Chapter 2
The Running Fiasco

Sharon and I engaged in a passive-aggressive argument after class was over. Meanwhile students were flocking into and out of the rooms, creating a noisy atmosphere.

'Look, you've been depressed ever since James and I started dating!' Sharon began when I told her I knew what she was up to.

'What?' I turned appalled. Where did that come from?

'You don't want to hang around with us anymore,' my friend said, sounding hurt.

'I am trying to give you guys space,' I responded, reeling from the accusation. I'd often found enjoyment in doing some things alone. It surprised me when people assumed the opposite.

'But you're depressed,' Sharon insisted.

'I am not!' I argued back. I knew that I wasn't. I'd done my homework regularly. I wasn't cutting school or had any intention of doing so. My job at the school newspaper was going well, too. I'd recently been promoted to the post of senior editor. This meant I no longer had to write columns on a bi-weekly basis. I just needed to edit the newbies' works and coordinate the weekly meetings.

'Hailey, you have two jobs outside school and you spend all your time at home unless it's for the newspaper,' Sharon countered. 'It's our junior year. You need to enjoy it. We need to enjoy it.'

'Sharon, I need to do well in my SATs,' I pointed out. We'd been through the latter part of the argument before. I knew what words to use to get my way.

'That is true,' Sharon said slowly. She suddenly looked downcast as she realized how obsessive she was being about James. I wanted to tell her it'd be okay; both of them liked each a lot and they'd only been dating for five months. The beginning of relationships were always crazy for everyone. And she didn't have too much trouble at home. On the other hand, I'd a bunch of reasons that fueled my determination for excelling at school now.

'I don't know what's going to happen to me, Hailey,' Sharon whispered dolefully before I could open my mouth. 'I haven't cracked open a SAT book in ages.'

'Don't worry,' I said, trying to mollify her. 'We can look over them at Sunday. After six, though, okay? My shift ends then.'

'You're working at the coffee shop for ten hours!' she exclaimed, sounding aghast.

'Sharon, I need to, okay?' I said quietly.

My friend looked like she was about to ask questions again. I didn't care though. I'd dodged all of them before.

However, right at that moment, someone bumped into me very strongly from behind while hollering in laughter.

I hadn't expected it so I fell to the ground flat on my chest. I gasped, touching my forehead; it hurt.

Instantly, that person pulled me up to the ground with a strong hand.

I was still swaying on my feet, trying to gather my balance. I'd bumped straight into his chest at the sudden force.

'Oh man, I'm sorry, Hails, didn't know you were there,' Stephen said, holding both my arms as if he thought I was going to fall again. 'Long time, no see right?'

'Damn it, Parker,' I said, breathing loudly. I broke free from his gasp, wanting to hold onto my chest. Was I really so worked up and tired that I couldn't catch my breath? 'Can't you watch where you're going?'

'Well, you were the one who was standing in front of the door,' Stephen pointed out, smirking. 'Anyway, sorry again. Sorry, sorry, sorry—'

'You were walking backwards!' I snapped.

'Exactly, how was I supposed to know you were going to be there?' Parker said. 'Unless you were waiting for me, huh?'

'I don't know, maybe by the fact that a person has eyes,' I said, ignoring his last statement. 'And they usually look where they're going and they don't walk backwards—'

'You cannot say that for everyone,' Parker said seriously. 'Some people are blind, after all. And walking backwards is good. It gives you a whole new different view of this beautiful world. Or school. You should try it sometime. We should try it sometime.'

'You are not blind.' I clenched my teeth. 'You are hopeless.' Could this conversation get any more ludicrous?

Was that his way of asking me to do something with him? Oh gosh.

'No, I am not, at least I don't think so,' he quipped, nodding with an overtly contemplative expression on his face. 'Oh hey, Sharon. I didn't see you.'

'How could you?' Sharon said, her face brightening as she gave a pointed glance in my direction.

'Are you kidding me?' I said, throwing my hands up in the air. Here I was standing, almost breathless from being knocked down onto the ground and my friend couldn't stop acting as if she'd just watched the epic rain scene from The Notebook for the first time.

'Well, as much as I'd love to argue with you from the bottom of my heart, I can't,' Stephen said, looking straight at me after glancing at his phone. 'I have another class.'

'What is it?' Sharon asked, sounding too interested.

