I shuffled back inside school with my head hanging low and a heavy heart. People stared and whispered as I passed by them. I’m sure they were going to gossip about the show we’d given at the parking lot for a long while, but I honestly didn’t care. I was too heartbroken to mind their petty gossip.
The next couple classes dragged in a torturous slow pace. I couldn’t pay attention to anything the teacher was saying, all I could think about was my conversation with Matt on that rooftop.
When the bell rang announcing my free period, I stacked my books under my arm and tried to look for Vincent. We had a lot to talk, I needed to tell him about the decision I had made today in the rooftop. Tell him that this game we were playing was definitely over. I was finally letting go of my dream that Matt and I could be together. That was the sensation tightening in my chest, prickling my eyes with tears. Sadness. Sorrow. Acceptance. He was not meant to be mine. I knew that now.
I needed to face this and move on with my life, like I had told Matt I would do, up on that rooftop. I was ready to move on. I needed to find Vincent and tell him that.
I looked for him in the hallways, but couldn’t find any sign of him, so I decided to search in the library. I knew that whenever Vincent wanted peace and quiet, he usually wandered off to the back of the library. I was heading down the hallway in a distracted mood when I accidently bumped into the new transfer student.
“Oh, hey, new guy.” I greeted him, absent-minded.
“His name is Sean.” Kyle, who had been walking alongside him, stopped to talk to me as well. “No one calls him by his name, though. ‘New guy’ seems to be his official nickname.” He informed me with a light chuckle.
“Oh, sorry, my bad. Sean.”
Sean sighed loudly and shrugged. “I don’t even care anymore. People can call me anything they want. I’m not stressing about it any longer.” He looked down at my busted lip and bruised jaw with a frown. “What happened to you? You look like you’ve been hit by a truck or something.”
I dipped my head to hide my bruises and changed the subject. “I’m fine. So, are you guys close friends now? I saw you two hanging out at your welcome party.”
“Yeah, Kyle was introducing me around.” Sean answered, giving Kyle a quick glance, but then he spotted a girl walking by with a lollipop in her mouth, and his eyebrows arched in surprise. “Hey! I haven’t seen a lollipop in forever! You, awesome girl! Where did you get that?” he shouted and ran after her.
“He does that a lot, wander off doing the weirdest things.” Kyle mused in bewilderment. “He’s even more weird and random than you, Taylor, if that’s even possible.”
“What is he even doing? Is he seriously begging for a lollipop?” I asked, watching Sean getting on his knees and pleading theatrically at the girl for something.
“Yeah, I think he is…” Kyle muttered, watching the scene with a confused frown, before he shook his head and turned to me, seeming worried. “But never mind that. Are you really okay, Taylor? I’ve heard about what happened in the parking lot.”
“I’m okay. It was just a punch, no big deal,” I said, awkwardly.
Kyle stepped closer and gave me a hug. “If you need to talk about it, I’m here for you. I’d offer to kick David’s ass, but I hear there’s a queue already formed for that. I’m sure Matt is at the front of the line.”
I smiled and hugged him back. Kyle always knew how to make me feel better.
“Check it out, dudes!” Sean interrupted our moment, walking back with a lollipop stuck in his mouth and another one in his hand. “Awesome girl over there said that since I was‘so flipping cute’, she was giving me two. Guess the pretty face here is paying off after all!” He exclaimed, showing off the lollipop in his hand.
Kyle tried hard not to laugh. “Never seen anyone older than two so excited over a lollipop.” He teased.
“You’re just jealous because you’re not pretty enough to earn free candy.” He scoffed at Kyle. “But anyway, this here is for you, Taylor, my man.” He stopped in front of me and hunched down so he could look me straight in the eyes (since he was very tall and I was very short) and then he handed me the lollipop.
“Remember how happy you used to get when you were little and you’d win one of these? Sometimes all you need is that happy feeling again. So here it is, for you. Try and get that happy back. You look like you need it.” He shot an honest, heart-warming smile and winked like he had told me a special secret, before he turned around and walked away, sucking at his lollipop like he had won the frigging lottery.
I stared at his retreating broad back with a befuddled look on my face. “I think it will take some time to figure this one out, Kyle. He seems full of surprises.”
“I think you may be right...” Kyle muttered thoughtfully. “Oh, speaking of ‘crazy people’, Jesse has been looking all over for you. She’s heard about what happened to you. I think she went search for torches and pitchforks to hunt David down.”
“Oh no.” I rubbed my face tiredly. “I hope she doesn’t find him. David is in a lot of trouble if she gets her hands on him.”
“I’ve heard he’s already in a lot of trouble with the Worthington kid.”
“Yeah. I actually need to go find him now and try to prevent any more disasters. I’ll talk to you later, okay?”
“Okay, see you around, Taylor.” He waved me good-bye and I hurried to the library to search for my missing billionaire.
I browsed through the empty rows of bookshelves, looking for any signs of Vincent’s whereabouts when I heard voices coming from the reading area where I had first met him. And then I caught sign of Matt standing next to someone on the couch.
