Alex wanted to know what the word was for seeing someone somewhere, and then seeing them everywhere after that. If he was going to be experiencing the sensation, he felt he deserved to know what it was called. The day after the fire drill, Alex had to have seen Rayleigh at least eight times. The next day, he must have seen her at least twenty. And so far today, he's already had a few more sightings.

But it wasn't as if he was going out of his way to see her. No, that would have been a little (read: very) weird. It was just that, since the second she made her existence known to him, she started slowly taking over his mind. He knew that it was slightly unreasonable, and more than slightly insane, but she was just one of those people. For heaven's sake, through just one conversation and a couple of acknowledgments throughout the hallways, it could have probably been said that Alex was starting to develop something akin to a crush on the easygoing redhead.

Maybe that's why he had started looking toward 3rd period AP literature, the one class he remembered her saying they had together. Mr. Feducci was pretty gung-ho on partner work, stating that "helping each other find reasons for your opinions is the first step to making practical sense when writing said essays." Alex was always great at writing essays in the first place and never really cared about partner work, but now that he knew Rayleigh was in his class, he couldn't wait until the next time Feducci let them on their own. Luckily for him, today was that day.

Everyone started breaking off into their groups of twos and threes and Alex headed over to Rayleigh's desk in the back corner of the classroom. From far away, it looked as though she was seriously concentrated on reading her book, but once he got close he could see that she was texting and eating cheerios. He slowed his steps for a second then, thinking that maybe it was too weird for him to just waltz up to her. While contemplating whether or not it was a good idea and simultaneously plotting a detour course to not make things awkward in case it wasn't a good idea, Rayleigh looked up and shot him a gleaming smile. He didn't know whether it was inviting or polite, but he realized that even if he were to just go and work with the two friends he usually did, there would be no suave way to turn and walk towards them. In essence, he was stuck, but considering what his original plan was, stuck suited him quite well.

"If you're going to work with me, I'll have you know I ask some damn hard questions," she informed.

He took the seat in front of her, relieved. "I think I can handle it."

"Right, you're the big sports star; can't be afraid of the little people and their questions."

"Precisely."

"So," she started, "if you were stranded on an island and could only have three things, what would you have?"

"That's your damn hard question? Really?"

"If it wasn't so damn hard why aren't you answering it?" she retorted.

"I'd take a sandwich, a speedboat, and probably another sandwich. See, simple."

"But what happens when you run out of fuel? And have a little variety; two sandwiches is absolutely pathetic."

"I like sandwiches," he said, shrugging.

"Me too, but if I wouldn't have to pay I would get something like a five foot pizza and a shitload of carrots."

"You can't be seriously berating me for wanting a sandwich if you want carrots."

"Carrots are delicious, low calorie, and orange. I understand that everyone has an opinion, but if you don't like carrots, yours is absolute shit and therefore invalid."

"I don't think that's how opinions work."

Rayleigh placed her elbow on the desk and lean toward him with wide eyes."Well then it's a good thing you're invalid, isn't it?"

"You're basing my validity on whether I like one of the most unpopular vegetables of all time."

"I said carrots, not Brussels sprouts."

"'One of the.'"

"Unimportant."

Alex laughed then, because he didn't really know how to respond. But, since he didn't want their conversation to just end, he asked, "So what would you bring with you?"

"I would bring Alfred Hitchcock, a gigantic cookie that granted me a wish every time I bit it, and suntan lotion."

"That is hands down the worst trio of things I've ever heard."

"No, the worst was my friend who said he'd bring lotion, a porn mag, and a lot of weed."

He considered that for a moment. "No you're right, that is worse."

"See."

"But you can't bring a gigantic magical cookie with you, that's ridiculous."

"I can because I thought of it."

"That's not fair, you didn't say it had to be reasonable."

"Yeah, but you chose two sandwiches, so clearly you're creatively challenged."

"Am not. I can draw."

Rayleigh raised her eyebrow challengingly. "Prove it." Pushing his worksheet toward him, she bore her eyes into his, and he started piling up a list of reasons why he should continue looking at her eyes (and her perfectly arched eyebrows and her enticing lips and her curly red French braid) instead of drawing.

He broke their eye contact anyway, and flipped the paper over. Not wanting her to see it until it was done, he propped up her binder and ignored her indignant huff. Quickly he got to work, scribbling his artwork down on the paper. About a minute or so later, he was finished, and turned the paper so she could see it.

"…this is the ugliest thing I've ever seen. What the hell is that?"

"It's a house," he explained, incredulous that she couldn't tell. "There's the grass, and the tree, and there's the actual house. I even drew a sun and some stick people."

"That is not no fucking house." She scrutinized the doodle a bit more. "That is not no fucking tree."

"That is clearly a house. See there's the box and the roof and—"

"That is not no fucking roof!"

"Yes it is!"

"You're obviously delusional."

"You're obviously blind."

