I didn't even realize it back then…

"Ethan, you're giving me a ride home today, right?" I asked, throwing my empty soda bottle at him as I passed by.

Simultaneously, he and his friends looked up at me in surprise. For some inexplicable reason, they are always surprised by our affectionate greetings. Well, I guess it may have something to do with the fact that it was oftentimes far from affectionate.

In fact, most of the time, we were a complete pain in each other's ass, but seriously, why is it so surprising? Maybe if they tried chucking objects at him, they'd understand why I love it so much.

"Jeez Mad, since you asked so nicely," he muttered, expertly dodging my soda bottle, "Don't I always do it, anyway?"

I highly doubt that Ethan even noticed his friends' incredulous responses to my exchange with him. He could be like that as times; totally oblivious. Either that, or he just really and truly did not care, which I honestly find hard to believe.

"Yes," I chirped, cheerfully, though inside I wanted to smack him for avoiding the bottle I had launched at him.

"God, you're halfway through your junior year and you still don't have your driver's license," he muttered, darkly.

"I heard that! You know my birthday is late in the year! And besides, why get my license when I have you to drive me around?" I replied, flashing him a bright smile, "Oh, and don't call me 'Mad'. It's a horrible nickname for Madeline!"

"I've been calling you Mad for over a year," he snorted.

"And I've been telling you to stop for over a year!" I shot back indignantly.

"You should just get used to it already. And besides," he continued, completely ignoring my response, "Mad Madeline sounds pretty accurate to me, don't you agree?"

Narrowing my eyes at him, I smacked him on the arm, "You are an idiot. Do you know that?"

In reply, he just shot me an annoyed look that clearly instructed me to vanish from his line of sight. Of course, I happily obliged, but only after I successfully stole his water bottle to drink for myself.

We were an odd pair, I guess. After all, the school did consider me to be a bit of a loner, especially since I preferred to spend my free time in the school's photo lab in the company of a select few. Sure, I had many friends from my old school, but definitely not here. I just didn't fit in here. Unlike my first week of school, I no longer cared what they all thought of me.

Meanwhile, Ethan was considered popular. He was one of those people who had grown up with everyone else in school. They all thought he was hilarious and handsome, but at the same time, he was awfully smart. Everyone just loved him.

A friend, but not really, is how I would describe him. It was a complete contradiction, I know, but it was really hard to explain us. Sometimes, you'd never even be able to guess that we knew each other, and other times we acted like old friends. Getting on each other's nerves was a fun game to us, an easy way to pass the time whenever we were together.

Ethan drove me home pretty much every day and in exchange, I'd feed him, plain and simple. My parents may not have ever been home, but at least they had taught me how to cook as a kid. And I could tell that Ethan thought along the same lines.

No matter how much he complained about having to drive me home, I know he loved free food, especially home made. I guess the company didn't really hurt, either. It was fun to just relax around each other.

"Madeline?" Ethan called out, finally spotting me under the stairs, "What the hell? I've been looking everywhere for you. Why didn't you answer your phone?"

From his tone of voice, I could tell that he was a little worried and overwhelmingly annoyed. Waiting patiently for me at his car was definitely not one of his favorite pastimes, as he constantly enjoyed reminding me.

"Go away," I tried my best to yell. I felt bad for being mean to him; after all, he didn't do anything to me. Problem was, if I said more, he would notice that I was crying, and if I didn't say anything at all, he'd come closer and see me crying. We couldn't very well have that now, could we? I didn't very much enjoy playing the damsel in distress, not in the slightest.

"Go away?" he repeated, now sounding twice as irritated, "What's your problem?"

Stupid idiot just didn't know how to take a hint, "Right now, you are!"

Ethan took a step closer to me and I knew I was doomed. Only a complete idiot would fail to realize that something was wrong with me, and while I often accused him of it, with his 4.3 GPA, he was hardly an idiot.

I could almost sense his anger melting away before he reached out to touch my shoulder, "Are you crying, Madeline?"