“I need to talk to you.” Matt’s voice rolled through the empty library.
I stood by a bookshelf around the corner and listened closely. What could those two be possibly talking about?
“That’s why we’re here. So go on, Talk.” Vincent ordered, leaning forward on his seat.
“Taylor is okay. I thought you’d want to know,” Matt said.
“I’ll be sure to check on him and see for myself. Would that be all?”
Matt glared at him. “No. Taylor told me about the letter from your lawyer. You messed up more than you helped with that thing, but I guess it’s the intention that counts.”
“Thanks, I was really worried here, waiting for your approval.” Vincent drawled out, full of sarcasm. “Are you two still fighting? He was more upset about you and whatever it is that you did to him in that party than any punch from that David prick. Should I be worrying about you too? I can always tell my lawyer to add one more name and write one more letter, you know.”
“We’re not fighting, we’ve never been. I would never do anything to hurt Taylor, he knows he can count on me for everything.” It was clear by the tick of his jaw that Matt was struggling to be civil to Vincent.
“Do you mean you’re best buddies again? That ismarvelousnews, Mathew!” Vincent exclaimed, still heavy on the sarcasm. “I didn’t think it’d be that easy.”
“Easy?” Matt asked, sounding confused.
“Yeah, for you to give up on him.” Vincent leaned back on the couch and crossed his legs in a lazy manner. “I thought you were going to give me trouble, but I guess I was wrong. You really gave him up so easily.”
“I’m not ‘giving up’ on anything. He is still my friend.” Matt snapped.
“Oh, I’m not talking about your make-believe ‘best friends’ fairy tale. You know what I really meant. There’s no need to play coy with me, Mathew, we can talk honestly here, man to man, yeah?”
Matt frowned. “I don’t know what you’re implying-”
“Oh, come on!” Vincent interrupted him with a loud slap on the thigh. “I thought you’d be braver than this. That you’d fight harder. I could see since the first day I watched you two together, what he meant to you... But I guess I assumed too much. Anyway, it’syourloss, my gain. I shouldn’t be complaining, right? I’m glad you’re willingly handing me over your king. I guess this is check-mate for you then.” he chuckled to a seething Matt.
“You know… I feel the need to confess something here, since we’re having such an honest conversation.” Vincent continued with his taunting. “When I first met Taylor, I was bored out of my mind, locked in this frivolous mind numbing stupid school. And then up he came, skipping around, being loud and merry as usual… he caught my interest that day, and I thought to myself, ‘hey, this kid is funny, it should be entertaining to have him around’. So I kept him by my side, to distract me mostly.”
“It was so easy to make him trust me. He’s very naive and so adorably innocent,” Vincent chuckled evilly. “But then we started hanging out and I discovered all these parts of him that he doesn’t let anyone see, and I just wanted to keep digging for more. It was such a delightful surprise to find out Taylor was so much more than I could ever hope for! He’s brilliant! I’m sure you know that, you’ve known him since forever, am I right?”
“Of course, when I realized Taylor was that unique, I decided that I had to have him. How could I let a precious thing like him get away? But there was just this tiny littleproblemto deal with first, and that wasyou. I needed to make him stop loving you.” He stated calmly and I gasped behind the bookshelf, while Matt widened his eyes at the revelation. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“Ah, come on now, Mathew. Don’t act so shocked! You had your chance and you blew it. Now it’s my turn,” Vince said, matter of fact. “And to think Taylor would do anything for a chance with you! But not anymore. You took care of breaking his pretty little heart, over and over again. I didn’t even have to do a damn thing, you did all the work for me! Thank you for that, by the way.”
“All I have to do now is pick up the broken pieces, lend him a shoulder to cry on, hold him in my comforting arms and BAM! So damn easy, man!” He boasted, with a victorious smile. “And do you want to know whatthe best part is? You can’t do anything about it, because you gave him up, and all just to continue with this bullshit story about keeping your friendship! So, thanks man! Your lack of balls just handed me Taylor on a big silver platter. It won’t be long until I make him fall in love with me. He’ll be eating off my hands! It’s almost too damn easy...” Vincent guffawed.
“I knew you were a piece of garbage the minute I saw you, Worthington.” Matt growled, bawling his fists at his sides. If looks could kill, Vincent would be dead by now.
“Oh,come on, you don’t need to be a sore loser. This is basically your fault. I have so little to do with it, really.” Vincent taunted some more.
“You... you can’t do this to him!” Matt protested, disgusted.
“Watch me.” Vincent dared.
“You’re sick. You and your scheming. You don’t care about anyone but you, you selfish prick! You just like to play with people, you don’t carewho you destroy when you’re done playing.” Matt spat out. “I know all about your old school, why you had to leave. Didn’t you feel any guilt for the girl you’ve destroyed? Have you no conscience at all?”
Vincent regarded Matt for a while in silence, measuring his next words.
“I see someone’s been doing his homework,” he finally said. “That was hardly my fault, that girl was mentally unstable.”
