This story will span about four years (from the summer before their freshmen year to the summer before they go off to college). This time, I wanted to write about a slowly growing love, not one that just sprouts overnight.

The Drake File

Chapter One

Her 14th summer: currently her least favorite part of her life, and definitely the most eventful.

It wasn't because V.Y.S., the club she had established with a few of her semi-closest friends, was actually starting to become popular, nor was it because her sister had earned her bachelor's degree, forcing the entire Richards household to fly out to New York to attend the graduation ceremony. No; it was actually what happened a month after all that, when her sister came home one day, flushed and ecstatic, and dragged her to the closest beauty salon to get a makeover she didn't want and insisted she didn't need.

Let's fast forward a bit, shall we?

Imagine: a red-headed, impulsive girl standing in the room of a complete stranger. Picture: Said stranger, a bad-tempered, antisocial boy of about the same age as mentioned girl, both with a knack for trouble. See, she's determined to drag said antisocial boy out of the house and force him out of his antisocial ways and equip him with a proper social life by request of stranger's best friend. How? Well…by kissing him. Confused? So are we.

Now, to explain this situation, we must proper analyze the events leading up to this encounter; in other words, know that Maddie is a proper, sane human being who does not go around kissing random strangers. But also keep in mind that Maddie is not like most people, and therefore known for doing crazy things when she is desperate and angry.

Maddie grew up with Angie, and the two sisters were very, very close. And, being her sister's personal shrink, hairdresser, wardrobe consultant, cheerleader, maid, and, up until she was about twelve, source of half her panic attacks, she knew her sister pretty well. The one thing she was absolutely certain about her sister was this: when external forces (in this case, her latest boyfriend, Dylan Sullivan) are involved in a series of rather fortunate events (which shall be revealed…in a little bit), it leads to Angie dragging her unwilling sister into the one thing Maddie's certain she doesn't need (face masks, massages, a new haircut, etc.).

So Maddie was already on alert and forewarned by the time Angie pulled into their driveway and half-pulled, half-carried her younger sister into the house. By the time Angie had gathered their parents and Dylan around one table, Maddie had already guessed what the news was going to be. So it was only natural that when Angie held up her hand to reveal the sparkling diamond on her ring finger and exclaimed ecstatically, "We're engaged!" Maddie was the only one of the family without a surprised expression on her face, and the first one to give her consent.

"Oh, thank you Maddie!" Angie gushed, pulling the redhead into a tight bone-crushing hug. "You know, after I move out you can come over and visit us anytime. This whole thing is going to be a lot of fun, I promise you!"

Now Maddie was as impulsive as Angie was uptight. This meant that, knowing her sister perfectly well, she could bet a thousand dollars on the fact that, no, this was not going to be a lot of fun, since she could bet another two thousand dollars that Angie was going to drag her to every flower, cake, and dress shop in the valley and worry about every single imperfection and picture every worst case scenario possible before she was satisfied. So, no, although she was very, very happy for her sister, Maddie didn't exactly look forward to the months ahead.

Maddie had partially forgotten about being forced to get a makeover by the time she had reached the clubroom. It was to be expected, therefore, that she was surprised when she looked up from her book to see her best friend of ten years, Tori, gawking at her from her chair.

"Okay. What happened to your sister this time?" Tori asked, crossing her arms over her chest.

"Nothing much. She's engaged to Dylan, that's all." Maddie shrugged.

"That's all? That's all? Mad – er, I mean, Pres, getting engaged is not a 'that's all'." Tori laughed, amused. "When's the wedding?"

"Not too soon, I hope." Maddie winced, thinking again of the months ahead with a feeling of foreboding.

Tori regarded her thoughtfully for a moment, taking in the club president's appearance with observant blue eyes. "Maddie, you should be happier for your sister. I mean, come on, it's not every day that your sister gets married to your next-door neighbor. Remember two years ago, when Dylan still thought she was stalking him?" Tori asked, giggling.

Maddie thought back to that day, and all those hours stationed under that tree in her backyard while she waited for someone to walk out of the house, and she laughed at the memory. "Now that I think about it, I probably should've explained everything to him properly. It was my fault, after all."

"Yes you should have!" Tori exclaimed, playfully hitting her friend in the shoulder. "Especially since she paid for this makeover!" She gestured at her friend, taking in the curlier-than-usual red tresses, which were so long that they lightly brushed her hips, the soft and smooth milky white skin, and the eyeshadow that emphasized her forest green eyes. Today, there wasn't a single blemish visible on her skin.

She scowled. "I didn't ask for this. I don't even need it."

