This is a short, fluffy story speed-written with the help of a cup of coffee just to while away time and is therefore, pretty much senseless. Also probably abrupt and short. I'm repeating myself so I will shut up now. But you have been warned :P

Gephyrophobia

Cameron Tucker hates me.

And he has smouldering eyes that could toast you up in a minute and if you stare even a moment longer, you'd become a burnt crisp. With a dollop of butter on top.

I do not speak from experience but from the words of his ex-girlfriend, Marie, who is perfectly nice if you discount the fact that she knows all the answers in all the classes for all the subjects. Apparently, this was how they started dating in the first place, because, you know, geniuses attract and birds of a feather flock together and all that. Unfortunately, it didn't work out at all and Marie says they were the most incompatible couple possible in the history of the existential universe. Yes, she really talks like that.

But I digress.

Why does Cameron Tucker hate me? No reason. Does that warrant hating someone? No, it doesn't. But does he still look at me as if I'm a buzzing fly he's waiting to snap off in irritation? Oh yes.

Go figure.

Not that it bothers me. Much. I could never be friends with him anyway. Because:

1) He's too tall and that scares me.

2) His expression whenever I look at his face scares me.

3) The intensity of his eyes scares me.

I mentally read over my list and feel a bit foolish.

Ignoring that, I instead focus on how my parched throat is aching for a drop of water. I have already emptied my water-bottle and I don't feel like asking the group of boys who are walking behind me because I suspect that they would put something into the water before they give it to me and think it's hilariously funny.

Industrial Visits are always as tedious as you expect them to be. You never really learn anything and only have fun if your classmates are fun. Which mine aren't. Refer above description. I mean, does Cameron Tucker sound like fun?

Thank you.

And trekking through a mile of dry trees and icky insects is not exactly my idea of a pique-nique. I hate anything that crawls. And I don't like getting dirty. Nor do I like spider-webs.

But the things I do not like the most - le plus plus plus- in the entire, wide world are - bridges.

I come to a standstill when I see it. It's small enough, barely 200 feet. Made out of those little planks of wood that look as if they'd dangle off anytime. It has railing made of rope. Two inches thick rope. I shudder. And I'm supposed to cross it.

Hasta la vista, baby.

"Katie?"

I turn around, with a smile fixed on my face. After all, I'm a cheerleader. I should know.

"Any particular reason for stopping in the middle of wilderness?" asks James, smiling pleasantly.

All these pleasant smiles and blond hair and all? It's all a façade. Actually, James is a reborn version of The Hulk and the only reason no one else suspects this is because he's so good-looking. But, moi, je sais tout.

"Y-yes," I stammer. "I mean, n-no. No."

And that, my dears, is the disadvantage of being a measly 5'1. Everyone - everyone - stares you down.

"Katie, move, come on. We're already so far behind. Everyone else must probably be enjoying lunch by now!"

"I can't," I mutter.

"What?"

"N-nothing," I say hastily. "You guys go ahead. I think I'll just rest here right now. On this lovely…rock."

James looks at his three friends who are all smiling as pleasantly as he is. It's very disconcerting.

"Are you tired?"

I glance at the bridge quickly and avert my eyes. Oh damn.

"Yes. Sure. I'm exhausted. E-X-H-"

"We know the spelling of exhausted."

"Oh. Right," I say, subdued.

"Katie…" James says slowly, as he looks at the bridge.

Oh Lord no. Have mercy on me. I will do cartwheels just for you.

"Are you scared of bridges?"

Shit.

"No!"I shriek. It sounds bad even to my own ears. "Why would you think that, guys? I mean, really. A person afraid of bridges? Have you ever heard of that? That'd be just plain stupid."

James is smiling brightly now. It scares me even more.

"Ha, Katie. That's funny. Come on, we'll get you over your fear. Go on."

"No, thank you," I say politely. "You guys go on."

James gives me a friendly nudge towards the bridge and my heart-beat swerves wildly. It is not because of James' good-looks.

"Please," I say, an inch of fear in my voice now. "I'll just wait here."

"Aw, come on," says another guy. I think his name is Mitch. Or Hitch. More appropriate would be…no. Shouldn't think that. Bad Katie.

He drags me towards the bridge.

I pull my hand away, "No. Stop it." An inch of desperation creeps into my voice.

James laughs. And then, together, he and that Bitch (sowwee!) pull me so that I'm on top of the first wooden plank on the bride.

For a second, I feel nothing. And then I realize it.

I'm. On. Top. Of. The. Bridge.

My heart-stops for a moment and suddenly, I can't breathe and I want to cry and I feel I'm hyperventilating and I'm going to die and-

I start screaming.

I scream my head off and I still don't stop. I keep on screaming-

"What the-" A different voice pierces my subconscious but I have no idea who it is and I don't care because all parts of my brain are extremely busy in screaming their cells off. I can't even move back, so paralyzed I am with fear. My legs seem pasted to that wooden plank.

