Lost Cause

Kennedy James is trying to escape her life, and doesn't want to look back. Ever.

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4. Meeting the Boys

Theo pulled into his garage muttering under his breathe. James turned to me and grinned.

"Don't mind him," he said. "He's just stupid. He has no reason to be angry."

"Because?" I asked, although I knew why. I just wanted to hear James say it.

"It was his idea to leave a bunch of guys alone in his house." James shrugged. "He knows I can drive. I don't know why he didn't just let me drive myself."

"That was pretty dumb," I giggled in agreement. Theo had already left the car and was rushing towards his house in a panic. James followed him, looking amused and shaking his head. I grinned after them before I remembered that I should probably follow them into the house.

I walked into the house and was immediately greeted by the scent of men. It was vaguely familiar from my past life; I 'd had three brothers, all of them dead. That much I remembered. It brought back a bitter sting in the back of my mind that I instantly pushed away.

"Is something wrong?" I hadn't even noticed when James slipped up next to me. On his face he wore an expression of concern. I quickly forced a smile on my face.

"I'm fine," I said. I raised my pack of snacks. "Just a little hungry."

"You'd better get some food in you before you do anything else," James said with a sly grin.

"I will!" I assured him "Don't worry about me!"

"You look like you're about to faint," James pointed out. "I have every right to worry about you." I ginned at him.

"I'm fine!" I said again. "Trust me."

"Are you sure?" James said, but this time, I could tell that he was joking. His blue eyes crinkled at me before he shifted his attention elsewhere. I looked up and saw several eyes on me. Some quickly adverted their eyes, but others held my gaze, almost daring me to look away. I looked away anyways; I didn't care for any of them, nor did I want them to care for me. It'd probably be better for all of us if they didn't care for me.

I sat down on the couch next to James, who hadn't yet engaged himself in any conversation, but was listening to some discussion around him. I absentmindedly put a peach ring into my mouth as I watched  him. I wasn't exactly sure why I was watching him, but something was so enticing about him and his demeanor.

James turned his head to glance at me, and seemed very surprised to catch my eye. "What?" he asked. He was clearly deciding whether he was confused or surprised.

"I don't know," I said simply. And I really didn't. I had no reason to be watching him, but I inexplicably felt as if I had to. Instead, I directed the subject of our conversation elsewhere. "What's going on around here?"

"Well, Matt is playing his bands demo album," I then noticed that there was in fact music playing behind us, "the boys are determining who's the best hockey team in the league, and I think that Theo finally got to ordering some pizzas."

"What do you do when they eat pizza?" I asked. I was genuinely curious.

"Nothing," James replied, simply. "I sit and I drink whatever I'd like to drink. I'm not a fan of pop, so I usually just drink juice or something." I nodded as though I understood. I guess I kind of did understand. James lazily reached over and snagged a piece of jerky from my bag.

"Hey!" I joked, swatting his hand, but he just chuckled as he bit into the meat.

"We should start some video games up in here!" Someone yelled.

"Games are in the other room as well as upstairs." I recognized. Theo's voice above the rest. "We should play Black Ops."

"Black Ops?" I repeated. It sounded like a drug. I wasn't sure what it was, but the least that I could pull from the name was that it was a very dark game.

"I'm not too partial towards gaming," James said. "I've never been a die hard, but I respect these guys." When he noticed the blank look on my face, he looked at me surprised. "You've never been?" I shook my head

"Never heard of if either." I scanned the room. None of these boys looked like the die hard gamers I remembered from home. All of these boys were almost men; the signs of hard work and muscle training were evident in these boys. "What age are most of these boys?" The question came out before I could stop it. I had been wondering that, but I didn't expect that I would ask such a gutsy question. I decided to go with it; I had been curious. When my question earned more response, I turned to James, who was looking at me with an incredulous look. "What?" I asked. It was enough for him to realize that I was serious.

"The boys here are seventeen and eighteen," James replied, almost as if he didn't want to answer her.

"Why so resentful?" I asked curiously.

"Honestly?" James paused, as if he were waiting for me to answer. Something told me that he wasn't. "I thought you were different than that."

"Different than what?" I asked, his statement intriguing me into wanting to know the root of this indignation.

