If anyone chooses to mess with me this morning, they are dead meat. All I can think about is my mother and the money scandal. After searching my bedroom last night, I didn’t find anything remotely out of place, so she didn’t sell anything of mine without telling me. But I know that she’s hiding something and I’m curious to find out what it is.
There are a few shocked faces as I enter the classroom. Grayson’s reaction stands out the most and that’s probably because I’m greeting him with my morning death glare.
“Does the girl ever smile?” Grayson mutters to Eddie, his comment punching me right in the gut. “Then again, with a face like that... it must be difficult.”
Ignore. Ignore. Ignore. Pretend he’s not there Skye. He is not worth it.
“I think somebody’s giving you the silent treatment Swain,” Eddie confirms. Stay out of this Eddie. He’s always getting involved in business that doesn’t belong to him.
“Is it something I’ve said?” Grayson guesses. I can practically taste the sarcasm.
“Nah, maybe it’s just that time of the month again,” Eddie adds. I don’t know who I happen to hate more in this instance. Eddie or Grayson.
Ricky saves me from losing composure, as he stands before the class. “I’ve got an announcement to make.”
Great, we all know how that ended last time. Another college invaded ours and a war broke out between the original and new students, resulting in the biggest divide in college history.
I pick at a loose piece of plastic on my chair, as the class groans together. “We have to start focusing on the big group project that will take place over the course of two weeks, where you will be expected to get to know your partner intimately,” Ricky is saying.
“Ooh, I like the sound of that,” Eddie says, causing some of the boys to snigger. “Sign me up sir.”
I roll my eyes. Boys are such pigs. I turn in my chair to face him. “Your partner could be a boy Eddie. Are you still eager to pair up?” Eddie’s face pales at the sudden realization and he sinks down in his chair, defeated.
“Sir, because we haven’t got much time to work on this, can’t we just choose our own partners?” Grayson says, all eyes on him. “Like, maybe it would be easier for us Lakeside students to stick together and vice versa.”
I knew he’d object to the idea of both colleges mixing. He’s unbelievable.
After a few moments, Shelly’s hand is in the air, which doesn’t come as a surprise. She’s got something to say about everything.“I agree with Grayson. I’d rather work with someone I like.” For once I think we can all agree with her.
“The pairs have been decided and I’ve chosen them for a purpose,” Ricky says. “The main part of this project is to get an insight into another other person’s background. It’s a reflection piece. And it would be too easy to pair you up with a friend who you’ve known for years.”
He holds the list in front of him and dread creeps up my neck. “Some of you are not going to be happy with my choices, but nobody is changing partners.”
We’re sitting at the edge of our seats, as Ricky reads the list out loud.
Harper is working with Eddie but isn’t fazed by this, even though she should be. Josie is paired with her nemesis, Shelly. And Sheryl is with another girl called Kendall, who I have not yet spoken to.
I don’t know what Ricky is trying to accomplish by doing this, but if he’s expecting us to start building budding friendships, he’s got another thing coming.
He hasn’t called my name or Grayson’s and we’re the last two people sitting down. We turn instinctively towards each other, panic on our faces. There’s no way, and I mean NO WAY I am working with Grayson Swain. It’s not happening. I refuse.
Ricky stares directly at us and I want to cover my ears because I know what he’s about to say is the opposite of good news.
“Grayson and Skye, you are the last pair.”
I avert my eyes and grit my teeth. Disappointed is an understatement. I’m quite concerned for my health. I don’t know how I’ll be able to cope with having Grayson around for longer than five minutes.
I can barely cope with him in class. How the heck am I going to survive a few weeks with the guy? He’s unbearable.
“Sir, you can’t seriously expect me to work with Skye on this. I’ll fail for the first time, and I can’t afford to fail,” Grayson panics.
My days of holding back are over. I grip the back of my chair and flip around to face him. “You can’t afford to fail?” I repeat, incredulous. “I’m sure your daddy will be able to cover the costs. I’m the one that can’t afford a fail to her name! And honestly, I am not happy about this either.”
I turn to Ricky and plead with my eyes for him to reconsider. “We’re not compatible.”