Tori plastered a sorrowful expression on her face. "I can't wait for the day when Pres starts to care about her appearance." She sniffed, and went on, "and I especially can't wait for the day that she starts thinking that a boyfriend isn't a waste of time like she keeps saying!"

Maddie laughed at Tori's theatrics, patting her shoulder sympathetically. "There, there. Dream on, Secretary, dream on."

The two girls were so engrossed in their conversation that they didn't notice the boy standing in the doorway, who had knocked three times on the door, only to be unheard. He cleared his throat loudly, and the girls swiveled their heads toward him, their expressions expectant.

"Can we help you?" Maddie asked, plastering a professional smile on her face. Craig felt himself feeling slightly intimidated, and he started to miss the easy-going atmosphere. But it was too late. By now, the president and secretary had respectively slid into a professional persona.

"Uhh, yes." He stammered. "This is VYS, right?"

"Yes it is." Tori flashed a slightly friendlier smile at him, and he relaxed. "You wanted to send in a request, right?"

VYS (Valley Youth Services) had been a club Maddie and several of her friends had established two years ago. Basically, its purpose was to fill out the requests people sent in for a task to be accomplished. At the beginning, the club had thirty members. However, now, fifteen people were members in name only, five only showed up occasionally, and only ten were active members.

"Right." He grinned, and then looked questioningly between the two of them. "Do I just tell you what I need done?"

"Of course." Tori pulled out a slip of paper and a pen and looked at him expectantly. "What do you need?"

"Well, there's this guy," Craig began, and, realizing that he sounded like a love struck girl telling her two best friends about her crush, he shook his head and began again. "I'm starting to get worried about my best friend. Every summer, he just shuts himself in his house and refuses to leave for parties, movies, nothing. He says it's because it's so hot, but he doesn't leave at night either. It's like he's a hermit."

"And you want us to…?" Maddie prodded him.

"I figured that maybe he wants to take a break from his friends or something. Get away from his school life. Maybe if it was a stranger, he'd come out." Craig paused. "Maybe he'd come out if it was a girl."

"Oooh! Let Maddie do it." Tori pushed her friend gently forward, giggling. "She always gets the job done, and besides," she spoke softly, secretly, "her social life's kinda…" she drew a finger across her neck, and Craig nodded in understanding. Maddie only scowled sulkily.

"I can hear you, Tori," she hissed.

"Okay!" Tori burst out cheerfully, acting as if she didn't hear her friend, "Then it's settled! Good luck, Maddie!"

"But – "

"So why don't you two go and discuss things, hmm?" Tori said, cutting her off. "Maddie hasn't failed a single request. She's amazing!"

Maddie merely looked lost, as if she didn't know how to take the praise she was giving her.

Drake heard the door open, and the sound of familiar footsteps entering his room. He groaned, throwing a hand over his eyes and rolling onto his side.

"What is it – oh, hi Craig." He lifted dull hazel eyes to meet his friend's.

Craig was grinning, he realized, and his suspicion doubled in size. It wasn't enough that he had visited his house every five hours to pester him about leaving the house, he also had to send about five hundred text messages inviting him to parties, double dates, barbeques, and the like, and spammed his inbox with questions of "so are you going?", "Drake…Heather keeps asking me about you", and "Just go, and I won't spam you anymore."

He stared at the brown-haired boy with a feeling of foreboding, and muttered, "Whatever it is, I'm not going."

Craig sighed. "Come on, Drake. I've known you for two years and you've never left the house during the summer unless it was important. Why won't you come out and hang out with us? Do you how many girls have ambushed me, saying that if Drake Dane wasn't going, then they'll leave?"

Drake smirked. "They'll get over it. The lacrosse team's always there."

"Yes. The lacrosse team's always there. Minus you. And me, and a bunch of other people occasionally, but the point is, you're never there!" Craig face palmed, and moved on. "Look, I know I've been bothering you. So that's why I'm willing to compromise."

Drake paled. This did not sound too good.

"I asked around, and I found a cute girl who was willing to hang out with you."

"This isn't about getting me to hang out with you anymore, is it? It's more along the lines of getting me out of the house. Period." Drake stated quietly.

Craig grinned sheepishly.

"Well. Too bad for the cute girl then," Drake said, rolling over so that he was facing the wall, not his friend.

Quick fact: While Drake was certainly very, very pigheaded, Craig prided himself on the fact that he was even more stubborn than Drake was.

Drake heard Craig sigh. "I guess it's come down to this."

For some reason (the tone of voice, the wording, the atmosphere), Drake started to feel uneasy. "What are you going to do?"

Craig shrugged. "Nothing, really. I just thought it'd be good to tell Dylan that his younger brother has become a hermit."