'Chemistry with Froggie,' Parker replied promptly. Then he shuddered.

'Oh my God, Hailey, aren't you going to transfer to that class from tomorrow?' Sharon blurted out. She looked as if she was about to hyperventilate at any second.

'Man, my day just got a thousand times better,' Stephen said, smirking the largest smirk possible.

'Trust me, mine didn't,' I muttered under my breath.

Stephen laughed and then grabbed one of his friend's shoulders, kneeling him down. Then he jumped on the guy's back, giving me a goofy smile.

'I always ride in style to class,' he said. 'Froggie hates it.'

'You don't say,' I acknowledged. Froggie didn't exactly have any sense of humor but he was easily the best chemistry teacher this school could afford.

I'd made sure to enroll in his class straightaway. I was planning to take tonnes of AP subjects.

'You are a miserable son of a bitch!' Stephen's friend yelled, staggering under his weight but still moving forwards.

'Fine, don't ask for chicks' numbers from me,' Stephen said, kicking at his friend's feet in response.

Sharon shook her head and turned to me, hoping that I'd smile at their goofiness.

I gave her the blankest look I possibly could give and then rolled my eyes.

As the two disappeared around the corner, I turned to Sharon and fired, 'You've got to be kidding me, right?'

'He's so interested,' Sharon gushed. 'Can't you see that?'

'But I am not,' I pointed out calmly. 'So why are you trying?'

'But—but you said that he was cute,' Sharon said, now looking sad and horrified. 'Remember?'

I frowned, trying to dredge up this particular piece of seemingly non-existent information from my cluttered memories.

'You're not talking about sixth grade when we did that stupid truth-and-dare thing with those girls from camp!' I cried out in disbelief.

'Maybe?' Sharon pursued in a quiet voice.

'I was lying,' I lied. Any other day, I'd admit that Stephen Parker was cute. As in appearance-wise. I wasn't ever a fan of his personality.

It wasn't because he was mean or a bully. We were just too different to be compatible. I detested pointless attention while he seemed to cherish and glorify in it. Plus, we'd both existed in a world where we usually pretended we didn't know each other.

I'd liked things that way.

'No, you were not,' Sharon confirmed. 'And you still think he's cute.'

'I don't,' I muttered mutinously.

'Any of the recent guys that you like from those obscure bands look like him!' Sharon said.

'Sharon, I don't know where you got that from—'

'Just admit that you think he's really, really cute. With the hair and the hazel eyes.'

'Sharon, you have a boyfriend. His name is James. He's also my best friend. He serenaded you with flowers and those weird chocolates. It was in Valentine's Day last year.'

I tried saying everything in a questioning tone.

'Hailey, don't change the subject!' Sharon cried out, flaring up. Wow, she was getting passionate about this. 'You've always found Stephen Parker cute.'

'So what, Sharon?' I said wearily. 'I think a lot of people are cute. You are cute. Jason from my Math class is…cute.'

Not really. I'd never found him so. But I was sure there were some girls out there who did.

'But you do admit that Stephen is cute right?' Sharon asked yet again.

I raised my hands in a defeated manner. We were going in circles and I felt impatient.

'It doesn't matter, I am not interested,' I said firmly. 'As far as I know—and don't interrupt me—I don't think he is. It's just the way he rolls. Wanting attention, flirting, riding on the clouds, joking in class, getting things from others by being charming instead of working—'

'You do notice him,' Sharon said, laughing aloud. Her eyes widened at the supposed revelation.

'I notice his flaws,' I snapped. 'Anyway, we've all known each other since middle school. I can pretty much say the same thing about some of the guys in soccer. But why are you now trying to set me up with the guy?'

'We are not,' she said. By that, I assumed James was also playing her partner-in-crime now. I'd smack the latter once I'd get him alone, I decided. Even though that was unlikely. Fighting with James felt like fighting with a puppy.

Outside school, Sharon and James were always attached to the hips.

'He just seemed really interested during lunch,' Sharon continued, looking disappointed. 'Yes, he's quite attention-seeking and a bit of a flirt. But he didn't seem like he wanted anything from you.'

'Who knows what he wants?' I said, shrugging. 'And he's a pretty big flirt. You should see how he acts around the cheerleaders every time I walk past the field.'

