Read The Trouble With Flirting Online
Authors: Rachel Morgan
Tags: #happily ever after, #Humor, #musician, #sweet NA, #Romance, #The Trouble Series, #mature YA, #Love, #comedy, #nerd
I open my eyes and give him a sleepy smile. “Of course.” I unzip and remove my boots so I won’t make any noise on the wooden floor and wake Luke, then tiptoe to the bathroom, my wet dress sticking to my legs.
One brief shower and one warm pair of winter PJs later, I sway into Adam’s room and tumble onto his bed. “I am going to sleep so well tonight.”
Adam, who looks like he just fell asleep in his desk chair, stirs and opens his eyes. “Oh. Um. I can’t remember which episode we watched last.”
“Me neither.” I crawl to the other side of the bed and pull a blanket over myself. “Whatever. Doesn’t matter.”
“I guess not.” Adam picks an episode and starts it—adjusting the volume so it isn’t too loud—then turns off the main light and joins me on the bed.
“If I fall asleep,” I say, “wake me so I can leave. I’d hate to drool on you.”
“Mmm. That would be gross.”
The little people on the screen say something funny, and the studio audience laughs.
My eyelids droop as the cogs in my brain struggle to turn. “I forgot what I was going to say.”
“Oh yes. I like listening to the rain.”
“It is nice.”
Light brushes my eyelids and gently urges me from dreamland and back to the world of the living. I half open one eyelid and peek out, closing it again almost immediately. Too early. Too bright. My body feels stiff and achy, as if I’ve been curled tightly in one position for too long. I moan and try to stretch my legs out, but—
My eyes spring open.
And I realise several things at once.
One, something warm is pressed along the length of my body. Two, the blanket wrapped around me isn’t mine. And three, I don’t remember getting into my own bed last night.
HOLY FREAKING CRAP. I spent the night in Adam’s bed. I’ve
spent the night in any guy’s bed before, and now I’m in my best friend’s bed, pressed up against him, his darned beautiful voice still playing at the back of my mind, AND I JUST MOANED OUT LOUD!
So. Damn. Awkward.
Okay. Just breathe. This doesn’t have to be weird. It’s not like his arm is around me. THAT would have been weird. But no. I’m pretty sure I can’t feel an arm around me. So we’re basically just lying next to each other. Nothing wrong with that. This is fine. This is really fine.
I try to move again, and that’s when I discover that one of Adam’s legs is on top of one of mine, tangled up in the blanket wrapped around me.
THIS IS SO NOT FINE!
Heat spreads from the point of contact and zings all the way up my leg and into the rest of my body. Warmth and nerves and excitement—excitement?—coalesce into a feeling I actually kind of like, and suddenly I wonder what it would be like if Adam’s arm
STOP! WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?
I need to get out of this bed right now. I hold my breath as I slowly slide my leg out from beneath his. I sit up and carefully unwrap the blanket from my upper body, leaving the bottom of it tangled around Adam’s legs. The mattress moves beneath me as I get onto my hands and knees—
don’t wake up, don’t wake up, don’t wake up
—and climb over him. I keep my eyes on his face to make sure he doesn’t wake up, although that might not have been the best plan, because looking at his sleeping face leaves me with the strangest desire to kiss—
NO! Just keep moving!
Okay. I’m off the bed. I tiptoe across the room and open the door—which swings into an empty laundry basket, which topples over and rolls across the floor. DAMMIT! I scamper across the passage, into my room, and shut my door.
And then I fall onto my bed in a heap of giggles. I grab my cell phone off the bedside table and—Oh SHOOT. Is that the time? No wonder it’s so bright outside. I’ve already missed two lectures. Oh well, since I’m late already, I may as well take an extra minute or two to send a message to Sarah.
Livi: Oh my fluffy PJs. I just spent the night in Adam’s bed. UNINTENTIONALLY, of course. But I think I liked it. I mean, I didn’t know it was happening until I woke up. But then I liked that it had happened. I liked feeling him right next to me. I liked—oh my gosh what is WRONG with me?
Then I chuck my phone into my varsity bag, grab my towel from the back of my door, and peek out into the passage. There’s no way Adam slept through all the noise I made on my way out, and he’s just as late as I am, so he’s probably also about to make a beeline for the bathroom. And I do NOT want to meet him halfway there. Or halfway back. Or anywhere in this house.
Crumbs, this is going to be awkward.
Miraculously, I make it out of the house without bumping into Adam. Perhaps he never woke up and is still peacefully sleeping through all his lectures. Doubtful. It’s far more likely he knows exactly what happened and was hiding in his bedroom until I left.
