.

"Okay, I'll come," I said. Scott's face broke into a grin.

"Cool," he nodded. I jumped down from the chair and fished around under the table for my bag.

"Where we heading?" I asked. Scott held the door open for me as we left the classroom.

"Thought we'd go catch a movie," he shrugged. "Unless you'd rather do something else."

"Movies are fine," I assured him, not wanting to start an argument immediately. "What did you want to see?"

He looked rather pleased that I wasn't arguing with him. It was nice just to be trying to talk normally after everything that had happened. We discussed the movies all the way to the car. I shivered against the cold wind as the snow crunched under our feet. I was glad for thick boots and socks, which were at least keeping my toes from freezing.

"What about my car?" I asked, as I clambered into the passenger seat and rubbed my hands together to restore circulation.

"I can bring you back here later," he said. "You can pick it up then. You don't have anywhere to be urgently tonight do you?"

I shook my head, wondering what time Mum would be home from her meetings.

The sound of Scott starting the car was accompanied by the ring of my phone. The caller ID told me that it was Dannie.

"Hey Dannie," I said accepting the call.

"Yo Jode!" Dannie sounded very chipper. And from the low hum in the background I gathered she was also in a car and that her phone was on speaker.

"Whatcha doin'?" Dannie asked. I could almost picture her bouncing around.

"Driving the cinema with Scott," I said, pressing my own speaker button so that the aforementioned could say hello.

"Hi Dannie," Scott greeted, not taking his eyes off the road. I was very grateful. The last thing I wanted to do was for us to have an accident.

"Oooh! Hey Scott! I'm driving to town with Cat! Cat say hello!"

Scott and I exchanged glances as Cat's weary voice appeared over the phone.

"Remind me Dannie, what the hell and I doing heading to town with you?"

"Shopping you nimrod!" Dannie said. From the thump, I gathered that Cat was beating her head over the steering wheel.

"I want to go home," she whined.

"Tough," Dannie said bluntly. "So what, are you two talking to each other now?"

I glanced nervously at Scott who rolled his eyes.

"We weren't not talking to begin with Dannie," he reminded her.

"You know what I mean Scott Matthew Davis!"

I laughed. I couldn't help it. Scott groaned.

"Please don't use my full name Dannie!"

"Why shouldn't I?"

"Dannie I'll love you forever if you don't say it again!" Scott told her. Cat voice chimed in.

"I don't think the promise of love works on her Davis. I've been promising to love her if she didn't drag me out shopping. And where am I now? In my car, driving Dannie to the mall, that's where."

"Everybody loves me!" Dannie said. "You shouldn't need to promise it!"

Thump! I assumed that was Cat's head against the steering wheel again.

"Careful Cat, I would like to get to town in one piece," Dannie said.

"I wouldn't."

"Anyway, have fun guys!" Dannie said. "Call me later Jode."

"Will do," I said.

"Bye Dannie," Scott said. "Don't spend too much money."

"Bye darlings! Say goodbye Cat!"

"I wanna sleep," Cat's voice protested.

"Meh, good enough," Dannie said. "Bye bye!"

And she hung up.

"How did she drag Cat shopping of all people?" Scott asked.

"Dannie can be quite persuasive," I reminded him.

"Yeah but Cat," Scott said. "The girl's got to be the last person I would have expected to see shopping with Dannie."

"I'm not too surprised," I said, remembering the time I had run into Cat after she had finished work. My thoughts snapped the guy who had been the cause of her distress that day.

"What d'you think about Karl?" I asked. "Do you really he's actually likes Cat?"

"Well," Scott said, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel as we stopped at a red light. "If his vacant expression over the last week is anything to go on I think there's some feeling there."

"It's a bit weird," I said. "But if anyone can get them together, Dannie will."

My phone buzzed again, and I picked it up to read the text message. I assumed it would be from Dannie, probably to demand what was going on with me and Scott. It wasn't Dannie however. It was my mother.

The text was short. She would be with her lawyer all afternoon. Court would be on the fourth of January. What a lovely way to welcome in the New Year. I sighed and pressed my phone into my forehead as I covered my face. If we lost the house we would have to move again. I might have to move school. I couldn't leave everyone.

"This is the worst Christmas ever," I muttered.

"What's wrong?" Scott asked. I didn't realise that we had parked in the cinema car park and he had shut the engine off. I had been too wrapped up in the message from my mother.

"Nothing," I said. Scott frowned at me. He knew I was lying. I sighed and gave him my phone. I knew he wouldn't let me out of the car until I had told him. His brows furrowed at the text message.

"You're mother's going to court?" he asked. I nodded. "Why?"