"Whoa!" Drake sat up abruptly, alarmed. "You don't have to go that far. Come on, he just got engaged. You don't want to bother him in the middle of his euphoria, do you?"

Despite having gone through a major transformation in both appearance and personality after moving to the San Joaquin Valley, Drake still retained an inkling of his old persona: fear of his brother. His parents had been fighting for as long as he could remember, and it was Dylan that had practically raised him during those times. He was both a loving father and a disciplinary one.

"I'm sure he'd like to know something like this," Craig answered in a clipped, business-like tone.

Drake narrowed his eyes. "Fine! Go right ahead." Crossing his arms across his chest and feeling like a child, he looked away indignantly.

Craig glanced at him, and then he covered the receiver slightly as he whispered into it. After a few minutes, he tossed his cell phone at Drake. Out of reflex, he caught it.

Panicking, he glanced at Craig, who was frantically gesturing for him to speak into it. Tentatively, he lifted the phone to his ear.

"Drake?" Surprisingly, Dylan's voice didn't sound angry. Well, that's a start.

"Yes sir?" He answered nervously.

"You are going and that's final." With that, he hung up. Drake was left staring dumbly at the phone in his hand. That was it. Six words. So short, and yet so final, demanding.

"Drake?" Craig tugged at the cell phone, and it slipped out from between his friend's fingers. "So that means you're going?"

"Just," he paused, "tell her not to be late."

Maddie was 75 percent sure that she was being stared at. After all, what girl would stand outside the movie theatre for about 45 minutes without meeting someone by now? The girls standing at the ticket booth were whispering something about "being stood up" and such. She huffed. Craig had told her that this "Drake" was going to meet her at exactly 6 o'clock. By now, it was almost 7. But still, she stubbornly persisted. Madison Richards had never been stood up in her life; why start now?

…who was she kidding? She'd been stood up!

She pulled out her (borrowed) cell phone and quickly dialed Craig's number. After two minutes, he picked up.


"Craig, are you sure he's coming?"

There was a pause. "Aw, he didn't show up?"


There was another two-minute silence, and then Craig spoke. "Kay, I'll call you back. I'm going to check his house for a bit."

"Sure." She hung up.

There was a family buying tickets. The girl of about seven stared at her, and Maddie made a point of looking the other way. There was a black-haired boy with sunglasses texting something on his cell; but he sensed her looking at him and looked up. She locked gazes with him; hearing the sound of the family entering the cinema and still pointedly ignoring their curious glances.

Her cell phone vibrated; she broke their staring contest and pressed the "accept" button.

"Yes, Craig?"

"Maddie." He sounded puzzled. "I checked Drake's house, but his mom said he went out." Maddie couldn't quiet place it, but he sounded…pleased with himself. Almost triumphant, even.

Maddie furrowed her eyebrows. "He stood me up," she stated.

"He actually left the house!" Craig said, as if he couldn't believe it.

"He kept me waiting for 45 minutes, Craig," Maddie said quietly.

"I know that, Maddie, but he actually left the house!"

Maddie had to wonder for a brief pause whether this boy's friends were really that desperate to get him out of the house; Craig seemed a little too ecstatic over something so trivial. Was Drake really that stubborn?

She felt someone's eyes on her. She looked up, and the black-haired boy didn't look away. "Craig," she said, dropping her tone, "what does Drake look like?"

"Drake? Oh, umm, he has blond hair and hazel eyes. He's kind of tan, too. I don't know how tall he is, but he's got you beat by about five inches."

Her gaze slid over to the boy in front of her, who still didn't look away. He had black hair, not blond. The sunglasses covered his eyes, so she couldn't tell what color they were. But his skin was tan, and he did look like he was taller than her by that amount. She could spot prominent high cheekbones and a lean form. She waved at him, and he grinned, revealing pearly white teeth.

"Where could he have gone?" She wondered out loud. Her fingers tapped against the wall, rapping out a slow rhythm. She felt small, here among the crowd, and it felt as if every single person was looking at her, even though she was absolutely certain that they weren't.

"I don't know. Why don't you just go home for today? We'll just try again some other time."

For a second there, Maddie had almost forgotten that she had someone on the other line. Her gaze drifted to the black-haired boy again, who was standing up and stretching, and then her eyes narrowed. Having felt her eyes on him, he glanced at her, and he grinned once again before walking away.

Maddie still felt slightly resentful and exasperated towards this antisocial Drake for having stood her up. She normally didn't care what others thought of her, but she still had her pride, which still stung by the fact that he could have ignored her so easily. Ever since she was a child, she'd been a mischievous, impulsive girl, and she was almost reckless when she sought out revenge. Clenching her fists at her side, she bit her lip in thought.

