Chapter 1: The Queen Of Babble
I will never fall in love with Phoenix Adams.
I know what you’re thinking. Everyone says that, or, How cliché, but I mean it. I will never fall for Phoenix Adams.
Why, you might ask, do I feel the need to clarify that?
Because everyone else seems to think we’re destined to be together. Well, everyone besides us, but even he’s cracked a few passes at me. Since our parents fell in love with each other in their younger years (very complicated, I know) and his older sister and my older brother got married three years ago, people seem to think that somehow Fate is pushing us to be together, like destiny or something.
It wasn’t like we were anything special. Phoenix didn’t have the popularity his brother had once possessed. He had his group of friends, a platoon of worshippers, eyes that melted hearts and a smile that did many girls in. He was adored by many, but not for popularity, or anything. He wasn’t on the football team, he spent most of his time reading, he was intelligent and—most of the time—annoyingly arrogant, and girls seemed to think that was even better than being some juiced-up quarterback with a line of heartbroken girls and many male enemies.
I was one of those girls known for one reason.
It wasn’t like I tried to be weird, or that I especially liked being weird. I wouldn’t say it’s all that great, or special. I’m just somebody who never conformed to the normal. I chose to wear colorful, quirky clothing instead of high heels, lip-gloss and an inappropriate, midriff-bearing tank top. I spoke very loudly and outgoing, did things most people probably wouldn’t, and had a tendency to ramble for no plausible reason other than the fact that it was just an awkward reaction to uncomfortable situations.
Yeah, one of those girls.
“Miss Fordman. Miss Fordman. Hello?”
I felt insistent tapping on my shoulder, and in the distance a bunch of chuckles and giggles. I groaned and groggily opened my eyes, raising my head to meet a pair of frigid brown ones. Mr. Sorenson, my English Lit teacher.
He gave me a wry smile that was anything but nice. “Good of you to finally join us, Miss Fordman. We’re very sorry to interrupt your sleeping session, but unfortunately your raucous snoring is distracting the class. Perhaps you’d like to show mercy on us all and pay attention to the class, please.”
It wasn’t like Mr. Sorenson was the worst teacher at this school, but let’s just say he took his career very seriously. Somewhere in the mid-thirties range, he had unruly brown hair, wide-set eyes and a large forehead. He wasn’t necessarily handsome, but he wasn’t the ugliest person I’d ever met in my life.
Of course, it wasn’t like I couldn’t understand why he was glaring at me angrily. I had just interrupted his class with my snoring. I’d been up late cramming for a biology test, and it seemed the effects were taking hold of me in my second-period class.
In my defense, this class was more boring than geometry, and that’s saying something.
I apologized to the teacher, before attempting to focus on the work on the board as he continued with his lesson. I felt a tap on my shoulder, and turned to face my best friend.
Leslie Carlisle had been my best friend since middle school, and we were so close we were like sisters. She was absolutely stunning, with blue eyes, curly mahogany-colored hair and tanned skin. She had straight white teeth, an athletic figure, and was slim and petite and small and fragile looking.
She threw me a smile. “I tried to wake you before Mr. Sorenson came over, but it was too late. Sorry.”
She grimaced, but I waved it away. “No worries. Wouldn’t be the first time this has happened.”
She made a face. “Studying again?”
I rolled my eyes. “When am I not?”
She turned back to the board, and I hurriedly scribbled down notes, when I felt another tap on my shoulder. With a sigh, I turned to the other side, to meet the cool gaze of Phoenix Adams. While Mr. Sorenson had had mercy on me when putting me next to Leslie on the seating chart—which I highly believe he sometimes regretted due to our noise—he had compensated for it by seating Phoenix Adams on my other side. Which left me with highly uncomfortable situations such as this one. “Dreaming about me?” Phoenix asked, an amused smirk taking over his face.
I frowned. “What?”
He dropped an innocent shrug. “Well, it’s just, you were drooling, so I figured it had to have been a dream about me.”
I rolled my eyes. “You wish.”
Great comeback, Ella, a voice snorted in my head, mocking me. You really showed him…
Obviously Phoenix thought the same thing as me, because he just snorted, rolled his eyes and turned back to whatever book he was currently immersed in. With a sigh, I continued working.
