The Paper Chase
“My little Romeo and Juliet babies are finally together! Oh, I’m so happy for you two!” Hallee practically jumped us as soon as she saw Judah and I entering the school hallway.
“Ssh, Hallee, keep it down will ’ya?” I shushed her as I was getting antsy with all the attention we were getting.
It was Monday morning, and school was back on full speed. The hallways were filled with students walking and talking about. And all morning long I had been getting weird looks from everyone.
Oh I don’t know, maybe it was because Judah couldn’t keep his hands off me, literally!
He made it a point for us to walk in together, and he had his arms around my shoulder the entire time. My left shoulder was starting to get cramps because of him.
“Sorry, I’m just too excited when you told me about it over the phone. I’m just like a proud mamma,” Hallee squealed again as she pretended to wipe tears off the side of her eye. I could only roll my eyes in response.
“What? I basically made this ship happen with the play,” she retorted back.
“Yo Gabe,” Judah exclaimed as Gabe walked right over to us.
“Hey, Judah. You’re back… and with Taya,” Gabe looked at Judah, and then at me in amusement.
“You still got those notes from Bio? Can I borrow them for a sec?”
“Uh, yeah, sure,” Gabe said as he raided his backpack.
“Judah Hudson is studying for a Bio test? Have we come to the end of the world today?” Hallee laughed sarcastically.
“Ha-ha,” Judah laughed back.
“Hey, what are you guys doing after school today? We can double date?” Hallee turned to me suddenly, with excitement brimming out of her.
She had been whining about going on a double date with me ever since I got a boyfriend a month ago. We never got a chance to do it before, but this time might be different.
“Wow, I don’t feel absolutely left out, don’t mind me,” Gabe interjected.
“Shush Serrano, we’ll talk once you’re man enough to ask that girl out,” Hallee waved her hand carelessly at Gabe before turning to us and said, “So, lover birds, whaddaya say?
“Can’t Hals, sorry. Got a study date for tonight,” I replied.
“Yeah, Judah’s gonna study and do make up work for his classes, and I’m gonna finish that stinkin’ college essay,”
“Yeah, totally,” Judah nodded reassuringly.
“So Judah’s turning over a new leaf and Taya’s just… well yeah, it’s about damn time you get that shit done,” Hallee nudged my elbow playfully.
“So, college plans, huh?” Gabe said to Judah.
“It’s not exactly a plan, yet. But I’m keeping my options open. Just gonna see where the wind takes me,”
“And you missy? Are you gonna apply to schools in the East Coast so you can be close to me at NYU?”
“I dunno Hals, I’ve been interested in schools around the West Coast lately,”
“Oh yeah? Like what?”
“Like… UCLA… or USC. And I’ve been thinking of maybe… going to study acting…”
“Wow! That’s… big! That’s cool!” Hallee yelped.
“What made you decide on it?” Gabe added.
“Hallee’s play was a big source of inspiration, of course. And I dunno, lately I’ve been intrigued with the art of acting,”
“What about you, Judah? Are the winds leading you to the West Coast too?” Hallee nudged Judah’s elbow this time.
“Eh maybe,” he shrugged.
“What schools are you going for?” Gabe said.
“Dunno, it’s not that big a deal,”
“What?” both Hallee and Gabe said in unison.
“It’s just a school. Any school will do. As long as I got to do what I like and got that damned paper at the end of it all, it doesn’t really matter to me,”
Hallee and Gabe exchanged worried looks with each other as they heard Judah’s response.
“Ssh, you can’t just say that. These people don’t understand casual existential despair,” I pulled Judah closer and whispered to his ear.
“Glad you’re the only one that knows me best,” he smirked playfully as he leaned closer to me and his lips landed on mine.
As if right on cue, the bell then rang and it drowned the sound of Hallee and Gabe’s awkward coughing.
“See ya guys later then,” Judah said as he pulled away from the kiss, leaving me desperately wanting for more.
“And I’ll see you later after school,” he then turned to me, licking his lip playfully as he spoke. I could only giggle like a stupid star-struck teenager.
Meanwhile, as Judah and Gabe left for their class, Hallee turned to me and gave me the look.
“Nothing,” she said meaningfully, “Have fun at your… study date,” she put a clear emphasis on that last bit.
“Hallee! It’s just a normal study date, nothing weird,” I gaped at her excessive behavior.
“Sure, and I’m Harry Styles’ long lost child,” she rolled her eyes sarcastically and said, “Just make sure you spill the tea later,”
The rest of the day went by so quickly. Judah would text me in between classes, sending me funny memes that almost land me into detention. So for the rest of the day, I was trying my best to stay focused on my classes and to stay out of trouble.
But boy, did trouble come looking for me.
