Cross Roads

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Chapter Three: Boots

“You’re late—”

“—What are you wearing?”

Alvin and I stare at each other, both glaring and both annoyed.

I am annoyed because he is almost two hours late. He told me to be ready by seven. I was ready at ten-to, and spent the next ninety-nine minutes staring blankly at my TV waiting for the devil himself to arrive.

Alvin, I suppose, is annoyed because I am wearing my boots.

That is what happens when I am made to wait.

“Where were you? I’ve been waiting,” I hiss, locking my front door.

What are you wearing?” he repeats, staring down at my feet.

“Shoes,” I say, shouldering my backpack and crossing the front porch to his car.

I hear him growl behind me as he follows. “I told you specifically not to wear boots. You can’t show up to one of these things wearing those. Do you know who is going to be at this party? Do you know what kind of impression you’re going to give people about me?”

I raise an eyebrow. “Do you really think I care? I don’t want to be anywhere near you, Alvin. You’re lucky that I even put on a dress. Now either we’re going to this dumb party or we aren’t. I’ll be fine with the latter. We can just forget that this entire thing ever happened . . . or tried to happen. I won’t tell a soul, and neither will you.”

Alvin laughs, grabbing my arm as I make an attempt at returning to my house. “Nice try, Spencer.” He drags me back to his car, practically throwing me into the passenger door. “We have a deal, unless you wanted me to go around telling everyone who vandalized my brother’s car. I don’t think Anabelle would appreciate going to court for something that she didn’t do. What about you?” He smirks, knowing he has me.

I glare up at him, resisting the urge to punch the smug jerk in the gut. “I hate you.”

He is unconcerned, nudging me to the door. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Tell me something that actually matters to me. Get in. We have a party to go to.”

I do not like being ordered around. I fold my arms and glare up at him, refusing to budge until . . . I’m not sure. Maybe an apology. Maybe until he starts treating me with a modicum of respect. Maybe until this whole entire messy situation resolves itself, and I am once again able to curse the bane of my existence from afar.

“What now, Spencer?” he growls, growing more agitated by the second.

Well, now he knows how I felt, being forced to sit around in a dress and wait for his Royal Highness to finally make his appearance.

“Ask,” I reply, seething. I hate Alvin Knightly. The only man on this earth that I hate more than him is his older brother – that is self explanatory. “Ask me to go to this party. Ask me to get into this car.”

He only rolls his eyes. “Get in.” He crosses to the driver’s side, sliding down behind the wheel.

I don’t budge.

He lowers the passenger window. “Now, Spencer. I have my brother on speed-dial. All it will take is one button to ruin your sister’s life.”

“Don’t talk to me like that,” I growl, leaning in through the window.

“Don’t make me tell my brother.”

“Why do you even want me to pretend to be your date to begin with? We hate each other. It’s a mutual hate-hate relationship. So why are you so set on dragging me along with you? Why are you even doing this in the first place?”

He sighs, face reddening. “My mother. That’s why.”

“That makes no sense,” I answer with a shake of my head. “Your mom hates me almost as much as you do. She hated Anabelle, too. She always saw us as beneath you, like we weren’t worthy of walking the same dirt as you. Why would you want to . . .” I trail off as I start to understand this guy’s reasoning. “It’s because she hates us, isn’t it?”

Bingo,” he hisses, practically spitting. In fact, I think he did. “Get inside, Goode.”

“No. No, not yet. You want me to go with you just to get on her nerves. You want to piss her off, don’t you?”

“So what if I do?”

“Why? Why drag me along in this? What could you possibly hope to gain by aggravating her?”

He growls and punches the steering wheel, his fist setting off the horn. I jump, startled, striking my head on the roof of the car. “Spencer, we don’t have time for this! We’re already going to be fashionably late as it is. I don’t need for this party to be ending by the time we get there.”

“If I get in will you explain to me exactly what you want from me?”

He glares.

I glare back, unfazed by the supposed intensity of it. I’ve dealt with worse from customers at work.

“Fine,” he forces out.

I open the door and slide in, barely getting the chance to click on my seat-belt when Alvin starts his car and slams on the gas. We jolt out of my driveway and onto the road. I am smashed into the door and then the center console, and I can just imagine the bruises that are bound to form from the harsh treatment.

It isn’t until we are ten miles away from his house that he speaks.

“My mom won’t leave me alone about my dating habits,” he explains, grinding his teeth and staring pointedly ahead.

I snort. “You mean your lack of dating?” It’s a well known fact that the Knightly brothers are players, floating from one girl to the next whenever the whim fancies them. The longest relationship either of them had been in was . . . well, was when Adrian dated my sister. “What, does she want you to finally settle down or something?”