"She got divorced a few weeks ago," I said unemotionally.

"You never said," Scott said aghast. I shrugged.

"Wasn't important," I said. "He cheated on her. She cheated on him to get back. Anyway, now Brett's decided he wants the house."

"You might have to move?" Scott asked. I shrugged.

"I don't know," I said. "If he gets it we'll have to."

"You can't leave," Scott said.

"Don't have a lot of choice," I said. I was holding back tears. I didn't want to think about what would happen if Mum did lose the house. If we couldn't find anywhere in the city to live then we would have to move. And I'd have to leave everyone at school, including Scott.

I was crushed against Scott's jacket. He had pulled me into a hug. I hadn't realised that I had started to cry.

"You can't leave," he whispered again. I shook my head.

"I don't want to, but I don't have a choice," I said, wiping away my tears furiously. I hated feeling this weak, especially in front of Scott.

"You're not weak," he said. I stifled a hiccup.

"Did I say that out loud?" I asked. He nodded. I chuckled weakly.

"Sorry," I said. "I must have cried around you more times in the last few weeks than you'd care to remember."

"I don't mind," he said. I pulled out a tissue from my pocket and wiped my cheeks.

"What am I going to do Scott?" I asked. He sighed and ran a hand through his hair.

"I don't know," he said. "But we're all still here for you. Dannie, Nat, Channie. And me."

"I know," I said. "But I don't want to leave you."

"It doesn't matter where you are Jodie," he said. "I still care about you, no matter where you have to go."

I sighed. I knew we couldn't have a serious conversation without our situation becoming involved.

"Can you give me a chance to prove that to you?" he asked.

"You don't need to prove anything," I said, swallowing. I couldn't turn him down again. I needed support and I cared too much about Scott to turn him away. I took a deep breath and faced him.

"Just…give me time Scott," I said slowly. "I promise, I'll let you know soon. But for now, just let me think some things through."

He sat there for a moment, looking as though he were going to press the argument further. But then he sighed and nodded.

"Alright," he nodded. "Alright."

"Thank," I said gratefully, with a weak attempt at a smile. He ran a hand through his hair again before turning to look at the building behind us.

"Come on then, let's go see the movie. Will a tub of ice cream cheer you up?"

OOO

Bev's POV

I was humming to myself as I entered the hospital. I had caught the bus after school with the intention of visiting Sam. It had become a habit to alternate visiting days with my parents. Half the things Sam and I chatted about (such as my situation with James) I would not have felt comfortable talking about in front of my parents. If my father's reaction to James's phone call the other night was anything to go on, Sam and I talking about it around my parents was not a good idea.

Sam was also making sure that I would live up to my promise of living for him when he was gone, something I know which would have reduced both my parents to tears if they ever heard it. It had made me cry on more than one occasion, and once in front of him. But I never cried in front of Sam again. He had smacked me upside of the head for being a wimp when he had seen me.

So at half past four I made it to the hospital and was heading down the familiar corridors of the children's ward. I got a surprise when I reached the correct room and saw that Sam already had a visitor. Even more surprising to see that the visitor was James. He had changed out of what he wore to school and looked instead as though he had just finished his shift. I remembered that he had no lessons after lunch so he must have offered to cover a shift.

"Hey! There she is!" called a voice that I had no trouble recognising as Sam's. I felt infinitely better. If he was up to shouting to me than he must have been feeling better than he had recently. As I approached the bed I could see my little brother sitting cross legged on his bed. He still looked shrunken and pale, but he was smiling at me. I hurried over and gave him a hug. He threw his arms around my neck.

"Ow Sam! You're crushing my neck!" I said. He let go and poked his tongue out at me. I did exactly the same before turning to James.

"What are you doing here?" I asked. James was smiling at the pair of us.

"Well I finished my shift a few minutes ago and Sam dragged me over saying that you were coming to visit."

For some reason he trailed off and his cheeks went a faint shade of pink. I shot a suspicious look at Sam who smiled innocently and put up his hands in surrender.

"I just wanted to check what his intentions with my sister were!" he said. I clapped my hands over my face. I couldn't believe Sam had said that. James was most definitely pink now.

"Sam!" I wailed in embarrassment.

"What!" my brother asked. "You've finally got yourself a date. It's my brotherly duty to make sure that you'll be alright!"

"We're only going to the ball as friends!" I told him.

"Yes that what you say now…" Sam said trailed off with an evil looking grin on his face.

"Are you channelling Dannie's spirit or something?" James asked. "Because I swear she said exactly the same thing to me on Monday."

"How is the delightful future Mrs Bishop-Hill?" Sam asked.

"Fine," both James and I said at the same time. Sam snorted and I couldn't help giggle at the way we had answered together.