"Craig," she said, an idea suddenly beginning to form in her head, and she smirked. "Please tell me Drake's address."

Craig had insisted on taking her to his house personally, instead of simply giving her the address. Maddie had accepted reluctantly, telling him to meet her in front of the clubhouse three days from then.

"Tori, could you lend me some of your lip gloss?"

Tori reached absentmindedly into her purse and drew out the tube. "Sure Maddie, but what do you need it for – " She looked up from the file she was examining, and she blinked, surprised.

Maddie stared back at her, her hand reaching for the tube of lip gloss which Tori pulled back at the very last minute to gawk at her friend. They were in the clubhouse, but there was no meeting at this hour. The two often snuck into the place to hang out.

Tori stared Maddie for what felt like hours, and then she gasped and squealed excitedly. "Maddie's wearing a skirt!" She shrieked.

Maddie cringed, trying to pull down the pink ruffled skirt that Angie had forced her into when she had a similar conversation with her (she was positive that her sister jumped to too many conclusions; when she said that she was going to see a boy, she didn't exactly mean it that way). She had run away when she wasn't looking, right before Angie had tried to apply makeup on her and do her hair. Angie's borrowed blouse clung to her torso in a way that she wasn't accustomed to, having worn loose, baggy T-shirts her entire life. "I realize that," she said wryly. "So can I use the lip gloss or not?"

Instead of handing her the tube like Maddie had asked, Tori grasped her friend's hands in hers, looking at her with what was beginning to look like stars in her eyes. Maddie backed up, feeling slightly uncomfortable by Tori's over-excitement. "Finally, Maddie!" Tori exclaimed. "You've finally grasped the true essence of being a teenage girl!"

Maddie squirmed slightly, growing even more uncomfortable by the minute. She dropped Tori's hands, reaching to pluck the tube from the table and applying it. "Please, Tori. It's not like that. I have another session with Drake today." She grimaced.

Tori's mouth opened to form a small "o". "Then, why dress up? Are you trying to impress him or something?"

"Again, it's not like that." The corners of Maddie's lips curved to form a mischievous grin.

"Then what – " She cut herself off when Maddie placed a finger to her lips. She winked at Tori.

Maddie applied another layer of gloss, making her lips look like plastic. Tori furrowed her eyebrows in confusion. "Aren't you applying a little too much, Maddie?"

She looked at herself in the mirror: her red hair was tangled and slightly messy and her mouth looked way too pink, but other than that, her appearance was fine. "Nope. I think it's just right." She grinned impishly at her friend, handing the tube back to her. Tori was beginning to feel uneasy and began to wonder what went on in Maddie's head sometimes.

Craig appeared at the doorway, and he leaned against the wall. "Knock, knock."

Tori mentally made a note to look for Drake's request file (Request number 152, she thought it was) and flashed a bright smile at him. "Hi! She's finished now. Now go, you two, go!" She made a shooing motion with her hands and gently pushed Maddie in the direction of the door.

Maddie complied, feeling slightly startled as she was pushed out the door. Craig smiled at her once they left the building. "Actually, his house isn't too far from here."

"Oh. So we'll walk, then." Maddie threw a hand over her eyes for a minute, blinded temporarily by the sun.

"I'm actually very sorry about Drake," Craig said. "He's not always like this, you know. During the school year he's actually pretty cool."

"Really?" She said sarcastically. "I wouldn't have noticed."

"It's true," he insisted. "He's actually really popular. So that's why so many people keep asking me about him when we go hang out. 'Why isn't Drake Dane here yet?' 'Is Drake Dane mad at us?' 'Oh, so Drake Dane's gone on vacation? When is he going to be back?' Honestly, I can't go a day without hearing his name once." Craig laughed in a good-natured way. "At school, people look up to him. Maybe it's because he's the star of the lacrosse team, but people think he's a really cool guy."

"Drake Dane?" Maddie asked skeptically. "Do people really have to add his middle name after his first name?"

Craig just laughed at that. "That's just something that caught on after he transferred, I guess."

Maddie didn't allow herself to give him a reply. She told herself to just keep walking and not get too curious about the request. Curiosity leads to attachment, which leads to a sense of loss when a request is fulfilled. But then again; she couldn't possibly imagine herself getting attached to the jerk that stood her up. Not one bit.

"You know," Craig said after a short silence, "Drake's brother's getting married pretty soon."

"Oh?" Maddie questioned, her interest caught. "What a coincidence. My sister just got engaged."

"That's cool. You must be happy for her."

"Uh huh. I must be," she echoed. "It's just that I don't really know that much about my sister's fiancé's family and –" She froze when they finally stopped, her eyes wide open like saucers. "…this is Drake's house?"

