"Hon-eeeey! You won't believe what I just found!" My mom sang as she waddled into the kitchen, cradling the bottom of her stomach with her right arm and waving a piece of paper with the other.

I already knew what she was going to say, so I didn't even move when she walked in, my eyes glued to my computer screen.

After quickly typing a response to Flynn's last message, I gave Mom a half-hearted, "Hmm?"

"There was a fifty-dollar bill on my car seat—I don't remember putting it there, or even having a fifty-dollar bill to fall out of my pocket, but I've been so forgetful lately." She sighed, "I've been feeling awfully pregnant today."

Glancing up briefly from the screen of my computer, I caught Ulysses S. Grant's freshly-printed face and my mother's beaming smile, and then I looked back down. Flynn had sent me another message on Skype. "That's great mom."

"Or strange. This is the third fifty-dollar bill your father and I have found this week." She paused frowning for a second before she opened the refrigerator.

"Don't think too hard." I told her, wishing she'd just move on. Feeling a tad bit guilty about my rising phone bill, I'd hidden a few wads of cash in plain sight, and if she thought hard enough about it, I was sure she'd be able to put two and two together. It was the money I'd earned from working at the bookstore, so really, in a twisted way, it was Dad's money.

Breaking from her thought, mom threw her head back and then stood up straight again. "You know what? I'm not complaining." She pulled out a giant bottle of grape juice. "Keller, do you want some grape juice? It's about to expire."

I was slow to respond, reading another one of Flynn's messages. "Sure."

Mom's eyes lingered on me as she poured me a cup of grape juice, carefully holding it before placing it next to my computer. She probably thought she was being secretive when she took a peek at my screen, but it was pretty obvious since strands of her hair were creating blinds over my screen. I couldn't see the taskbar with all of my contacts. And then she just stood up straight and skimmed through the messages. Strands of her loose, dark-brown flew into my face.

My lips pursed, thankful nothing inappropriate was on the screen. Of course, I wouldn't be downstairs if I was doing something inappropriate in the first place.

"Mom."

"Keller."

No movement. She seemed to be literally latched onto my screen.

"Mom, move."

"What is this?" She pulled a chair from the kitchen table behind us, and sat, putting her legs in the chair first so she was perched on top of them so she was sitting as high up as me in the bar stool.

"Mom, it's Skype—why are you reading my screen?"

"Skype?"

"Like instant messaging and video calling."

"Hm." Her eyes squinted at the screen and she hunched over, picking up a cup of juice from the counter and taking a sip.

"Mom, that's my grape juice."

She glanced into the cup and then set it down again. "Sorry, honey. You've got my genes. You'll be okay." And then her eyes were trained onto the screen again. She squinted, "Is this a conversation about cheese? I think this is about cheese." Why did she feel the need to repeat herself twice?

I shrugged, "He said he was hungry, and I said that I just ate some cheese and crackers, and he said he wasn't really a cheese fan, and I was—"

"Nevermind." She cut me off, leaning towards the screen again. This time she eyed the bar at the top, the bar with his name. "Is this Flynn? This is Flynn, right? You still talk to him? I thought he moved." Again she repeated question. Gosh, that was annoying.

"He did move. And, yes, I still talk to him. He's my. . . friend." 'Friend' being the operative word. Mom turned and looked me in the eyes; she could probably see right through me. She'd always been able to anyway. But no, she nodded her head, and her hand went to the touchpad. I caught her hand, "No, don't scroll."

A knowing expression was on her face, "Why can't I scroll?"

"Why can't you not scroll?"

"What?"

"Huh?"

There was a good stare off where Mom's eyes bore imploringly into mine over the glass of grape juice.

She rolled her eyes breaking the contact; she knew all of my tricks. "Keller, is there something you don't want me to see?"

"We're a little bit more than friends, okay?" Standing from the chair, I shut the computer and tucked it under my arm, "We might be dating, I don't know. But he's coming back."

Her hands went up with her victory, "Just wanted to hear you admit it."

"Wow."

