(Q): What advice would you give to young girls out there who are pressured to go against what they believe in or are uncomfortable with, as you were?

(A): Well - say no, naturally. Solid advice coming from me, I know. In all seriousness though, I think there was an important question I should have asked myself before I agreed to take that shot and that is: can I face myself in the mirror tomorrow? When I got out of bed the morning after, I couldn't stand myself. I was furious over it, and when I went to brush my teeth, and saw the dark rings under my eyes from a night of no sleep, I started crying. I didn't recognize the person looking back at me, I really just didn't understand her or why she'd done what she had. Decisions are a part of our everyday lives. Some are small - like, choosing Taco Johns over Taco Bell for lunch, or what shirt you're going to wear that day. Other decisions can completely shape our lives, or at least alter their course in the long run, and we don't always know which ones those are at the time we're making them. So I think people should keep in mind every decision has consequences you have to take responsibility for the next day.

That night I was bored, terribly bored. I couldn't find anything good on the television. Flipping through the channels only made me more anxious so I turned it off and just sprawled out on the living room couch, staring up at the ceiling. Thoughts ran through my mind, thousands of them, each fighting for my attention.

I want ice cream. How many CSI series do they intend to make? Does mom know there is huge water stain in that corner of the ceiling? Why does it smell like feet, is that me? No, not me…

There were deeper thoughts, of course. Thoughts that I didn't care to let surface, thoughts I banished from my head the moment they crossed my mind, but of course they came back. See, I knew it wasn't because there wasn't anything good on the television that I was trying to distract myself in whatever way possible. It's because I was bothered by Riley's behavior early. I tried to analyze this logically, and I couldn't. It wasn't that I wanted to be his slave - of course not. Its that I wanted to hang out with him like normal people do. I wanted to see the genuine sides of Riley he kept hidden. I guess you could say I was morbidly fascinated with his mysteriousness, with the fact he kept so much of himself locked away from others - and they never even realized. Why was I the only one he allowed a sneak into his real self? Was it supposed to be a good sign, that I was different to him than the others? It was confusing though - underneath all his masks, where was his true self, really?

My cell phone rang, and my heart beat faster in anticipation - I was hoping it was Victor. It was an unknown number. I usually didn't pick up unknown numbers, but I decided to tonight. I think I was secretly hoping it'd be a distraction.

"Hello?" I answered in as welcoming a tone as I could muster.

"Its Riley," I sat up on the couch, surprised, feeling - happy? God, I guess when you're as under exposed to socializing as I was, you're happy to talk to anyone, even someone blackmailing you. This thought made me feel pathetic.

"Oh." I said, uncertain what to say.

"There's a party tonight at Allyson Fletcher's house. Do you know where that is?"

Allyson had hosted a number of parties, none of which I'd been invited to naturally, but everyone at school knew where her house was, even me.


"Good, be there at eight."

"But -" I started to say.

"Maya, no isn't an option," and with that, he hung up.

I slipped into the only thing I had that seemed appropriate for a high school party - a yellow top with ruffles and faded blue jeans. I put on some makeup - just eye shadow and lip-gloss - and threw my hair in a ponytail. I'd never been to a party, and I didn't even know why I was bothering to dress up because it really wouldn't make much of a difference. I guess I didn't want to look too out of place, and attempting to blend in would allow me a certain level of invisibility there. My dad knocked on my bedroom door, and opened it before I could even say come in. He smelled like alcohol, like always.

"You look pretty," He said, his words slurred as he leaned against my door frame for support.

"Thanks," I said, "I'm going to go a party. Is that okay?"

"You are going to a party?" He asked. "That's why you're dressed up?"

I bit my lower lap, afraid this wasn't going to end well. "Yes."

He threw his car keys at me angrily. I couldn't react fast enough to catch them; they hit me in the shoulder hard, making me wince.