"Yep." Craig cocked his head to the side, as if he was examining the house from a different angle. "Oh, did you know that Drake's brother's engaged to his next-door neighbor? Angeline Richards, I think her name was." He pointed at the house just left of the house they stopped at. Her house, she realized numbly. "Well, she's going to be Angeline Sullivan soon."

In just that moment, she had a mini-revelation; an epiphany of sorts, one that she didn't find amusing or funny at all.

Drake Sullivan: antisocial, bad-tempered, stubborn and unbelievably pigheaded, who her sister seemed to all-too-conveniently forget to mention in the two years that she dated Dylan, was also her soon-to-be brother-in-law.

Drake felt a sudden chill, as if something ominous were going on right in his front yard, at this very moment, but he shook it off and glanced at the black wig he'd recently purchased.

Yesterday, Craig had called to curtly remind him that the next "session" was today. Drake had braced himself, waiting for him to chide him on not showing up, but he'd just hung up right afterward. And, if he had just-so-happened to inform Dylan about this little mishap, he'd point out that he'd been waiting in front of the theater for 45 minutes and no girl had approached him once (withholding the – unimportant - fact that the boy had black hair, not blond).

Today, it was at some bakery. The name sounded slightly familiar; or, to be more precise, the first name of the manager had sounded familiar. Craig hadn't told him the last name; but still, something deep in his gut had screamed at him to question further, something about that was definitely, definitely off, but he chose not to press further. Dylan was away to make preparations for the wedding, so it was just him and his mom home today.

Dylan was being surprisingly nice lately. When he'd walked through the door, with Angie pressed to his side and announced that they were engaged, Drake'd smiled politely and given them his congratulations. But afterward, he'd expected Dylan to force him to meet the Richards family at least once, but instead he heard nothing about that. It was slightly unsettling.

He heard the sound of angry footsteps down the hall, and for some reason they seemed to be getting louder.

He shut his eyes. He didn't know what he'd done to make his mother mad. Come to think of it, his mother rarely got mad at him nowadays. In fact, he found that if he wanted something, it was ten times easier to get it than it ever was before they'd moved to the valley. It was as if she'd felt guilty for neglecting him during that short period of time, and wanted to make up for it. It was strangely nice, and yet it made him feel slightly uneasy.

The only time Drake could recall his mother being truly adamant about something after they'd relocated was when she found out the true reason for all him skipping school: he was bullied (it was probably from one of the parents; C.J. Walker had been caught shortly after he transferred). After having one of her melt-downs, she had immediately enrolled him in Laurant Preparatory Academy. On that one point, she stood firm.

If it weren't for Dylan disciplining him and keeping him in check; he would've said that he was being spoiled.

He opened his eyes and looked out the window. The San Joaquin Valley was certainly very different from Seattle; it was never so hot during the summer back there. If he ever bothered to think about it, he didn't even feel like his old self anymore. He didn't see that small, lost, frightened boy with bruises along his arm when he looked in the mirror. Instead, he saw a tall, confident person who had changed dramatically upon moving to the valley.

The door opened, and in emerged not the person he expected, but someone different. Someone with long red hair surrounding her slim figure like a blanket, her breath coming out in short bursts. Maddie.

He didn't think much of the girl when he watched her from in front of the movie theater. After thinking about it, Drake realized that what he was doing was absolutely pointless; he was just too stubborn to simply give in by walking up to her and meeting her. He could be too obstinate sometimes; he realized that when he stayed in the same spot for 45 minutes.

From afar, he'd taken in her appearance: A slender, medium-height girl. At the first glance, Drake knew immediately that she wasn't like most people. For one thing, her red tresses were so long she could've passed off as medieval royalty. He didn't know of anyone that had hair long enough to lightly brush their hips anymore.

Those were the only traits he could spot from a long distance away. Now, it was easier for him to see what she'd looked like. The first thing he noticed was her hair: it was red, and it was messy, messy, messy. He resisted the wild urge to tame it; and he avoided looking at the tangled curls. Her light, forest green eyes glanced at him once, and then moved on to the rest of his room. For some reason, she seemed tense; as if she was withholding some sort of shock. Another thing about her he didn't like: her eyelashes were way too long. It wasn't that they were fake. No, rather, it was because everything about her was too natural.

Drake let out a breath he didn't know he was holding, and her eyes snapped back to him. "You," she motioned at him with her hand, "We're going. Now."

He laughed; why, he didn't know. It wasn't even that funny. "Uh, no we're not. I don't know you; so no offense, but I don't exactly follow strangers who barge into my room without permission."

