Chapter oneeee

Ding-dong! Ding-dong! Ding-dong! Ding—

"Stop ringing the bell!" Jessica snapped when she opened the door. Colorful hair-curlers hung messily and sloppily from her sandy blonde tresses.

"Hi, Jessica," Ashley smiled genuinely. "Date tonight?"

Her sharp scowl softened, and her pretty, delicate features shone through. She sighed dramatically. "Girl, you have no idea. I'm stressing like crazy! I don't know what to wear, and my hair is a mess!"

Ashley stepped into the house and patted her shoulder sympathetically. "I'm sure your date will be fine," she assured her. "Besides, I think you look pretty hot with those rollers in your hair."

She smacked Ashley's arm playfully. "Oh, shut up."

She forced a smile on her face and rubbed the sore area where she hit her.

"Clint's upstairs, as always," Jessica rolled her eyes.

Ashley thanked her before trudging her way up the stairs to a familiar hallway. She stopped at the last door and pressed her ear gingerly against it. Soft as can be, she heard the gentle strumming of an acoustic guitar. Smiling softly to herself, she eased the door lightly and tip-toed into wide-spaced room.

A tall lanky boy sat against the headboard of his full-sized bed. His fingers plucked simple chords mindlessly. His eyes were closed, his bulky black glasses perched on his tall nose, and his thin lips mumbled a chorus of words that were too soft for 14-year-old Ashley to hear. Biting back the sudden urge to ruffle his white blonde hair, she sat down on the floor beside his bed and watched him quietly.

Clint had spoken to her about a new song he was writing. He didn't fail to emphasize the stress he had to undergo while writing it either. Ashley couldn't help but wonder what the song was about. Could it be that he was writing the song for someone?

Smiling, she gathered her legs and rested her chin atop her knees.

Clint Rogers was never the social butterfly. He was introverted but not to the point where he lived as a recluse. His reserved nature usually gave off the aura as an arrogant tool who thought himself above everyone else. And because of that, bullies often find themselves involved with Clint. This is where Ashley Reynolds comes in.

Whereas Clint didn't excel in the social department, Ashley did. With her near super model looks and outgoing personality, making friends was naturally trouble-free and effortless. Not only was she beautiful, she was also kind. Her kindness went the whole nine yards and then some. In fact, her heroic act against Clint's tormentors was the start of a beautiful friendship.

As expected, Ashley genuinely and deeply cares for her friend Clint. Poor boy's been pestered and taunted at least twice a week from fellow heartless peers. And while he doesn't possess a single ounce of guts to save finger, he feels uncomfortable with Ashley coming to his aid, well, all the time.

"Shut up," she had told him when he confronted her about it. "We're friends. It's what friends do."

"But you're making me look like a damsel in distress," Clint whined. "Real men don't need help from others."

"Real men are the ones who actually can defend themselves," Ashley pointed out, looking at Clint with a critical eye. "And, real men admit for help when they need it."

Clint looked away from the intensity of her pale green gaze.

"Besides, I don't really care if your male ego is damaged or not. I want to help you, okay? I feel weird just standing around anyway."

And that was the other thing too. Ashley Rogers was stubborn.

Clint often faced many circumstances where her pride stood in the way. Like the time when she punched his cousin Greg who teased him relentlessly. Her mother made her apologize but of course, Ashley talked back while bad-mouthing Greg at the same time. Clint had thought that she overreacted that day, but he wasn't going to let her know that.

Without warning, Ashley sneezed.

The sudden noise startled the young boy, causing him to drop his guitar to the floor. His eyes flashed open, and magnificent blue orbs greeted the golden-haired girl seated on the floor.

"Ash!" he breathed. "What are you doing here?"

"Oh, you know," she said naturally as he bent down to retrieve his guitar. "Just dropping by to visit some guy is all."

"Well, don't scare me like that again," he said, still breathless. "And who said you could just 'drop' in my room like that? You just invaded a very private and intimate moment of me and my guitar."

"Uh, you did, smarty-pants," Ashley replied, rolling her eyes. "And your mom too. I remember her exact words were, 'Oh, Ashley darling, just drop by whenever you feel like it! You're family now sweet-ums!'" Ashley stood up and laid herself on his bed, limbs sprawled and all. "And you agreed to it. Quite enthusiastically, I might add."

Clint mumbled something incoherent, but she was able to pull out "manipulative old hag". He may've been a quiet and gentle spirit, but he was anything but when it came to his family. Ashley found this highly amusing.

"So, I didn't see Justin around," she said, changing the subject. "Where is he?"