“It’s true!” Grayson agrees, “She drives me insane.”
“And he’s impossible!” I conclude.
Ricky huffs. He’s had enough of our complaining already. “The reason I’ve paired you two together is because you’re always fighting over your different opinions and yet you’re similar in so many ways.”
“Similar?” Grayson retorts. “We’re complete opposites!”
“I totally agree! We are from different worlds!”
“What if that’s the point?” Ricky says, silencing us. “This project is called from opposite sides. The purpose behind it, is to find out as much as you can about your partner’s childhood, interests, hobbies and lifestyle in general."
"As individuals, we lead very different lives and there is going to come a time where you may be asked to interview someone on a personal basis. Consider this a practice run... except it’s being marked and plays a major role in determining your end of year result. It’s worth seventy percent of your grade.”
I feel like I am going to throw up at that harsh reminder. “This might seem like a disaster in the making, but you will be thanking me for it when you come up with exceptional pieces. And you never know, you might find that you get along better once it’s completed.”
There is nothing to learn about Grayson Swain, other than the fact he comes from a rich family, owns a Bugatti and enjoys making my life a misery. I have no interest in finding out any more aside from the obvious. My hopes and dreams are thrown out the window and I’m back to square one.
We sit at the lunch table in silence. I’m still processing everything Ricky said, hoping that at any minute I might wake from this nightmare and realize it was a dream.
“I still can’t believe Ricky is making us do this,” I eventually speak.
Josie draws a long sigh. “Me either. It sucks. I’ve got to endure Shelly and her squeaky little voice for the next couple of weeks. God help me.”
“I’ve got to work with Grayson Swain... the guy that I can’t stand the sight of.”
“You two can argue until the ends of the earth. I feel sorry for you,” Josie agrees. “It’s going to be hard.”
“Maybe Ricky will change his mind and allow me to swap partners.” I haven’t done a good job in convincing the girls or myself with that one.
“I don’t think he will. He seemed pretty happy with his decisions,” Sheryl interrupts, stabbing her chicken with a fork several times.
My eyes shift to Harper, who has been unusually quiet since we left the class. “How are you feeling Harps?” I ask her.
She offers a small smile. “Oh, I think it’s a great idea - something we would never get the chance to do normally.”
Sheryl nudges my arm. “Yeah, think of all the juicy information we’re going to get out of this. It’ll be priceless.”
I hadn’t thought of it that way. “But what if some things are too personal to share?” I say.
“We don’t have to tell our partners everything,” Harper returns, calming some of my anxiety.
“I don’t know if I can work with Grayson and come out of the experience alive.” I cover my face with both hands.
“If you want to pass this course you’re going to have to try your best to get along,” Harper says.
She’s right. This project is way more important than some teenage squabble, and I can’t let Grayson’s attitude defeat me and my futuristic goals. I’m going to have to be the bigger person and push my feelings aside, no matter how much I want to slap him silly.
My phone beeps on the table and I notice that I’ve been sent a Facebook message from Rory.
Why is he trying to get in touch with me? I thought we were officially back to being enemies now.
Rory – Are you free to talk?
Rory – It’s important.
Rory – It won’t take long. I promise.
What is he up to?
Fine. Where are you?
Rory – Outside the gym.
Considering I need to give him back his half of the money anyway, I guess it wouldn’t hurt to meet one last time.
“I’ll see you guys later,” I tell the girls. “I’ve got to...um,” I search around for an excuse, “pee.” Then I rush out of the canteen and make my way to the gym.
I’m standing outside the gym for barely two seconds when Rory grabs my hand and pulls me into a supply closet. He shuts the door behind us and I stare at him with my mouth practically hanging open.
“What the hell are you doing?” I demand, breathlessly.
He searches around for the light switch and trips over his own foot. His whole-body lands in a box full of Christmas decorations and a large dust cloud engulfs us both.
“Ow!” I screech, rubbing the dust out of my eyes, which only makes it worse. “You’re such an idiot.”
“Help me out of here then!” he screams, glaring at me.