"You mom let me in," Maddie snapped. She refused to let herself think about that. Mrs. Sullivan had been perfectly gracious when she let her in; she had already known that she was Angie's sister. It frustrated her that everyone else in the family seemed to already know about her when she didn't know everyone else. However, although Mrs. Sullivan had seemed delighted to know that she was visiting Drake, she seemed a little nervous when she cast a glance in the direction of his room. Maddie took pleasure in her conclusion that Drake didn't know her real identity either.

"Besides," she continued, "you know perfectly well who I am." She walked to the table and gestured at the black wig. "Where's your sunglasses, huh?"

He cringed. "So you knew the whole time." He ran a hand through his hair. "Well, I'm still not going."

"Oh, you're going," she hissed furiously. "Craig sent in a request to VYS, and Tori forced me to take it. And I have never, not once, failed a request, and I'm not about to start now. So you are going. And you know why?"

"Why?" He challenged.

Maddie didn't hesitate, not for a single split second. Instead, she wrapped her arms around his neck and all-too-suddenly forced her lips on his. He could have sworn his body shut down due to the shock. That kiss – if he could call it that – lasted for a total of two seconds, and then she was pushing him back and screaming, "NO!"

Startled and alarmed, he muffled her scream by covering her mouth with his hand. "You," he hissed. "What did you just do?!"

She looked directly into his eyes and smirked. "Simple," she answered, her words sounding distorted because his hand was still over her mouth. "I'm going to scream, loud enough for the people in the house next door to hear, and people are going to run into the room. And when they see us in your room, they'll think you're forcing a kiss on me."

He paused, letting it all sink in. This girl…she definitely wasn't normal. She was…she was devious, and crazy, and…and…this girl was psycho.

She smiled smugly, and he dazedly corrected himself. She was wild – and okay, maybe she was a little cute, but that thought vanished from his mind as quickly as it had appeared – but Maddie was definitely, definitely extraordinary.

"Isn't it the other way around?!" He exclaimed incredulously.

"True," she agreed, "but look at the scenario: Your hand above my head," she pointed at the arm she had placed there when he was still in shock, "there's lip gloss on your mouth, and my hair's messy."

He blinked. That explained the tangled red hair and the excess lip gloss on her mouth. If Dylan ever found out about this…he shuddered. She tore his hand off her mouth and screamed again, only to have it force it back over her mouth again. "Okay!" He whispered furiously. "You win. I'll go."

She grinned impishly, holding out two fingers in a peace sign. "Great!" She cheered triumphantly.

"But first," He looked pointedly at her tangled hair and finally gave in to his perfectionist-ridden impulses. He smiled ominously, and he could have sworn she pressed herself against the wall in fear. "What is with your appearance?! You look like – like - a slob. Come here." He made her sit down on the bed, and curtly told her that if she moved, he wasn't going anywhere. Suddenly, he – reluctantly – had the upper hand.

Maddie was actually starting to feel a little scared. Maybe it was the fact that Drake currently had this half-crazed look on his face, and she was starting to imagine the comb in his hand in the form of a knife, but when he actually started to…comb her hair with it, she felt confused and a little freaked out. But she forced herself to relax and took a few deep breaths.

"What are you doing?" She asked cautiously.

"Fixing your appearance," he said, with authority.


"Because. It's bothering me. Your clothes have wrinkles, your hair is a mess, and you have flour on your arms. Do you ever look in a mirror?!" He scrubbed at her arms with a wet towel, and Maddie gave up on trying to comprehend the situation. This boy, she decided, had OCD.

Looking around the room, it certainly did reach her conclusion. The room was neater than the average boy's; actually, it was neater than anyone else's. The books in his room were arranged alphabetically; and were separated by genre. His clothes in his closet were neatly hung up on the wall and were ordered by color. There wasn't a single paper or hair out of place. Even his bed was neatly made; it rivaled that of a maid's.

"There!" He said, placing her in front of a mirror. "Much better."

Her hair was smooth, she realized to her dismay. It hung down her back in neat little ringlets. He had removed all the lint off of her clothes, and had somehow (she didn't want to know the answer) managed to smooth them out. Drake had also removed her lip gloss, she noted, coloring slightly. What a transformation.

"Let's go then," she muttered.

He shrugged, and then paused. "Ah – but first, change your outfit," he ordered.

She looked at him, surprised. "Excuse me?"

"Aren't you uncomfortable? You look so uncomfortable." He pointed out, and Maddie flushed. How could he tell so easily? Was it that easy to tell that she hated wearing her sister's short skirts and frilly blouses?

When she hesitated, he rolled his eyes. "Don't worry," he assured her. "It's not like I'm going to leave the house or anything."