'So you do keep an eye for him! That is so—'

'I am not even going to answer,' I responded.

'Come on, Hailey, you should date someone sometime,' Sharon said quietly. 'It's been a while and you've been so tensed lately. And if you're with someone, the four of us can double date. And we'd—'

I wanted to laugh at her concern even though I felt annoyed that she'd thought I needed to date someone to feel happy.

Rather than give away my annoyance and waste my time arguing, I reached out and gave her a hug, pretending I wasn't feeling the opposite and wanted her to shut up.

I knew that Sharon was surprised and touched because I wasn't one to initiate any affection in public. Oh, I could rant and scream out my opinions if I disagreed and felt the other side's opinions were unjustifiably wrong. However, public displays of affection weren't my cup of tea.

'I appreciate it, but right now, I can't,' I said lightly. 'Anyway, I have to go now. Newspaper office beckons me.'

The newspaper office was the smallest room at our school building. It was located on the ground floor beside the janitor's closet. The location and size pretty much summed up the student body's negligence towards the paper. Hardly anyone read or contributed anything.

We'd evens stopped publishing Letters to the Editor by now. We hardly ever got any e-mails.

I always wished that the newspaper had a much more favorable presence at school. I'd been writing as a regular columnist since last year. But I'd never met anyone who said they'd read my articles. Or anyone else's for that matter.

Not to sound like an arrogant tool, but I did cover a wide array of topics. I'd done the usual articles on school life such as detention, expulsion, the student body election, the cafeteria's refusal to serve vegetarian food etc. But I'd also written about bullying, feminism, climate change, volunteering, city life, campaigns, what's happening in the outside world. Blah, blah, blah.

I didn't care about meaningless praises from my peers but it'd be refreshing to hear people's opinions and learn from their criticisms. However, the sole fact that the job would look good on my college transcripts had to suffice for now.

I pondered over this as I'd sat at the office and started reading the newbies' works, going carefully over the punctuation marks and the grammar.

The few people who'd worked there left within an hour. I stayed behind, mostly because I wanted to catch up on some reading and delay going home soon.

I shut my book, realizing that it was nearly five in the afternoon and soccer practice was over.

I'd better get out of here.

I packed my bags and exited the deserted room, shutting the door behind me. As soon as I'd realized that the hallways were completely deserted, I started to run.

I loved running. I'd always wake up early and run in the morning but this year my schedule grew too hectic. I'd usually get out of bed at the last moment and grab a cereal bar instead of having a proper breakfast. Even during the weekends.

However, I always tried to run whenever I could find an open space. It freed my thoughts, took away all my feelings and made me feel energetic.

A smile crept onto my face as I sped towards the exit. However, as I passed an empty room, I suddenly came crashing against someone's back.

'Ow!' the guy piped, almost falling down before he'd caught himself.

'Sorry,' I said hastily, holding onto the door nearby and glancing at him. It didn't hurt me that much but I felt quite breathless.

When I saw who he was, my mouth opened.

'Man, you've the boniest shoulders I've ever felt,' Stephen said, rubbing his arms. 'Dammit, Rose. Can't you watch where you're going?'

'How was I supposed to know you were going to be right here?' I stopped. This was déjà vu .

'You are too good, Hailey, you really are,' Stephen continued, shaking his head in an exaggerated fashion. 'I give up. There's nothing that I'd do you won't beat me at. I bump against you. You'll just wait, take your time and do the same thing.'

'What are you talking about?' I said calmly. 'It was an accident.'

Whenever this guy talked, it felt like he'd never stop.

'Whoever can touch the door knob faster wins,' Stephen said, immediately getting up and doing that. It felt comical watching him do it, especially since the knob was right beside my hand.

I stood frozen, staring at him with raised eyebrows.

'I win,' Stephen confirmed. 'You may now feel bad. Or just come up with something else.'

'I—' I didn't usually feel fazed but he was so spontaneous and weird. 'You are childlike.'

It felt like the right thing to say after seeing him make a game about touching doorknobs.

'I never heard anyone say that to me,' Stephen commented, sounding surprised.

'Uh-huh,' I acknowledged.

He laughed.

'Usually hot, excellent drummer who can take twenty shots at one go and fantastic, going-to-make-you-faint kisser are the words that follow me,' he now said, smirking confidently.