"You two are funny," Sam said. "You ever think about doing stand up comedy? You could perform for my birthday!"

"It's your birthday?" James asked. I felt a pang of sadness. I wish Sam didn't have to spend his thirteenth birthday in hospital.

"Yep! On Friday!" Sam nodded before looking at me with a puppy dog expression. "Beverly!" he whined, drawing out my full name. "Will you tell me what you got me?"

I snorted. "Not in a million years Sam! Be patient! It's only two days away!"

"What do you want?" James asked. Sam grinned and immediately adopted a high pitched voice.

"Why I want world peace!" he said happily, fanning his face with his hands. James laughed and I raised an eyebrow.

"Sam, you sound like an American cheerleader."

"Ta sis," Sam grinned, before turning to look at James. "See, she's so nice to me!"

"Right, I'd better head off," James said, getting to his feet and fishing around in his pockets for his car keys.

"Oooh!" Sam said excitedly, and I knew immediately that this could mean nothing good. "You can take Bev home! She hasn't got her bus pass!"

"Yes I do," I said frowning. Like an idiot I pulled out my pass to show him. My devious little brother leaned forwards and snatched it out of my hand.

"Now you don't!" he grinned mischievously.

"You're a brat," I said. "Give it back to me Sam."

"No!" Sam teased, holding the pass behind his back. He fidgeted a bit before showing us his empty hands.

"Where's the pass Sam?" I asked.

"Down my jeans!" Sam said happily. "I'm sitting on it!"

I groaned. James was watching our exchange in amusement.

"Fine!" I said, turning to James. "James can you give me a ride home?"

"He'd love to!" Sam interrupted smiling. "Now off you both go!"

I felt like clouting him around the head, but I hugged him instead.

"See you later mate," I said hugging him. "Dad'll be in this evening."

"Good I can…make sure that you got home safely," Sam said with a sly look on his face. James blanched and I squeaked.

"No Sam! Say nothing!" I warned. He pouted adorably.

"I think Dad would be very interested to know if you have a boyfriend Bev…"

"We're not dating!" James and I said at the same time. Sam snorted with laughter at us.

"Get out of here! The pair of you!"

We both headed for the door. I could still hear Sam chuckling behind us. As James held open the door for me, I heard a loud voice singing rather badly and I resisted the urge to chuck something at my brother.

"Here comes the bride! All fat and wide…"

"Sorry about him," I said to a red faced James as we headed down the corridor. I knew my cheeks were burning too. Why did brothers have to be so embarrassing? Unlike parents they actually know what the implications of embarrassment are.

"Actually, I think he's funny," James shrugged. "Bonkers as hell, but he's a still a cool guy."

"Yeah I guess," I said. I was still worried at the idea of Sam telling Dad. If his reaction to my phone call on Saturday was anything to go by I didn't think he'd be too thrilled at the idea of me having a friend who was a guy. Wow, were James and I really friends now? The thought made me smile again.

"Fancy a coffee before we go?" James asked. I snapped out of my daydreaming state and shrugged.

"Sure," I said, checking my purse quickly. I groaned.

"Actually, I can't James," I shook my head. "I need to get some cash out."

"I'll pay," he said immediately. I opened my mouth to protest, but he cut me off instantly.

"If it means that much to you, pay me back next time," he said. I closed my mouth, but opened it again almost immediately.

"Next time?" James looked at me hopefully.

"I'm hoping there will be a next time," he said. I smiled. I was fairly impressed with myself. Normally that kind of comment would have made me blush to the roots of my hair.

"So have you started Twenty Four yet?" James asked me. I nodded.

"And?" he pestered further as we began to descend the stairs which would lead to the hospital café and shop.

"It's ok," I said in a noncommittal kind of voice. Actually I had been very hesitant about watching the DVDs, worried that they were going to turn violent at any second.

"They're not scary Bev," James sighed. "Its just fast paced action."

"I know but it's still not really my thing," I shook my head. He groaned.

"I'll make you sit there and watch it if needs be. You promised to get through at least one series."

"Alright," I relented. "All dizzyingly fast action aside the plot is fairly good so far."

"See," James said. I shook my head. It was cute when he got defensive about something he loved. I decided to return the question.

"Have you watched Doctor Who yet?"

"Only up to episode three," he said.

"And?" I mimicked him. He raised an eyebrow before continuing.

"Pretty good," he said. "I can see why Sam likes it. But what exactly is so special about the Doctor being a Time Lord?"

I quickly outlined the details of the show, and by the time we had reached the café we were laughing over the series so far.

"Are you going to finish it then?" I asked as we were both engulfed by the smell of freshly baked pastries.