Before Rayleigh had a chance to reply, the bell rang. Mr. Feducci said, "Turn in your worksheets to the bin and don't forget to read." The two of them looked down at their worksheets— Alex's house on his, and absolutely nothing on Rayleigh's.

"You think he'll let us turn it in tomorrow?" he asked.

Rayleigh shrugged, "Fuck it. I'll take the zero." She hiked her backpack onto her shoulder and left, only looking back when she was halfway out of the room to wink at him.


Rayleigh couldn't believe her luck, though she wasn't exactly sure yet if it was good or bad. God, it had been seven years since she'd last seen him and he was still able to affect her with the simplest words. He told her she looked good, for crying out loud, not confessed his undying love for her. But by the way her heart leaped when he said it, he may as well have.

It was his fault; no one told him to get even more attractive. She knew there was a reason she always yelled at him whenever she felt the prickly start of stubble forming on his face. Now that it had a day or two to grow, she had to admit it looked great on him, to the point where it just wasn't fair to anyone who had the gift of sight. Especially since it brought out those delectable gray-blue eyes of his.

Those same eyes she looked into and swooned over every day for eight months—

No.

Usually, whenever she went down memory lane, a simple "no" would suffice. But in those times Alex wasn't around. Now he was, and "no" only filled her mind of images and flashbacks and it filled her with so much nostalgia that she wanted to scream.

She wondered if he had changed. Maybe he grew out of the whole shy thing. She frowned at the thought; Alex wouldn't be Alex if he wasn't relatively silent around 99% of the population. More than anything she hoped he still mussed up his hair whenever he was stre—

No.

"Maybe I should just go to sleep," she mumbled.

Needless to say, Rayleigh was both dreading and anticipating work when she got up the next morning. She stood in front of her mirror for about forty-five minutes trying to pick out something cute to wear, which was about forty-four minutes longer than it took her yesterday. Everything just felt really ugly to her. Her shoulders looked too manly, her torso too rectangular, her boobs too out there, not looking like she had any boobs at all, her back too exposed, etcetera, etcetera. Every piece of clothing had something wrong with it, most of them making her look like a nun, a hooker, a try hard, or just plain gross. A couple of hundreds of clothes later and she emerged victorious with a just-above-the-knee denim dress shirt with a skinny black belt to accent her waist and chest.

After doing her hair and make-up, she stood in front of the mirror and scrutinized her appearance for another good ten minutes. Even though picking a shirt-dress was not even close to being worth how much effort Rayleigh put in to look like she did now, she was able to admit that she looked pretty stellar.

If Alex was going to be all hot and distracting, she was going to be all hot and distracting too, dammit. She was happy to see that the energy she put into making herself attractive wasn't going to waste. On the way to work, she was not-so-subtly checked out by quite a few guys. A couple of them were pretty cute and she offered them a coy smile. Ha ha, take that Alexander!

Hopefully Alex would be as taken, even more so, actually, than the men she briefly crossed paths with. But, then again, he found her attractive senior year when she only had one type of outfit: sweats, a long-sleeved shirt, and a scarf. The odds were in her favor. He was going to be knocked off his socks.

Too bad that by the time it hit one o'clock, she still hadn't seen him anywhere. How unfair, she prettied herself up and he had the nerve to not be around. Prick.

She tried to convince herself that she didn't care, but even in the deepest depths of denial she wouldn't have been successful. And it wasn't even as if she had much work to bury herself in, since it was only her second day, so she had nothing to distract her from her Alex-possessed mind.

Now how was that even going to work? Was she going to spend hours picking out an outfit and skipping breakfast because she took too long to get dressed every day and stay distracted once she arrived? She sure hoped not; there'd be no chance in hell she'd be able to get any work done. And, more importantly, she'd be missing out on food! She just landed herself a fun job at a good magazine with a decent pay. A petty high school romance wasn't going to keep her from doing her job. It had been seven years, not weeks, since they were an item. She had a fair number of relationships in the past, a few she'd still talk to, the but the rest she probably wouldn't give a second glance. Then again, none were ever as important to her as Alex was.

Rayleigh groaned. No matter how much she wanted it to be, she was certain that their discomfort wasn't just going to dissolve into nothing. She was going to have to talk to him. Whoopee.

It wasn't long before Rayleigh figured out that if she was going to talk to him, knowing where he was would have been a good start, so she stuck her head over her cubicle to see if someone was in the adjacent space. Luckily for her, there was. Before she could register the fact that looking over someone's desk was not exactly a great first impression, she said, "Hi there."

The girl typing away on her computer looked up, slightly startled. Almost instantly, she went from frightened to polite. "Hiya."

"Sorry to bother you, but you wouldn't happen to know where Alex Laymen's office is, would you?"

"I would, actually," the girl replied. "If you go all the way down the hall and make two lefts, you should find his name next to his door."

Rayleigh was down the hall before she could even think of shouting back a "Thanks a lot!" over her shoulder. She was on a mission, and she was going to complete it as quickly as humanly possible so she could forget the event just as soon.