Chapter Eight - Playing With Fire
Everyone knew Cole was rich.
It wasn’t like he flaunted it, but not only does he have a motorcycle, he also has an expensive Italian car that he got, like, a year before it was released anywhere in the world. He wears expensive clothes and always has the latest in technology. He never mentioned money, and I don’t think it meant much to him, but it was evident he had it at his disposal, and wasn’t afraid to use it.
But his house was huge. Steel gates with a voice box, tall pillars and large bay windows, manicured lawns and shiny vehicles. It was like a celebrity’s house in Hollywood. There were rolling lawns, big elm trees, it had a forest behind it, and it was a colonial-Victorian kind of mansion with black shutters and big bricks.
I pressed a button on the voice box, glancing over my shoulder nervously at the perfect street behind me. There was a beep, and then a small crackling sound.
“Yes?” came an older woman’s voice, and I jumped in fright.
“Oh, uh, hi,” I stuttered nervously.
“Can I help you?” came the voice out of the speakers, like a Voice from above.
“Hi, I’m, uh, my name is Grace Holland. I was wondering if I could please see Cole?” I asked sweetly, rocking back and forth on my feet
“Do you have an appointment?” the voice inquired
What, to see a seventeen-year-old boy? What is he, a divorce lawyer in his spare time?
“Er, no,” I said. “This is kind of a surprise visit.”
“I will ask him if it is alright for you to come up.”
“Wait, no,” I said quickly. Then I found myself in the awkward situation of explaining things the best I could. His pranks and my retaliation and his latest stunt yesterday. Yes, it had taken me twenty-four hours to work up the courage to come here.
By the end the crisp, formal voice had disappeared and was replaced by a worried, motherly, maternal tone. “Oh, dear, I am so sorry. I knew Cole had his pranks, but this has really disappointed me. I’m letting you in right now.”
Slowly the gates slid aside with a muffled creak and I walked up the long gravel drive, twisting my hands and staring in awe at the surroundings.
The door opened by a woman in about her mid-fifties, with red-brown hair streaked with grey and green eyes and one of those French maid outfits you see in old movies. She smiled at me and gestured for me to follow her into the grand foyer.
Everything was basically an expensive mahogany with lilies in hurricane vases and gilt-framed hall mirrors. It was beautiful and antique-y and… expensive. And intimidating, if we were being honest. I felt underdressed. In fact, I didn’t really feel like I should be allowed in here. Like I was ruining the perfect interior. My family had money, but not this kind of money.
“I’m Juanita, the maid. Let me show you the way to Cole’s room.”
She led me up a spiralling staircase and through various winding corridors. With every step my heart beat faster, feeling like it would beat out of my chest. Deep breaths, Grace. Yoga breaths.
Finally she knocked on a tall mahogany door with a brass door-handle. There was a small shuffling, and then I recognised Cole’s voice. “Yeah?”
Damn, why couldn’t I have recognised that voice yesterday morning instead of thinking it was a burglar, grabbing a frypan and embarrassing myself?
“Cole, you have a visitor,” Juanita said sweetly, her tangerine-colored lips pulling up into an adoring smile, like a grandmother.
He sounded perplexed when he spoke next. “Did they have an appointment?”
I rolled my eyes.
“No, Cole. It’s a surprise visit. They’re coming in now.”
She twisted the door-knob and opened it slightly, before turning on her heel and walking away, an air of loyalty and regality surrounding her.
I hesitated for three seconds before opening the door fully and stepping over the threshold.
I don’t know what I expected. Band posters and naked pictures of girls taped up on the wall? Black bedspread with a skull and crossbones? Music pulsing out of the speakers? Drawings of motorbikes and cars? Well, that was definitely not what I was greeted with.
The walls were beige, completely untouched, not a photo or picture anywhere. Large desk with a globe, phone charger, and school books stacked neatly. Book case covered in—you guessed it—books, paraphernalia, a model of his bike just in smaller form, and a snow globe from Central Park. A king-sized bed with blue-and-grey quilt and dark grey pillows. And there sat Cole, laptop perched on his knees.
He looked up, and he looked shocked to see me standing in front of him. He put the laptop next to him and stood up awkwardly.
“Grace, what the hell are you doing here?” he asked.
“Oh, I brought you some cookies,” I said sarcastically, putting my hands on my hips. “Are you kidding right now, Cole? What do you think I’m doing here? Did you honestly think I would just sit back and let you do that without coming to talk to you?”
“So you saw it.” It wasn’t a question, just a statement.
I scoffed. “Of course I saw it! It’s all over the Internet! You have dropped to an all-time low, you know that? To humiliate me so completely? That was out of line.”
“You started it, Grace,” he said. “I was ending it.”
“Oh, this is far from the end! Do you seriously think I’m just going to take this lying down? You’re insane!”
“Do what you want, Grace. You can’t beat me. You played the game when you didn’t even know the rules. You played with fire! Of course you got burned. What did you really expect?”
“How about a little warning? A little restraint? Did you have to take it so publicly?” I snapped, my voice coming out like an imploring whine. I cringed at my voice.
“You know, I didn’t even do half as bad as what you did. I haven’t stopped getting texts from people all weekend about what happened Friday night. So, excuse me for wanting some well-deserved payback.”
“How could you do that, Cole? I mean, dump your lunch-tray in front of everyone in the cafeteria. Fine. Pull another science prank on me. Fine. But to post an incriminating photo like that for everyone to see?! Not only is that immoral, but also illegal. I could sue you for that!”
“Look, Grace. I have said this before and I’m saying it again, you started it. Take me to court over this if you want. Nothing will happen.”
He and I both knew I was not going to take him to court over this. This was between us, and I intended to settle it between us. I didn’t need high-paying lawyers to do the job for me. Especially since his dad was a very notorious defence lawyer.
“I hope you know this isn’t over, Cole,” I said. “I’m going to make you regret the day you ever did this to me.”
“Go ahead, sweetheart,” he said with his signature smirk, waving a hand dismissively. He sat back down on his bed and pulled the laptop onto his knee, before clicking a few times and typing again, as if he couldn’t be bothered with my company anymore. “Do your worst.”
But what Cole didn’t know, and what he remained oblivious to even as I left his room that night and closed the door quietly behind me, was that I wasn’t going to do my worst.
No. I was going to do much, much more.