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

The Trouble With Flirting (7 page)

BOOK: The Trouble With Flirting
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Adam snorts. “If only that superpower existed.”

From:
Alivia Howard

Sent:
Sun 9 Feb, 2:38 am

To:
Carl

Subject:
Dear Carl

Why can’t they make clubs that are awesome like in movies? Like, classy. With clean floors. And music that is always at the perfect volume. And—cherry on the top—that guy you’re crushing on must always show up right when you want him to.

Note to self: make a club like this one day.

Also … figure out how to be obsessed with
The Big Bang Theory
while retaining cool clubbing image.

Damn …

So …

Tired …

I mean so damn tired.

___________________________________

When morning arrives, I regret not listening to Adam. My head aches, probably from a combination of deafening music and a lack of sleep, brought on by too many episodes of
The Big Bang Theory
.

After hitting my snooze button seven times, I manage to sit up. I stare at the gap between my curtains for a while. Dark clouds. Some drizzle. A bad day for the beach and a perfect day to stay inside studying.

Ugh.

I shove my glasses on, shuffle over to my cupboard, and remember that the only clean clothes I have are a few pairs of underwear. I can’t sit in my underwear all day. Or can I? Some of my underwear looks just like—

No, don’t be ridiculous, Alivia. Pyjamas. You can stay in your pyjamas.

I push my glasses up and rub my eyes. Sheesh. Studying is
not
going to go well if my brain is in the kind of state where it thinks wearing underwear and nothing else is acceptable. Especially with the cold breeze blowing in through the window this morning. I should probably wait a while before attempting to work. I should … do my laundry.

I pick up one of the two close-to-overflowing laundry baskets from the corner and shuffle out of my room with it. I pass Adam’s open door. He isn’t home. He knocked on my door about an hour ago to say he was going with Luke to … somewhere. I think I fell asleep halfway through his sentence.

The tiny room off the kitchen serves as our laundry/pantry. I open the lid of the washing machine and empty my laundry basket into it. It appears I have far too many dirty clothes, though, because at least half of them land on the floor on either side of the machine. With a groan, I return them to the basket. I locate the little tray thingy for the washing powder, then spend several minutes examining the dials and buttons on the outside of the machine. After all, it’s not like I’ve done much laundry in my life. We’ve always had at least two domestic workers at home to take care of things like that, and last year in Germany … well, I lived in a castle, so it goes without saying that there were staff employed to do the laundry.

I’m so glad Adam isn’t here right now to see this. I press the ‘Start’ button and step back. A humming noise begins, which I think is supposed to happen. I leave quickly, hoping the machine doesn’t explode or leak or eat all my clothes.

I make myself a cup of pomegranate flavoured rooibos tea before heading back to my room to begin the arduous task of pretending to study.

***

Afternoon status: I’ve almost fallen asleep twice, sent three different cat videos to Adam, and been on Facebook at least once every twenty minutes. I found Jackson on Facebook and contemplated adding him as a friend, but I didn’t want to seem desperate. Allegra says I should be doing the hard-to-get thing.

I also did some studying. The content itself isn’t all that difficult to understand or remember. It’s just tremendously boring.

I hear laughter coming from Adam’s bedroom. He could be laughing at the cat videos,
The Big Bang Theory
, or something entirely different. Whatever the cause, I’d far rather be in the fun room than in the forcing-myself-to-study room.

Time for a break.

I jump up and cross the passage to his room. I tap on the door, then open it. “Have you watched the third one yet?” I ask. “Because that one is the—Oh, sorry.” Adam’s sitting at his desk in front of his computer, but it isn’t a cat video or a TV series on the screen. It’s his girlfriend.

“Is that Livi?” she asks.

“Yes.” Adam tilts the screen slightly so the webcam can see me.

“Hey, Jenna.” I take a few steps forward and wave, kicking a pile of Xbox controllers at the same time. “Oh, crap, sorry,” I say to Adam, who’s giving me an odd look. I crouch down and slide the controllers to the side of the room. “Hey again!” I say with a cheery smile and another wave as I jump up. “How’s matric going?”