At lunchtime, Judah, Gabe, Hallee, and I were back at our usual spot by the bleachers. It was sunny outside and I especially loved the way the sun shone on Judah’s skin, he was glowing under the sun. In short, I was having a great day, until suddenly the whole football team showed up at the field for practice.
I saw Blake for the first time after our break up there. He tried to contact me a couple times over the weekend, but I never responded. When he saw that I was sitting there, next to Judah, laughing and having a great time, I could see the bile rising up his throat. He was clearly displeased.
There was a mixture of anger and sadness in Blake’s eyes, and I couldn’t help but to feel responsible. He deserved to be angry at me, I just ended things between us without giving him so much as an explanation. Then I showed up days later, holding hands with another guy. Clearly, I did not handle our break up well. I was feeling guilty and I was thinking if maybe I should have a talk with him later. At least I owed him that.
As the football team was doing their usual laps, Blake was still staring at us for the longest time. Even Cameron and a couple of his friends noticed it and started looking at our direction too. It was very uncomfortable, to say the least. Judah noticed the tension, and I saw how his body stiffened when he looked at Blake at the other side of the field.
Not wanting to cause any drama, I took Judah’s hand and rubbed it slowly, signaling for him to calm down. He looked at my hand, then at me, and he smiled. It was a small smile, weak and uncertain, but it was a smile nonetheless.
I made some lame excuse about studying to Hallee and Gabe, before I pulled Judah away and we went to the library. It was a safe place, I thought. And I really was thinking of going there just to avoid drama, but apparently Judah had other plans.
“Are you kidnapping me, Blondie?” he said playfully as we walked further into the empty parts of the library.
“Wha—“ I didn’t even get a chance to respond as Judah quickly pulled me to the side, pressing me up against the shelf of books behind me.
“Judah!” I hissed as a dark and playful smirk appeared on his face.
“This skirt is way too short. You need to burn them,” he murmured lowly to my ears as his hands went to cup my behind.
I gulped in response. This skirt was a little skimpy, and I did have a short debate with myself before I put it on this morning.
Suddenly and without warning, Judah started nibbling on my earlobes, and I almost dropped dead right then and there. It was sweet and intense, sending chills up and down my spine.
“I don’t know about you, but I hadn’t stop thinking about itsince…” he trailed.
Three days ago since we last did it? Yeah, me too.
His one hand moved to pull my thigh up and arched it over his waist. He leaned closer and closed the distance between us, with me right there in between the shelf and his rock-hard body.
“Ju—“ I was about to speak, but he silenced me with his kiss.
It was slow and sensual at first, inviting and coaxing me to give in to the pleasure. I tried to stay still, but after he bit and tugged on my bottom lip, I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I put my arms over his neck and I kissed him back, with such hunger and fervor.
When I let my tongue grazed his bottom lip, Judah let out an involuntary groan. It was a little too loud and suddenly we heard a loud yell coming from the side.
“Excuse me!” the librarian almost had an heart-attack as she was almost seventy and she was standing in complete and utter shock in front of us.
“Sorry!” was what I could say before Judah pulled me quickly to the other side, and we ran, literally, for our lives.
So much for staying out of trouble.
School was finally over for the day, and I couldn’t be more excited. Judah and I planned on spending the afternoon together, going to the diner where Jenny worked to study. I was sure that it would make Jenny extremely happy.
Once the school bell rang, I made a dash to the girls’ bathroom to fix my hair before I had to meet Judah at the parking lot. Sure, being on his motorcycle with that helmet on was gonna mess up my hair anyway, but a girl could at least try.
I was in the middle of pulling my hair back into a neat ponytail, when suddenly the stall behind me opened, and out came Vivianne. She had a sinister smile playing on her face as she strode over and took the spot next to me in front of the mirrors.
“Not wasting anytime, huh?” she said as she turned the water tap on.
“I heard you and Blake just broke up a few days ago. And already you're screwing the new kid behind the library,” she scoffed and said, “what is it with you and dating my sloppy seconds? Are you that obsessed with me?”
“What?” I gaped even louder this time.
By that she meant Blake, right? Her and Judah didn’t… right?
“There’s a name for that, you know? Let’s see, what do they call that again…” she rambled on as she continued to rub her hands over the water.
“A sleazy bitch…” she said in a playful tone, “a desperate whore… or a skanky slut? Now which is it?”
And suddenly it hit me: she was right. No wonder people kept looking at me weird today. And Blake too. Everyone was probably thinking it too. I had officially become… the school’s slut.
“Well, it’s all of the above actually,” she said again.
I was trying my hardest to think of a smart comeback, all the while trying to tell myself that what she said wasn’t true.
“Oh no, are you gonna cry?” she fake-pouted as she turned the water off.
