Rayleigh liked the routine she and Alex fell into. He'd go to football practice, she'd come home from her class at the community college and take a nap. Once practice was over, he would come over and they would do their homework together. Despite the homework, it was fun, and she liked just talking to him, laughing with him.

But he was nearly silent today. Oddly distracted by nothing at all.

"You cool?"

Alex didn't look up. "Yeah."

"That's bullshit, but if you wanna say anything, I'm only half ears because I've got an earphone in."

Alex chuckled, but continued on with his homework. She was a tad miffed, but let it go. They'd been dating less than 2 weeks, so she didn't expect him to be pouring his heart out to her. But roughly thirty seconds later, he suddenly asked, "Were you really the one that got arrested freshman year?"

Rayleigh winced, taking out the earphone. That was definitely one way to get her attention. And it looked like she would be the one pouring hearts. If he started hearing stuff about that, it was no wonder he was acting all weird. How could he not? Half of the rumors her friends told her over the years were completely wrong, and took a grain of truth and watered it down until it was barely recognizable. "Sort of. It's a pretty long and fucked up story. One of those stories that people say I'll look back and laugh at. I'm still not laughing though, but here's hoping for one day."

At his blank stare, she sighed. "I'll tell you the full story if you're willing to part with your homework for a while. What you heard was probably a bit off, considering how gossip travels."

"You don't have to—"

"To be honest, I rather have you know the full story than worry about which version of it you were told. Anywho, the summer before freshman year, my sister was a about to be a junior, and I hung out with her and her friends a lot. One of her friends, Jared, decided that he had taken a liking to me."

Alex shifted from his laying position on the ground and sat with his legs crossed Indian style, his warm grayish blue eyes giving her his full attention. Why are his eyes always so pretty? she thought. She shook her head to mentally get rid of random thought before continuing.

"I was stoked. I mean, I was just about to start high school and a gorgeous senior-to-be asked me out. I said yes, of course, and we started dating." Here Rayleigh let out a rueful laugh, and broke eye contact with Alex to look at the hem of her shirt as she started to toy with it. "I fell pretty hard. I was head over heels times two. Rayleigh and Jared, Jared and Rayleigh, that's how it was, and my retarded fourteen year old self thought that's how it was always going to be." She looked up and gestured to Alex. "Clearly we can see that didn't happen. Which is cool with me, I mean, you're like a thousand times cooler. And cuter, for that matter."

Alex laughed, "I'm glad you find me cuter and cooler than your ex at the same time."

"You should be honored, really," she told him, nodding. "Because he was pretty damn attractive." At his slightly unamused look, she decided that she had gushed about her ex-boyfriend's looks quite enough, and decided to move on. "But I digress. Looking back now, I can kind of see how completely fucked up our relationship was. We were always together, but we never spoke. I can't even remember having a single conversation with him."

"I don't get it, how were you always together and not speaking?" he asked.

She was never one to be modest or bashful, but she couldn't help but let the heat warm her cheeks. "Well, after I lost my virginity he didn't really seem interested in anything else. Not that I noticed at the time, of course."

She noticed that he shifted slightly when said she lost her virginity. Seeing the perfect moment to make things either significantly more or less awkward, she asked, "So when'd you lose yours?"

"Why do you think I have?" he shot back, raising an eyebrow.

"Well, have you?"


"There was no point in your question if you were just going to say yes anyway!"

He rolled his eyes. "I think I was almost sixteen."

"Awn, look at you waiting until you were almost legal," she teased, reaching forward to pinch his cheek.

"Would you just continue?"

Right, that.

"Okay, okay, geez, just trying to engage the audience. Where was I, anyway? Oh! Okay, so other than being a sex addict he was addicted to drugs, namely cocaine. But, where I never did anything worse than acid—"

"You tripped acid?"

"Only twice! The first time, I was pressured into it and pretty scared, so I had a bad trip, and never touched it— or any other miscellaneous drugs Jared offered me— ever again. The second time, he slipped it to me for shits and giggles, and I was too stupid to be angry."

"What was it like?"

"Oh it was terrifying— and that goes for both times. The first time, I had a half an hour conversation with a plant before it came alive and tried to suffocate me. And that shit lasts for like half a day or more, and when you do it you can't sleep. At one point I literally thought my brain was melting out of my mouth, and the walls would not stop pulsating; it was weird I could have sworn I heard it breathing or something. I forgot my name, where I lived, my sister… it was just really bad."

"That sounds awful."

"Oh, it was," she confirmed. "Jared was no help, of course, but if my sister and her friends weren't there, I probably would have landed myself in the hospital at best. The second time was even worse because I didn't even know I was tripping for a couple of minutes. The walls turned like black all of a sudden and like drawings started appearing on the walls and then the walls changed colors and I just didn't know what was happening, so I thought I had lost my mind."

"No offense, but he sounds like a dick."

"Oh, none taken whatsoever." They paused for a bit. "What was I talking about?"

