Chapter 3: Secrets
"Did you see what she was wearing?" Gasp. "I would never be caught dead in something like that!"
"Yeah, like since when do you match mauve with beige in..." Blah, blah, blah. Jake tuned out Tammy and the rest of the cheerleading team's incessant blathering and turned his head towards the school grounds. They were sitting at one of the picnic tables outside, having lunch. He had asked Tammy to have lunch with him, thinking it might be a good opportunity to spend some time with her and figure a few things out, but once again Tammy had brought her posse along with her. His eyes landed on Athena as she walked across the grass, listening to what her friend was saying. She laughed and he found himself smiling. "Hey Tammy, I’ll be right back." He said and stood up without checking his girlfriend's reaction.
The conversation didn’t even pause so she probably didn’t even hear him, but he didn’t care. He strolled over to Athena. "Athena!" Athena’s head spun in his direction. The smile instantly dropped from her face when he reached her. She stood still. "Hey," he said, smiling. He looked at her friend. "Hey, I’m Jake." He said. The girl smiled. "Kelly," she introduced herself. He looked back at Athena. "Can I help you, Jake?" She asked. He smirked. "Yeah, I was wondering if we could do another session on calculus today after school," he said. Athena’s eyes widened slightly. "Another? Jake, it’s Friday! And for goodness sake, I already have to put up with you twice a week. That’s more than enough," she said, he could hear the frustration in her voice. He smiled. Oh, how he loved pushing her buttons. "Well, I think I might need a few more. If you saw my grades, you’d understand," he said. She rolled her eyes. "I did. I don’t know how Mr. Wellers could think you’re failing half of your classes. The only subject you’re struggling with is Math and you’re not even failing that," she said.
Jake shrugged. "You know this school prides itself on bringing forth the best. I guess they figured I’m falling below that," he said. Athena opened her mouth to say something but her phone rang in her pocket. "Hold that thought," she said and pulled the ringing device out of her jean pocket. She checked the caller ID and grumbled something under her breath. "Hey, Liz." She said through a clenched jaw after she answered her phone. Jake’s eyebrows shot up with interest. Athena took a few steps away from them. "Yeah, I can’t wait." Athena said dryly. Jake looked at Kelly. "Do they still despise each other?" He asked. Kelly rolled her eyes. "Is the sky blue? Those two have never gotten along, have they?" She asked. Jake smirked. "Never," he answered and glanced at Athena. "To make it worse, Liz’s eighteenth birthday party is in two weeks. No doubt Liz is going to throw some overpriced party and make Athena miserable for the night."
Kelly shook her head. "I wish there was something to shut up that big, fat mouth of hers." Kelly said, the frustration clear in her voice as she watched Athena’s tense body language. Jake searched Athena’s face as an idea struck. "Me," he said. Kelly glanced up at him with confusion. "Pardon?" She asked. He looked at Kelly. A grin appeared on his face. "Liz could never form two proper sentences around me. Okay, I may not be the smoothest of guys but I know when a girl’s into me. I didn’t know then, but now I do." He said. Kelly smiled. "It’s hard to picture Liz speechless," Kelly said. Jake smirked. "It’s hard to picture Liz not," he said. Kelly giggled. "So you’re like her Kryptonite?" She asked and looked back at Athena. Anyone could see Athena was slowly losing her temper as she spoke to Liz. Kelly sighed. "Gosh, I wish Athena would take you to Liz’s party. It would be nice knowing she could spend a few hours around Liz without being tormented." Kelly said.
"Wait, I can." He said, feeling excitement build inside him. Kelly laughed and looked at him. "If you haven’t noticed, buddy, Athena wants nothing to do with you. Not even I’m sure why, but it’s clear she doesn’t want you around." Kelly said. Jake’s smile dropped momentarily before it appeared again in a sly smile. Kelly caught it. "What are you thinking?" She asked. He looked at Athena as she entered their presence again. She stuffed the phone in her pocket and groaned. "Sometimes, I wish I could just stuff a pie through the phone and it will magically drop on Liz’s egotistical head," she growled. Athena looked at Jake. She raised an eyebrow. "Why are you smiling like someone gave you the keys to the Playboy Mansion?" She asked.
"Do you remember how talkative Liz used to be around me?" Jake asked. Athena snorted. "Talkative? No, I think you’re confused, Jake. Liz couldn’t even say her name without stuttering when you were close by," Athena said. "Exactly. Which is why you are taking me to her party," he said. Athena shot him a look of disbelief. "Are you high? No way, Brown. I can take care of myself, thanks." Athena said and crossed her arms over her chest. Jake chuckled. "Oh, no, you don’t understand. You have no choice. You’re taking me," he said. Athena’s eyes narrowed. "And why would I do something like that?" She asked. Jake smirked cunningly. "Because if you don’t..." He leaned in close to her and put his lips next to her ear, "the whole school will know about the Keith Stone story before you can say Happy Birthday." He said. He noticed Athena tense and knew he had her. When he stood up again to check her reaction, her eyes were wide with panic.