"I don't know," he answered honestly. "He thinks he so cool now that he's upperclassman. So disappearing regularly is just a normal thing for him now. Same with Jessica. Except she lets us know who she's going to make out for the night."

Ashley chuckled, shaking her head. She loved his older twin siblings. They were alike and different all at the same time.

"Ah, Jessica. She has a date tonight," she informed him, wagging her eyebrows. Clint laughed softly at that.

"Yeah. Some jock named Brock, apparently."

"Rhyme! Write a song about that."

"No way! I'm not going to write a song about a jock named Brock. People will get the wrong idea."

"So? How could you pass an awesome rhyme like that?" she joked. "And people get the wrong idea about you anyways."

Clint choked. "What do you mean about that?"

Ashley smirked and sat up, giving him her full, undivided attention. "We have this totally eligible bachelor sitting right here," she said gesturing towards him. A hot cherry color saturated his cheeks. "And yet, he's single and has a somewhat pretty girl as his best friend—this relationship is totally platonic by the way. Not once have they hooked up. What are people suppose to think?"

"That I'm a nice guy?" Clint offered. "That I don't take advantage of this somewhat pretty girl? And what are you talking about 'somewhat pretty'? You're beautiful," he added shyly.

It was her turn to blush now, although not as dramatic as her friend. She's been told this compliment countless times from girls and boys alike. Her short gold hair framed her heart-shaped face nicely. Her large washed-out green eyes made it unnecessary for her to wear any eye make-up. And her lean, tall, model-like body made eyes turn her way.

"Oh shut up," she said. "Let's get out of here. I'm hungry."

In the kitchen, the freshmen duo decided to make tacos using leftover meat in the refrigerator. As they pulled out the necessary ingredients for their early dinner-slash-snack, and idea planted itself in Ashley's head.

Grinning at her friend, she said, "Why don't we make a competition out of this?"

Clint sighed. "Ash, you know I'm no good at eating contests," he said gesturing to himself. Clint was too skinny for his own good. He was also quite tall, bordering on six feet, so the height made him seem even skinnier than he really was. "I threw up the last time my mom forced me have seconds on Thanksgiving."

"Well, that's because it's not Thanksgiving unless you have at least seconds. Come on, everyone knows that," she retorted.

"Well, that's a stupid rule," he muttered while arranging the taco shells on a baking sheet.

"Well, putting that issue aside, here's what we do. Whoever can shove the most stuff into the taco shell without it falling apart wins. And whoever loses has to eat the winner's taco."

Clint narrowed his eyes. "What's the catch?"

An evil glint flashed in Ashley's eyes. "The options for fillings aren't limited. Anything goes."

Clint pointed a slender, pale finger at her. "You're on, Reynolds. Don't think I won't go easy just because you're a girl and I'm a self-admitted sissy."

"We'll see, kid, we'll see."

Surprisingly, Clint ended up winning. He may've have been an outcast as school, but he knew how to use his brain. Something that Ashley sometimes forgets to do.

"This. Is. Unbelievable," she ground out as she stared at her plate of shattered taco shell crumbs, peanut butter, potato chips and other condiments.

Clint's fair-skinned face twitched humorlessly, as if he was struggling not to laugh in the face of the befallen. And in this case, his best friend.

She shook her head fervently, almost desperately. "I'm not eating that," she said with finality.

"A deal's a deal," Clint manage to voice out without boasting of his newfound victory. "Girl or boy, you gotta keep your word."

"Don't start lecturing me about loyalty now, kid," she warned with a strange glint in her eye.

"It's not necessarily about loyalty, if you think about it. More like…" He paused to think of the right word. "…honesty."

Ashley scoffed.

"Besides, you've always threatened me with petty threats if I didn't follow through with my promises or your demands. Should I do the same with you?"

She raised an eyebrow. "Threats?"

He rolled his eyes. "Yeah. Threats. Like the time when you said you were going to tell Emmaline Baker that I had a crush on her if I didn't let you copy my algebra homework. Or that other time when you said you were going to tear up my lyric journals if I didn't share my locker with you." He stopped to push his glasses back up nose. "You're my best friend and all, but sharing lockers with you made me feel like my masculinity level decreased or something."

"Fine, fine, so you don't like me putting that poster of Chris Kamrada for the entire world to see," she dismissed.

"Not only that!" he protested. "You had all of these love notes from random guys that kept popping up in my English lit and history book! Now people really think I'm gay!"

She sighed dramatically. "Okay, okay, fine. I'll eat your damn taco."