"Umm – okay," she squeaked. "I'll be back in a bit then." And with that, she dashed out of the house.

"Isn't this fun?" Maddie asked coyly.

After she had properly changed into shorts and a T-shirt, she had dragged Drake out into the hot, scorching sun to walk two miles to the bakery. For someone who hadn't left the house all summer and grew up in rainy Seattle, the heat was exhausting. Drake scowled, turning his head the other way. No, this certainly wasn't fun.

A waiter placed a large plate piled high with doughnuts, cupcakes, and cookies on their table. He placed another plate filled with an assortment of cake slices near the other plate, and Drake felt the corners of his mouth twitch dangerously. Drake watched the way Maddie's green eyes lit up, her tongue sticking out slightly as she took in the sweet aroma. He resisted the strong urge to laugh, instead wondering if she'd start drooling if he ordered an entire cake.

The waiter looked amazed at the huge amount of sweets ordered, and he looked as if he was about to say something, but a girl passing by stopped him.

"That's the manager's daughter," she hissed not-so-subtly into his ear, and the poor waiter's eyes widened.

Maddie ignored the conversation taking place by their table and instead bit into a cupcake, breaking into a dreamy smile when the taste hit her mouth. Drake watched the sight with renewed interest. So that was why she made him go to this particular bakery, not the dozens that they had passed by on their walk here.

He chuckled quietly, and secretly wondered where all those sweets went. In the huge plush couch in the center of the bakery, she looked small, insignificant. Her hand touched the side of her small waist, frowning.

"Am I going to get diabetes if I eat too many?" She wondered out loud. He couldn't help it anymore. He laughed.

"You should have thought of that before you ordered so many." Drake informed her, and she glared at him.

"Not all of these are for me. Half of them are for the club," Maddie said indignantly.

"Just half?" He questioned.

She pouted. "Fine." She asked for three boxes, and when she received it, immediately began placing most of the sweets into the boxes; placing the cakes in one box, the cupcakes in another, and the doughnuts and cookies in the last one. Once she was done, she wiped her hands on a napkin and looked at him expectantly. "Happy now?"

"Sure." Drake tried a slice of cake, and he blinked, surprised. It was delicious. No wonder the bakery was so popular; the place was packed. He quickly finished the slice, and put his plate down. "But you know, I'm not too sure I'm comfortable eating sweets with a stranger."

"That again?" Maddie specially selected the same slice of cake she was currently enjoying and placed it on his plate. "Here, try this. It's good." After licking the frosting off of her fork, she smiled in bliss. "Then how about this? I'll tell you a few things about me. Will you be happy then?"

"Will I have to talk about myself too?"

She waved her hand. "No need. Craig talks about you so much, I don't really think that's necessary."

"Great," he said sarcastically. He tried the slice, and was again pleasantly surprised when the flavor reached his mouth. "Wait, aren't you mad at me? You're actually acting…civil."

She sent him a chiding look, although he wasn't quite sure what he did wrong. "How can I act mad when I'm eating sweets?" She asked him, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. He smiled slightly at the sight.

Maddie put her plate back on the table and leaned back on the bright red couch. The entire bakery was colorful, he noted silently. The chairs and tables were bathed in reds, oranges, and yellows, while the walls were an immaculate white, contrasting greatly with the bright color scheme. "Is the manager a woman?"

"No. He's my dad. Although my mother worked out the design of the bakery," Maddie answered. She smiled, her eyes lighting up. "Isn't my dad amazing? His cakes are the best. Every bite just melts in your mouth."

She continued speaking, her gestures animated and her eyes shining. From the way she spoke, he guessed she really did treasure her family. Drake thought of his own family, not quiet broken, but slightly disjointed, and he smiled wistfully. Maddie chewed her lower lip in thought, and then the next words were spoken quietly.

"I should talk more about myself like you asked, I guess." She shut her eyes, and when she opened them again, they were clear, determined. "First thing's first: my dream is to start a company."

When he spoke to near-strangers, he didn't exactly think of their dreams as the first thing to talk about. It was more along the line of introductions and basic facts, like their school, hobbies, etc. But this was an interesting start.

"A company?" He questioned.

She nodded. "Are you aware of VYS?"

"That club you're part of, or something along those lines, right?" He answered, thinking back to his phone conversation with Craig.

She nodded again. "I want to start a company similar to that, but bigger. So big that people on the other side of the world would know of it."

"Ambitious, aren't we?" He smiled absentmindedly.

"Is there something wrong with that?"

"Not really, no. Most responsible people are ambitious, like you."

She peered at him through half-lidded eyes, her eyelashes sweeping down to cover part of her eyes. "I'm not quite as responsible as you might think I am. You could even say I'm reckless sometimes."