I wonder if he’ll say anything about it later. Maybe he’s completely embarrassed and wishes it hadn’t happened. I mean, I’m embarrassed too—sort of—but I’d be lying to myself if I said I wish it hadn’t happened. Adam, on the other hand, is supposed to be asking Salima out, right? Or any other girl. But not me. Because we’re friends. He’s known me since I was a pimply, brace-faced thirteen-year-old, and I’ve probably never crossed his mind as potential dating material.
Ugh, Livi, just concentrate on the road!
I have to park miles away from Upper Campus and wait for a Jammie Shuttle to take me up the hill, so I get to my third lecture five minutes before it ends. I don’t bother going inside. I take my phone out and stare at the screen, willing Sarah to reply to me. Then I look down and realise I’m still wearing slippers.
I close my eyes and groan. Slippers? REALLY? How on earth did I leave the house without noticing that? I look up and find students spilling from the lecture theatre. Salima should be out soon. She seems to like being one of the first students to arrive at each lecture. Maybe to get in the zone or something. That’s probably why she looks so annoyed whenever I show up.
I take an involuntary step backwards as Allegra, Courtney and Amber exit the doors. I don’t want them to see me in my slippers, and the moment I realise that, I hate myself for feeling embarrassed in front of them. I look down and silently chant,
keep moving, keep moving
“Oh, Livi,” Courtney says, and I look up. My chanting was useless, apparently, because they’re not moving. The three of them are standing in front of me. Courtney looks to Allegra, then back at me. “We actually wanted to talk to you.”
“Yes,” Allegra says. She motions to Courtney, as if telling her to continue.
“We’ve seen you sitting alone in lectures,” Courtney says, “and we figured it must be kinda sad and embarrassing for you. So even though you were really weird at that party in Camps Bay and totally freaked out, we were talking about how cool you actually are, and how the weirdness was probably just a once-off thing, and we figured we should let you back into the group.”
I stare at the four of them as something strange happens. Like a fairy-tale curse lifting, my embarrassment vanishes. I’m left wondering why I ever felt the need to change myself in order to impress these girls. I start laughing then, because there really doesn’t seem to be any other way for me to respond. “Thank you,” I say once my laughter has subsided, “for making it so easy for me to say no.”
“No?” Amber repeats.
“You guys clearly haven’t noticed, but I actually haven’t been sitting alone. I’ve been sitting with Salima—formerly known as the loner Indian girl. She’s kinda weird in her own way, just like me. And guess what? The weirdness isn’t a once-off thing. The weirdness is HERE TO STAY.” I test out my opera voice on the last three words, just to illustrate my point about the weirdness, and all three girls look slightly alarmed. “Anyway,” I continue, “was there something else you wanted to say?”
Amber’s gaze moves to my feet, then back up to my face. “Nice slippers,” she says, in a tone that actually means,
You retard, why the freak are you wearing slippers on campus?
Oh yes. The slippers. Funny how I went from feeling embarrassed to not giving a rat’s buttocks in less than two minutes. I give Amber my sweetest smile and say, “Thank you. All the celebrities are doing it.” I turn on my slippered heel and saunter off, my smile still in place as I imagine Amber whipping out her phone to check for photos of celebrities wearing slippers in public.
Only when I get to my next lecture do I remember that I haven’t seen Salima yet. She dashes in about twenty seconds later, muttering under her breath. “More car troubles?” I ask.
“No, thank goodness. I stayed behind in the last lecture to tell the professor I don’t agree with something he said. He gave me a condescending look, told me I must have misunderstood what he said, and proceeded to repeat the exact argument I’d just given him.” She sits down in a huff. “So I told him, ‘Yes, that’s what I said,’ and he said, ‘Great, so there’s no problem then.’” She slaps her textbook onto the desk. “Infuriating man.”
“Profs, hey,” I say with a shake of my head. “Real buttheads.” I reach into my bag and pull out a packet of princess gums. I haven’t told Adam, but I actually like them. I tear the packet open, offer it to Salima—who shakes her head with a horrified look—and remove a purple handbag-shaped sweet. Yum. Probably not the best idea to fill myself with sugar in place of breakfast, but hey. Whatever.
The lecture begins, and we’re not even halfway through the first slide when my phone stars buzzing in my bag. Salima glares at me, and I quickly fish the phone out and reject Sarah’s call.
Livi: Sorry! In a lecture.
Sarah: So … you slept with Adam ;-)
Livi: Ha ha. Not like THAT. But thanks for putting the image in my head. As if maths isn’t hard enough already without imagining Adam’s naked butt when I should be seeing numbers.