Alex thought for a moment. "Something about the worst drug you've ever done was acid whe—"

"Oh yeah, Jared was a fucking coke addict. Not only was he seventeen, but whereas most people usually only trip three or four times a week, he would do it three or four times a day."

"Where did he even get coke from?"

"You can get anything anywhere if you know the right people. There was this super sketchy guy that lived— or maybe he still lives there— anyway, he lived outside Bethesda, the real sketchy part, and he'd always drag me along to go get some. The neighborhood was fucking crazy, it was literally just a bunch of meth houses lined up. It was so scary, I thought I was going to die every time I went."

"So why'd you keep going?"

"I said I didn't want to go and he dragged me anyway. Like I said, I was fourteen and really, really stupid; I didn't want him to get too angry with me. But seriously, once there was this guy in his dealer's house yelling at a spoon about how it destroyed his life. Okay stop laughing it was actually the scariest thing I've ever seen because he looked so miserable and he was screaming so loud. Jared's dealer was no better than anyone else living in that fucking wreck. The guy gave me the creeps… he was always really starey and 'accidentally' brushing against me and offering me free shit and once he freaked the fuck out and pulled a gun on us because Jared tried to skimp him with money."


Rayleigh scoffed, "You haven't even heard the worst of it."

"So what happened?"

"Well he tried to frame me for possession, and I guess that was when I decided it wouldn't be wise to stay in a relationship with him," she tried to sound lighthearted about it, but there was still a clear bitterness in her voice. "This next part gets kind of confusing, so just stop me anytime. The day I got arrested, someone called the principle and tipped them off that someone in school had drugs on them. You probably know what happened next: they found coke in my locker and they arrested me right there on the spot."

She let the words hang for a bit, not caring that they weren't really dramatic words to leave off on. They had gone from her trying to make it an easygoing, albeit awkward conversation, to an actual serious conversation, and she was trying get her bearings straight. Serious wasn't her forte. "I was hysterical. I didn't know what was going on or why there were drugs in my locker. At first, I thought they were talking about weed, but I was always smart about drugs: I never took them to school, I never smoked in public or walked around if my eyes were red and clothes smelled. I'd never been so scared in my life. Of course, once they told me that it was cocaine they found, I knew that it was Jared who put it there. It didn't take a genius to figure it out, but it took a few minutes to accept it, I guess. Like I said, head over heels times two."

"I don't get it, if they took you in, how are you not in juvie or something right now?"

"Because, they found out I was framed. You know how they've started putting security cameras in come of the big hallways?" she asked, and waited for his nod. "Well lucky for me, there was one where my locker was, and when I told them I was framed, they looked into it and saw that hey, I was. They arrested Jared, who was seventeen, so he was tried as a minor. If he was a month older, he would still have like two years left, but I think he's already out."


"Well, that's not exactly the end of the story. You see, about a week after all this happened, some guy showed up at my house to explain some things to me. It turns out that his brother was the one who tipped the principal off."

"Did he not like Jared or something?"

"It's a bit hard to like someone when they knock-up your girlfriend."

Alex took on an expression of absolute disbelief. "You're serious?"

"Yeah, that was my reaction too. His brother didn't mean for me to get tangled up in it, but according to the guy, he was too much of a pussy to come and apologize himself. When I did eventually meet him, however, I found out a lot of things I think I would have just been better off not knowing. For example, I was perfectly fine until he told me that other than his girlfriend, Jared had also slept with half of her friends, and three quarters of their friends, and it had probably been going on since before we even met until he got locked up."

"I'm sorry." Rayleigh shrugged, but it definitely hurt a lot more than she let on. Jared had been her 'first love' so to speak, and it was hard to get over the fact that he thought of it as nothing more than a routine lay.

"At least one good thing came out of my fucked up freshman year," she told him, starting to smile, "That guy whose brother almost indirectly landed me in jail started going out with my sister and they've been dating ever since. They're the cutest thing, I swear to god."

"Sting, right?"

"Yup. They're fucking bizarre, but cute," she said. "Whenever they talk about each other, they seem like they're this horrid couple that is together just for the convenience, but when they're together they're just like this adorable little couple that never do anything and once when I saw them watching a movie, she was asleep and like curled up to his side and he was playing with her hair and not even watching the movie and I think my heart just melted because I literally adore them."

She smiled when he laughed, and in the back of her head she thought it wouldn't be awful if she and Alex became a bizarre, cute couple. He certainly wasn't anything like Jared, she already knew that much. Maybe it was a little too early to be thinking about long term commitments to anything, but she had a good feeling about Alex.

He was going out to lunch. With Rayleigh. And they were… laughing?

Not knowing what else to talk about, they quickly fell into chatter about their old classmates and how they were doing with their lives. At first, It wasn't really a conversation more than it was a way to keep away the silence. Even so, the two had quite a lot to say, whether it was on mutual friends, enemies, or Meaghan Bate. While the first two only got about ten seconds apiece, the latter had kept them occupied from the intersection before the cafe and on into the two trying to decide what to eat.