"Well, that's evident, judging from what happened earlier today," Drake laughed

Maddie smiled along with him. "Actually, when I was younger, I was a bit of a troublemaker."

"Oh?" Drake thought back to his younger days, and resisted the urge to shudder.

She laughed when she recalled old memories. "I used to get in trouble so much. Pulling these weird little pranks on the teachers, the students, it was fun. But when I was in oh, say, at the beginning of the seventh grade, I stopped."

"Why? If it was as fun as you said it was, why'd you stop?" He felt himself becoming slightly curious about her, about this person sitting in front of him munching so happily on her dad's sweets.

She smiled sadly, feeling a wave of nostalgia hit her. "I almost got suspended that time. They called my dad in, and it was what I saw in his eyes that made me stop altogether: disappointment."

He was reassured of his deduction that she treasured her family. Drake cleared his throat. "So your Dad's a pastry shop owner, huh? Well, my dad's a lawyer," he said, deciding the clear the air with a lighter topic.

"Oh really?" Maddie asked, feeling her curiosity caught. Come to think of it, Craig mentioned that Drake's parents were divorced, and he had a lawyer father in Seattle.

"Yeah. I don't see him much anymore." Awkward. Drake shrugged, completely failing in his endeavor to bring up a lighter subject. Dully, he congratulated himself on his utter failure. They two just sat there in heavy silence for a moment.

Maddie coughed, and brought up a new subject. "So Craig tells me your brother is getting married," she said conversationally.

"Yeah," he replied, not sure where this was going.

She chewed on her bottom lip for a moment. "Let's just say this is entirely hypothetical," she began.

He was starting to grow suspicious. "Go on."

"What if, say, your brother was lying to you about something important about his fiancé, and you found out months before the wedding? What would you do then?"

He looked confused. "And the point of this conversation is…?"

"There's no point." She cut him off. "Like I said, this is entirely hypothetical. I just feel curious about how certain people would react in that situation, that's all."

He didn't buy it. Not one bit. But, he decided it was best to let it slide for the time being. There were plenty of other chances to bring this back up, considering how Craig made it sound as if he was going to be having these "sessions" until he graduated high school. (Someone wake him up from this nightmare, please.)

"Well, since it's near the wedding date," he paused, "I'd let it slide."

Her hand, which was reaching for a pink cupcake, stilled. "Why? He lied to you all this time. It only takes about five seconds to tell you, and even though you'd be angry about it, you'd accept it because they told you the truth in the end! But they didn't. Not once." Her voice quavered.

Drake frowned. From the way she spoke, it didn't sound hypothetical at all. "Because, Maddie, like it or not, he's still my brother. And his wedding's coming up soon. Why ruin his happiness when you can just bring it up afterward? Fact is, he's my brother and I want him to be happy."

For a minute, it looked as if Maddie's eyes softened. But it was only for a minute. She shut her eyes, and when she opened them again, they were once again challenging and expectant.

"It's getting dark. We should get going then," she said.

"I'll walk you home," Drake answered, gathering the boxes in one hand.

Maddie laughed nervously. "Oh, there's no need."

"What? Come on, I can't let a girl walk home by herself in the dark. I was taught better than that," Drake said, feeling slightly insulted. Maddie just shook her head.

"I'll lead us back, then."

"Why are we stopping in front of my house?" Drake asked, confused. Maddie laughed anxiously.

"Well, actually. We're standing in front of my house." She pointed at the house next to his, the one he had known as "Dylan's girlfriend's house" for the past two years, and now knew as "the future in-laws"

Come to think of it, he didn't know much about the Richards family. Dylan didn't exactly try to make him get to know them very much. It was almost as if he was keeping them from him. Funny, Maddie seemed to be talking about something similar today, at that last part of their conversation. He stood in deep, contemplative thought for a few more minutes, and then finally it clicked. It all made sense: Maddie's cryptic conversation, his brother's weird behavior, how he didn't know anyone in the Richards household aside from Angie and apparently, now Maddie. But if Maddie lived in Angie's house…then that means…

He suddenly felt as if the world was crashing down around him.

"Well, thanks for your time today!" Maddie said, hurriedly, rushing into her house. "See you at our next session, Drake!"

The very, very last thing the girl saw before she shut the front door was Drake coming to a full, shocking realization, his mouth silently forming the words "sister-in-law".

A/N: Please forgive the long chapter. I kept rewriting this one (this is the third and final rewrite) and this is shorter than the first one, I can easily tell you that.

Please tell me what you think of this chapter. Any mistakes? Thoughts on the characters? Everything will be accepted. =)