The look he gives me and I know that I’ve hit the nail right on the head. “No. No way, Alvin. I am not going to—”

“To what?” he interrupts with a snarl. “You’re just going to be my girlfriend so she’ll leave me alone about it. She wants grandkids or something. I don’t know. All her friends are becoming grandparents—”

“Because none of you elitist snobs understand the handiness of a condom,” I mutter.

Alvin frowns over at me. “Whatever. She wants me and Adrian to settle down soon.”

“You’re only twenty-one, though.”

“Exactly my point. I’m not ready to be with one girl for the rest of my life. I’ve still got my whole life to live. So we’re going to pretend to be together so she’ll leave me alone about the girls I date.”

“But she hates me.”

“I know. That’s the beauty of it. She’ll get what she wants, hate it – er, you – and then change her mind. She’ll stop meddling with my life afterwards if she wants to get rid of you.”

“So you’re using me.”

“Yes.” He isn’t ashamed by the truth. I do not care, just so long as there isn’t some hidden agenda where he wants to make my life hell for all eternity. In fact, I would prefer for this to be happening rather than for him to have a secret crush on me, the ultimate act of rebellion.

“Fine. How long are we supposed to do this?”

“As long as I say so.”

I have nothing else to say to that. I am stuck between a rock and a hard place. “Whatever,” I mutter, folding my arms and slumping in the passenger seat. I am beginning to regret my decision to ruin Adrian’s prized possession. I could have simply spread a rumor of him contracting a serious STD. Rumors spread like wildfire when associated with the Knightlys. He would have been treated like a leper for at least a few weeks before things blew over.

But no! I just had to resort to vandalism.

Why couldn’t I learn to think before I acted? Why, why, why, WHY?


The party sucked. Horribly. I actually considered drowning myself in one of the Knightlys’ dozen toilets. I actually thought about throwing myself from the highest tower – er, balcony on the third floor – and to my death in the rose bushes below. I actually almost, sort of, kinda came uber close to telling Alvin to suck it and that this little instance of blackmail is over.

Yes, it is that bad.

The food was terrible. I couldn’t even pronounce anything that was being served. All there was to drink was champagne and some really fancy water that I boycotted simply because it was fancy. I even got strange looks when I asked if there were any mini wieners on toothpicks for me to eat – the answer for that was no.

The music was even worse.

. . . As in there was none.

All I could hear were the conversations of the richest people in the city. They spoke with those annoying, I-am-superior-to-all accents. They spoke about stupid things such as how they needed to go for a manicure because they just passed someone wearing the exact same color as them, or that they had to change country clubs because theirs accepted someone who didn’t make as much money as they did. I felt so out of place in the entire thing, and it didn’t get better when Adrian came over, sneered at me, and then stole my “date”-slash-ride to go and mingle with blonde bimbos.

These girls give natural blondes like me a very bad name.

My night gets even worse when, as I stand by myself in a lonely little corner nursing my starving stomach, Mrs. Knightly herself greets me.

“Hello,” she says hotly, staring down at me with her beady little eyes. “What is your name again?”

Nice to see you, too.

“Spencer,” I say, tone noticeably agitated. “And you are?” Two can play at this game.

She clucks her tongue and shakes her head. “I am Adrianna Knightly. Perhaps you have heard of me since you are standing in my home?”

“Oh! You’re Alvin’s mom!” I gasp, feigning surprise. “He’s mentioned you.”

“I am sure,” she snaps. “Why are you here?”

“Alvin invited me. I’m his date,” I explain.

Mmhmm.” She is not convinced. “If that is so then why is he over there, flirting with those young women?” She points and I look, and I am not surprised to see him with his arms over two sluts’ shoulders. “Would you care to explain that?”

“Oh, that’s easy. We have a very open relationship.”

She purses her lips and frowns. “Oh really.”

“Yes.”

There is a moment of tense, awkward silence.

“You are Anabelle Goode’s younger sister, are you not?”

I am surprised she even remembers – or cares to acknowledge the relation. “Yeah! Is it that obvious? I’ve been told that we look alike, but I can never see the resemblance. Maybe the nose?” I turn my head to the side, showcasing said facial feature.

Adrianna Knightly does not care and is not impressed. “You are the college dropout. I heard from my son that you work at McDonald’s.”

The way she says it makes it sound like a bad thing.

I nod, trying to act as though her words don’t bother me. “Yep. There’s not much available for me in the world of work, so I take what I can. I’m actually a shift manager—”

She cuts me off with a wave of her hand. “I honestly do not care.”

I blink. “Well, that was rudely blunt,” I say. “You’re a horrible hostess.”

“You are not here by personal invitation. You are here as an unnecessary plus one.”

“But,” I interrupt, grinning snidely, “I am here.”

“I can see that, Miss Goode. And I wish to know why.”

“Umm . . . as Alvin’s plus one?” Did she damage her brain cells or something? She just answered her own question.