With one last glance at the screen, she stood up slowly, and smiled at me. There was no hint of anger on her face. Just an easy smile.

"By the way, you're cooking dinner tonight, don't argue, and I'm going to drink the rest of your grape juice." She picked up my ex-glass of juice and carried it with her out of the kitchen, the other hand firmly on her stomach, leaving just me and my computer.

Were Flynn and I dating? Really, it was the golden question because I had no idea. We hadn't put any defining terms on the relationship. Flynn had only been able to visit twice within the last three months. The first visit was only two days long, and we spent far too much time in bed to even talk and but a label to our thing. The physical attraction was pretty strong.

The second visit was a bit longer, a week. But Flynn was doing business—something involving his dad's property. And the time we spent together was spent talking about everything other than our relationship. I mean, it just didn't come up. But what I did know was that I loved him. And that was that. I was scared about it, but now it was easy.

I loved Flynn Jameson. He loved me too. Easy.

Simple.

Boring.

Inhale. The man walked to one side of the classroom, and paused, and walked to the other side, and paused, and back. Exhale.

"What is. . . sex? Is it just sex? Or is it a statement? Is it something more? What does it mean?" Mr. Matthews stopped his pacing in front of his desk, placing his marker onto the wood and then leaning back, the sleeves of his shirt rolled up to reveal dark tufts of hair on his arms.

The class was quiet; no one really wanted to talk about this. We'd been reading George Orwell's 1984 for two weeks now. I thought it was a good book, but I didn't want to discuss it. It would ruin my enjoyment.

Catherine, still sitting next to me, raised her hand. "I think Winston is having sex because he's been denied pleasure for so long. I mean, it talks about his wife and how they didn't have the normal relationship. He's finally found someone who responds." She batted her eyelashes, weighed down by the black mascara that didn't match her blonde hair. "Men love response." Now that Flynn was gone, she'd been laying it down heavily on the new teacher.

Baby barf threatened to come up from the back of the throat. Spare me.

And I could tell he was enjoying it. Mr. Matthews crossed his arms with a little smirk on his face, feeding Catherine's response. "That's a possibility." Then he cleared his throat, "No, I lied, you're wrong."

One of the guys who sat in the front of the class shrugged his shoulders, "It's just sex."

"Wrong."

I snickered at Mr. Matthew's sudden response. Poor guy. But then that grin on my face disappeared when I watched the teacher's eyes skim the room and land on me.

"Miss Keller Johnson," he made my name sound like a joke. "What do you think?"

That I couldn't wait to graduate. Just three more months left. Three more months. God, I had a headache.

Picking up my closed book from the desk, I ran my thumb over the pages, thankful that I read the assigned pages. "Um, I think that sex is an act against the Party. It's not about feelings. It's about being rebellious."

Mr. Matthew's dark eyes widened with excitement at my answer, still focused on me. He stood up from the desk. "Exactly. They're doing it just to do it. I like your word. Rebellious. Like teenagers." Those full lips turned up in a wicked grin. "The rules tell you something is wrong, and you want it anyway. You just want to break the rules. Not because you're so passionate for this- for this new thing. Not because the end goal is really, really good. But because someone told you it was wrong."

The throbbing in my head now felt like mental radiation, pressing into my temples and into my ears.

Why was he talking to me? Looking at me? Using you when we were talking about characters in a book? We weren't talking about me here.

I cleared my throat, "Maybe they weren't thinking of it like that and they were having sex because they had been bottling all of their needs up, and they just liked each other."

"Oh, so you're taking back what you said." His dark brown eyebrows raised in a challenge.

"N- no.' I stammered, now sitting up straight in the seat, glad that I sat in the back of the room. "I'm just saying that there's a possibility that they aren't in love, but at the same time, there's a possibility that they're not trying to make a huge statement about having sex."

"So you're saying that Winston and Julia are doing the no strings attached thing." It was a statement, not a question.

"No, I didn't say—stop putting things in my mouth!" I immediately regretted those words after they came out.

"I can only put. . . things in your mouth if you give me an opening to do so."

