It’s amazing what you can get away with when everyone presumes you a bookworm and not likely to harm anyone on purpose. I thought for sure that once Professor Longbottom found out what had happened in Defense Against the Dark Arts he would find some excuse to give me detention. I’m also sure that Nikki had done her best to produce that result when she went whining off to him after class. But instead I was given a slap on the wrist, told to be more careful where I was aiming my spells, and the whole incident was declared an accident. I couldn’t believe my luck.
Gigi was just as lucky while Starr and Melody were given five points each for making the Waterbyrd retreat so thoroughly.
I guess I was on a cloud for the rest of the day, and without Nikki in any of our classes I took that opportunity to enjoy our success.
My only issue came after Transfiguration class while I was walking towards the common room. I was walking with Melody when Jase caught me. It was the first time he’d looked me straight in the eye in weeks, and despite his anger I couldn’t stop the corners of my lips from turning up a bit.
“Did you set Nikki’s hair on fire?” he asked accusingly.
I rolled my eyes with my minute smile fading instantly, “Haven’t you heard? The professors said it was an accident.”
“I’m not interested in what the professor’s said Allie. I’m asking you if you did it on purpose.” He almost growled at me.
I knew Melody was still standing there beside me. I hoped she wouldn’t leave. I raised my eyebrow at her and she shrugged. So, she wasn’t going to be much help but at least she was there.
“It wouldn’t matter if I lied or told you the truth, Jason, because you won’t believe me either way.” I took a step around him to walk away.
He caught my arm and I felt a flash of recognition whizz through my body. I almost gasped and let the shiver roll through me but I held my head high and pushed that feeling way down into me. This was how I knew that things weren’t over between Jase and me; because he could still get this kind of reaction out of me. “You assume a lot, don’t you Allie?” he said.
“For harming you’re precious little Nicole what else am I supposed to think? You said never to say anything bad about her again. I haven’t said anything, but actions speak louder than words and now this unfortunate ‘accident’ happens and you’re clawing at my throat again. Tell me what else I’m supposed to think?”
He released my arm and his head dropped. Sadness washed over him and I knew I’d struck home. Dear God I hope I didn’t hit his heart and wound him deep because I didn’t know if I could bear that.
“I suppose you’re right,” he said looking up again. “You wouldn’t know what else to think because you’ve been avoiding me.”
“Who’s avoiding who, Jason? As far as I have been able to figure, Nikki’s got you on a very short leash. I’ve always been around; it’s you who hasn’t made the effort to right things.”
“I tried when you came back from break,” Jase defended.
“Whoop-di-freaking-doo,” I exclaimed, frustrated at both his pathetic attempt to remedy things now, as well as my harsh reactions towards him. He didn’t deserve it, but I knew I deserved a little bit of respect and effort after six years of healing his broken heart. “One time doesn’t erase everything, Jason. If you really wanted out then you would have tried a little harder, don’t you think?”
He started shaking his head, “It’s not that simple, Allie…”
I sighed. “It is that simple. Goodbye Jason.” I continued walking up the corridor away from Jase with Melody shuffling to catch up with me. I took a deep breath and exhaled. “Damn,” I whispered when Melody was beside me once more.
“Agreed,” Melody said back. “Allie, I am so proud of you. He needs to step up his act and you didn’t take any of his crap. But…”
“This is killing him, I hope you know that. I can spot a fake from miles away and his face wasn’t lying even for a second. This is really hard for him.”
I stared at my shoes while we walked and conceded, “Yes, I know.”
“Do you think its right to make him suffer like this? He’s suffering so much already.”
I looked at my friend. “I’m not giving up on him Melody. Jase will be my best friend again. But I want him to grow a little backbone and if I have to help him to get it by making him suffer, then so be it. I love him too much to simply give in and take him back. Not with Nikki in the way. This will soon be over and then his suffering will end too, I hope.”