"Fine, doesn't want to stay home with her dad, I see how it is," He said as he staggered away to his bedroom, turned the lights off, and shut out the world. It could have been worse. Actually, I thought he took it quite well. I wasn't angry at my dad, I was mad at Riley for getting me in trouble with him for such a stupid request. I'm not a party person, there was no way he didn't know this, so why the hell did he ask me to go?

I pulled up to the party around 8:05 and it was already in full swing. Everyone at school must have been there - well, there wasn't much else for them to do in this town on a Friday night, so of course this is where they'd be. The lawn was already littered with empty beer cans, a brunette was being escorted away by a football player, giggling, obviously intoxicated. It wasn't a fun atmosphere to me - it was dangerous, a land mine of hazardous possibilities.

Riley was waiting on the porch, and Allyson Fletcher had her arm linked around him. "We're facebook official now," I heard her telling her friends, eagerly gathered around her to soak up her every word. Riley noticed me approaching and so did Allyson.

"Who invited the ghost?" She sneered.

"Um - I invited myself." I answered softly, not wanting to damage Riley's reputation. This took Riley by surprise, but he said nothing. Allyson, for whatever twisted reason, wore a look of conceited satisfaction.

"You should hear the good news to, then, doll," She said, faking nice for whatever reason. She squeezed Riley's arm, pulling him closer to it. He looked okay with it, but I knew he wasn't. I didn't understand why he was letting her hang all over him when he didn't want to, but it wasn't my life.

"We're dating as of five hours ago!"

So, right before the end of school, before I'd raced out to ask him about my completed homework. He hadn't been happy about it then, he wasn't happy about it now. Then why? Why was he going along with it?

Allyson apparently wasn't satisfied with my reaction.

"Aren't you jealous? Isn't he the cutest?"

Why did it matter to her what I thought? I wasn't sure what was going on, or what I was expected to say, but she'd asked me a question and I was expected to answer.

"The cutest," I agreed, the only thing I could think of, to which Riley allowed a slight look of amusement to cross his face. If only she knew the different sides of Riley he never allowed on display, if only she knew there was different sides to him than just a good looking jock who scored A's on all his exams. Allyson appeared to only see what she wanted to see, and that was a guy who could help her advance her reputation and become the "it girl" of the school alongside him.

What happened next took me by surprise, and Riley as well, I could tell.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed Riley in front of all of us, a public declaration of her property. I was becoming angry fast - Riley had chided me for not being able to say no, why was he acting like her puppet when he didn't want to? Riley was the type of guy who almost always had a girlfriend at his side, but always it was him who called the shots, I'd seen it. He wasn't the one in control of this relationship, I could see that clearly. Or maybe - I was seeing what I wanted to see? Maybe I wanted him to be unhappy with it because I wanted - I didn't even know, but I was confused and upset, and hurt though I couldn't understand why it bothered me at all. Riley had his life, I had mine - the only reason they'd connected at all was that picture, so I wasn't sure why it bothered me he had a girlfriend now, but it did.

I slipped away from them, to the house's kitchen, dodging the flailing limbs of my fellow peers as they danced crazily.

Pull yourself together, Maya.

What I was feeling was wrong, completely unwarranted. I hated that I was bothered by Riley dating Allyson - that was his business. So what if he'd done my homework - he probably wasn't lying when he said they were F's. So what if he'd placed a blanket on me when I was sleeping at his house - so what if he let me sleep over at his house when I had no where else to go? Yes, he was also devilishly handsome, but all this combined didn't cancel out how he'd been treating me just because he had dirt on me. So why then? Why did I have this familiar feeling?

Admittedly, I knew this feeling. The feeling of hurt was the same feeling I'd have if Victor told me he was dating another girl and we were through. The fact that my heart stirred in the presence of Riley Harts when he flashed me his evil smirk was the same way Victor affected me with his winning smile. This, logically speaking, meant at a certain level I was beginning to like Riley. Only Riley was taken, and he also had no interest in dating me seeing as he'd only started talking to me to make my life miserable. Oh god, I had thought of dating him? Him, the guy of a million faces? Dearest cupid, you can burn in hell.