"Think so," James said. "Next episode looks good. I see why you like it though. Nothing scary."

"Yeah wait till you get to episodes nine and ten," I muttered, shuddering at the thought. James looked at me strangely, but shrugged and led me over to the queue of visitors.

"Chocolate?" James asked.

"Please," I nodded. It was freezing outside. The first snowfall had come down the night before, leaving the roads frozen and my mother's car snowed into the driveway. Standing at the bus stop that morning had been nothing short of hell.

James ordered the drinks and I added a muffin to the bill.

"You don't have a thing against eating tonnes of sugar do you?" I asked as we headed for a table in the corner of the cafe. I smiled when I realised that my seat was underneath the heaters. Nice.

"Not really," James shrugged. "I want to be a doctor, not a dentist. Besides, from what Dannie's told me, girls seem to live and run off ice cream."

"Not in this weather," I said, nodding out of the window, where the snow was lying thickly over the pavement. "Give me chocolate any day. That's why I love Christmas."

"I like the snow," James said.

"Really?" I raised an eyebrow. "It's so cold and dangerous when you're driving."

"Yeah but its fun too. Snowball fights, snowmen."

"Guess," I shrugged, remembering when Sam and I used to build snowmen in the back garden.

"You probably think I'm really childish for saying that," James said, colour rising to his cheeks. I shook my head.

"Not really. Me and Sam used to build snowmen. We used to try and build one big enough to touch the top of the house. But our hands always got cold before we could finish it."

"Yeah me and David used to do that before he went to Uni," James smiled. I grinned at the thought of a younger James playing in the snow with his older brother.

"I can top the childishness though," I said. "Sam and I can never sleep at Christmas, so every Christmas morning one of us would always wake up really early and go and wake the other up. Then we'd open our stockings together."

"We got stockings too," James said. "But then they stopped when I was twelve. What about you?"

I hung my head.

"Sam and I still get them," I admitted. It sounded a little childish to still be getting stockings at the end of our beds. I allowed myself to smile as another thought appeared. "I remember when we got loads of chocolate and we stayed up all morning. We felt so sick we couldn't eat lunch. Mum and Dad weren't happy."

James laughed.

"Our family saves one present each for when we were having lunch. Then we all open them at the table," he grinned. "I remember when I gave my little cousin bubble bath. She poured it all over her food."

I cracked up.

"Do you have all your relatives over?" I asked. "We used to but then they all moved too far to travel every year."

"Normally just my grandparents and my uncle and his family," James said. "My cousins are a handful, if we had anyone else the house would explode."

"Sam's like that," I said nodding. "When we had our cousins over one year he roped us all into putting fake snow all over the bathroom. Mum hit the roof."

"I can top that," James said. "When I was ten my brother, my cousins and I all broke into the liquor cabinet."

I laughed.

"What happened?" I asked. James smiled.

"Dad caught us all when we broke the sofa from jumping on it. He made me and David pay for it out of our pocket money, and we had the worst hangovers the next morning."

I laughed again and James chuckled too.

"Any other Christmas traditions I should know about?" James asked, eyes twinkling. I grinned.

"Well, every time Sam and I see the Coca Cola ad on the TV we sing along," I said. James laughed.

"You're as bad as Dannie," he said.

"Don't remind me," I groaned, remembering Dannie's shameless renditions of Walking in the Air that we had heard over the years. I'm sure the café is only ever quiet when she's singing.

"D'you think she'll sing at her wedding?" I asked. James broke off a piece of my muffin and ate it. I pouted. That was my cake!

"Depends on how drunk she gets," he said. "I don't think she'll be bad enough to sing though."

"Good," I sighed. I didn't want to think about Dannie getting drunk. Sugar high was bad enough.

"Who are you sitting with during the reception?" James asked. I groaned again.

"Dannie won't tell me," I said. "She keeps yapping on about 'surprising me'. For a paranoid planning Nazi she's being very sketchy with the details."

"I knew it," James said nodding and taking another piece of my quickly vanishing muffin. "She won't tell me either. I'll be she's stuck us together."

Despite seething at Dannie's deviousness, I was also cheering inside.

"The planning Nazi matchmaker," I renamed. James nodded.

"Too true," he said. "I'm fairly sure she wants everyone to have a date. Have you seen her with Jodie and Scott?"

"Not really," I shrugged. His eyes opened in surprise.

"Seriously?" he asked. "I thought everyone in the school knew now that Dannie is trying to match them up."

I shook my head.

"Where have you been hiding for the last few weeks?" James asked, stealing even more of my muffin. I scowled. I was going to have to hide that or I wasn't going to have any left. James took a look at my face and bit his lip. Cute.