Livi: YOU started this line of conversation!
Livi: So I’m freaking out.
Sarah: Because you suddenly find one of your best friends attractive?
Livi: Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say THAT. I mean, he’s cute in those glasses, and I love that I can be myself around him, and he makes me laugh, and we both speak music jargon and nerd jargon, and WOW have you heard him SING? Spoiler alert: he’s INCREDIBLE. And I guess I DO think about him quite a lot. I love the way his hands move over the piano keys or
Livi: Okay. Yes. I find him attractive.
Sarah: So why are you freaking out?
Livi: Hello! Because it’s ADAM! I’m not supposed to find him attractive. He’s supposed to be my goofy friend who looks at me disapprovingly when I wear inappropriate clothes to varsity.
Sarah: What clothes are you wearing to varsity?
Livi: Don’t get sidetracked.
Sarah: Send me pictures.
Livi: YOU’RE GETTING SIDETRACKED!
Sarah: Sorry! You should talk to Adam. Maybe he feels the same way about you.
Livi: Oh yes. That must be why we were talking about this girl he thinks is pretty and is planning to ask out. She’s also really smart—just like him. I’m sure I’m way too dumb for him to be interested in me in THAT WAY.
Sarah: You are not dumb. Just talk to him.
Livi: Ugh. That sounds so sensible and grown-up. And potentially SUPER awkward if he’s like, ‘No, sorry, I’ve never thought of you in that way. The idea grosses me out.’
Sarah: TALK TO HIM!
So, I decide to do the exact opposite of what Sarah says, and I don’t talk to Adam about spending the night in his bed. Things feel kind of weird between us—forced, uncomfortable—and I can tell he’s avoiding me when he switches his gym routine from early morning to evening, slap bang in the middle of our usual dinner time. So it’s clear
doesn’t want to talk about it, which must mean he wants to pretend it never happened.
Cool. I can do that. Let’s pretend it never happened.
Friday arrives, and I’ve managed to convince Salima to come over and watch a movie. According to her parents, movies are an evil distraction, but I’m determined to show her otherwise.
I park in the long grass in front of the house and lug my shopping bags up the steps and into the house. It was supposed to be a quick stop for just a few movie snacks, but I wound up with three bags full of junk food. Preparation for future movie nights, I told myself.
I start packing everything away into the cupboards as Adam walks in wearing his sweaty gym clothes and fixes himself a protein something-or-other shake. “You sure you got enough chocolate slabs there?” he asks.
I look up, but his eyes remain fixed on the scoops of powder he’s tossing into the shaker. “I don’t know. I may have to go back for more. This will probably only get me through half the movie.”
“Movie?” Adam asks, still not looking at me.
“Yes. Salima’s coming over this evening.”
“Oh.” Adam finally looks up at me. Only for a second, though, and then he’s staring at the shaker in his hand. “Um, I asked Hugo to come over and play Xbox, since neither of us are working tonight. But, I guess—”
“You can watch with us,” I suggest. “It won’t be late. You know Salima likes to get to bed early. Then Hugo can stay afterwards and you guys can play Xbox.”
“Okay.” He tosses the closed shaker back and forth between his hands. “You can play too, if you want.”
“Okay. Cool.” I put away the last few items and close the cupboards, and when I turn around, Adam is gone. Darn this awkwardness. I’m hoping it won’t be too long before things are back to normal between us.
The doorbell rings.
I immediately think of Andi, because she’s the only other person who’s ever used our doorbell, but she wouldn’t show up again unannounced. We have each other’s phone numbers now. It could be Salima, but that would mean she’s an hour early. Unlikely, considering she had to ‘get work done.’
I walk to the front door and open it to find—a fashionably dressed golden haired blonde.
“Um, hi,” she says. When I gape at her and say nothing, she adds, “Can I come in?”
“I … suppose so.” I step back, and she walks past me into the lounge.
I follow her and lean in the lounge doorway, watching her twist her hands together. “So. What’s this about?”
“Um …” She bites her lip. “Okay, so, my mom’s white and my dad’s Indian.”
“And I spent the first twelve years of my life in a largely Afrikaans town.”
I tilt my head and squint at her. “I’m still not entirely sure where you’re going with this.”
“So I know what it’s like to be teased. To not fit in. To not be accepted for who you are. To be called horrible names that play over and over in your head, even when the other kids aren’t shouting them. To want to do
just to be accepted. So when we moved to Empangeni and I started high school, I decided things would be different. I was going to be confident. I was going to be popular. All the girls would want to be me, and all the guys would want to be with me.” She looks at her hands and lifts one shoulder. “And it worked. I never went back to being that kid that other people make fun of.”
