ten

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T E N

It was a subtle change, which was surprising when at times, Dylan Parker was one of the least subtle agents of change in my life. He first entered my life by sitting down by me at the pep rally and causing a row after his friend, Spencer accused him of flirting with me. Next thing I knew, in November he was trying to get a job at Sassy Cupcake because he and his friends were trying to get Issa out of their clique in the only way they knew possible without any direct contact with her - get her worst enemy to be more popular than her. He did that with lots of sweet talk, but I was somehow able to keep my head somewhat leveled. Of course, that was until he and his friends bought me a dress. They were all wealthy for the most part, but by high school student standards, a dress was still a huge gift to spend on another person. It was like an explosion in my face, how badly they wanted me - how badly maybe he wanted me.

So to have that relationship progress into something more, for us to become as good friends with me as Becca and Veronica, without me even noticing was the biggest shocker of all.

Like in our car rides to my home, we would always be tired out of our wits, but Dylan always tried to keep a conversation going. "Come on, I just like to hear your voice," he would tell me when I put up a fight or slipped my earbuds in. "Besides, I really enjoy talking to you, V."

There it was for likely the thousandth time, that damned nickname that was growing on me. It was annoying, especially because I liked my name, but I didn't fight it. It made my interactions with Dylan more intimate, for that was his nickname for me and his only, nobody else would call me that unless they were teasing him.

So I found myself going with the flow, talking about stupid things to pass the time; some rumor about one of the rugby team boys using steroids or assignments our teachers gave us that we could possibly collaborate on since we took some of the same classes at school. It wasn't what my friends and I would talk about and I would be bored to death if they were, but talking about them with Dylan made it exciting.

"If you call me V all the time," I said on one of those drives, watching him as he turned the steering wheel to navigate his way down to what was becoming a familiar route for us to take, an alternate way to my house in case the traffic on the highway was terrible that even I didn't know of. "Why don't I get to call you D? That would only make things fair between us."

He only chuckled at that, shaking his head as he stared out he window. "I have to say, that's the strangest way a girl ever asked me for the D."

Safe to say, I dropped the discussion at that.

Every now and then, he would try to sneak Issa into the conversation, but I was a dead end when it came to her. Besides her past as being fat, there was really no other ammunition I had against her and I wouldn't use that as firepower because there was nothing wrong with not being skinny. It was strange to me how adamant she was about getting herself to be skinny, surely normal for everyone thought of it once, but the fact that she went such lengths to be more popular was quite scary.

But it didn't hold a candle to how I was being put to measures that were just as drastic for the same cause. It was impossible for me to judge her when we were the same people at this point, just on opposite ends of the spectrum.

Instead of dwelling on it, I focused more on the impending holidays and how Christmas was only two days away now. There was nothing I loved more than the winter holiday season, but how they crept up on me so close to the deadline was rather startling. In fact, it wasn't until Dylan was driving me home after work that I realized it in the form of a phone call from my dad.

"Hello," I said rather awkwardly, trying not to blush because although he couldn't see me, Dylan still could and that was even worse. "Dad, how are you?"

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