"I didn't think you were the kind of girl who finds the hottest boy in the room to flirt with him." I looked at James.

"I'm not." James looked at me, his eyes unwavering. He parted his lips as if to speak, but I wasn't able to read his expression, but I kept going. "I was curious to know the ages of the people in this room. I'm sixteen. I thought it was only normal that I ponder upon the ages of the people that I'm around."

"I'm sorry," James said, and he sounded genuinely sorry. "I shouldn't' have assumed, but I would've tagged you as older." He stared deep into my eyes. "I'm seventeen, but I would've given you at least eighteen." I cocked my head towards him; I wanted him to continue. "The words you use, and your maturity. It's unnerving." I laughed.

"You seem like a hard man to fluster," I noted.

"See!" James laughed. "When you talk like that!"

"I'm Canadian," I said, as if it explained everything.

"That explains it," he said, his tone implying that he was joking, but his eyes satisfied. Apparently it did explain everything.

"Pizzas here!" Theo announced bringing in large white boxes, the intoxicating aroma of hot dough and melted cheese wafting through the room.

"Well, I'm going to get us some drinks," James said, raising himself. He looked at me, a glimmer of beguilement shining in his eyes. "Save some snacks for me." I assumed this was a joke, because so far, I'd had a single peach ring, and he'd been working on his one strip of jerky throughout our conversation. I felt a presence come at me left, and twisted towards it in curiosity. It was a boy. He wasn't exactly ugly, but he was certainly not as beautiful as James.

"I don't think I've ever seen your face around here before," the boy said, grinning down at me.

"Are you asking me if I come around here often?" The bluntness in my voice could knife through his body, I feared. I enjoyed it seeing the surprised look on his face.

"N-no," he stammered, but quickly caught himself and tried again. "I'm just saying that, I would've remembered a pretty face like yours."

"I'm a human being you know," I said, simply. When that threw him even farther off guard, I continued. "There's a person behind this face, and a personality animating that person. I hope you know that."

"If he doesn't, he knows now." The flat voice behind me said. I turned back and saw Theo at my foot. He had a plate in his hand and a cup in his other hand. "Eric, she's with James."

"But James has Jewel," Eric stuttered. "I don't get what's going on."

"I don't think James knows what's going on," Theo said, exasperated. "Yes, he's with Jewel, but leave her alone." Eric looked startled, but got up and joined the boys at the television set. I cracked a smile at Theo.

"Thanks," I said, and I meant it. I would've never expected him to come to my rescue. Theo didn't say anything, but sat down in the seat next to me. He calmly set his plate and cup down, then looked at me square in the eyes. I was slightly frightened.

"You like James." The way he said it helped me realize that it wasn't a question, but rather he was confirming it. It was as if he was telling me a fact of life that I should be aware of.

"You're not asking me," I said, playing dumb, and adverting my gaze from Theo's eyes. I hadn't thought that I was that easy to read. Now that I thought about it, I hadn't spent much time around people in a while, so I wasn't sure if I was easy to read or not.

"No, I'm not asking you," Theo said, shifting himself towards me. "At first I thought I was crazy, cos, you know, girls love James. James is a loveable guy. But then I wasn't sure either. But then you had the slip up at the gas station, and then I thought you did." Theo stopped talking and stared deep into my eyes. "You like him. You didn't correct me."  I sighed.

"No!" I said, burying my face into my hands.

"You do!" Theo said, slightly louder. He looked around to see if anyone had heard him, but the volume of the room overpowered Theo's voice.

"Please don't tell him," I pleaded with him.

"Relax," Theo said, settling himself into his seat. "I think he likes you too."

"He's got Jewel," I pointed out. Theo made a noise of dismissal. When he noticed my silence, he stared at me for a while.

"You don't like Jewel," Theo said, quietly.

"I don't like Jewel!" I repeated, but it was true. I hated her. "She just..." I trailed off.

"I got you," Theo said, nodding around a bite of pizza. "I think he's going to dump her soon, but he's too nice."

"It's just," I struggled to find words. "I don't know how long I'm going to be here."

"Make the best of it," Theo said, taking a sip of his drink. "Flirt with him. You never know what'll happen."

"Theo," I started, but he waved a hand cutting me off.