She takes a wobbly step closer to me, her platform heels threatening to break her ankles and send her crashing to the floor. “Listen here, Miss Goode, I do not understand what your angle is, but I want you to stay away from my son. He does not need your kind to be influencing him. To be quite frank, I do not like you, and I do not want you anywhere near my family.”

Well, thanks for clearing that up. And here I thought I was going to be welcomed into this family with open arms!

“Adrianna – I can call you that, right? – to be honest, I don’t like you either. At least the feeling is mutual. And as for your son, he’s twenty-one years old. As much as I hate to admit it, he’s a grown man and an adult. Most of the time. He doesn’t need you to tell him who he can and can’t date. If, and I mean if, he decides he no longer wants to date me, then that is fine. He can make that decision on his own. Not because you said so.” I smile and take a step away. “Now that that is cleared up, I’m going to go. It was nice talking to you, Adrianna.”

I walk away and find myself another corner to lurk in as I wait for Alvin to finally choose he’s had enough socializing and can take me home.

I stay in my hiding spot until a little after eleven before I can’t take it anymore and set off in search of my ride. It doesn’t take me long to find him when I happen to glance out one of the large windows to see him climbing into a limo parked in the driveway. He is with the blondes from before, Adrian with his own set of twins. They all get in and drive away.

I stare after them wondering what just happened.

When I finally realize that I am stranded at this party I am fuming.

I knew this was going to happen. I swear I did. I told myself, no, don’t go along with this devil’s pact, but did I listen? NO! Of course not! Because I’m blonde! I’m so stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid.

On the bright side, I now have an excuse to leave this party. My obligation to stay has just flown the proverbial coop.

So I do just that, storming out of the mansion.

I am prepared to leave, but I have to make one little pit-stop at Alvin’s car to pick up my bag. Since I knew this was going to happen, I had packed a change of clothes to hike back home in. When I get my bag out of the passenger seat, I change right then and there in the driveway, not caring if anyone enjoyed the show I amgiving. I pull on shorts and a hoodie, pack away my party apparel, and set off down the lengthy driveway.

I get to the end before I am forced to stop and answer my cell phone.

“Hello?” I ask, getting my phone out of my backpack just before the call can go to voicemail.

“Hey, Spencer? It’s Brandon.”

Crap. The GM of McDonald’s. Double crap.

“Okay. What’s up?” I answer slowly.

“I got a call-off just now and I need you to open tomorrow.”

I stumble, caught off guard. “Wait, but I’m already scheduled for an eight hour shift.” I am supposed to work a twelve-to-eight.

“Yeah, I know, but you’re the only one who can come in and open.”

“I can list five other people you can call,” I tell him.

The line stays quiet.

I sigh. “Who’s going to be taking my shift?”

At the silence I can feel a headache forming.

“Brandon, you can’t expect me to work a four to eight. That’s like, sixteen hours or something. I’ll be getting fifteen hours overtime then. You know they won’t like that.” No, our owner will actually consider firing me for this, the cheap, scummy bastard.

“Yeah, but I need you to do it.”

“Why don’t you open? You’ll just be coming in three hours early.”

“Spencer, I just got home an hour ago. There was a problem with the system that I had to take care of.”

“So? I’m not even home!”

I can practically see him reaching through the phone to strangle me. That’s okay. I want to strangle him.

“I need you to open, Spencer. I’m sorry.”

I snort. “Whatever.”

“Is that a yes?”

“I don’t have a choice, do I?”

“Well, you do, but then it’ll put you out of work.”

I glare at nothing and yet everything. “I hate you.”

He laughs. LAUGHS! “I know.”

“I hate you and the openers and the crew and the owners and McDonald’s in general. You don’t pay me enough for this.” And they don’t. I work fifty-plus hours a week as a measly, barely certified shift manager, making $9.55 an hour. The state takes over a hundred dollars out of each paycheck, so I’m barely bringing home $380. I put in too much effort for such a dead-end job.

“I know,” he chuckles. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Why don’t you bring me some coffee?”

“You can drink coffee for free,” he replies.

“Let me clarify: good coffee. I like the fancy stuff you drink.”

“Are you telling your boss what to do?”

I shake my head, for my own benefit. “No, I’m just telling him that he owes me. Big.”

“Okay,” he says. I know he’s smiling. “I’ll bring you some coffee.”

“Good.” I hang up and resist the urge to chuck my phone into oncoming traffic – sure, it’s non-existent, but it’s the thought that counts. Instead I spin in a circle while stomping my feet, hating my life and everything in it. I won’t be getting any sleep tonight. I’ll barely be making it to work on time as it is.

In fact, I’ll need to start running if I want to get there at four.

“Screw you, Alvin,” I hiss, putting on both straps of my backpack and sprinting down the street.