"Sorry Bev. I didn't mean to make you feel isolated…"

"I don't mind," I shrugged. "I'm used to it."

I picked at what was left of my muffin. James looked uncomfortable.

"Why do you do it Bev?" he asked. I paused with a piece of muffin halfway to my mouth.

"Do what?" I asked.

"Why are you so cut off?" he asked. "You're a great person. You could make friends easily. So why don't you?"

I gazed at the table and fiddled with the bit of muffin which I hadn't been able to eat yet.

"I don't know," I shook my head. "I've always been that way."

"You aren't like that around Dannie," James said. "Or me."

I felt faint heat rush into my cheeks. However well we were getting on, I wasn't ready to admit that I had been crushing on him for ages.

"You're different," I said. "I'm not like you James. I'm not comfortable around new people. I clam up. I just automatically try and keep people out. I can't help it."

"Don't you get lonely?" he asked. I nodded.

"It wasn't so bad before. I had Sam as a friend. But now it's harder. He's locked up in here…" I trailed off looking around at the hospital café. James reached over and squeezed my hand.

"But a few weeks ago," I said, my voice growing just a bit tougher. "Sam made me promise that I'd live for him if he…if he dies. So everything's changing now. I've got to be more like him."

"You're more like him than you know," James told me. I smiled slightly, but I wasn't convinced. Sam and I seemed like opposite sides of a coin. One was bright bubbly and outgoing, the other was timid, shy and lonely.

"I can help you Bev," James said. "No matter what happens with Sam I can help. If you want me to."

I pressed my lips together. That was exactly the kind of support I wanted. A small smile worked its way onto my face as I thought of what Sam would say if he were in my spot.

"One on condition," I said. James looked at me seriously. I think he was worried what I was going to ask of him.

"Okay," he said, sounding a little unsure.

"That you'll stop eating my muffin!" I told him, smacking his hand away. He laughed, the seriousness of the conversation dispelling.

"You got it," he said.

"Buy your own next time," I said, finishing the last of it off.

"Next time?" James asked, his eyebrows quirking in amusement.

"You said there would be a next time," I reminded him. He laughed again.

"I promise Bev, there will be a next time."

OOO

Cat's POV

"Dannie!" I whined in my most irritating voice. My bag strap was cutting into my shoulder and my arms were starting to ache from the weight of the multicoloured, tinsel covered shopping bags I was carrying.

As soon as I had got out of Art that afternoon I had been intending to go straight home and shut myself in my room. I had had a very bad day. I had been late to school due to a combination of not waking up on time, traffic, and ice on the roads. The weather conditions had worsened and the first snow fall had appeared last night. My car was the only warm place I had actually been all day. Well, that and my bed of course. My day hadn't improved when I had got to school. Film studies had been cancelled because Mrs Porter's car had broken down.

Then I had missed second lesson (my free period for Gods sakes!), break and third lesson (Sports) due to the eisteddfod. The judging for the photography and media had begun. Art and music was tomorrow and the winners were announced on Friday. I really couldn't wait for it to be over. Lunch time I had spent holed up in the library on the computers, trying to tidy my files up as I was running out of space to store my artwork. Sadly, half the files I wanted off the school internet and my piczo storage were inaccessible. Remember that virus that the kids planted two weeks ago? The one that makes the homepage sing to you? It was bogging down the network and downloading the files was taking a ridiculous amount of time.

So all in all, by art I was fully prepared to go home and lock myself away from humanity, even if going home did mean being within range of my Grandmother's nagging radar. But Dannie had pulled me to one side and asked me to come Christmas shopping with her. Apparently organising a wedding had taken up most of her time and she hadn't bought any gifts yet. I was guilty in saying that I hadn't either. But it wasn't like I had that many people to buy for. My mother, Dannie, Claire my boss (I was supposed to be her Secret Santa), and a half hearted effort for my Grandparents.

So overall, I'd had a really bad day and I was very glad to see the back of school by the end of it. So why therefore was I trekking around the shopping centre carrying fifty million bags of gifts? Quite simple. Dannie needed a packhorse. And I was now said packhorse. Christmas must have been screwing with my head. I was being far too nice for my own damn good!

"Dannie!" I bitched a little louder.

"What?" Dannie asked, swinging her millions of plastic bags around with inhuman gusto. I swear, there was enough manufactured crude oil in our hands to power a major city for a few weeks.

"I'm tired!" I groaned. "We've been shopping for an hour and a half!"

"Exactly!" Dannie said. "We've only got an hour until the shops close tonight! And I still haven't got anything for my cousins or my little brother!"