“Oh, you know, it’s not too bad so far,” Jenna says. “I just can’t wait for this year to be over so I’ll finally be done with high school, you know?”

“Yes, I know exactly what you mean.”

She smiles—the kind of awkward smile that tells me she’s not sure what else to say.

“You’re so lucky to have Adam as you boyfriend,” I tell her as I lean against his chair. “I think I can safely say he’s the
only
reason Sarah and I passed physics.”

Jenna nods. “Yeah, I know, I’m very lucky to have him.”

Adam’s ears turn pink.

Jenna’s gaze moves back and forth between the two of us.

Right. My cue to leave.

“Anyway, you guys enjoy your chat. Nice to see you, Jenna.” I hurry out of the room, being careful not to walk into anything else.

I plop myself back down at my desk and stare at my textbook.

Focus.

Read.

Understand and remember.

Somehow, I find myself getting into it for the first time all day. It’s not as though it’s become any more interesting, but I’m less distracted. It grows darker outside, rain patters down, and I keep reading, highlighting, and making notes from my textbook.

“Hey.”

I look up and see Adam in my doorway. “Oh, hey.” I replace the cap on my yellow highlighter.

“You’re wearing my jersey,” he says.

“What?” I look down at myself. “Oh, yeah. Mine are all dirty. I mean, I know it’s summer, but the aircon is always on in those lecture theatres, and it ends up freezing. So, yeah. All dirty.” I start to feel uncomfortable beneath his unblinking gaze.

“You know that your clothes will continue to be dirty unless you wash them, right?”

“Yes, I know. I actually did some laundry this—Oh, crud, I forgot. My clothes are still in the machine.” I push my chair away from the desk and stand up. “So much laundry, so little time,” I say with a laugh, trying to lighten the atmosphere that suddenly feels way more tense than it should.

“Maybe if you spent some of your early mornings doing laundry instead of doing your hair, you wouldn’t have this problem.”

“Well, yes, but then I’d have hair problems.” Another smile. Another attempt to make him laugh.

Another fail.

“And did you know it was your turn to do the grocery shopping this weekend? Luke ended up doing it yesterday because there was hardly anything left in the fridge.”

“Oh, shoot, really? I totally forgot.” I think of the shopping schedule stuck to the fridge. The shopping schedule I haven’t looked at since we sat with our mothers and drew it up.

Adam crosses his arms. Still no trace of a smile on his face. “Real life getting too much for you, princess?”

“EXCUSE ME?”

“You heard me,” he says, his voice raised. “I know you’ve spent your entire life inside Chateau Zimbali, but it’s time to join the real world. This only works if we all take responsibility, okay? We all do the cleaning, we all do the laundry, we all do the shopping. We all
contribute
.”

“I KNOW. I said I was sorry, okay? I forgot about the shopping. I’ll pay Luke back for whatever he bought yesterday. Jeez, what is wrong with you?” I pull off the jersey and throw it at him. “I wear one piece of your clothing and suddenly you’re yelling at me about everything I’m doing wrong. You could just
talk
to me instead, okay?”

His fingers clench around the jersey. “What is wrong with me?” he repeats. “What is wrong with me? You walk into
my room
wearing
my clothes
while I’m having a video chat with
my girlfriend
, and then I have to spend the remainder of our conversation trying to convince her that there’s nothing going on between you and me. That is what’s wrong with me right now.”

I stare at him, letting the ridiculous words sink in. “What? Seriously?”

“Yes.”

“She honestly thought there might be something going on between us?”

“Yes.”

I let out a faint laugh. “That’s insane. Obviously you told her she’s got nothing to worry about, right?”

“Obviously. But she’s there, and you’re here, and she isn’t exactly happy about that.”

“Yeah, but …” I don’t see what the problem is. “Doesn’t she know you’re, like, a thousand percent committed to her?”

Adam shuts his eyes and sighs. “Just don’t wear my clothes again.” He turns and walks back to his room, the jersey bunched in his hand. He closes his door.