Nikki walked into the Great Hall the next morning with her hair cut short around her jaw line, the blackened frizzy edges cut off, but when she flipped her hair as she’d done the day before nobody stopped and stared. By now the story had gotten around the school about how we’d caught her hair on fire. Instead of ogling stares, Nikki received stifled giggles and whispered voices behind her back. She just wasn’t the same without her hair.
“It can’t be that easy,” I said to myself.
Starr piped up beside me, “It isn’t. She’s going to try and get you back now. She’s totally out for revenge.”
I looked back towards Nikki at the words and I saw the flash of rage behind the blonde’s eyes that should have startled me senseless but I’d known this was coming. I turned back to the table. “I guess we’re going to have to double our efforts to catch her in the act then.”
Gigi nodded her head behind me, “Brad.”
I looked and saw Brad walking in with a bright smile on his face. Huh, weird, he hadn't had a smile on his face for a long time. That could only mean… “Damnit! We just missed.”
Andy was shaking his head, “Nope, never fear. When Brad looks like that, the look usually only gets bigger and brighter. We may have missed round one, but we’re going to be there for round two.”
“It’s kind of a nasty thought,” Victoire admitted with a scowl on her face, “but if we play it right and Jason is around, and Allie you can’t be implicated, then we might have a huge fight on our hands.”
“And Nikki will get the boot back to Aussie-land and never return,” Melody concluded triumphantly.
A slow smile grew on my face. My friends were so diabolical and I never would have pictured myself in this role beside them. That hadn't seemed to stop me though. When I fell in love with Jase I thought this year would be easy, I would remove my glasses, insert contacts and transform from a pumpkin to a beautiful carriage or whatever and we’d live happily ever after. I guess I hadn't figured the evil-stepmother into the mix though, which I was beginning to see was okay. All things considered this year had been eventful and life changing and I knew that I would never forget that struggle. I just hoped it actually paid off.
Lunch came and went without event and it was nearing the end of the day. I was just getting doubtful that nothing was going to happen when I learned that Jase had called a last minute Quidditch practice. The team didn’t usually practice on Tuesday night but I shucked that thought aside knowing that Jase obviously had a good reason.
Gigi and I were on tailing assignment and we stayed a little behind Nikki and Jase the entire way down to the pitch. Nikki was clinging to Jase and he was doing little to push her off. I wondered if he was enjoying the attention he got from her, and if they ever did anything but snog. Jase left to go into the change rooms and Nikki continued up to the stands. But not before turning and giving me another one of her evil glares. Now those were getting to be a little annoying.
Melody, Gigi, Victoire and I went up to the stands as well but sat a long way away from Nikki. She seemed content with filing and buffing her nails as she vaguely watched the team run through their practice. I was surprised however when halfway through the match she got up and headed for the stairs.
“Where’s she going?” Gigi asked also noticing.
“Let’s find out,” I said. “You two stay here,” I told Victoire and Melody, “we’ll take care of this.”
We were sneaking down the stairs and about to make our way to follow Nikki across the lawn to the change rooms when I saw the door swing open and shut and a figure disappeared inside. Gigi and I stuck our heads out from where we were hiding and noticed that only one person was missing from the pitch.
“It looks like Andy was right,” Gigi said.
I could only nod. My heart was pounding now that I realized what was coming. I was eager to have this over, and yet I was scared shitless. Nikki disappeared into the change rooms as easy as if she belonged in there. It seemed that sneaking wasn’t her intention today or if it was then she was much more casual about it than we had originally thought.
I forced myself to be calm. If Jase walked in on exactly the right time and I was nowhere to be found then Nikki would be history. But if I was close by then he might think I’d set the whole thing up and that would be a strike against me instead of for me.
Gigi and I scuttled across the grass to the change rooms and looking through the little glass window that covered a hole in the door we peered through to see. I’d been in the change room before and knew that to the left there were bathrooms and to the right was the shower stalls. In between we could see the lockers at the back of the room and several benches in between that showed duffle bags and strewn day-clothes from the rest of the team.