"NO!" I cried. "I'm not going any further until I've had caffeine!"

"You're a girl!" Dannie said. "Suck it up!"

"This is not normal!" I said, staggering after her as she pushed her way towards Monsoon. I immediately stopped when I saw her look between the shop and me, with a grin on her face that indicated that she had a scheme in her mind and she was planning to get her way about it.

"Oh no!" I said, dropping the bags and backing swiftly away from the shop. "No, no, no, no, NO!"

"Cat. You don't have anything for the ball," Dannie said. "And whilst I approve of what you are wearing to my wedding, you cannot wear that to the ball too."

"Says who?" I squeaked. Yes I was squeaking. I hate clothes shopping.

"Say's Mr Balls on the invitations," Dannie said, pulling out the invitations from her purse and showing me the line where it said 'formal dress'. I knew Mr Balls was senile!

"Dress Cat!" Dannie said, tucking the tickets away. "Formal dress!"

"Hell no!" I said firmly, but I knew Dannie was going to get her way. She had that look on her face that no one dared challenge.

"Come on gal!" she grinned happily, dragging me into the shop. I groaned as she took stock of the seasons styles.

"Oooh! Wow! I love dress shopping!"

My attempts to sidle away were foiled, as she latched onto my arm with a grip that refused to let go. I sighed in relief however as I saw a chair by the fitting rooms. At least I could sit down.

"Right!" Dannie said happily throwing a handful of dresses into my already loaded hands. "To the changing rooms!"

"I am NOT wearing this one!" I said in offence, picking a knee high slinky, shocking pink dress off the pile, which in my opinion would have looked better on a manikin.

"Oh alright fine!" she said, taking the dress off me. "Not that one! Now move! We only have fifty five minutes and thirty nine seconds of shopping time left!"

"Dannie!" I said urgently taking the dress on the top and shaking the tag over so that I could read it. "This isn't my size!"

"What?" Dannie asked, and for the first time since we had reached the shopping centre, she stopped walking.

"This isn't my size," I repeated, dropping the bags in the chair by the fitting rooms, and examining the rest of the dress labels. "In fact none of these are!"

"What do you mean?" Dannie asked. I held up one of the price tags. Dannie quickly examined it and frowned.

"Yeah it is," she said. "You can't be any bigger than me."

I rolled my eyes.

"Yes dear, but while you are content to suffocate yourself in a size ten I actually like to be able to breathe!" I replied. "Fourteen please."

Dannie's jaw dropped.

"Cat you can't be serious!"

"Yes I bloody well can!" I said, throwing the dresses at her and heading for the fitting rooms. "I'll be in there when you return with the fourteens."

"Cat you're seventeen years old! Have some pride in your shape!" Dannie wailed from underneath the pile of clothes I had just unloaded into her arms.

"Fourteen!" I retorted. I hated my body. In my opinion, my chest was nothing special, and my ass was like a land formation. But then again, every teenager has insecurities, I was entitled to mine.

"You are wearing a ten!" Dannie said firmly. "You have a gorgeous figure and I don't know why you hide it under those clothes! Flaunt it!"

"Why?" I asked. "It's not like I'm looking to get some, unlike the rest of the school's population."

Dannie muttered something that sounded a lot like "not if I have anything to do with it." I pretended I hadn't heard her.

"Fourteen," I repeated, for what felt like the millionth time.

"Ten!" Dannie argued.

"Fourteen!" I said again, gritting my teeth together to stop me from flying off the handle at her.

"I can do this all day Cat!" Dannie said stubbornly.

"So can I!" I said. "Fourteen!"

"Fine, twelve!" Dannie relented slightly. Upon seeing me open my mouth she added, "Just try it! For me!"

I gave a groan.

"Fine!" I snapped pulling the fitting room curtains shut. A horrible thought occurred to me and I ripped the curtains back to catch Dannie before she left.

"And don't you dare bring back shoes too!" I said, seeing her eyes wander towards the shoe display.

"You're no fun!" she called over her shoulder.

It took her five minutes to find the dresses, replace the small ones and pick out the bigger sizes. Apparently she had also been distracted by the jewellery collection.

"But we can go to Accessorize later for jewellery," she said, as she handed me all the dresses. "Or actually, Claire's have cut all their prices…"

"Dannie!" I interrupted, looking through the dresses. "I am not going to Claire's Accessories after this!"

"Yeah you're right," Dannie said. "We won't have time. We can do that another day…"

I sighed and began removing the dresses that I considered to be too girly or too slutty. By the time I was finished, Dannie was still rattling off the shops she still had to visit, and I had halved the pile of dresses.

