Chapter Twenty Five

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"Charlotte, are you going to keep ignoring me?" My mother asked irritably.

I glanced up at her innocently with a 'whatever could you be talking about' expression on my face.

She rolled her eyes standing up to her feet, muttering the words 'why do I even bother she never listens' under her breath.

My lips twitched into a small smile, my eyes going back under the table to where my phone rested on my left knee, opened on the text conversation between me and Conner.

I faltered when the newest message came through.

[Come over?]

I sent a question mark on it's own.

[I want to see you, and I know you must be missing my face by now ;P]

I huff of absolute disbelief skimmed through my lips.

Before I had a chance of responding another message followed the last.

[Plus my parents aren't here - maybe I'll let you have your dastardly way with me?]

I sent back a colourful response.

[mmm I love it when you speak dirty ;) ]

I rolled my eyes, sending an 'I hate you'.

[no you don't, come over?]

I almost laughed out loud at his persistence.

[you're an idiot]

His next text just had his address.

It took a minute to realise I was smiling. Largely. And at that point I knew I was too far gone, and that I was definitely going over to his house.

Leaving a shortly worded note for my mum to find (I'd been doing that a lot recently) I found myself leaving my house pretty much straight away. I didn't need to google maps the way; I was familiar with the street.

It would only take ten minutes to get there.

What could really go wrong?

Right?

So of course it was down to sods law that I ran into the person I probably wanted to see the least in the world in those short ten minutes.

She was stepping out of a milkshake parlour, a cardboard cup in her hand.

A merciless smile lit up Gabriella's face when she spotted me. "Charlotte," she crooned out like a disney villain. Her eyes lit up with humour.

My jaw clenched tight and I went to pass her. She apparently wasn't having any of that though. She stepped easily to the left, putting her in front of my path, and threw out her arm to stop me from moving.

"Not going to say anything? I heard from a little birdie that you are quite the Chatty Cathy these days."

The words 'fuck off' sat at the edge of my tongue. But I didn't want to give her the satisfaction of hearing me speak.

"That hurts." She feigned, pouting out her bottom lip.

I took a jerky step back from her, giving her my best glare.

"Though honestly, I remember when you used to talk." She continued with a thoughtful expression. "I've go to say, I think the silence is somewhat of an improvement."

I restrained myself from flipping the bird at her.

"You know, I doubt you would have ever bagged a guy like Conner if you still did talk." She hummed, pinching her straw between two fingers and using it to stir her thick shake as she spoke. "You never had anything interesting to say."

My top lip curled up with annoyance.

"You know," I choked out, praying for my voice to come out strong. "You sound like your jealous." I clamped my lips together.

Gabriella raised an eyebrow at the sound of my voice. But she didn't look all that surprised; instead she only threw her head back to laugh, her eyes crinkling at the sides.

"Wow, you're still just as pathetic as you used to be." She choked out between her laughter. "I'm not jealous of you."

There wasn't even a slight hint of a lie in her voice.

"Conner is old news to me, you can have him."

I hated how she said it. Like was her place to give permission. Like I even needed permission to being with.

I wanted to hit her, but I kept my hands balled by my side, hidden in my pockets so she couldn't so easily see how she was getting to me.

But I clearly wasn't hiding it well enough, because with just one glance at me her smile widened even further.

"Actually I wish you luck." She said stepping closer to me. "You've always had trouble keeping guys interested in you, haven't you?"

I stiffened. "No."

She laughed again. "That's not what Tara says." She ran her eyes up and down me, looking as if she was amused with whatever she saw.

"You know if you really want to speak about jealousy, you should look at Tara. Did you know she followed Conner around for weeks after he first got here? So needy."

Part of me wanted to loyally protect Tara.

I squashed it away.

"Then again he was always more interested in me." Gabriella mused pushing her hair over shoulder as she tilted her head.

I tried to push back the frown that wanted to overtake my expression.

"Don't look so worried." She said breezily. "He was good for some fun, but I wasn't ever interested in a relationship with him."

My fingers twitched. "That's probably because he wasn't Kevin." I came back with.

Some of the humour bled out of her, replaced with a hardened glint.

"How long have you been pining after him now?" I continued, praying not to stutter.

"I don't pine." She sniffed.

"You really should give up. Kevin may be a dickhead but he's still way out of your league."

Gabriella's expression was ice.

"You should be careful Charlotte." She breathed. "I know all kinds of things about you. I could make your life hell."

Too late for that.

Been there. Done that. Got the fucking t-shirt.

"I'm scared." I deadpanned.

She looked me up and down once more, as if sizing me up for a fight. Then her smile came back.

"Good luck keeping Conner interested in you Charlotte. From what I hear, you're quite the prude. And trust me when I say that I know that's not his type."

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