I noticed my own reflection in the mirror and saw how my eyes had become glassy.
“What a big baby,” she snorted as she pulled some napkins and wiped her hands off briskly.
“Enjoy my sloppy seconds. They’re not that great, by the way. Both of them,” was the last thing she said before she whipped her hair and headed for the door.
I wanted so much to jump her or kick her stupid enlarged butt from behind, but I couldn’t move. I felt defeated. Because maybe she was right. In the past few days I had lost my virginity to one boy and I was now sleeping with another.
What kind of a girl am I?
I wanted to stay in that bathroom stall and curl up for the next few hours, but my phone was buzzing with calls from Judah. He must be looking for me. So I took a few deep breaths, wiped my eyes dry with the napkins and fixed my hair, and I headed for the door.
With heavy steps, I made my way out to the parking lot, and I found Judah lounging casually against his motorcycle.
“Hey Blond—“ he greeted, but I was quick to cut him off.
“Judah, did you sleep with Viviane Taylor?”
“What? Hell no!” he gaped, clearly in shock of what he just heard.
“Are you sure? Be honest. We said no more lies, remember?”
“Fuck, Blondie. Why would I sleep with her? She’s gross,”
“But you kissed her,”
“Only to prove a stupid irrelevant point to you,” he sighed in frustration, “I swear, I never spoke to her desperate ass again after that,”
I was a little bit relieved when I heard it. I could tell that Judah was being honest too. But still, that gnawing feeling inside of me wasn’t subsiding.
“Hey, what’s going on here? You okay?” Judah noticed it too as he stepped closer to me and pulled me into a hug.
“No…” I murmured against his chest.
“You’ve been crying. What happened?” he said as he tilted my face up and studied it.
“Who the fuck did it? Was it him? What did he do?” Judah growled as his eyes turned dark suddenly.
“No, it’s not him. It’s not that… it’s… it’s…”
“It’s people telling me who I am, calling me names, making me feel like I’m not worth it. I’ve been through this before. I thought this wouldn’t bother me anymore,”
“Who are these people? What did they say about you? Tell me their names and I’ll—“
“Beat them up?” I cut him off and said, “No, Judah. That’s not how the world works,”
Letting out a long sigh, he pulled back slightly from me, only to put both hands on the side of my cheeks. He then leaned closer and stared at me square in the eyes as he spoke.
“Taya, listen to me. You can’t let what people say about you define who you are. You’re the one who taught me that, remember? You know in your heart who you are and what’s your truth,”
I couldn’t help but smile when I remembered that.
“And you Taya, you are the best of the best,” he smiled at me as he cocked his head to the side.
“You’re just saying that ’cause you’re my boyfriend, you have to,” I shook my head and laughed bitterly.
“I’m not bulshitting you,” he said, somewhat angrily. “I ain’t just saying nice things to get on your good side or to get in your pants. ’Cause if I want that, I’d get it,”
“Hey,” my hand went to shove his chest, but he was quick to catch it and he held my hand in his instead.
“Listen, you’re very smart, beautiful, funny, and sexy as hell. But then you’re also really vulnerable and honest with yourself. I mean, who does that? Everyone else just pretends, you know? They pretend to be somebody they’re not. But you don’t. You’re just so… you,”
I never heard anyone talked like that about me before. It was probably the best compliment I had ever received in my life.
“When I was lost and I started lying and shit, you were the one that pulled me back. Being honest is so damn hard. But you were so brave and you did it, just like that. That changed everything for me. It made me want to be better too. So, you see how good you are?” he said again as his other hand went to stroke my cheek gently.
I was feeling like worst human being just seconds ago, but with his words and simple actions, he made me feel all warm and amazing. People could stare and sneer all they want, but it didn’t matter. Because the only one that mattered was standing right in front of me.
“And you too, Judah. You’re really good,”
“The best, one might say,” he shrugged nonchalantly, and I could only roll my eyes at his modesty.
“Now come on, let’s go to the diner. I’m starving,” he said again as he led me to the bike and gave me the spare helmet.
“Have you tried their milkshake by the way? It’s the bomb,” I said as I got up and sat behind him.
“Have you tried the red velvet cake? Fucking insane!”
Cake? Somehow I couldn’t think of that word again without thinking about something else entirely.
“Why are you smiling like that?” Judah turned to me as he noticed I couldn’t stop smiling.
“Nothing,” I lied.
“Tell me,” he demanded.
“Liar. Tell me what you’re thinking of or we’re not going,”
“Nothing, Judah… it’s just that…”
I knew I had to tell him sooner or later. I knew we just started going out and all, but I knew what I was feeling and I knew what I felt was true. So I told him.
“You give me the type of feelings people write novels about,”