"So we've done Selfridges, Next, New Look and Monsoon," she rambled. "So that leaves Warehouse and Top Shop for my cousins. And I want to go to Clinton's and get some more Christmas cards. And then we can go to HMV for my brother… why aren't you trying on this one?"

I paused in the action of pulling the curtain shut to look at the dress she was holding up. I cringed at the sight of it. It was bahama blue, full length and would have looked flattering on anyone who wanted to show ample amounts of cleavage. Sadly, that was not me.

"It's not really me," I shook my head, drawing the curtain shut before Dannie could say anything else.

The twelve's were…flattering was the only word I could use to describe them. They weren't hideously tight, but I still felt uncomfortable, and restricted by them. I tried on the first two and hated them. By the time I was looking at the third one, Dannie started demanding that I come out so that she could see.

"No," she shook her head at the dress. "The neck isn't you."

"I don't think it's that bad," I said, looking down at the dress. It was black and fell just below my knees. It had a V neck, which didn't go too low and barely displayed ay cleavage at all.

"Nope," Dannie shook her head again. "Next one!"

The fourth dress was rejected by Dannie as being too childish for me and I wasn't crazy about the colour either (I decided that dark blue didn't go with my red streaked hair). The fifth dress, I actually liked. It was red, spaghetti strapped and ended just above the knee. The neckline dipped a little bit, but not enough to make me hate it, and just enough to make Dannie love it.

"That is gorgeous!" Dannie said. "Come on, you can't possibly hate that!"

"Never said I did," I said, looking at myself in the mirror, and concluding that maybe I did have some kind of figure after all.

"See! You look good!" Dannie grinned at me.

"Okay, you were right, I was wrong," I said. Now there is a sentence I hoped never to utter again. "Are you happy?"

"Very much so!" Dannie beamed before pointing me back into the changing room. "Right, next one!"

"What?" I asked in confusion. "Why try on the rest? We've found something that's okay!"

"But what if there is something better?" Dannie asked me. I thumped my head against the changing room mirror. As I did so I caught sight of a reflection watching the pair of us and I screamed aloud.

"What? What!" Dannie asked, thinking something horrible had happened to me. I spun around to face the apparition behind us. Dannie beamed evilly.

"Hey Karl!" she grinned. I was glaring daggers…no, make that flaming bloody swords, at the boy in question. Karl gave Dannie a grin before directing his gaze back to me. I cringed as I realised that I was still wearing the dress, and I did not like the way his eyes were roving like badly held torches.

I said the first thing that entered my head.

"What the fuck are you doing here Norton! This is a girls shop!" a smug smile worked its way onto my lips. "Or do you have a secret fetish for mini skirts and heels?"

Dannie snorted before plastering an evil smile on her face. She turned to Karl, who was still checking me out. And Dannie, damn her, she could see he was too.

"Whaddya think?" she asked happily, gesturing to me. My jaw dropped and I made a squeaky noise which was supposed to be a protest. I could not believe that Dannie was doing this to me! She was asking the boy who had become the bane of my existence to comment on how good I looked. Had she completely lost it!

Karl took in the dress and the way it actually showed off my figure. I felt distinctly uncomfortable standing there barefoot and in a flattering dress. I didn't like the way his eyes were practically bugging out, nor the way they rested for longer than necessary on my legs, ass or breasts. I felt my rage rise.

"Norton continue to stare at me and I will gouge your eyes out with my paintbrushes!" I snapped. Karl blinked and ceased staring.

"God Cat, I was actually going to compliment you," he rolled his eyes. I snorted in disbelief.

"Oh yeah? And there is a Santa Clause is there?"

I turned on my heel and back into the changing rooms, pulling the curtain closed ferociously, making damn well sure that it was closed all the way

"Cat!" Dannie called to me. "I'm going to look at shoes! Karl, be a dear and come with me will you?"

"Fine," replied a dejected voice, and I could hear footsteps trek away from the fitting rooms and I sighed and began to wriggle out of the dress. It seemed I wasn't the only one who hated looking at shoes.

I threw the rest of the dresses carelessly into a pile with the red one on top, before pulling my own clothes on. It felt good to be able to breathe normally again.

OOO

Dannie's POV

I led Karl to the shelves of shoes, which was a considerable distance away from the fitting rooms. We could talk here without the possibility of Cat overhearing us. I was finally going to get the answer that me and all my friends wanted.

"Karl," I said, giving him a frank look which told him that he couldn't lie to me and get away with it. "I'm gonna cut the crap and just ask straight out."

He raised an eyebrow at my warning and I took a deep breath.

"Is Cat the one you've been obsessing over?"

To say Karl's jaw dropped would be a huge understatement. More like, dropped, went through the floor and came out the other side of the planet somewhere in the Australian outback.