"You wouldn’t," she said. Jake smirked. "Try me," he said. Athena’s mouth hung open a little. "Jake, you swore to me you’d never tell anyone," she said. "Didn’t you say we weren’t friends anymore?" He asked rhetorically. "Now if we were friends, that secret would have been perfectly safe, but since you said we weren’t..." He teased. Athena’s eyes remained wide with disbelief. She seemed too horrified to speak. Jake felt a twinge of guilt but instantly pushed it away. He would never tell anyone any of her secrets, but if he wanted to find his best friend again, he needed to play it smart. Athena shook her head. She glanced across the school grounds. A little smile appeared on her face. "Don’t you think your girlfriend might have a problem with that?" She asked and looked at him. Jake shrugged. "No," he said. He could handle Tammy and it wasn’t like he was cheating. "You sure? She looks like she already does." Athena said.
Jake looked over his shoulder at Tammy. Her eyes were narrowed at him. Great, now she realized he left. He looked back at Athena. "Let me worry about that," he said. Athena shook her head with disbelief, her smile fading. Jake smirked again. "Do you still have that jar?" He teased. Athena’s eyes widened and her cheeks reddened. The bell rang loudly, indicating that it was time to head back to class. Jake didn’t break eye contact with Athena. She shook her head. "Fine, Jake. You win," she said quietly then walked away. Jake smiled. He did feel a bit guilty but right now this was for the best. She would see that soon. He turned on his heels then suddenly remembered―Tammy. She was standing at the now deserted picnic table with her arms crossed over her chest. He felt his shoulders slump. He was in for it now.
Jake slowly walked towards his girlfriend as other people made their way to class. They couldn’t do this now but Tammy didn’t seem like she was going to let him off the hook at all. "What was that about?" She asked as soon as he was close enough. "What? I was talking to some friends of mine. Athena’s tutoring me, remember?" He asked. "You walked away from me and my friends, that was embarrassing." Tammy said. Jake almost raised an eyebrow. This was the problem with dating a cheerleader from Lankfield. They were all too obsessed about their image. He opened his mouth to say something when one of Tammy’s friends called to remind them that they had to get to class. He pecked her on the cheek and mumbled a quick sorry then jogged off to his class since they were heading in different directions. He could apologize properly at another time but he wasn’t in the mood. He had better things to think about.
Athena felt her blood boil as she stood in front of the library. The last thing she wanted to do was go inside. She wasn’t in the mood for Jake today. Why did they have to meet up on Mondays? As if Mondays weren’t bad enough already. She took a breath then walked inside. She knew Jake would be a bit late―again. He always came about fifteen minutes after school ended. What he did within those fifteen minutes she didn’t know and she didn’t care. It cut some time out of the two hours she had to spend tutoring him and she was grateful for that. Athena’s eyes landed on a familiar face that stood between one of the rows. She felt a smile tug at her lips. "Alex," she said when she reached him. Alex looked up from the book in his hands and she was greeted by that amazing smile. An uneasy ache of longing dawned heavily in her heart.
"Hey," he said and hugged her. She breathed in deeply. He still smelled the same. She could never guess what deodorant he used but it smelled fresh, yet cool and comforting. "How’ve you been, stranger?" He asked, letting her go. She forced a smile. "Good. It’s just that I got pushed into tutoring an annoying arse for two more weeks," she said. Alex raised an eyebrow. "Who’s the arse?" He asked, closing the book. "Jake Brown," she said. Both Alex’s eyebrows shot up. "Jake Brown." He chuckled. "Oh my gosh, that’s terrible." Alex said. She felt a bit offended that he said that. Athena shrugged. "He’s not that bad." She realized what she had just said tilted her head from side to side, thinking.
"Okay, during our sessions, he’s not that bad. It’s what happens in between that annoys the hell out of me." She said. Alex smiled charmingly, making her swoon for a second. "Yeah? What does he do?" Alex asked. Athena shook her head and looked towards the rows of books. "For some reason he thinks we’re all buddy-buddy again. He’s been to my house..." She grimaced a little but not out of disgust. "My mom loves him," she said then looked at Alex. He grinned. "That’s kind of hard to imagine. Does she know of all the crazy stuff he’s done?" Alex asked. Athena sighed. "Even that didn’t change anything. It seems like I’m the only one that remembers he’s the one that pushed me out of his life." She said and dropped her eyes. She suppressed the memory before it even surfaced. Alex touched her arm. Her skin tingled where his fingers were. She looked at him. "Don’t let it get you down. Two weeks will go by like nothing." He said.