Well, my mouth was open, dropped open. And then I closed it because I thought of all the things that could go in my mouth. . .

Did anyone else hear the double meaning? Half the class was asleep, but the other half seemed to be unaffected, eyes glued to their computers. Not Catherine though. Catherine's eyes stared holes into the side of my cheek.

The natural inclination to defend myself prevented me from stopping the conversation right then. "What are we even talking about? All I'm saying is that Winston and Julia, the characters in the book, wanted to have sex. They used each other as an outlet, and it just happened to go against the rules of the Party. End of story."

"Are you—"

"No, let me finish." I interrupted him. I wasn't going to let him switch around my words again. It reminded me a little of Mackenzie and how she would always twist my words. She'd been smart like that. "What I'm saying is that when someone wants something, or two someones, in this case, want something, they'll go after it. Especially if it's against the rules."

"Keller, Are you—"

"—It's like stealing candy when you know you're not supposed to."

"—done?"

I was about to say something else, but my mind processed his words before I got to make another not-so-amazing metaphor.

Pursing my lips, then taking a deep breath, I responded. "Yes."

I bit back my annoyance with a calming glance to the ceiling and then a fake smile. But my mind was screaming at him. What the hell did he want from me?

"Good." Mr. Matthews grinned, a dimple popping up on the side of his cheek. "Because you just said what I said two or three statements ago. I like it when we agree." And he winked. Winked!

. . . And then I stopped with the mental screaming because I knew what he wanted. And I knew that I really hated this guy. Maybe it would be best if I just avoided getting in these arguments. He was just trying to fuel me.

Only three more months. Three more months.

Three months seemed like another year when I walked to the front of the classroom twenty minutes later, ready to leave, careful to make it from point A to point B with no interruptions—or without being stopped by Matteo Matthews. Naturally, with my luck when it came to English teachers, that didn't happen.

Just down two rows before I reached the door to freedom, I heard a deep voice calling my name. What luck. I had none.

"Keller, stay back." Mr. Matthews called from his desk. Relaxed as always with that carefree grin on his face.

My feet stopped moving, but my brain was rushing to figure out a way to get out of the room. Maybe I could say I needed a tampon—but Mr. Matthews seemed like the type who could deal with period-talk. Maybe I could say that my grandpa was in the hospital—ah, he'd see right through me. And then there was the possibility of me just saying I had to go and leaving. No running away, just tell him what was on my mind and getting out. A simple fix.

Still, I felt like I was losing my defenses as the room cleared out. One girl lingered around, taking her time picking up her books, but once all of her things were in her hands, she looked around nervously and rushed out. She didn't see the desperate look I gave to the back of her head. And then it was just me and Mr. Matthews. Gosh darn.

"Come to my desk." Mr. Matthews sat leisurely in his chair, leaning back far enough so his feet could rest on the table—that used to be Flynn's table, and now Mr. Matthews was wiping his shoe scum on it.

I stood at the door, ready for a quick getaway, my arms crossed defensively over my chest. After pressing a few buttons on my phone, I tucked the phone into my hoodie pocket, microphone up, and then looked up at the teacher. Hair flip. I was in charge, and my hair was in my face.

"No, I think I'm good here."

Firm. It sounded good when I said it.

"Keller, come to my desk."

"Really, I'm fine here. Speaking of, why am I here, Mr. Matthews?"

"It's Matteo."

"Is it?" Code for, 'I don't give a damn'.

"Yes, Matteo. I'm Italian. I can speak the language too," He paused for a good dramatic second, watching my reaction, a grin firmly in place on his lips. "Mia bella."

"Oh, spare me." I said

—and then inconspicuously spit some stray hairs from my mouth.

This amused him. "Sei bellissima." Dramatic pause. "Vorrei portarti fuori qualche volta."

"As cool as that sounds, I have no clue what you are saying, and I honestly don't care. So, as long as we're speaking different languages, I think I'm going to—"

"Keller, how old are you?"

For some reason, when I turned to leave, I couldn't force myself to walk out of the door. The urge to answer his question with one of my signature sarcastic responses overwhelmed me.