"What the fuck are you guys doing? Leave her bloody alone," the voice sounds loud and strong and angry.

I don't know what happens but suddenly I'm being dragged off the bridge and then I'm taking in deep, heaving breaths of fear and relief all mixed together and then I put on a nice smile, say 'Thank you' to my rescuer and calmly explain that the whole thing was a joke. Just a part I'm rehearsing for my next play.

Okay, I'm kidding.

I don't exactly do that. I more like cling to my rescuer, smell him deeply (he doesn't smell of bridges at all - yes, bridges have a smell and it's horrible! - instead he smells of clean soap and cologne and something else. Cars or something) and bury my face in his shoulder. I quite like his neck. Very smooth.

He allows me to inhale deeply three or four times and then gently pushes me away.

I open my mouth to say 'Thank you' and that's when I notice who it is.

I faint.

Okay, unfortunately, that is again not what happens. What happens is that I think I've died because of a heart-attack and this is Heaven (or Hell, if God knows all about the killing-mom's-favourite-plant incident) because surely, surely, it is not Cameron Tucker in front of whom I've just made an enormous fool of myself.

I blink desperately, hoping that the scene will change and something - anything - will happen but Cameron Tucker remains there in front of me, regarding me with those eyes of his.

(I think I'll be toast with strawberry-marmalade jam. That really does taste nice.)

"Marie," I say.

Yes. That's the first word that comes out of my mouth. The name of his ex-girlfriend.

I know. I'm brilliant.

"What?"

"Marie was your ex-girlfriend," I inform him.

He raises his eyebrows.

I blush deeply. I'm pretty sure that it doesn't look as nice as I would like it to.

"Mind telling me what was going on there?"

"No."

He waits.

"No, I'm not going to tell you," I elaborate.

I wonder why he rescued me. People don't usually rescue flies they want to buzz off.

"Why were you screaming?"

"Juste comme ça."

"Why were you screaming, Katie?" he asks again, and I can't help noticing that he's caught my right hand, and it's now in his and his hands are rather warm and big and nice.

I look down, defeated. "I'm scared of bridges," I murmur.

"Come again?"

"I'm scared of bridges!" I'm so embarrassed that I almost scream it at him.

And he doesn't help matters much. He starts laughing.

What a jerk.

He laughs continuously for a minute and I do not like how his eyes no longer seem all that scary - in fact, they seem quite...sexy, and nor does his expression and that it's sort of endearing.

"Are you finished?" I asked mutinously.

"You're scared of bridges," he states, looking as if he wants to laugh again.

"Yeah, go on, make fun," I say. "Only it's not funny. I almost died when they forced me on top of that bridge."

And then he does the most unexpected thing. He bends forward and brushes his lips against mine, the lightest, softest kiss possible that I feel all down to the tips of my toe-nails that have pink nail-polish and I forget all about bridges for a moment.

He draws back and stares at me. I stare back.

I'm quite clueless about what to do so I blurt out, "But you hate me."

He looks at me thoughtfully, "I do hate cheerleaders, in general."

"And I hate smart guys," I respond automatically. It is only a second later that I realize that I have back-handedly complimented him.

"And girls who are as short and small and delicate as you," he continues.

"And I hate guys who're tall and…well, tall."

"But you just get into so much trouble that it's impossible not to care. I knew something had happened when you didn't turn up for so much time. That's why I came back and then I found you screaming your head off and those guys laughing and I…just, lost it."

I feel a sudden burst of something inside me. Something like delight.

"I can't believe I punched James," he says, shaking his head.

"Oh my God," I squeal. "You luuuuuuuurve me."

"See?" he says, frowning. "That, just there. It should irritate the hell out of me. But it doesn't."

I'm smiling very brightly now. Maniacally, in fact.

"You know that you look slightly scary right now, don't you?" he regards my face.

"Nope," I say. "Bridges are scary. Smiles are not. And is there something you would like to ask me?" I waggle my eyebrows suggestively and continue. "Like if I want to be your burnt crisp? But I'd rather be toast with strawberry-marmalade jam, you know."

Yes, this is my underhanded way of asking him to ask me to be his girlfriend. I always knew I should have been Madame James Bond.

He looks blank and I sigh and pray to God for the redemption of the entire male sex.

Then he seems to understand and something in his eyes clicks and I'm burning all over again. Burn, sizzle and die.

"I can't believe I'm doing this," Cameron mutters a second later, and then in one fluid movement, pulls me close and kisses me very thoroughly.

Oh my God. I'm so fried and charred and completely incinerated.

"I suppose this means I'm going to have to put up with you all the time now," he says against my forehead presently, and his nose is touching mine and I can feel his warm breath on my face.

"Yup," I grin devilishly against his mouth, mentally re-evaluating the earlier evaluation I made on my Industrial Visit.

Cameron Tucker doesn't hate me after all. In fact, I think he might just luuuuuurve me.


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Ri