I rolled my eyes, feeling a wave of anger at his arrogance and the way he was challenging me. Was that the best he could do?

'Usually really smart girl who's the youngest senior editor of the school newspaper, waitress, caterer, volunteer, trying-to-be-an-entrepreneur and who also has a high chance of getting a full ride scholarship to an Ivy League are the words that follow me,' I said smoothly.

There was a short silence as Stephen's expression changed from arrogance to wonder.

'That is amazing,' he said, sounding genuinely impressed.

'Well…' I stalled, feeling a bit embarrassed suddenly. 'Thanks.' I didn't know about the full-ride scholarship part, but my adviser told me if I could score really well in my SATs and join a program at a university during summer, I'd quite a good chance.

As for recommendations, I had pretty ones already.

'Anyway, I'm going to go now,' I said, picking my bag from the ground. 'See ya.'

'Wait, aren't you going to run?' Stephen asked as I began walking away.

I shrugged nonchalantly, turning around.

'Smart girl who is the youngest editor-in-chief of the school newspaper and strips for people and does a bunch of other stuffs no one in the world knows about…' Stephen bit his lips, laughing and looking at my expression.

'Haha, very funny,' I deadpanned. 'Besides, it's youngest senior editor. I'm not the Editor-in-Chief yet. Wait, do you remember what I exactly said?'

Stephen stopped, frowning in confusion.

'You don't remember,' I said, smirking.

'I don't remember your exact worlds because you were going on and on about it,' Stephen argued.

'I wasn't. Just to be clear, you were quite long too. But you did say usually hot, excellent drummer who can take twenty shots at one go and fantastic, going-to-make-you-faint kisser are the words that follow me. Huh. I guess I won this time. Again.'

'Are you serious?' he asked, sounding dumbfounded. 'You are trying to make a competition over who can remember what the other person said?'

'You told me to come up with something else, didn't you?' I pointed out. Stephen looked amazed. 'Anyway, no, I am not going to run. Bye.'

'But you were smiling!' Stephen pointed out, grabbing my arm.

'Why do you say it like that?' I felt nettled at the awestruck expression on his face as if I'd always lashed out at people and acted like a bitch.

I pulled my arm away from him as fast as I could.

'You don't ever smile,' Stephen answered, smirking. 'Not even at me.'

He sounded surprised about the fact.

'Geez, I wonder why?' I said sarcastically. I turned away once again but Stephen was laughing.

'Come on, run with me,' he said petulantly, grabbing my arm again and pulling me towards him with a strong grasp.

'Parker,' I warned, stepping away so that there was more than enough space between us. He still hadn't let go of my arm. 'I am not going to run. I don't want to. Especially not with you.'

'You mean you can't?' he said, falling into steps with me as I fended him off and began walking again. 'Admittedly, you do flounce your arms like a fish.'

'Like you?' I snapped.

'You'd know that, right?' he said, winking. 'You have been watching me.'

I ignored him, walking faster. I'd a feeling arguing with him would be equal to never leaving the school. And I wanted to start on my homework after getting home.

'I bet you can't,' Stephen chanted loudly into my ears. 'I bet you can't. I bet you can't—'

'Oh my God, please shut up,' I begged, feeling weary.

Stephen smiled, leaning forwards and slinging his arm tightly across my shoulders. My shoulders. This guy had no idea about invasion of space.

I hunched down to move his arms away but he'd just as easily put them on my shoulders again. We repeated this for a while with Parker laughing and yours truly grunting and screaming in frustration.

'Parker!' I pleaded angrily. 'I need to go home. Go away.'

'Look, Rose, I am not as dense as you probably think I am,' Stephen said in such a conversational tone as if we were discussing the ethics of journalism. 'I can tell you are extremely annoyed at me. And perhaps, in a perfect world, it might be rightfully justified. But you see, I can't help it. You are weirdly competitive and I'm weirdly enjoying this. And I'm not going to stop—'

'You really don't think before you say anything,' I said in disbelief, trying to digest whatever nonsense that was coming out of his mouth.

'Nope, not really,' he quipped, beaming. 'I just feel like rambling and pouring out my soul whenever I'm near you. Sounds pretty romantic, right?'