“So … what are you trying to say? That you and I are alike? We were both teased and rejected, and now we’ll do anything to fit in? Because I don’t think we’re alike. You might do anything to fit in, but I have a line I’m not willing to cross. And the moment I figured that out, that’s when you and I stopped being friends.”
“No. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m trying to tell you—” She stops and takes a deep breath. “I’m trying to get you to understand why I held onto this popularity thing for so long. Why I did just about anything to stay at the top of the social ladder.”
I take a few steps into the lounge. “I may be wrong, but it kinda sounds like you’re talking in past tense.”
She nods, staring at her hands once more. “It just … it doesn’t seem so important anymore.”
“Right,” I say slowly. I still don’t get what this whole confession is about.
As if she can read my mind, she says, “Okay, here’s the thing. I—I miss you, Livi.”
“You miss me?”
“Yes! You’re fun, Livi. I liked hanging out with you. You actually say intelligent stuff. Amber and Courtney … well, it gets boring. So yeah. I want us to be friends again. Even if it means losing all the rest of that popularity crap, because honestly, it’s not that important now that we’re not in high school anymore. People grow up. They do what they want to do, and nobody else really cares. And those who do look at you funny for doing something or not doing something, well so what? Their opinion doesn’t matter.”
“Really? Their opinion doesn’t matter?” I cross my arms. “You seemed to care a great deal about everyone else’s opinion when you were pushing drugs into my hands. Or when you didn’t believe that my boyfriend was forcing himself on me.”
“Oh, hell, I’m so sorry, Livi.” Allegra covers her face with her hands. “I’m so, so sorry. I thought you’d freaked out just because Jackson was kissing you in front of other people. That’s what I heard him say when he came past with his hands bleeding. I didn’t realise he was forcing himself on you. And I’d already had too much to drink so I wasn’t thinking properly, and everyone else was taking these pills and looking like they were having such a good time, and you were so upset, and I just wanted us to be happy and have fun.” She drops her hands and looks at me with wide eyes. “And then this guy collapsed and an ambulance arrived and rushed him off to hospital, and people were saying afterwards that he almost died—”
“I know! It scared the crap out of me. And then last weekend I drank way too much and I woke up in Logan’s bed and I couldn’t remember a damn thing, and—”
“What?” My hand flies to my mouth. “Did he—”
“No, he didn’t do anything. I mean, I couldn’t remember, but I could tell, you know, that nothing …” She trails off awkwardly. “But I just kept thinking, what if it hadn’t been him? What if it had been some other guy I don’t know who
want to do something to me? Or what if I’d been the person who collapsed at that party and almost died? I just … I don’t want that to be part of my life.” She sits on the edge of the couch and presses her shaking hands together. “I want … real friends. People I’m not always trying to impress or outdo. People I can be … real with. And I kinda thought—I mean I hoped—” she looks up at me “—that you might be one of those people.”
I take a breath and let it out slowly as I sit on the coffee table. “Well, this is me. Musician,
fan, peanut butter binger, virgin, movie music aficionado, hater of fashion magazines, and lover of most fantasy and sci fi worlds. ”
Allegra laughs. “Well, I think you know me already. I haven’t exactly been hiding who I am—other than my mixed-race parentage. I like buying new clothes and having my nails done, I’ll enter any competition I find in a magazine, I’m still in search of my soulmate, I’m secretly a Harry Potter fan, even though I told you I’d grown out of that, and I’m not ashamed to say that the only novels I currently read are of the chick lit variety.”
“Well, as long as you’re not ashamed of it,” I say with a laugh. “So. Doesn’t sound like we have all that much in common.”
Allegra purses her lips. “We both like dancing.”
“Oh yes. And singing,” I add, remembering all the times her neighbours in res had to knock on her door and ask us to keep it down.
“And, despite the fact that conversations about boys tend to get boring after a while, we’re both still in search of love.”
“True.” My mind turns immediately to Adam, and I have to force my thoughts back to the present.
“So,” Allegra says.
“So. Want to stay and watch a movie tonight?”
“Yeah, that sounds cool.”
She stands up. “Can we, like, hug now or something?”
“It does feel like the appropriate time for a hug.” We both laugh as we wrap our arms around each other.
“Okay, please tell me we’re watching a chick flick.”
, actually,” I say, managing to keep a straight face despite her horrified expression. “I know how much you love the creepy little green dude.”