I blink back tears as I head to the laundry/pantry. I open the washing machine lid and take hold of a fistful of wet washing. I pull it out and stare at it, my lower lip starting to shake.

My white clothes are now blue.

From:
Alivia Howard

Sent:
Sun 9 Feb, 8:14 pm

To:
Carl

Subject:
Dear Carl

It shouldn’t be this hard to do laundry. Maybe I should just shower with my clothes on, that way they’ll end up clean. Good idea? No? No. I didn’t think so either.

Real life sucks.

___________________________________

Monday, first period. I didn’t have time to straighten my hair, the clothes I’m wearing were hastily half-ironed this morning, and I’ve got glasses on instead of contact lenses. My eyes need a break after staying open until 3 am trying to cover all the work in today’s test. Seriously. How did we manage to get through so much material in only three works?

I scurry into the lecture theatre two minutes before our test is meant to begin. I half expect my four friends to point at my glasses and shout, “Nerd! Be gone!” Honestly, though, they don’t look in spectacular shape either. Well, except for Charlotte, who has the ability to whisper, text, pass notes, and still know exactly what’s happening in every class. She was most likely getting her beauty sleep at 3 am while the rest of us were studying.

I slide into a seat at the end of the row beside Allegra. “You guys ready for this thing?” I ask.

Allegra rubs her eyes. She isn’t wearing any make-up. I’ve
never
seen her without make-up. “I hope so. I made the mistake of mentioning this test to my parents. They want me to send a photo of the result when I get it back.”

“A photo?” Charlotte says. “Wow. That’s extreme.”

“I, uh, may have had a habit of lying to my parents about test results at school. They like to see proof now. They—Hey, since when do you wear glasses?” she says to me.

“Uh, since always,” I admit. “I usually wear contacts.”

“Oh.” Allegra tilts her head as she examines my face. “They’re cute. You should wear them more often.”

“I should? You don’t think glasses are too … nerdy?”

“Well, spectacles do sort of have that nerd vibe,” Charlotte says, “but as long as they’re a trendy design and the shape suits your face, they can make you look both intelligent and attractive at the same time.”

Allegra nods. “Yeah. That. I’m just a bit too tired right now to make my thoughts come out clearly.”

At the front of the lecture theatre, Professor Batch organises a pile of papers. “No more talking, please,” he booms. “I’m about to hand out the question papers.”

I try to quiet my brain and recall the main points from all the summaries I made in the past twenty-four hours, but I’m distracted by the guy three rows down who just turned around. The guy smiling at me and mouthing, “Good luck.”

Jackson.

Focus, Livi, focus.

I smile back, then turn my attention to the paper that just landed on the desk in front of me.

***

“That wasn’t so bad, huh?” Jackson leans in the doorway of the lecture theatre, waiting for me. He’s never waited for me before. Something must be different.

“Yes, I’m quite surprised,” I say. “I was expecting it to be a lot worse.” I reach up to tuck my hair behind my ear, mainly because I don’t know what else to do with my hands.

Allegra and Co. walk past us. Allegra winks while Charlotte and Amber argue about question twelve.

Jackson tilts his head to the side. “I like your hair like that. It’s … natural.”

Holy pink Power Ranger. Here I am on my worst day ever and I’ve already received two compliments? I’ve obviously missed something about the way the world works.

“Come on, let’s get to Stats,” Jackson says.

I manage to refrain from squealing as we head to our next lecture venue together. I let my hand dangle casually between us, just in case he wants to hold it. Oh my hat, I am
pathetic
. Here I am getting all giggly-excited about HAND HOLDING. I can’t help it, though. I’ve only ever had one boyfriend, and he didn’t wait after class for me. He didn’t hold my hand in public, either. We exchanged smiles across the corridors and notes during English and History, but we kept our hanging out for after school. As if it would have been weird to be seen together in front of everyone else. Or something. I can’t remember. We were both orchestra geeks, so perhaps that explains it.

Of course, my German prince Carl held my hand, but it never happened in public. None of our exchanges ever took place in public.