"No Ethan, I'm not," I cried, looking up at him with my tear stained face. For such a smart guy, he could be such an idiot. And yes, I totally realize the contradiction.

Looking rather awkward, he placed an arm over my shoulders and made a pitiful attempt to cheer me up. It actually succeeded, mainly because it was just so very pitiful, until he opened his mouth to press me.

"I don't want to talk about it Ethan," I sighed, feeling that melodramatic burst once again.

"Are you sure?" he questioned, sounding uncertain about whether or not he should continue to push me on the topic.

"Yes, I am!" I snapped, wiping desperately at my tears.

"Ok," he replied, awkwardly, "How about I just take you home, then? Is that ok with you?"

These words, combined with the fact that he was backing off, seemed to have a calming affect on me. "Alright," I sniffled, allowing him to help me to my feet.

The drive home was long and awkward, filled only with the sounds of classic rock on the radio. He stopped the car in front of my house but neither of us made a move to get out. I could feel him turn to look at me, but I didn't know what to say.

There was literally 15 minutes of nothing but soft music before he spoke, "What's up?"

"You're so nosy," I muttered under my breath.

He gave no indication of hearing me and just stared at me.

"I can't," I sighed.

"Come on, Mad," he insisted, with an exasperated sigh, "Just tell me." He knew I would tell him eventually, I often did, though I'm not completely sure of why.

"My best friend just died," I finally blurted out, suddenly beginning to bawl like I had when I first found out.

"You mean that guy, Scott?" Ethan asked gently placing his hand on my shoulder, "The one from your old school?"

Managing a slow nod, the tears kept on rushing out of my eyes, "He was in a car accident. They told me that he even didn't stand a chance. Scott was my best friend since fifth grade. I thought he'd be around for forever."

"Madeline," he breathed, looking at me with sympathetic eyes, "I'm sorry."

"How could he just leave me?" I sobbed, as Ethan took me into his arms, "I love him! I need him to be there for me! Why couldn't he just hold on? What kind of a best friend is he?"

"Don't say that," he sighed sadly, "I'm sure he loves you too. I'm sure he didn't want to leave you either, and that he held on for as long as he possibly could."

"This isn't fair, Ethan."

"Life rarely is," he murmured softly.

For what felt like hours, I just cried as he held me. I could hear him whispering words of comfort into my ear, words that I truly did need to hear, as I remembered all the good times I had had with my best friend.

"It's ok, Mad," he exhaled, gently patting my hair, "You still have me, ok? You will always have me."

Like before, his words had a strange soothing affect on me. The tears slowed down and after a long pause, I looked up at the strange boy who had comforted me, "Ethan, will you come with me to his funeral? Please come; it's a long drive and I don't know if I can go alone."

There was a flash of surprise in his eyes that, I admit, I felt as well. Ethan had never met Scott and hardly knew a thing about him. In fact, they were such very different people that I doubted would've become friends without additional help. So why on earth was I asking him to attend Scott's funeral with me?

Before this moment, it hadn't occurred to me how important Ethan had become to me. Perhaps he was much more of a friend to me than I had ever realized.

"If you need me, then of course I'll go with you," he finally replied with a reassuring smile, "And you're never alone, Madeline. Don't forget that."

Sniffling, I returned his smile and offered him my thanks. Everything he was saying and doing meant the world to me. I may have lost Scott, but at least I still had Ethan to help me along. That comforting thought would be the one thing to help get through this tragedy.


Author's Note: Ok, so the way I originally planned this, it's going to keep jumping in time and you pretty much only meet Ethan and Madeline. If I make this into a longer story, this will definitely change, but I'm still not sure if that's what I want to do. Anyways, sorry for any mistakes of any kind. I didn't really spend much time in editing. I hope you like it. The next chapter will be up soon and if you're reading Running Away, I'm almost done with chapter 20, so it should be up within a week. Bye!

ps. I just wanted to thank . .CHOCOLATE for being my first reviewer for this story. I'm thrilled that you enjoyed the story and liked the characters. You're absolutely wonderful and I adore you. Today's update is just for you! Hope you enjoy it!