Clint grinned happily as he dropped his plate eagerly in front of her. "Eat up, Ashley Reynolds! You'll need the fat and carbs in your trunk! Or lack of."

"Shut up. And don't talk like that again," she muttered.

The challenge that she so arrogantly created was quick on making it to her list of "Most Regretted Regrets". When she laid out that rule that anything could be used as the filling for the taco, she assumed that her best friend would just stick to a couple of ingredients. She didn't think that he would actually scour his entire kitchen in search for other eligible components. And damn, did he find some things to put in his taco. And damn, did he make it all fit.

It was as if he had it all planned out. Instead of stuffing food randomly, he mixed everything together in a bowl into one gooey mess of Nutella spread, almonds, mustard, ketchup; leftover rotisserie chicken, canned refried beans…the list went on. It was unrelenting and merciless. Ashley was near breaking down into panicked tears.

She wanted to cry as she held the nauseating and vile "taco" to her face. Scrunching her eyes shut, she opened her mouth and prepared to have her taste buds overwhelmed.

"Stop!" Clint cried. He couldn't stand looking at her while she clearly suffered. The thought just didn't sit well in his stomach. "Why don't we call a truce and go out for some actual tacos?"

Ashley tossed the taco in the nearby trash bin without thinking. Although her face was slightly pale with queasiness, she smiled gratefully at her friend.

He smirked slightly back. "Taco Bell okay?"

"I love you, right now. Like seriously. I think you just saved my life," Ashley exhaled in relief.

Clint pressed his lips together as a flurry of emotions erupted in his stomach.

"I love you too."


"So, uh, I kind of wrote a song for you."

Ashley smiled, surprise flashing on her face before quickly disappearing. "Yeah? About time," she joked.

Clint coughed awkwardly. "Well yeah, I just, uh…I didn't…yeah."

She switched the television off and turned her full attention to her bashful companion. "Let's hear it then," she said encouragingly.

He pursed his lips together nervously. "Promise you won't laugh."

"Promise," she replied immediately. "But if you sing anything like my brother, the promise is broken."

The nervous tension seemed to have eased a bit. Clint smiled back. He picked up his guitar and got situated into the familiar position. His calloused, slender fingers found their way to the appropriate place on his beloved instrument. He paused for a couple of second before he started strumming the strings delicately. His smooth, soothing voice resonated across his room.

Hello there pretty lady, nice to meet you
Good day pretty lady, how are you?

Ashley giggled at his words, and Clint smiled at her reaction.

Don't hide pretty lady, don't run away
Stay and let's be friends, pretty lady, pretty lady

Clint stopped playing his guitar. "That's it."

The pretty blonde girl laughed. "What? No it's not. All the songs you write me were always at least a minute long."

"Conceited," he spat playfully at her.

She laughed again. "It's true. Unless you have another song…" She cocked an eyebrow at him.

Clint sighed dramatically. "Fine. How did I ever let a girl know me so well?" he cried out sardonically, grinning.

Giggling, she replied, "Because you love me, you idiot."

His beam slackened into a weak and sad smile. "Yeah, I do."

"So? Are you gonna play it for me?" Ashley asked blinking her eyes adorably, oblivious to Clint's mood change.

He stared at her pleading face, studying all of her perfections and imperfections. He spotted some freckles dusted on her nose. He recognized the faint blue sheen on her spacious green eyes. He noticed her dark, lengthy lashes encircling her large orbs. He observed how her golden blonde hair appeared brown when she was indoors. He became aware of the fact that she was pouting, her plump lower lip protruding enticingly. Clint looked away hastily.

"Nah. Maybe later," he responded to her question, putting her guitar away. Or never, he thought to himself.

Her pout deepened, and her eyes saddened. "Why not?"

"Because it's not finished," he answered easily. Which was part-true.

"It never stopped you from playing your song before," she pointed out.

Rats, he thought. She knows me too well.

"Well, too bad," he retorted weakly. "I'm not playing it for you until it's finished."

Ashley opened her mouth as if she wanted to continue protesting but when she glanced at the digital clock sitting on his desk, she panicked. "Shit, I got to go. My mom is going to ground me if I'm late for dinner again. I'll see you later!"

When she left, Clint exhaled a relieved sigh. He wasn't in the mood to put up with her stubborn attitude. Not too long after he left, his older sister knocked to alert him of her presence.

"Hey, little brother. Dinner's ready," she informed in her usual happy tone.

"Okay," he replied.

"So," she continued while leaning casually against the door, "have you told her yet?"

"Told her what?" Clint asked, confused.