“You mean,you made her go crazy. You twisted her head and played games until she went nuts, and when you were done, you tossed her away like trash. Just like you plan on doing to Taylor.” Matt accused angrily.
Vincent leaned forward, his calm façade finally slipping. “What I had with that girl is none of your business. The same goes for Taylor now, what I do with him is none of your concern. He’s mine now.” He snarled.
“I’ll never let you do this to him!” Matt growled back. “I’ll tell him what a conceiving, evil, selfish, manipulative bastard you are, you fucking liar!”
Vincent cackled humorlessly. “Oh, that is priceless! I’m the liar? Because I know for a fact that you love him, but you still lie about it to his face every day!”
“You don’t know shit, Worthington!” Matt barked out.
“Oh, but I do! You love him. I know you do, and deep down, you know it too. Why are you not with him, Mathew?” Vince asked.
Matt opened his mouth, but no words came out. He was stuck.
“I’ll tell you why: because you’re too damn scared, that’s why.” Vincent answered for him. “You can’t even admit your own damn feelings to yourself! It’s pathetic! But you have to accept this now, you gave him up. Take responsibility for that. I didn’t make you reject him, Mathew. You could’ve had him, but you chose not to. Don’t put the blame of losing him on me, that’s all on you.”
“I- I didn’t-”
“Why don’t you tell him how you really feel then? Right now. Do it now. March over to him and fucking tell him.” Vincent dared and watched Matt take an unsure step back, scared. “Is that a no? I thought so.” he boasted, smug. “But you still can’t let him be happy with someone else. How selfish and manipulative is that? You say I play around with people? What do you think you’ve been doing to him all this time? Guess we’re not so different after all. Maybe that’s why you hate me so much. It’s like looking in a mirror, isn’t it?”
“I’m nothing like you.” Matt spat out.
“Yes, you are. I’m a liar and a coward, and so are you. Takes one to know one.”
Vincent raised his head, daring Matt to contradict him, to prove him wrong. ‘What are you going to do now?’ was the silent question flaring in his fierce green eyes.
“Forget it,” Matt said. “It’s useless talking to you. You wouldn’t understand.” He sounded so defeated, like he had lost all the will for this battle.
Vincent had crushed him. But Vincent didn’t know how much Matt could lose with this gamble, what was at stake here. He didn’t know.
“You know what, do what you’ve got to do, man.” Matt said, giving a tired, uncaring shrug. “But if you think this shit you do to people won’t ever catch up to you, you’re wrong. It always catches up. I may not be around to see it, but you will be. You deserve whatever is coming your way.” And with that final word, he turned and left, leaving a rattled Vincent behind.
I watched Matt leaving and stormed to where Vincent was sitting.
“Taylor.” Vincent stood up in surprise, looking shaken.
“You can’t do this!” I shouted, tears falling down on my face. “You don’t have the right to accuse him like that! You don’t know how Matt’s life is like, you don’t know him like I do! What you said to him was cruel! You can’t do this to him!” I cried out, punching him feebly on the chest.
He grabbed me firmly by the wrists to make me stop.
“I heard everything you said.” I sobbed, still struggling against him.
“Good. This spares me the trouble of telling you the whole thing all over again.” he replied, looking at me like nothing wrong had happened.
“Let go of me!” I protested, shaking my arms.
“Only after you calm down,” he said, full of authority. “Calm down now.”
I stopped struggling and gave him a glare full of hate.
“Taylor. You may have quit the game, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still playing. I told you, I don’t quit things, I only play to win.” He said letting go of my hands. “What you saw here was me trying to push Matt harder, to press his buttons. It’s a good thing he’s angry now. He needs to do something about it. He needs to be brave and confess his love for you.”
“This is bullshit, Vincent!” I protested, upset.
“It isn’t. I realized the minute I saw him running after you out of that parking lot, that you were going to fall back into thatfriendship ordeal again. I needed to shake him out of his comfort zone. Maybe if he thinks I’m the bad guy here, and that he needs to fight for you, he’ll finally admit his feelings. To you and to himself, Taylor.”
I slumped on the couch, exhausted by all the fights going on today. “Vince, I told you to let it go, to quit this stupid game! Why are you still doing this?”
“We’re close to winning this, Holmes. We can’t quit when we’re this close!”
“Do you realize you are the only one who wants this? Matt doesn’t want it and I don’t want it. Not anymore. He would lose everything to be with me! You don’t even understand how much he’d be losing! I don’t want to be the reason... please... can you just let it go?” I pleaded one more time. “Matt and I are better off just friends. I’m moving on, for real. You need to stop this, Vince.”
“Have you seen the way you look at him? Have you seen the way he looks at you back? Your denial is so bloody irritating!” he huffed out, aggravated. “Can’t you two idiots see how much you belong together? I’m trying to help you here, dammit!” he snapped, losing his temper. “I’m going to get you two together, even if it’s the last thing I do. And you know what else? I don’t even need your help, I’m doing this all on my own. Yeah, I’m that good. You can thank me later, after he declares his undying love to you.” He stood up all smug, brushed some imaginary dust off his clothes and walked away like he was the king of the world.