Cinderella and the Three Princes


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9. Take Two

I'm standing on the landing strip outside Oliver's private jet, unable to believe my ears. Oliver called me a charity case. Is that all I am to him?! 'Hannah-'

'I'm going home with Leo. Where did you park?'

'I'm over there, on the motorcycle.' I feel like I swallowed a brick. 'A motorcycle? I am terrified of those things.'

'It's okay. I'll go slow.' Dammit. I put myself in this situation, so now I have to deal with it. He gets on, leaving a msall space for me to sit behind him. Really close. I look for Oliver, but he's already left. 'Where do I hold on?'

'There's a metal bar behind you, or you can just grab onto me.' I grip his jacket and hold on tight, inhaling the heavenly scent of leather and cologne. 'All right. Ready.' Leo revs the engine once more, forcing me to wrap my arms around him to keep from falling off. And he has abs. Of course he does. He drives right in front of Oliver as we leave. If felt like he was cutting straight through me with a look. 'Could you drop me off here?'

'Oh yeah, sure, but we're almost there.'

'I told my dad I was spending the night at Kayla's house. He'll be suspicious if a boy drops me off at home.' He pulls over to the side of the road. I get off and start to walk away. 'Hannah!'

'Yes?'

'You forgot to give me the helmet back.'

'I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking.'

'You know, Oliver can be a jerk sometimes, but please don't stay mad at him.'

'Why are you always defending him?'

'Maybe because we've been friends forever. Maybe it's just become habit. Or maybe it's because I can see how much you like him.'

'Leo, I gave him a chance and all I learned was that he is a total jerk.' Leo smiles as if he knows more than me, gives a wave, and drives off toward the freeway. It's a good thing I have a walk before I get home, because he's given me a lot to think about.

When I walk into school that Monday, I hope things will be normal for once. Sure enough, there's a crowd gathered around the front doors. 'Is that really Oliver?' It'd be nice if just for once the happenings in this school had nothing to do with me. But if it involves Oliver, it just might. I push my way to the front, praying he hasn't done something stupid. Camera flashes blind me for a moment. When they clear, I see Oliver shaking someone's hand and holding a giant check. Holy crap. He's giving $5,000 to cancer research?! It's like he's trying to prove I'm not his only charity case. What a joke. I roll my eyes at him and push myself out so I can go to class. All through the morning I keep hearing about how Oliver is so generous and giving, and it makes me want to gag.
At lunch, I plop down across from Kayla, scowling. 'Hey, Hannah. How's your day going?'

'Not so great. Can we talk?'

'Sure. What is it?'

'Help me avoid Oliver today, please.'

'Are you guys still in a bad place?'

'I don't think we were ever really in a good place.' Kayla's face brightens and I turn around to see Henry. 'Hello ladies. Cracking on with school, eh?' I look at Kayla with my mouth open, and she shrugs, giving me a shy smile. Henry puts his arm around Kayla, scooting his chair closer to hers. 'How have your classes been this morning, love?' I can almost feel the heat radiating from her face. ''They've been great. What about you?' Shoot. I'm going to have to sit and watch them make smoochy eyes at each other all lunch, aren't I? 'Hey guys, what's up?'

'Hey Leo, thank goodness you're here. I don't know how much more of this love-dovey stuff I can handle.' Leo gives a knowing nod. 'Ah, the honeymoon phase. I know it well' Leo sighs, and I squint at him. There are bags under his eyes and he looks tired. 'Something on your mind?'

'A girl, actually.'

'Really? That's great. Do I know her?'

'I'm afraid you do. Quite well, in fact.'

'Leo, making moves on my friends. Who is it?'

'Just someone who likes my best friend more than me.' It's my turn for my face to warm up. If Leo likes me, why is he always talking about Oliver? I think he's cute, but I don't know how I feel about him. I think I want to see how things go with Oliver first. I wish Leo had talked to me sooner. I wonder if he didn't tell me because he knows Oliver likes me too? 'Leo, I...'

