If I’m ever granted my wish of personally kicking one person off this planet, that person will definitely be Liam Carter. (Also known as Mr. Asshole Mr. Popular) Star of the basketball team, top cheater on the national Spanish exam (there's no way he scored higher than me), and man of my nightmares, Liam walks through our school's hallways as if he owns them.
It's bad enough that he's "best friends" with my older brother, but he's also, unfortunately, every silly girl at Blue Harbor High’s wet dream. He smiles and winks at every girl who glances his way — constantly playing up his good looks, as if any of them will ever stand a chance in taking him away from his girlfriend, Miss Popular, a.k.a. Ashley Jordan. (I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried, I swear.)
The two of them together are like a bright and colorful Ralph Lauren ad on sugar, and in moments like right now, I wish I could kick them both off the face of the earth ...
They’re currently standing in front of my locker, laughing at something that probably isn’t funny. He’s running his fingers through her strawberry blonde hair and she’s massaging his broad shoulders.
“Excuse me?” I clear my throat to get their attention.
They don’t make a move. They continue standing there in their own little bubble, laughing even louder.
“Excuse me, please?” I clear my throat again.
Okay, fine. “Could you two idiots please step the hell away from my locker? Like, now?”
They immediately turn to look at me. Before Liam can say anything, Ashley crosses her arms and pops her gum.
“What did you just say, Maria?”
“It’s Mariah.” I roll my eyes. “And I said I need you two to get away from my locker.”
“Well, ask us nicely and maybe we’ll consider.”
“No need for that, Ashley.” Liam gently grabs her arm and pulls her to the side. Then he looks at me. “Better?”
“Much.” I open my locker, hoping the two of them will move farther down, but Ashley acts as if my intrusion never happened.
“Can you finally say that you like me back, Liam?” she asks softly. “We’ve been together since the summer, gone on all types of dates, and you have yet to say those words to me.”
“Ashley ...” He sighs and runs a hand through his hair. “I have said them to you. More than once.”
“Then say them again ...” She lowers her voice, and I immediately regret not accepting a locker on the sophomore hall. A locker far away from the front row seat to senior student drama.
“I really like you, Ashley,” Liam says the words in a tone that is the most unconvincing tone I’ve ever heard. “A lot.”
“Finally!” She laughs. “So, can I wear your letterman jacket at the pep rally this week? I feel like people need to know that you’re mine and I’m yours.”
“We can talk about that later ...”
“We can talk about it right now. Yes or no to me wearing your letterman jacket, Liam?”
I grab my books and slam my locker door shut, immediately walking down the hallway, so I can miss the rest of their conversation. I make my way to first period, Advanced Literature, and take a seat in the back row. I take out all the reports I’ve completed over the summer, the extra printed analyses I completed for fun, and as I’m double checking to make sure my eighteenth century poems are in order, Liam walks into the class and takes the seat next to me.
“Did you finish all the Victorian novels on the list?” he asks.
I don’t answer.
He isn’t supposed to be in this class. It’s only for the people who attended the advanced summer session, and he was nowhere to be found during those eight weeks.
“Mariah?” he calls my name, waiting for a response.
I don’t give him one.
“Mariah ...” He grabs my wrist, as I’m organizing my pencils. “Mariah, I know you can hear me talking to you.”
“No, I can’t.” I jerk my hand away and face him. “Senior English is in room 212. This is Advanced Lit.”
“I’m well aware.”
“Are you?” I cross my arms. “Because I don’t remember seeing you in any of the study sessions this summer. I did see you all around the harbor with Ashley Jordan, though. At the movies, at the —
“So, you were stalking me?” His lips curve up into a smirk. “I didn’t know you cared so much.”
“Clearly.” He lowers his voice. “But for the record, the teacher made an exception for me because of my basketball schedule. I did just as much work — probably more than you this summer.”
Then he smiles and the girl sitting across from him practically swoons as she stares. “And if I were you, I would try to be a lot nicer to me this year — especially since it’s my last year. Not only that, but with Zach going on recruiting trips every other weekend, I’m sure you’ll need me to drive you places when he’s not in town.”
“No, I’m sure I’ll catch the bus.”
“It doesn’t run on the weekends.”
“Then I’ll pay for a cab.” I glare at him and feel my phone buzzing against my pocket. “And I will tolerate you this year. Nothing more, nothing less, and I can guarantee that I will never ask you for anything.”
I pull my phone out of my pocket, grateful to have a distraction from his too-gorgeous-to-be-true blue eyes. It’s a text message from my brother.
Zach: Hey, Ryah. I asked Liam to take you home after-school all this week since I’ve got some scouting meetings. He said it was cool, so be nice to him, please. Thanks.
My blood begins to boil as I feel Liam looking over my shoulder, as I see him smiling as he reads the text message, too.
“Like I was saying—” Liam leans back in his seat. “I think you need to be a lot nicer to me this year. I think you owe that to me, correct?”
I don’t get a chance to respond to that. Our teacher walks into the room and approaches the board.
“Good morning, everyone!” He slams his coffee onto the desk. “Welcome to Advanced Literature, and thank you for being brave enough to return after I put you through all of those summer sessions. Since this is an advanced, college-level course, you’ll need a study partner, and you’ll need to work together at least three to four times a week.”