What we couldn’t see however was where Nikki and her quarry had gone. “Where’d they go?” Gigi whispered to me.
I shook my head. “I can’t tell. We have to open the door and see if we can hear anything.”
She silently pushed on the door to let it swing open and prayed for silent hinges. We opened it a crack and heard hushed voices coming from the shower stalls on the right. The sultry voice was obviously Nikki’s and the husky male voice was Brad’s.
I mouthed a question to Gigi, “What are they doing?”
Gigi mouthed back, “I don’t know.”
I needed to get closer but I dared not open the door any further. I then heard a loud groan and a soft whimper and my eyes widened. Brad and Nikki were having sex in the Gryffindor change room.
I backed up too quickly and bumped into Gigi making her squeal. She clamped both hands over her mouth and we waited to listen if the others had heard. There was a quick shuffle of feet to the left and Gigi and I both moved back around the corner to let the door swing closed. I put my hand on it as I hid behind the wall to keep it from swinging too far out. I bit my tongue and waited for exactly one minute and not a peep sounded from the change room.
I let out a huge gust of air as I sighed with relief. This spying business was sort of a thrill I had to admit. I had never been one for this sort of thing, but I guess a severely bitchy girl with blonde hair that was no longer long and flowing would do that to a person. Especially when that person was in love with one of the boys Nikki was getting off with. But after that moment I was calm and collected. I didn’t want this to get too far out of hand.
My eyes slid to Gigi who was staring blankly ahead her eyes wide. I frowned and followed her gaze and my eyes popped in shock.
The entire Quidditch team was standing there, minus Brad of course. Most of them also wore a look of shock, all except Jase however, who was looking more confused than anything else. It just got way, waaayy out of hand.
“Uh…What are you doing?” he said not directing the question at either Gigi or myself. To the right I saw Victoire and Melody descend the staircase from the bleachers and halt when they saw what was going on.
“Um…We were…I was just…” I stammered.
Gigi wasn’t making any efforts at all. It seemed that the Jase catching us had silenced her sharp mind and she just stood there and bit her lip.
The door of the change room swung open and Nikki stepped out. She had a glorious smile on her face and she switched to being mildly surprised upon seeing her ‘boyfriend’, and I use that term very, extremely loosely. “Jase? I didn’t think you would finish so soon.” She said it so sweetly I cracked my knuckles and wanted to vomit at the lies sliding between her teeth.
“Yeah,” Jase replied, his gaze shifting from me to Nikki. “An hour’s practice is enough. What…what were doing in the change room?” Brad had opened the door as Jase finished asking his question. I watched the vein in his neck miss a beat and I held my breath.
Nikki turned back to look at Brad sweetly and replied as coolly as ever. “Oh I was looking for your sweater to wear. It was getting kind of chilly out there and I only have this on,” she gestured to the thin sweater she was wearing. “I found Brad inside nursing his swollen knuckles and we struck up a conversation.”
Jase’s eyes narrowed at her and then flipped back to me accusingly. “You didn’t answer my question, Allie, Gigi; what were you doing peeking in the doorway?”
I opened my mouth to speak. I wanted to tell him, really, please believe me that I did. I just couldn’t. There was something holding me back. I still can’t figure out what it was. Was it Nikki and the look that sent daggers through my soul that she was giving me and the fact that I could actually feel it that made me freeze up? Was it that this was the moment I had been waiting for and it had come up suddenly and I couldn’t find the words to tell Jase? I don’t know. I’m sad, I know, but I really wanted to be the one to tell him. I just couldn’t.
I looked at his face continuously until that moment when I closed my eyes and my head dropped in front of me. I was a sad case and I felt so pathetic right then. The others must have noticed my defeat and soon I found myself surrounded by friends, including Starr who had nudged past Jase to get to me. She came over and enveloped me in a great big hug. I held on for dear life.
My friends all touched some part of me, giving me both the physical as well as the mental support I needed. This was their way of saying I wasn’t alone in this.