When the bell finally rang, I hurried out of there, only to go face planting to the ground in front of everyone and landing painfully on my stomach. I let out a small groan and prayed my floral, neon skirt hadn’t flown up during that truly embarrassing tumble.
With a few muttered curses, I stood and turned to see Phoenix staring down at me, a crimson blush staining his cheeks. His eyes were wide. “S—Sorry, Elle,” he mumbled.
He was the only one who ever called me Elle. Normally people just called me Ella. Oh, and I can never forget my most popular nickname, Weird chick. But for some reason he called me Elle. I had once minded, and tried to break him from the habit, but he had become obsessed with calling me Elle, and I had grown used to it.
“Jesus, watch we’re you’re going,” I cried, feeling a blush come on as some people continued to giggle at the sight before them.
“I—I was reading,” he mumbled, holding up the open paperback for proof.
I stood and dusted off my shirt. “Yeah, well next time watch out before you barrel into people like that,” I said, before peevishly walking off at an annoyed gait, longing to get as far away from Phoenix Adams as possible. Pain still throbbed in several parts of my body, but I tried to ignore it as I legged it to my locker to grab my third period book.
“Are you okay?” Leslie asked, appearing beside me. I shoved in my English book and grabbed out my chemistry one, turning to Leslie.
“I’m in pain, but I’m not dead,” I assured with a smile. “I’ll be fine, Les.”
“Okay,” she said. “So, chemistry next, huh?”
I nodded with a shrug and an eyeroll. “Yeah.”
“Joy,” she said sarcastically, looping her arm through mine.
I nodded in agreement. “Joy.”
It hadn’t always been this way. In fact, I think there was even a time that Phoenix and I got along. Of course, at that time I seriously questioned my mental stability, but there had been a time that Phoenix Adams and I had been friends, shocking as it may sound.
And then high school came, and I learnt that female company was much more enjoyable. For once, I could gossip about boys and not get disgusted looks, they kept their room a lot cleaner, and they didn’t have a plethora of nasty comebacks and snarky comments.
Of course our parents (not to mention siblings) had not been happy about us splitting from our friendship, but it happened, and I didn’t regret it for a second. I met Leslie and some of my other friends, and Phoenix went off and met his own friends and read. We were as happy separately as we had once been together.
“Ella, come down here! Marley and Noah are here!” a voice suddenly called up, and I leaped out of bed, instantly recognizing my mother’s voice.
I swung down the wooden banister and skidded into the foyer, where Marley and Noah stood. At twenty-four and twenty-five, they looked very young and happy, both with a glow about them.
They held tightly their first-born baby, only six months old, tiny and cute.
“Mar, Noah!” I said, enveloping them in a loose hug so I wouldn’t hurt the baby.
I leant down to her head now. “How’s my favorite little niece?” I asked.
“She’s great,” Marley said with a happy smile. “She missed her Auntie Ella.”
I held out my hand. “Can I have a hold?”
Noah passed her over effortlessly, and I held baby Sage tightly. I had no idea how Phoenix was in any way, shape or form related to a sweet girl like Marley, but somehow they came from the same gene pool, which continually surprised me.
Just then the door opened, to reveal Phoenix standing there in a plaid shirt and jeans, his hair mussed. In his hands, he clutched a book, like always.
“I heard my favorite sister and brother-in-law were here,” Phoenix said with a smile. “Did you bring Sage?”
Marley smiled affectionately at her brother. “She’s with Ella now.”
Marley and Noah had really made something of themselves. When they married fresh out of college, Noah became an architect and Marley became an event’s planner. I hadn’t seen Marley’s twin, Jake, in a couple months since he was on holidays with his wife, Ciara, and their triplets Jem, Brie and Chris in Hawaii, but I hoped to catch up with them soon.
Phoenix approached me with a tentative smile, before looking at Sage. “Can I get a hold?” he asked politely, and I unwillingly handed her over. Somehow, he managed to keep both a book and a baby in perfect balance with ease, and I was slightly jealous with how lightly he handled Sage.
I left him to it, and returned to my brother and his wife. We made idle small talk for a while, and I just enjoyed spending time with my family.