"All I'm saying is that you're clearly not into anyone else in this house, and you're living in the boys house, so, I don't know, explore your options a little," Theo said. James came back before I could respond.

"Hey," James said squeezing himself in the small space between Theo and I. "Hope you like Apple juice."

"Love it, actually," I said with a little surprise. I actually did love apple juice. I didn't have it as much because people saw it as childlike to drink it. Theo snorted and raised an eyebrow at me. I glared at him, but I don't think James noticed out altercation.

"I'm starving," he said, leaning over and snagging some more jerky. He peered into the bag before looking back at me. "You didn't eat any," he said, his voice carrying some disbelief and disappointment.

"Theo's been talking my ear off since you've been gone," I said, deflecting the attention from me.

"Eric had you first," Theo said quickly. James gave us both weird looks, but he dropped the subject quickly.

"So, Theo," James started, turning slightly towards Theo. "Are you still thinking about asking Megan out?" I felt my ears perk up. I was glad, and even relieved, that the subject of our conversation was not me. The apples of Theo's cheeks turned bright red.

"Probably not," Theo said. "She seems way to high maintenance. I don't want to be a part of that." Theo took a sip of his drink quick. "And what about you, when are you going to dump Jewel." Theo flicked his eyes towards me, but I adverted my eyes and focused on my apple juice. James sighed.

"I don't know." I looked up, surprised. The way he was talking before, it made it seem like he'd never consider breaking up with this girl.

"Well," Theo said, adjusting himself in his seat, "you've got Spencer to help you."

"What?" James and I said in tandem. I blurted it, surprised beyond anything. I felt my cheeks heat up. I think I heard a bit of astonishment in James's voice. Theo shrugged.

"I'm just saying that if you don't know what to say, just say that you like Spencer more." When James didn't reply, I immediately swooped in.

"But I don't think Jewel would believe that. Or that James would do anything like that." I sputtered. I wasn't quite sure why I was doing this. I didn't owe Jewel anything, and I wanted James for myself after all.

"I'm just saying that, what if," Theo said, looking at James now. "If it's really too hard, you don't have to do it. Either way, you should consider it." Theo turned to me. "And I think she would believe it. Didn't you see her at the gas station? She was totally threatened." Theo shook his head. "And why shouldn't she be? Spencer's a total babe." I blushed at that.

"I think it would work too," James said slowly, my heart swelling. "But I'm not sure yet." He looked up and smiled simply at Theo. Theo didn't seem to even catch that. He was too busy trying to make eye contact with me. "I need some water," James said, standing. "Do you want some?" he asked me. I nodded. He reached over and grabbed two strips of jerky. "Be right back."

"You haven't reacted at all," Theo said the moment he thought James was out of earshot. I finally looked at him.

"It wouldn't have mattered if I did," I said, stubbornly. "Didn't you hear him?"

"He said that it would work," Theo pointed out. "I've gotten you closer to your goal." I opened my mouth to respond, but was interrupted by the power surging off then on. "That's it," Theo muttered. "Everybody out1" He announced. There were some moans and groans, but people superseded to Theo's authority. James came back with two water bottles.

"Do you want me to help clean up?" he asked. Theo grinned at him wearily.

"You'd have to even if you didn't want to," Theo said. "I'm your ride back." James laughed.

"Is that why you drove me?" James joked. Theo glanced over at me.

"You know what?" Theo said, holding my gaze. "You can leave too. Call your mom or something if you'd like." James looked at Theo, clearly confused. "Or, take my car." James looked surprised. "You can pick me up tomorrow for school," Theo said with a shrug. "You have to come over tomorrow anyways."

"Seriously?" James said, surprised.

"Do I look like I'm joking?" When James hesitated, Theo fished his keys from his pocket and tossed them to him. James caught them. "Take the car," he said. James broke into a grin.

"Thanks bro!" He said. "We'll pick you up around 7:30." James looked at me. "Let's go." I nodded and went to follow him, but Theo caught my elbow.

"Your welcome," he said sternly, making intense eye contact with me. Then he broke into a grin and let me go. "Pull a move. Convince him to break up with Jewel. If he asks, tell him that I put you up to it." He shrugged. "I never did like her." I grinned at him.

"Sure thing Theo," I said. "See you tomorrow." I followed James out the door.

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