"Twelve"

"I'm thinking eighteen or older. You were far too relaxed in that bar when I first met you. You seem a little more mature than the other students. You look it too. Which makes you legal."

It was nice to know I didn't look like a baby. But still, it wasn't something I wanted to hear from him, especially with the way he just looked me up and down. This guy was a straight shooter.

So was I. "I'm just a thespian at heart. Right now I'm acting like you don't disgust me."

"Really? Do tell me why you're still here. I must interest you a little. What was that word you used in class? Rebellion. That's what you're feeling." Dark eyes narrowed, and he leaned back in the chair. It creaked from his weight. "Oh, and that good old teenage lust."

And if everything he said before wasn't enough, that just crossed the line. No more miss somewhat nice Keller. But honestly, the mean side of me was just waiting to come out again, like a tiger behind bars.

First was the warning.

Hair flip. "I don't mean to break your fragile little ego, but no. I am at this school to graduate, and that's it. I'm in this room to tell you that I won't let you talk to me like that because I will report you. So don't try me."

The tiger in me paced behind the bars, ready to jump out.

He snorted, "Like anyone would believe you."

And next was the pounce.

I laughed, "Funny thing, see, within the past few months, I've learned the true beauty of cell phones, and their ability to collect incriminating data." I pulled my cell phone from my hoodie pocket and held it up, moving my hand so the light bounced against the screen. "I've recorded this conversation."

For the first time since I'd met the sick little bastard, Matteo Matthews was speechless. He eyed me, and then my phone, and then me again.

"You're lying."

A smile curved up on my lips. Darla once told me that. It was the day I decided that we weren't ever going to really be friends. It was the day that I accepted it.

Well, I knew Matteo Matthews was not friend material nor was he teacher material for that matter. This man was fifty times worse than Michener could ever be. Instead of telling me that I was an awful student, like Michener did, Matteo Matthews made me feel like a piece of meat. He took my words, twisted them around, made me feel stupid, and then hit on me. And since most of the time he did it under the discretion of the whole class, I couldn't defend myself.

"Am I? Am I lying?"

And now I could tear him down without even speaking a word. Now I could tear him down with his own words.

I pressed the replay button.

"Keller, come to my desk..." Feeling a little smug, I fast forwarded a little bit. "Yes, Matteo. I'm Italian. I can speak the language too, Mia bella."

"Oh, spare me."

"Sei bellissima. Vorrei portarti fuori qualche volta."

"As cool as that sounds, I have no clue what you are saying, and—"

It was beautiful watching that frown on his face grow more defined. It was great to watch his eyebrows pin down together. I fast forwarded one last time, flipping curly bangs from my eyes. Gee whiz, I needed a hair clip.

"Really? Do tell me why you're still here. I must interest you a little. What was that word you used in class? Rebellion. That's what you're feeling. Oh, and that good old teenage lust."

I pressed the stop button and buried my phone into my pocket. Comfortable with the controlled silence in the room. "So, again, leave me alone. And if that's too hard, I'm sure the principal will love listening you talk to me in Italian. It'll be a first."

Mr. Matthew's eyebrows were up and his permanent smirk had been erased from his face. He stared at my phone and then at me. "I've misjudged you."

"Have you."

Clump. His feet slipped from the desk. "All right. Well I'll see you tomorrow in class, Miss Johnson."

My, I liked how I suddenly became Miss Johnson. Leverage was truly a beautiful force.

On the drive home, I thought about the difference between Mr. Matthews and Flynn. They were both my English teachers, and they both seemed to have a thing for me. What was the difference? Did I only go after Flynn because he was attractive and forbidden? But that couldn't be it because Mr. Matthews disgusted me. Even before I knew he was the teacher, he disgusted me.

Regardless of the answer, I just couldn't wait for Flynn to come back again. I couldn't wait to see his face, to kiss his lips. To hug him and remember that I had a pair of warm arms that were always open to me.


Author's Note:

So, one more chapter. Comment.

Whaaattt

-Xxluvbugger213xX