Pranking the Bad Boy

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Chapter Thirteen - Tutoring Cole Adams

As soon as I got home, I raced upstairs, threw on a pretty sundress, and French-braided my hair into a side bun. I wasn’t sure why I was changing for him—it’s not like I cared for his opinion—but I just felt the need to pretty myself up.

I put on some lipgloss, organised the materials I would need, and then heard the doorbell ring.

I gasped and looked out my bedroom window. Standing there, hands in his pockets and looking awkward as he rocked back and forth on his heels, stood Cole Adams.

I raced downstairs and opened the door just as he raised his fist to knock—nearly knocking me out cold.

I stepped back just in time. He muttered an apology and glanced down the street.

“Hey, did you bring everything you’ll need?” I asked, shifting nervously on my feet.

He patted a satchel strung over his shoulder. I opened the door wider and gestured for him to come in. Call me prude, but the idea of being alone in a house with Cole Adams seemed wrong and inappropriate.

He came in and looked around the grand foyer and the elegant staircase. I was suddenly self-conscious of my house, even though he had been there just the night before. My cheeks flushed as he looked at a picture of me at seven-years-old, with two missing front teeth and bright blonde pigtails.

He followed me into the living room, and I sat down next to the glass coffee table, where I had everything set up for our tutoring session: pencils, pens, highlighters, books, scrap paper, etc.

I still didn’t want to do this, but I felt sorry for Cole, and I felt I owed him this after everything I did and the knowledge of the accident with his sister and mother.

He unpacked what he brought and laid it next to mine on the coffee table.

“Can I get you anything?” I asked, twisting my hands nervously in my lap.”Coffee? Tea? Water? I think we have apple juice and orange juice, if you want.”

“I’m fine, Grace,” he said. “Thanks, anyway.”

I peered at him curiously. “What’s with you? No snappy comebacks? No sarcastic comments? Is this the same Cole I used to know?” I pressed a hand to his forehead. “Are you sick?”

I realised what I was doing and my eyes widened marginally. I went to drop my hand, but he caught it, holding it in between his. He examined it; the ring with my birthstone—sapphire—the freckles on the back of my hand, the crescent-moon nails.

“Something’s just come up, that’s all,” he murmured.

“Is everything okay?”

He sighed and ran a hand through his hair, adorably mussing it up. “Nah, it’s fine. Just family matters is all.”

I was still aware that he was holding my hand, but he didn’t even seem to realise it. It was like he was doing it subconsciously, like an old habit, or something.

“You didn’t have to come,” I told him. “You could’ve cancelled. I wouldn’t mind, you know.”

“I know,” he said. “You wouldn’t mind. You’re probably the only person who wouldn’t mind if I cancelled. Everyone else would be annoyed… but you…” he trailed off, deep in thought.

What had come over him? Us? Were we really having a civil conversation right now? Was I really having a heart-to-heart with Alderidge High’s Bad Boy, the boy I had been trying to humiliate the last couple weeks? Was there something in the water supply?

He realised he was holding my hand, and dropped it quickly. I masked the hurt that had flickered across my face. He had dropped it like it was a contagious poison.

His face closed, like a book being shut, and he said, “Alright, let’s get this studying done. I wanna pass my SATs, and the way I see it, you’re the only help I can get.”

I swallowed and turned to the materials. “Alright, let’s begin.”

Two long, laborious hours later, I was lying across my couch, a cold cloth pressed to my head and the other hand squeezing the dear life out of a stress ball I had found in my mother’s study drawer.

Cole had left about ten minutes ago, and I was still feeling the after-effects of tutoring him.

That was an experience I never wanted to have ever again.

Cole was intent on not actually studying or paying attention. Instead, he ridiculed all of my tutoring methods, questioning my antics and teasing me about almost anything I did.

“Grace, what are you doing with those highlighters?”

“Who taught you English? An illiterate four-year-old?”

“What does that even say? You really need to work on your handwriting, Grace.”

“I don’t get it, Grace. Maybe you should explain it in a way that humans can actually understand.”

And so on…

He had driven me to the near brink of insanity by the time he left. He had asked if he could come the following afternoon, which I swiftly turned down because of work—I had never been more thankful for Gypsy Rose in all the time I had been working—and the next day I had yoga. Then the next day I had work in the afternoon, and an animal cruelty convention that night (they always had them on Friday nights.) Saturday I was working from 10am to 4pm, which left a short time gap unfortunately in the late afternoon, and Friday was my day off from doing anything.

So, in short, I had respite for a few days before I was subjected to that torture again. Why, do you ask, did I decide to keep going? Because I still felt guilty and pity for Cole and his mother’s situation. I would be cruel and heartless not to help him now after everything that happened with Aurora Adams.

I heard a key slide in the lock and then the door opened, my mother and Angel tumbling in, laughing at some joke.

Where had they been to save me from the torture an hour ago?

“Hey, Grace!” my mother said. “Is Cole still here?”

I shook my head. “Left a half-hour ago.”

“Sorry we missed it.”

Yeah, me too.

No prob,” I said instead, opting for the more polite way of speaking.

“How was it?”

“It was… interesting.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I mean it was… a whole other experience.”

“I take it it didn’t go too well, then?” my mother asked, trying to sound light, but I heard an undercurrent to her words.

“Cole just seemed intent on picking out my flaws rather than working on his assignments.”

“He’s had a rough time, Grace,” my mother said caustically, chastising me for not being more patient with Cole.

I kept my tone light, rather than letting my frustration show at her total lack of care for the pain I went through trying to drill some English lessons in him. Why did she have to defend Cole instead of me? I was her daughter! “I know. That’s why I’m going to continue tutoring him. Soon we’ll figure out a routine and… hopefully get some work done.”

She nodded, approving of my answer. “Okay. Well, I’m proud of you, Grace.”

Angel butted in before I could reply. “What about me, mom?”

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this before, but eleven-year-olds are annoying.

“Yes, Ange. You are just as good as your sister,” my mother said, ruffling Angel’s hair affectionately. “I have the two most beautiful girls in the world.”

“Thanks, Mom,” Angel said, blushing and flicking her fair hair over her shoulder. “You didn’t have to say that.”

Oh, for the love of…

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