“I think I might leave you in there for a while... this is too entertaining.”
He stares up at me, unamused. “Hah! Very funny.” He winces as he shifts around. “I’m literally sitting on a pointy Christmas decoration right now.”
I’m unable to hold back my laughter. “Oh my gosh Rory! This is priceless.” I reach for my phone and start filming him.
He stops struggling and glares at me. “What are you doing?”
“I might need to use this footage someday.”
“Stop recording me and help already! You owe me after what I did for you on the weekend.”
“I owe you for the pool fiasco? Is that what you mean?”
He lowers his head. “I’ve already said sorry about that. Just... help me.”
“Fine! Stop whining!”
I grab onto his hand and lose grip. He ends up falling back down. I try again, with more force this time. He starts to rise but I lurch forward and land in his lap, our chins colliding.
I’m now stuck on top of Rory, while he struggles to move and we’re both in extreme pain. I push Rory’s shoulders back, which only causes the box to topple over with us in it.
We collapse in a heap on the floor. “Blinking heck. Remind me never to ask for your help again,” Rory says, coughing.
I try to wriggle myself free. “It’s your fault for choosing one of the worst locations ever. Like seriously what were you thinking bringing us in here? Not only does the whole thing look super dodgy, but we can barely move.”
“You’ve got to give me props for trying.”
“I have injuries! My throat is on fire! I can’t give you props for that.”
Rory’s lips press tightly together. He studies me for a long moment and a flash of heat ignites in his eyes. Then, as if a light bulb has been switched on in my head, I jump to my feet and brush off some of the dust in my lap.
He takes his time standing up and I realise that we better move things along quickly, before someone decides they need to get something out of this cupboard and catch us in here together.
“Okay, so I’m here now. What did you so desperately need to talk to me about?” I demand, crossing my arms.
Rory looks serious all over again. “Oh, yeah... well, the thing is...”
“Spit it out Rory.”
“The thing is...” He opens his mouth and then closes it just as quickly, like he doesn’t know whether he should tell me or not.
“Come on. What is it?” I ask again, my patience wavering.
“I – I realised that we had a lot of fun on Saturday. Why don’t we let bygones be bygones and be friends?”
Am I actually hearing him correctly or did he hit his head? “Are you joking?”
“We’re grownups now Skye. It’s time to move on from the past and start over.”
“What are you even saying right now? What happened to us going back to the way things were? What happened to that little speech you gave me at McDonalds about returning to our old ways?”
“I’ve changed my mind.”
“What made you change your mind? You seemed pretty sure about it.”
“I – I just think we should be friends.”
I can’t take him seriously. “You’re up to something, aren’t you? This is a prank.”
He remains serious. “It’s not. I’m being one hundred percent genuine.”
I stare at him, confused. It doesn’t look like he’s lying, unless he’s that good. “I don’t have friends.” At this, his eyebrows shoot up. Crap, maybe that wasn’t the best thing to say. I don’t want him thinking I’m a loner.
“I talk to different people, but that doesn’t mean I’m friends with them.” I’m digging an even bigger hole here. “I’m not friendless if that’s what you’re thinking.”
“Uh, okay... Well, how would you feel if we were to become friends? Would you be alright with that?” he asks.
I don’t think I can be friends with Rory. How can you be friends with someone you’ve sworn to hate for all eternity? Is that even possible?
“I don’t know if I believe you,” I tell him. “This is really random. And I thought you hated me.”
“I never said I hated you Skye. We kind of just... got the wrong idea about each other I think. I want a fresh start. That’s it. Hopefully I’ll be able to prove to you that I can be a good friend to have around.”
“I’ll be the judge of that Keaton.”
I’m suddenly reminded of the money that I owe him. I dig around my purse and hand him his half. He narrows his eyes.
“Before you assume I’m giving this back to you out of the goodness of my heart, that’s not what’s happening here.” I take a breath. “My mother somehow managed to pay Rob back herself and turns out she didn’t need my help after all. So, you can have your share back.”
Rory tucks it away. “How did she manage that?”
“Good question. I still don’t know the answer myself.”