"What…?" he seemed to be struggling for words. "Where…how did you…?"

"Well…" I trailed off. "She's the one you bitch about twenty four seven, she'd never date you in a million years. You just love to irritate her. You always notice when she's around… It wasn't a huge leap for us."

"Us!" Karl yelped in a voice tinged with alarm. "Who else knows!"

"So you admit it?" I asked, grinning. Karl wasn't going to be swayed however.

"Dannie, who else knows?" I demanded. I took a deep breath. I was going to enjoy this!

"Well Scott realised it first, so he told us all Monday lunchtime. Natalie doesn't believe that you could possibly have feelings for anyone. Channie is gutted that you're off the market. Jodie is rooting for you two to get together and Scott…well he didn't tell us what he thought, but I'll bet you he's told James…either that or he figured out himself. You know James, he's pretty perceptive…"

"They all think that I like Cat!" he demanded. I smiled sweetly and nodded. Karl looked weak and sat down on one of the stools used to for trying shoes on.

"Fuck…" he muttered. "Scott's supposed to be my mate…how could he do this to me?"

"Actually I think it's pretty intelligent for a guy to notice first," I said. "Normally you lot are so dense!"

"Hey I worked out that I liked Cat all by myself!" Karl said. "I am in no ways dense!"

"HA!" I shouted triumphantly, brandishing a finger at him. "So you finally admit it! It is her you like! I knew it!"

Karl groaned and hid his face in his hands, whist I danced a jig around the aisle singing a very bad version of Miss Congeniality.

"You want to kiss her! You want to hug her! You want to touch her! You want to…"

"Right that's enough!" Karl said, fisting through one of my shopping bags and pulling out a bar of Thorntons chocolate (I would never tell my Mum that I had been buying from Thorntons and not from her, but damn it I was in love with all things chocolaty and hazelnut covered!) and shoved it quickly into my mouth to stifle the noise. I began gagging and quickly started munching on the chocolate before I could choke to death.

"I'll never get you Dannie," Karl said. "I don't see how this is in anyways good. Its weird," he shook his head. "Half the time I wasn't to strangle her, and the other half I want to kiss her."

"Ah the perfect relationship!" I sighed, having cleared my airways enough to articulate a sentence. "Don't worry about it. Cat can't hate men forever! Soon as she gets over her hatred of all things with a penis, you'll have no problem. There's not a woman on earth who wouldn't find you hot."

"Except her!" Karl said fiercely, before looking over my shoulder and blanching. "Heads up, here she comes."

"Ah how sweet!" I cooed. "You notice her every move!"

I turned to the object of my friend's obsession.

"We've got thirty five minutes left Cat," I said. "Wanna take a quick look in Accessorize? Then we can head to HMV!"

"I…am going…to kill you!" Cat told me menacingly, from behind the pile of shopping. Perched on the top was the red dress that we had both agreed on.

"You love me really Cat," I said happily. Cat grunted and looked quickly over at Karl.

"What the fuck is he still doing here?"

I groaned internally. With that attitude, it was going to be hard for me to get Cat to like Karl. For now I had confirmation that Cat was indeed the girl for Karl, nothing was going to stop me getting those two together!

"Karl is going to chaperone!" Dannie said happily. Cat muttered some very harsh profanity and Karl looked in horror at the amount of bags that were cluttering up Cat's arms. I grinned evilly at them. I knew I was torturing the pair of them, but I was determined to have my way.

"Come on! Mush!" I ordered, clapping my hands and dragging Cat to the counter. She unceremoniously dumped the dresses onto the rail of clothes by the dressing room. The assistant looked at her irritably before ringing up the dress.

"Seventy nine pounds ninety nine pence."

"Fuck," Cat muttered, rummaging through her purse and producing her Switch. "There goes next months pay. And the coat I wanted to buy. Guess I'll have to freeze for the rest of the winter. Dannie the mad axe murderer that will visit your house tonight was paid by me."

"You love me," I said again. "Come on, the dress is worth the money. Am I right?"

I could tell from Cat's expression that she wasn't a hundred percent convinced, but it didn't matter. I had achieved what I wanted. Cat was going to knock Karl's socks off!

Dannie, matchmaker extraordinaire was working her magic!


A/N: Hope you're all happy with the long chapter.

In regards to Jodie and the predicament her mother is in I don't know a whole lot about how divorce proceedings work, but this seemed fairly logical to me. But if any of my facts about how the system works are hideously wrong, tell me and I'll try and change them.

The next chapter will be up in two weeks time. And hopefully will be easier to write.

May Stardust fall in your dreams!