'It's cool. I don't want to make a big deal. But I thought you should know.'

'Did someone speak of the devil?'

'Please leave me alone, Oliver.' Moving my chair back hard, I turn to walk away. But my ankle is throbbing, and I stumble a bit. 'Are you feeling okay?'

'I'm fine, thanks.'

'Maybe you need to lie down a minute. We could go upstairs.'

'No, thank you. I just need some air.'

'I'll walk with you.'

'Go away, Oliver. I want to be alone right now.' I storm off, narrowly making my escape. Is this going to be how it is now? With Kayla dating Henry, the boys will probably be at the lunch table every day. Maybe I can take up hiding in the library.

Another week passes, and I've hardly spoken to anyone. I spend most of my days out on the soccer field watching others play while the season passes me by. The only problem is, without seeing Oliver, I can't avoid him. He's all over the media lately serving food at homeless shelters and cleaning up trash on the side of the road.

One day I walk into school and find another crowd with whispers of Oliver's name around. 'Oliver Gem, champion of the people, has just awarded the local animal rescue $10,000. Do you have anything you'd like to say, Oliver?' I make it to the front as he's about to speak, and he locks his gaze on me. 'I hope this proves how the Gem family cares about our city and everything in it.' I roll my eyes again. I see right through what he's doing. But charity work for everyone to see doesn't change everything. I walk away, and a second later I hear my phone ping.


Oliver
I'm trying, for you.
 

U
It won't make a difference.

Giving to charities doesn't make you a good person, Oliver.

Especially when you do it for everyone to see.

ESPECIALLY when you're
only doing it to impress a girl.

 

Oliver
So you're saying I should
donate anonymously?

U
No, because for you, all that money
is just a drop in the ocean of your family's fortune.

 

Oliver
So what am I supposed to do?

 

U
You can actually become a better person.

But honestly? I don't see that happening any time soon.

 

 

Three more weeks pass. A deep chill is in the air as I walk home. I haven't heard from Oliver or Kayla or anyone except Leo. But he only talks to me about music and never approaches the subject of feelings. The good news is, my grades are great since I've spent that time studying.
I arrive at my front door, feeling more alone than ever. This is it, then. I have to tell dad I've had enough. I stare up at the sky, trying to find the first star. There's a dim twinkle not far from the silver of the moon. It's been so lonely past few weeks. I miss Leo. I see him the most often, but he's also the most distant. I don't know which is worse. I wonder why he hasn't made a move, now that Oliver's out of the picture. Maybe it was just an infatuation? I sigh. I wish I had friends. I cut through a yard on the way to my house and start to freak out at the sound of grasshopper legs. Some people get them confused with crickets, but I know the difference. The sound of leaves crunching makes me whirl around. I don't see any... 'Aaaaahhhh!' A grasshopper lands right on my arm and starts making that terrible noise. I trash around trying to get it off, but it's little sticker feet cling to me. 'Get it off, get it off, get it off!!!' Just then, two hands grab me around the waist and flip me around. 'I don't want to die!'

'Will you please stop kicking? I've felt your sneakers once, and I'd rather not.' I stop moving, but my breath is coming in gasps. My heart bursts and I realize how much I missed him. Even after all this time, my feelings for him are just as strong. I still love him! 'Everything all right?' There's no more grasshopper, and I'm being held tight in Oliver's arms. I'm more than okay. I lean into his chest, clinging to the lapel of his coat. 'Oliver, you saved my life!' Oliver laughs, and I can feel the vibrations against my chest. 'I'm pretty sure grasshoppers can't kill you, Hannah.'

'So says you. What are you doing here anyway?'

'Just because we haven't been talking doesn't mean I haven't been keeping an eye on you. My bedroom window faces the soccer field. I thought it was too late for you to be walking home alone, so I followed you.' His arms tighten around me and he rests his head on top of mine. 'I've missed you so much.'

'Honestly? Me too.' Oliver pulls back. I can see the shock clearly on his face. 'Really? Does that mean you'll be my girlfriend?'

 

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