'Look, Parker, stop whatever you're trying to do,' I began, gagging at his outrageously flirtatious smile. 'I'm not interested. And I'm not weirdly competitive. I am serious about the work I do. And you don't even know me. Honestly.'

'Oh man, you're not competitive?' he said, laughing and ignoring the part where I said I wasn't interested. 'You serious? Anything I said or did today, you just did it better.'

'That's probably true,' I commented, thinking about it. 'Well.'

'Except for running, Your Beloved Highness.'

'Oh my gosh.' Were we at it again? 'You're out of your mind.'

'You're out of your mind,' he repeated.

'Are you seriously copying me?' I asked, shaking my head.

'Are you seriously copying me?' he repeated again. His voice was higher-pitched than mine could ever be.



'You just repeated your name. This is so childish.'

'You just repeated your name. Wait, what's the difference between childish and childlike?'

He immediately put on a mock curious expression.

'Childish is when someone is old but acts immature,' I replied stonily. 'And childlike is being innocent, naïve, angelic. Like a child. This doesn't apply to you in any circumstances whatsoever!'

I sincerely hoped he didn't remember that I'd blurted the word out in front of him.

'But you said I was childlike,' Stephen pointed out, laughing. He looked dazed. 'Man, you have it bad too.'

I knew he said it to get onto my nerves but hearing someone pinpoint I had a crush always bothered me.

'You—' I didn't respond. Who says these things to someone they didn't even know? It was unbelievable.

'I don't feel anything for you,' I started.

'Yeah, right,' Stephen countered confidently. 'Keep telling yourself that.'

'Fine, if you are not going to listen to anything I'm saying, I am not going to bother—'

He repeated my words again with an extremely infuriating smile and took a few steps towards me. My breath hitched almost involuntarily.

'Who ever can run the fastest?' I blurted.

'Who ever can run—'

Parker stopped as I sped past him as if we were on a marathon.

'You meant it?' he called out, rooted to the spot. 'That's really unfair, Rose.'

'All's fair in running,' I called back, trying to shed the weird feeling that came over me when he'd begun inching closer.

Parker, however, was a fast runner. He'd caught up to me soon enough. I'd have won though but he suddenly grabbed my arm and pulled me towards him.

'You can't do that!' I shrieked out. 'That's cheating!'

'You didn't specify it,' Stephen said, smirking.

He pulled me towards him and then thrust my arm away. Immediately afterwards, he'd begun running.

I reached out as fast as I could, grabbing his hand and trying to pull him back. But he'd shrugged it off, laughing. My knees almost buckled as I tried to hold onto him again.

But I wasn't going to back down so easily.

I grabbed at his arm for the second time. But when he'd pulled me back instead while laughing his head off, I moaned. Or tried to.

It probably sounded like a bunch of cats howling.

'You're hurting me, Stephen,' I said, battling my eyelashes and trying to look wimpy and flirtatious. It took some effort and lowering of self-esteem but I was determined not to let the arrogant tool win.

'You're so awful at this,' Parker said, rolling his eyes and letting go of my arm uncertainly.

'Ha!' I dove underneath him, hit his legs with my bag pack and started running as fast as I could. 'You fell for it!'

He narrowed his eyes and caught up with me again, shaking his head.

'I only let you go so that I didn't have to see your flirting again!' Stephen called out as he ran ahead. 'Scarred me for life. My eyes are bleeding.'

He shuddered, giving a large devilish grin and wink as he flew past me.

I was a bad, inexperienced flirt. That much I knew. But hearing him imply that I was so terrible, when I probably wasn't, made me livid.

Stupid, arrogant flirt, I thought furiously.

Maybe the adrenaline or the conversation with Parker had pumped me up too much.

'You are utterly insufferable!' I yelled back as I mustered all my strength to reach him.

I threw my arms around his back and jumped at him, wrapping my legs around his waist.

Anyone else who didn't know us would think we were a couple. I wouldn't have to bet on it.

I could tell Stephen was surprised because his body went rigid and he staggered backwards in shock. I knew I didn't have the strength to plummet him to the ground. But at least I'd caught his attention.

'You are insane,' he muttered, groaning as I tightened my arms around his shoulders and pulled him back, grinning.

'You started it,' I said jovially as I jumped away and started running blindly towards the exit. 'And I know you're going to do something again.'

'You're right about that,' he said, almost snappishly and came after me.