"Wow, fourth marriage and fifth kid… some things really don't change, do they?"

"You know how you hear about that girl that blew half of the football team?" Alex responded. "She literally blew at least half of the football team."

Rayleigh sniggered. "Were you one of them?"

"Yeah, and I also fathered one of her children. Maybe two."

"You know," she told him, leaning forward conspiratorially "there's this great new invention called a condom. This may be shocking, but it's even more effective than pulling out." Alex tried not to laugh, but the second Rayleigh did, he was a goner. "Some of the shit that comes out of my mouth, honestly."

"Sometimes it's just easier not to question it," he said. "So, what are you gonna get?"

"Is the grilled cheese here good?"

"Never had it."

"Well that wasn't helpful at all," she deadpanned.

"Let's be real for a second, how hard is it to make a decent grilled cheese?"

"It's an art and I will not have you belittling it."

He held his hands up in mock surrender. "My bad."

"I think I'll just go with Belgian waffles."

"Rayleigh, it's one o'clock."

"Alex," she mocked, "make like Meaghan Bate and blow me."

Cracking with laughter, he choked out, "Sorry, you were never on the football team."

"She also quite liked the wrestling team, which I totally tried out for." She batted her eyes and threw her hair back over her shoulder. "Not to brag or anything, but they wouldn't let me on because I looked too damn good in a singlet."

"Yeah, I'm sure that was it."

He wondered how he went an entire seven years without some sort of contact with Rayleigh. Anything and everything that came out of her mouth was bizarre, but it never failed to crack him up. They'd been out for less than fifteen minutes, and already she had him rolling his eyes at how they were so awkward since she got here. Yeah, they went out, and yeah, he fell for her, but they had built such a strong friendship under their relationship that it was dumb to think that they couldn't still give each other a laugh once in a while.

Either way, it was nice to have it back. Or, at the very least, be on their way to having it back.

"Are you saying I wouldn't look good in a singlet?"

All of this would have probably been a lot easier from the get-go if there was something Rayleigh wouldn't look good in, he thought. Hell, she even made goddamn stitches look hot. "Guilty as charged."

"My mommy said I'm cute, so fuck you mister." She crossed her arms in a huff.

Alex snorted. "No she didn't."

"Yeah," she sighed, trying to look dejected, "I know."

"At least your dad thinks you're decent."

It was Rayleigh's turn to snort. "No he doesn't."

"Yeah," Alex said, grinning wolfishly, "I know."

She kicked him under the table. "I don't understand how people think you're nice."

"I think it has something to do with me not kicking people."

Rayleigh stood up and smacked her hands on the the tabletop. "You know what? I'm going to go buy my fucking grilled cheese."

"I thought you were getting waffles." He had to bite the side of his cheek to keep from laughing at her. The last thing he wanted was another kick to the shin.

"I thought you were going to suck a dick. Looks like we were both wrong."

Chuckling, he stood up as well. "Looks like. I'll buy though, because you'll probably—"

"Good, you fucking bully," she interrupted, plopping back down in her seat. "Since you're buying, I'd also like a vanilla bean smoothie. Large." At his unamused expression, she winked and beamed, pointing at the cashier a couple yards away.

When he got to the front of the line and went to say his order, he realized that he didn't really know what he was going to get. Instead of staring the the menu hanging behind the teller like the one dumbass who didn't know which side was up, he just ordered Belgian waffles for himself, and grilled cheese for Rayleigh, as well as a her large smoothie.

He turned back to look at her as the college guy behind the counter counted out his change— she was better to look at than the scrawny kid, after all— and she gave him two thumbs up. After a good-natured eye roll, he got his money back from the cashier and joined her back in their booth.

"You see that guy over there?" She kept her head straight and directed her gaze to the right, so as not to be suspicious. Alex subtly glanced over and saw a man probably in his mid-eighties.

"What about him?" he asked.

"He's so cute!" she exclaimed, fanning her face as though she was trying to stop tears. "I just want to take him home and knit him doilies. God, I love old people."

"I think that's called reverse pedophilia."

"Shut up."

Alex spent the next few minutes asking her questions about her and the old man. She played along like she always did, claiming that he would father her nine children and they would all be named variant of "Bertha" because she had a feeling he'd like the name.

Once the food came, Rayleigh immediately stopped her story about about Bertho— their first son— and how he would fare on his first day of elementary school.

"You got grilled cheese?"


"Wanna go halfsies?" she asked, smiling hopefully.

He stared at her waffles, then he stared at her pleading eyes. He didn't really like waffles all that much, but he found himself powerless to deny her and her stupid murky green eyes. So, he started cutting his grilled cheese in half and plopped one of the halves on her plate.

"You da bestest," she told him, giving him one of her two waffles.

"I know."


He chuckled. Waffle notwithstanding, he could get used to having Rayleigh back in his life, girlfriend or just platonic friend.