Jessica sighed dramatically. "I guess not."

"What was I supposed to tell her?"

"The obvious," she said rolling her eyes. "We're moving in a week."

Clint's heart sank.

"Damn it," he breathed out a rare curse. He only cursed when he was truly stressed. "I forgot again."

"You know, you're only making it harder for her. She's gonna, like, hate you for it," Jessica warned.

"I know," he said solemnly, pulling off his glasses to rub his eyes tiredly. "She's going hate me when I tell her the other thing too."

"What other thing?"

"You know. That other thing."

Her pretty oval face scrunched unattractively as she tried to recall what said thing was.

"Oh. Oh. That thing. I got you, I got you."

"Yes, that thing." Clint took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes tiredly. "When did my life become a soap opera?"

"Not yet it isn't," Jessica corrected. "It's not a soap opera until tears, adultery, and death are involved."

"Well…it feels close to it."


"So Ashley…" mumbled Alec, Ashley's older brother, through a mouthful of food. So really, it came out as, "Sho Ahuhwee."

"What," she answered gruffly.

He finished chewing and swallowed. "What's going on with you and Rogers?"

She furrowed her eyebrows in confusion.

"Getting it on with the nerd, I see."

Ashley dropped her fork. "What the hell are you talking about?"

"You've been spending a lot time with him," he said slyly, wagging his eyebrows knowingly. She rolled her eyes.

"Not getting any, Alec? Is this where it's going? Are you jealous?"

"Ah," he said satisfied. "So, there is something going on."

Ashley flicked a forkful of mashed potatoes at her brother. It landed on his nose with a splat.

"Nothing is going on, you perverted bastard. We're friends. Like Batman and Robin, Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, and Ash and Pikachu. Do you see where we're going with this?"

He rubbed at his chin in a pondering manner and stared at her thoughtfully. "Do you see where this going?"

"Did mom sneak something in your potatoes?" she asked blankly.

He paused. "Now that you've mentioned it, it does taste kind of funny…"

"Why are you asking these girlish questions?"

He shrugged while pushing his mashed potatoes to the side of his plate with his peas with a look of suspicion on his face. "Curious."

"Curiosity killed the cat. It's also going to kill you if you keep being nosy."

"Curiosity also helped mankind discover some of the greatest wonders of the world. Like…" He paused to think. "…vaginas."

"You're repulsive."

"That's right. Retreat to your little corner, you little wench because I'm right."

"I have nothing else to say to you. You're disgraceful."

"And for your information, I get plenty; three times a week to be exact, though sometimes four if I'm feeling friskier than usual."

"From your hand? I'm sure."

"…shut up."


Ashley was in her room playing on her laptop when he came in.

"Hey," Clint greeted.

"Yo," she replied, not taking her eyes off of the monitor screen. "What's up?"

"I need to talk to you."

She heard the distress laced in his tone and looked up. In his hands was a plastic container, and he was avoiding her gaze.

"I brought cookies," he added sheepishly.

Ashley sat up. "What's going on?"

Clint placed the cookies on the bedside table and joined her on the floor. He scratched his head nervously. "Um, well…" Suddenly, a rosy red crept its way onto his cheeks and ears. "Oh, geez, I don't know how to start this."

She stared at him knowingly, nodding slowly. "I know what this is about."

His eyes widened, and his faced visibly paled.

"It's about a girl, isn't it?"

Clint stiffened.

"Ah-ha! So it is! I'm so good." Ashley exclaimed. "Who's the lucky chump?"

When he didn't answer, Ashley continued. "Okay, don't answer that. Does she know? I mean, does she know about how you feel about her?"

He rubbed the back of his neck nervously.

"I take that as a no," she decided. "Are you going to?"

"Yeah…" he started slowly. "But I don't know how."

"Easy," Ashley shrugged. "Just go for it, and tell her. What's the worst that could happen? Rejection?"

"You're going to hate me," he muttered sadly to himself.

"What's that?"

"Nothing," he replied. "So you think I should just go for it?"

"Yup. It's better that you let her know now than never, you know? You don't want to spend the rest of your life doing the 'What If' routine, do you?"

"I guess not," he said quietly. "Can you promise me one thing though?"

"Of course" was her immediate reply.

"Promise me…no hard feelings? That once I tell her, no matter what, we'll still be friends?"

"I promise," she replied slowly. Her eyebrows crinkled in confusion.

Clint then closed his eyes and took a deep, needed breath. When he opened his eyelids, blazing, beautiful blue orbs fixed upon the confused girl.

"I love you."