“So, uh, we missed you on Saturday at
The Banana Pearl
,” I say with a sideways glance at Jackson. I add in a half-smile that’s supposed to look cute and upset at the same time.

“Ya, no, I wish I could have been there. I had to take on a late shift at work. Only got home around midnight, and then …” He gives me an apologetic look. “Well, I was kinda beat.”

“Oh, yeah, okay, that’s cool. Where do you work?”

He scratches his head. “Uh, at the cinema. Kinda lame, I know.”

“What? No. That’s really cool. Do you get to watch all the movies?”

He laughs. “Not exactly. I do more of the glamorous work like collecting tickets and sweeping popcorn off the floor.”

My laughter joins his. My mother would be horrified to learn that I’m interested in a popcorn sweeper, but Jackson’s job—and the fact that he can joke about it—makes him even more adorable to me.

If only he would attempt to hold my hand now.

No such luck. We make it to our Statistics lecture without our hands even brushing, but it’s hard to feel disappointed when I’ve got a whole period of sitting next to him to look forward to. I scan the lecture theatre and find my four friends and two of his in our usual spot: roughly the middle row. But instead of joining them, Jackson leads me to the back row. The row where the loner Indian girl and the two guys with the dreadlocks always sit. And that other guy who only comes to lectures to sleep.

Jackson walks along the row, picks a seat in the middle, and gestures to the seat next to him. Right. As if I had any intention of sitting anywhere else. I flash what I hope is a cute smile as I slide into my seat and place my bag on the floor between us. I lean down—this isn’t a cleavage-exposing shirt, so it needs a bit of help—and slowly remove my notebook and a pen from my bag. I open the notebook to the last page I wrote on, then cross one leg over the other. Slow and sexy. I stare ahead and focus on breathing normally.
I’m cool. I’m so cool. Sitting in the back row with the guy I have a mega crush on is not affecting me in the least. I’m going to pay attention to the lecture now. And look! I have glasses on, which make me appear both intelligent and—

“Recovered from the test yet?” our lecturer asks. She’s young, but her horrendous taste in clothes combined with her long, non-styled hair that just
hangs
there makes her look at least a decade older than she is. Charlotte keeps talking about abducting her and performing a makeover. “Yes, I know all about the test most of you had in first period,” she says, nodding to all of us. “Don’t look so surprised, Mr Fischer. But I need you to forget about it now and concentrate, because today we’ll be doing—”

I have no idea what we’ll be doing today, because Jackson just reached over and started drawing on my open notebook, completely shattering my focus. All I see is his hand and the neat lines coming together to form a picture. It’s a little cartoon guy. He’s waving at me. No, wait, he’s holding a bunch of flowers out to me.

Oh, that is so cute!

I pick up my pen and write,
If I could draw a little girl accepting the flowers, I would
.

Underneath my words, he writes
HA HA HA!
in large capitals, then proceeds to draw little stick figures climbing all over the letters.

I write,
Cute!

He then spends a while bent over the corner of my notebook, eventually revealing a cartoon version of our lecturer pointing at a projector screen with nonsense written on it. I laugh quietly, then nudge his knee with mine. “You’re really good at this,” I whisper.

He gives me a heart-melting grin. Then he picks up one of my hands from my lap. He holds it in his left hand and starts drawing on my palm with his right.

He’s drawing on my hand.

HE’S TOUCHING MY HAND.

Don’t pass out. Don’t pass out. That would be seriously uncool.

He holds my hand up so I can see his artwork. Not a picture this time, but words.
Saturday night. 7 pm. You and me. What do you say?

What do I say? “Are you … is that …”

He nods and whispers, “I’m asking you out.”

I try to conceal my absurd happiness with a teasing smile. “You could have just
asked
me, you know.”

“But then I wouldn’t have had an excuse to hold your hand.”

My insides melt.

“You two at the back there,” our lecturer calls out. “I hope you’re paying attention because the next question is for you.”

BOOK: The Trouble With Flirting
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