I was almost to the end when Stephen reached out and grabbed my waist. I bumped into his chest.

'Parker!' I said, aghast. I ignored the slightly queasy feeling that overcame me.

'You did the same thing!' he countered, smirking. His arm around my waist grew tighter. My shoulders grazed against his.

I pushed my elbow into his stomach as hard as I could. He was not going to win, I'd make sure.

Stephen groaned, letting go of me. I sped towards the doors, crying out in glee, 'I won! I won! I love running!'

I didn't know why I felt so thrilled over such a silly game. But running always improved my spirits, that was a given.

'You're way too competitive, Rose,' Stephen growled, touching his stomach where I'd crushed my elbow. He approached me, shaking his head. 'Ugh.'

I rolled my eyes, still jumping on the balls of my feet in excitement.

'I wouldn't have it done any of it if you didn't start it,' I shot back at him, frowning at his expression.

'I bet,' Stephen said in a sarcastic voice. He took out a can of coke from his bag pack and angrily twisted the lid.

'I won and that's it,' I said firmly, grasping the door handle and hoping to make a dramatic exit. I'd slam the door in his face. 'You were aggravating me.'

But the door wouldn't budge.

'It's locked!' I cried out in dismay.

'What?' Stephen asked confusedly, coming near me. I stepped back as he tried opening the door with one of his hands and then both. It wouldn't budge, either.

'Everyone's gone,' I said, realizing. 'Damn it, Parker! If we didn't waste the time having this stupid game, I'd be home by now.'

'Oh chill, Your Highness,' Stephen patronized as I stamped my feet. 'The drama club would be here sometime later on. We would be out of here soon enough.'

'Well, how long are they going to take?' I snapped. 'I've a bunch of work that needs to be done. And I have a babysitting job that starts at nine.'

'They'll be here around seven,' Stephen announced, checking his phone.

I looked across his shoulders. It was only five thirty now.

'Damn it, damn it, damn it!' I muttered.

I must've looked very anxious because Stephen's bitterness over losing the game and getting hurt faded.

'Look, Hailey, calm down,' he began, extending his arm as if to touch me.

'What are we supposed to do for one and a half hour?' I shrilled, worried. I began walking in circles. 'I don't even have food. And there's so much work. My mom's going to-'

I stopped.

'You know, we can always make out,' Stephen suggested, smirking. His voice was light as if he was making a joke. 'It will make the time go faster…'

He trailed off when he saw the look on my face.

'Or not,' he finished hastily. He took a big sip of the soda he'd started drinking and turned away as if avoiding my gaze.

'No,' I said, shaking my head. 'I want something else.'

'Okay,' Stephen said, nodding in a vigorous manner. 'You want my drink?'

'No, Parker, let's go to an empty classroom and have anal sex right now,' I said with as much biting sarcasm I could find.

I half-expected him to smirk very confidently and say something along the lines of how I should take my clothes off. But he choked and sprayed the door with his drink.

We looked at each other. Stephen reddened and gulped audibly.

I smiled grudgingly.

'Man, this is going to be epic,' he said, shaking his head in disbelief. He rubbed his hand across his lips but his eyes locked onto mine.

'Or not,' I deadpanned, turning away.


Wow, 10 reviews for the first chapter! I am stoked! YAY! You guys are so awesome XD

Shining: 500 will be updated soon too! Thanks for the review. Stay tuned for more lol

Jen195: I love clichés, too and I love when authors make them their own. Hope you like this as well. Haha, their banter just got started.

Arcticfire: thank you so much! Here you go

Dear-llama: Lol, thanks! Haha, yeah, I wanted more of a feisty protagonist for this one. There'd be lots of competition, lol. Hence the title.

Gold MF Digger: I love your reviews! Haha, I am glad you are liking both of them so much.

SupaSaiyan Gamer: Haha, their interactions are amusing to write XD . Lol it might take some time for them to end up together. If that'll happen. Muahahahaha. I'm kidding XD

Yollie: I'm so happy you think it's promising :D ! Thanks for the review.

Fun: me likey you likey it lolz XD

Phantom130 5: Haha, I can never write one-shots. I cannot let go of my characters lol.
Hehe, Stephen is interesting. Hopefully he makes Hailey get interested in him really soon! Especially since her friends will be too busy for her ;)