When Sage began to cry, Marley took her off Phoenix and left to go feed her, taking along with her all of the others, who dispersed to do things and regroup back in ten minutes, which resultantly meant I was stuck with Phoenix for the duration of that time. I checked my phone, tapped my foot, shifted, until eventually, my rambling came out and decided it would be a great time to start spewing word vomit.
“Wow, this is really awkward,” I began, faking a laugh. Already I wished I could stop talking, but my mouth had different plans. “Look, things are always awkward whenever we’re left alone, and I think we should at least say something to each other, before the silence becomes too much and I get driven insane. I don’t know if you could clinically declare me as insane, but I’d be pretty close, so please, for the love of God, talk before I lose my mind.”
He looked at me through his lashes, and thought for a minute. “So, you going to the party tomorrow night?”
I sighed. “Yes. Yeah, I am. Leslie’s dragging me to it.”
He nodded and looked around. I felt it bubbling up inside of me, but suppressed the rambling. I’d already made the moment more uncomfortable for Phoenix, and though I really didn’t like him, I wanted to at least cut the poor guy a break. I was pretty hard to keep up with at times, and I didn’t want to overload his brain with useless babble.
“So…” he said, trailing off. The tension pressed down on us. “See any good movies recently?”
I thought about the films I’d last watched, before shaking my head. “Nope.”
He shifted back and forth. “Okay. Any good music?”
“Anything good at all?”
He stayed silent then, obviously deciding silence was the best antidote for this awfully awkward problem. Despite my quirky choices in the clothing department, it seemed I was actually a pretty boring person to talk to. I felt kinda sorry to Phoenix for sticking around instead of moving off into the other room.
“Doing anything over the weekend?” Phoenix asked.
“The party. Maybe I’ll go shopping or see a movie with Leslie. Clean. Study. What about you?”
He shrugged. “I’ll read.” Well, he didn’t need to tell me that. I could’ve just guessed that. It was kind of a given. “Maybe hang with some of my friends. I don’t know.”
I nodded. “Okay. Cool.”
After about another two minutes of silence, Phoenix began whistling under his breath, stuffing his hands in his pockets and swaying back and forth, his eyes roaming around my foyer. It had been a long time since I’d last been forced to spend time with Phoenix, and this was so awkward I would rather nail my hand to a wall and draw patterns with the blood than be stuck here like this.
God, I am morbid.
“Got a boyfriend yet?” Phoenix asked.
I shook my head. “No. I think some of the guys at school are too scared to even glance my way. Got a girlfriend?”
He snorted. “Hardly likely.”
I frowned. “What do you mean?”
He shrugged. “I’m pretty much in the same boat as you, my friend. I don’t think any girl would really want to go out with me.”
I looked at him with wide eyes. “Are you kidding, Phoenix? Half the girls at school are in love with you!”
He chuckled. “Good one, Elle.”
“I’m… I’m serious,” I stumbled, taken aback. “Lots of girls like you.”
We stayed in silence, and I wanted to punch a wall or something, just to pass time. Where the hell was everyone else? How long did it take to feed and change a baby? Was the food somewhere in Switzerland, or something? Were the diapers being imported from Canada?
“How’s Leslie?” Phoenix asked, obviously feeling as awkward as me.
“She’s fine,” I answered. “How’s Seth?” I asked, referring to his best friend, a tall, blonde boy who was handsome and sweet and nice: the opposite of Phoenix.
“Fine,” he replied, and I pulled out my phone again. This was ridiculous. Was time teaming up against me and trying to trap me here forever?
Finally Marley and Sage and Noah and everyone else came back out, and we soon left to go and chat and eat and socialize. Mostly Phoenix just sat on a couch and read his novel. He wasn’t the most social guy, and he seemed completely oblivious to his surroundings when he read, which was something I’d never known he did before, until I got close enough to see how much attention he paid each sentence, as if they were precious gold he was mining for.
After everyone said goodbye and finally left, I went up to my room and got ready for bed. Tomorrow was Friday, which is just about the only thing a teenager wants to think during the week.
But it was also the party.
I wasn’t really much of the partying type, but I always got wrangled into parties by Leslie (don’t ask me how I scored invitations; being the weird chick and all) and I always attended, had a few drinks, danced and loosened up. There were worse ways to spend a Friday night.
But little did I know what I was in for that particular Friday night party.
And little did I know that I’d never be the same again.