Athena smiled. Alex looked at the entrance, then at her. "Your student just showed up," he said. Athena closed her eyes slowly. "Great," she muttered dryly. Alex laughed a little. She couldn’t help but smile. "I’ll see you around," he said. She opened her eyes just in time to see him leave. Athena took a deep breath then turned around. Jake headed straight towards their table and sat down. Athena’s eyebrows came together over her eyes. Didn’t he see her? She walked to the table and took a seat next to him. He was disturbingly focused on the Math book in front of him. The muscles in his face were tense. Athena opened her bag and reached for her own book. "Was that Alex you were talking to?" She looked at him as she brought the book out of her bag. He wasn’t looking at her. "Yeah," she said and placed her book on the table. "Oh," Jake said simply. Athena was surprised by his curt answer. She cleared her throat. "Uh, so where did we leave off last time?" She asked. They continued their session with her doing most of the talking. Athena kept on glancing at him but he never met her gaze. The most she got out of him was a "that makes sense", and a nod. Her own voice was starting to annoy her. After about an hour, she couldn’t take it anymore.
"Okay, Jake, what’s wrong?" She asked. He still wouldn’t look at her. "Jake?" She asked again. Still noting. She snapped her fingers in front of his eyes until he jerked upright. "What?" He snapped, meeting her gaze. Athena studied him. His eyes were dark and made it obvious that he was angry. "What happened?" She asked after a while. He shook his head and looked away. Athena waited for him to cool down. He blew out a breathe of air. "My dad called me," he said quietly. Athena raised her eyebrows slightly. She opened her mouth to say something then closed it again. She had a feeling she would have to choose her words carefully. "How are things going between you two?" She asked. Jake shook his head again. He looked at the table. "I haven’t spoken to him since he left," Jake said. His hand balled into a fist on the table. "What did he say?" She asked. Jake’s eyes hardened. "I didn’t answer," he said.
Athena could just sit there, watching him. She found herself wishing he could annoy the hell out of her again. Anything was better than the atmosphere around them at that moment. She swallowed. "It’s that bad?" She asked. Jake’s fist tightened and his jaw tensed. "He hasn’t tried talking to me in years. That’s the way I want it," he said. Athena was surprised. "You haven’t forgiven him yet?" She asked. He looked at her. "You should understand well enough, what that’s like." He said. Athena pulled back a bit, surprised by his words. She tried finding something to say, but nothing came to mind. He held her gaze until she looked away, embarrassed. "It’s not the same," she said finally, not even convincing herself. She heard Jake smirk. "I agree. What my dad did was much worse." Jake said. Athena looked at him with disbelief. "I mean, he left me and my mother for another woman. The only thing I did to you was push you away and look at what you’ve become since then. I’m pretty sure I did you a favor." He said.
Athena felt something in herself snap. "You know what, I think we’re done for the day," she said and started packing her things away. To her surprise, Jake did the same. She exited the library with him short on her heels. "Just tell me why you’re so pissed at me, Athena. I’ve already apologized for pushing you away but I can’t apologize for doing something I don’t know about," he said behind her. "Oh, is that how it works now, Jake? You apologize and suddenly all is right with the world?" She asked without slowing down. She quickened her pace and so did Jake. Athena felt her cheeks heating up. "Was it because I wasn’t there during your breakup with Alex because you’re obviously still hung up on the guy." Athena spun around at his words, glaring at him.
"Stop it, Jake! I am not your responsibility anymore, so don’t be concerned about me or whatever the hell I went through. I don’t need you to take care of me anymore." She felt angry tears stream over her face and instantly hated herself for being so weak. She hated crying, especially in front of people. The last person she cried in front of other than her mother was ... was Jake when he told her to get lost. She shook her head. "You know what, Jake. You’re right. You did me a favor. Turns out you were holding me back all those years." She said. Jake’s eyes softened as hurt became clear in them. Athena turned around and headed home where she could cry in peace.
*Mrblobby: Have I mentioned that every time I read your name I have to smile? Haha. it's so cute! Takes me back to my childhood
*BriBri: I was wondering when you were going to comment. Wrote the next chapter with you in mind, but it's not ready yet. Two weeks tops.
*Anne: Aw, thank you. I'm doing my best.
*Fann: Haha. Love the optimism!
*Mandy E: Your comment was like the cutest thing ever. Haha.