Starr pulled back and looked me dead in the eye. She brushed her hand across the tears trickling down my cheeks and gave me a smile. “What makes a woman?” she asked.
The first answer that came to my mind also came out of my mouth, “Her hair?”
Starr laughed and punched me lightly in the shoulder. “Not even close. Her love.”
I looked around at my four friends. Melody nodded and said, “Fight.”
Gigi and Victoire echoed her word in agreement, “Fight.”
They stood aside and I was face-to-face with Jase again even if there were a few feet between us. He was eying me suspiciously. I lifted my head and answered his question. “I was spying.”
“Yes, spying. On your girlfriend and Bradley here, who have been sneaking around behind your back. I figured since she was sneaking around on you I would sneak around right along after her and expose her as the fraud she is. You told me once before that you wouldn’t hear an insult about your precious Nicole, but I'm not listening to you anymore. Nikki is a slimy, disgusting little slut who doesn’t deserve your attention and you don’t deserve her deceit. She’s been cheating on you with Brad for over five months now, perhaps longer who knows, and she even gave him a little assignment. She practically hired Brad to date me in order to keep me away from you. He blackmailed me into being his girlfriend and although that bit him in the ass as soon as Christmas break was over, he was still holding me against my will. I really should have knocked him out for that, but I didn’t. Nikki her must have convinced him that getting beat up would mean reaping more reward later. I never laid a finger on Brad. Though, I think I will now.”
I walked over to Brad, balled up my fist and punched him in the nose with all my might.
“OW!” He and I screamed at the same time. To loosen up my hand however, I shook it out and accidentally slapped the jumping up and down Bradley who was desperately holding onto his now-broken nose. Now my hand was blissfully numb, my anger satisfied, and Brad was howling in pain.
I turned back to Jase, not even bothering to make the side-step towards Nikki. She would get hers soon enough. “You are the blindest, most stubborn fool I have ever known Jason Eaven. You have always been my friend and I thought you were a man of action who would learn from the twelve girls before her,” I pointed back to where Nikki was standing, “who walked all over you. Where do you get off? Is it worth it being a coward? A spineless, yellowbellied nothing who can’t stand up for himself? Grow a damn backbone already, Jason!”
I was a foot away from him now and not nearly finished. I had gotten my anger out. I had told him about the guttersnipe. Now it was time for me to pour my heart out and into his hands, come what may. “Nikki never loved you like I did, Jason. She never gave you what I could give you. She was a lying, cheating, manipulative bitch who used you for every inch that you were worth. Then when she got tired of you or when I got in the way of her little scheme, she moved on to someone else who could fulfill her needs.
“It took me two years to figure out that I was in love you Jason, and it took me two years to get up enough courage to finally decide to tell you I wanted more than friendship. When all that is said and done, I never did get that chance because you already had her. I thought I could make you see, but I guess I was wrong. I gave you the chance to get rid of her yourself, but when you didn’t take that I had to move on to alternatives. She did a lot of bad things that you needed to know about. No one else was going to tell you. I’m your best friend. I look out for you. I tell you everything, especially when you’re being an ass.”
I was breathing heavily when my speech finally came to an end. I forgot that I was looking at him and focused on how I felt for a second. I felt relatively good. Scratch that; I felt great, better than ever. Letting all that out, getting it off my chest made me feel so much better. Why hadn't I just done that in the first place?!
I laughed softly thinking it was probably because I never would have thought myself as worthy of replacing Nikki. She was gorgeous and beautiful and everything I wasn’t. But she was also manipulative and a liar, also making her everything I wasn’t. I would never treat Jase as she had done. But I suppose it takes seven months sometimes to think you're precious or a better human being than someone else. It’s not true in all cases, but there are some special ones that make you believe you are better because of the bad others cause. Nikki is one of those cases; a head case headed straight back to Australia with her tail between her legs.