It’s times like these that I wish I’d done track in school. As it was, back during my early to mid teen years, I was a chunky child. By no means was I fat, but I wasn’t in the shape I am in now. But if I had done track – had gotten into impeccable shape – this marathon run wouldn’t seem quite as daunting as it does now. Sure, I’d done this before three days ago, but that had been at the expense of being so sore my legs felt like jelly.

They still feel like jelly now, but I can’t stop. I have to get to work.

I take the same route as last time, cutting through developments and the occasional lawn, slipping in the few that had the audacity to run their sprinklers at this time of night. I find myself drenched part way into the marathon, and it wasn’t because of sweat.

At least the night is warmer than it has been.

So here I am, running with water dripping down my face and from my hair; my hoodie and shorts sticking to me like a second skin. All in all I am the most uncomfortable I have ever been, feeling as my clothes chafe against me.

And then, out of nowhere, this giant dog comes barreling down the driveway I am passing.

Déjà vu.

Yep, I should have seen this coming.

I scream as the dog barks, running for the lamppost and flinging myself at it. I try, honest I do, to hold my position four feet above the ground, but with my clothes as wet as they are I have no hope.

I slide right down onto my butt.

“Ow!” I hiss.

The dog pounces, gigantic paws hitting my shoulders and knocking me flat onto the cement. Its warm breath hangs in my face – ew, doggy breath – and drool falls from its tongue. Once again I am convinced that it will eat me.

“No! Bad dog. Get off!”

The dog only leans further over me, its superior weight making it very difficult for me to breathe.

“How much do you weigh?” I groan, struggling to move and finding that I seriously, actually, surprisingly can’t. “Get off! Get off!” My backpack digs into my spine, the heels that I had put on for the party poking holes into my lungs through my ribs. I am suffocating. I am going to die.

I won’t have to open in a couple hours.

Ooh, I like the sound of that.

“Benji! Benji, get off of her!”

I blink and see a very familiar shadow racing towards me and the dog. When he leans over me I see the metal hanging from his neck as it reflects the lamp light.

Dog-Tags. Long time no see.

The man grabs onto his dog’s collar, dragging it off of me and forcing it to sit. “Benji, you can’t go around knocking people over. You’re too big for that,” Dog-Tags admonishes. The dog looks increasingly chastised, lowering its head and whining. “Yeah, I know you only wanted to say hi, but you can’t sit on her. She’s too tiny for that.”

She is right here!” I grumble, pushing myself up and staring over at the two.

“Are you okay?” Dog-Tags asks, turning worried eyes on me.

“Yeah. Sure. My spine is broken so I can’t feel anything. It’s all good,” I reply, rolling onto my stomach and slowly getting to my knees. “Don’t you ever keep your dog inside?”

“Don’t you ever have a ride?” he returns easily, white teeth shining in the night. “Nice to see you too, Rebel.”

I roll my eyes. “Whatever, Dog-Tags.”

“Ooh, you came up with a witty nickname for me?” he teases.

“You did first,” I answer.

He walks up to me and holds out a hand. I take it because I don’t think I can get up on my own, being as winded as I am. When I stand my knees shake and I think I’m going to fall back over.

I lean against the lamppost instead.

“I take it you’re in a hurry?” Dog-Tags wonders.

I shrug. “It’s just work.”

“I’ve never met someone who actually runs towards their job.”

“Well, some of us have to if they don’t have a car and they’ve got to cover twenty miles in four hours,” I hiss back, trying to work out the cramps in my thighs and back. I squat, turn and bend, hoping to crack bones and joints and work up the energy to keep going.

Dog-Tags stares down at me from where he stands at an impressive six-foot something.

How I wish I was taller.

“Seriously?”

I realize what I’ve said – too much information for a stranger who has such a scary attack dog. “No,” I laugh, waving it off with my hand. “Do you honestly think I can run that far? That’s like a marathon. I hate running, actually. It’s exercise. I’d rather eat Oreos than exercise any day.”

He is not convinced. “You seemed to like running the other night.”

Duh. That’s because I ate a whole pack of Oreos. I ran a mile to burn off the calories so I could eat some more.”

He laughs. “If that’s the lie you want to give, okay. I’ll pretend to believe it. Just a word of advice, you might want to start running during the day. People are going to get suspicious if they keep seeing you.”

“Like you aren’t suspicious yourself, being awake at two in the morning?”

He shrugs. “I live here. You don’t.”

“Touché,” I mutter. I push away from the lamppost, finding my knees are no longer doing an impersonation of Jell-O. “Well, this conversation has been riveting, but I’d best be going. We don’t want people to talk, do we?”

He smiles, dimples and all. “See ya later, Rebel.”

“Maybe, maybe not.”

“I have a feeling it’s gonna happen.”

I grin but don’t say anything back. I just start running, hoping that this little pit-stop won’t make me late for my sixteen hour shift. Whoop-dee-freakin’-doo.

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