I gave Jase another glance and returned to the moment. My friends were standing behind me. Behind Jase stood Teddy, Alec and Andy staring at me and smiling like fools. They certainly looked proud of me. Jase looked expressionless for a minute. I felt my jaw tighten with the anticipation for him to say something. I had just said everything I had wanted to tell him for the past six months, since the first time I found out that Nikki was going to be my rival for his affection. It was all out in the open now.
I also let my eyes glance to Nikki who was standing there as if waiting for Jase’s eyes to pass over me and walk straight to her. Could she think she had that much of a pull over him? I didn’t think so.
His expressionless face slowly turned over to a grin. I almost dared to take a breath. His grin got bigger and out of the corner of my eye I saw Nikki’s grin start to fade. “Guess I am a coward.”
I let the air out of my lungs and my mouth dropped open. Alec and Teddy slapped Jase on the back and Andy tried to shake his hand. Behind me Victoire had started hugging Gigi, who was rejecting the idea immensely. Melody was swaying a little off-kilter, her eyes glazed over. Starr said, “Geez, finally!”
Nikki put her hands on her hips and walked over to Jase. “What? You actually believe her. After everything I said before, after the past few months of not talking to her you’re just going to forget and believe her?!”
Jase turned to her and said, “Yeah, I guess I am. Suppose that means we’re over. You and Brad can have a nice life now. Goodbye Nikki.”
I thought smoke was going to start coming out of Nikki’s ears just then. Her face reddened and her fists clenched and when I saw her hand raise I thought she was going to punch Jase. Her hand flattened at the last second and she swiped him across the face with a nice, loud slap.
Jase was momentarily surprised but when he turned back to Nikki at the words “You’re going to regret this” and he merely smiled, replying, “I don’t think so.”
She marched towards the castle and after a few seconds Brad came forward, but not to follow her. Jase narrowed his eyes at his seeker and I thought it might come to blows. “What do you want?” Jase asked.
Brad cleared his throat. “I know what you all must think of me.”
“No shit!” Gigi snorted from behind me.
Brad ignored her. “I’ve been stupid and selfish and I’m sorry I went behind your back Jase, and I’m really sorry about what I did to you Allie.” His eyes looked mournfully at me and I instantly recalled my first dream where he’d said ‘sorry’ to me. It was the same look. He hadn't wanted any of this.
I stepped towards him and almost leapt out of my skin when Jase put his hand on my arm to stop me from going. I stopped right there and said, “You didn’t want it Brad. But you did it anyways. It might take a long time for us to forgive you for this.”
He nodded solemnly, “I know. That’s fine. I just don’t want to be remembered as this person. I want to change.”
He looked up at me pleadingly. “Fine,” was all I could say. That seemed to suffice though because a second later he started back up to the castle as well.
Jase hadn't removed his hand from my arm. I turned back to him and was immediately brought into his arms for a hug. Oh! He held me close and murmured into my hair, “Forgive me, please. I didn’t see. I didn’t want to see.”
I inhaled the deep and delicious smell that I knew so well and had missed so much. Without giving it much thought I replied, “You're forgiven.”
“What can I do to repay you?”
I could have come up with several things to say. I could have said, ‘kiss me’ or ‘love me’, or something like that to give us the start up again. But the more I considered it, the more I thought that our fledgling love wouldn’t be the familiar ground that I was looking for right now. I wanted what we’d had before, the friendship that we’d shared because that’s what I really missed. For now that was enough and then we could move on later. Not too much later of course, because I’d just spent seven months trying to win his affection and get rid of his girlfriend that I didn’t think I could wait that much longer. But I could wait a little bit longer for his love.
“Don’t stop being my friend,” I told him. “Never stop being my friend.”
I could feel him grin against my hair. His barely audible whisper gave me a lift I hadn't ever known, “Never, and then some.”
A/N: Yaay, Jase is back! Three more chapters everyone. They are written and in the last stages of editing. You'll love 'em. I promise. Leave a little review here and tell me how you liked the chapter. Thanks a million! ~K :D