Chapter 1: Don't Get On Apple White's Bad Side
Cerise Hood stared up at the enormous, castle-like entrance to the enormous, castle-like school in front of her. Grimm’s Preparatory Academy was the finest school in all of Virginia. Many rich, famous, and powerful people had graduated from Grimm’s. It was nearly impossible to get into, you had to know someone who knew someone who knew someone. Or you had to be very wealthy with a slightly terrifying reputation. Either way, it was the best school in all of the United States. This was a fact, something everyone knew.
Looking at the gothic style building in front of her, Cerise wished to be back at home, sitting at the kitchen table as her mother gave her work to do. She wanted to be back in Kansas on the farm with just her mom and Ramona. But she couldn’t go back. She could never go back.
Cerise sighed and glanced at her sister beside her. Ramona was what her mother had liked to call ‘rebellious’. She was almost always dressed in leather, with dark makeup, her long brown hair highlighted red, and some strange sort of earrings with ear cuffs attached on her ears. For all that Ramona was rebellious, Cerise could tell that at this moment, she was nervous, just like Cerise.
“You ready?” Cerise asked with a weak smile.
Ramona scoffed. “I was born ready,” she said. Cerise rolled her eyes. Unlike herself, Ramona hadn’t enjoyed being home schooled. She had thought that it was a bore.
“You know what room you’re in?”
“Floor two, room twenty-eight,” Ramona recited, “You?”
“First floor, room thirteen,” Cerise smiled at her sister. “I’ll see you at dinner, then?”
“Maybe,” Ramona said with a shrug and headed towards the girls dormitory, shiny, new, red suitcase in tow.
Cerise started after her, lugging her battered brown suitcase behind her. Unlike Ramona, she hadn’t let their dad buy her a new suitcase. This suitcase was hers, and had been hers since before the move to Kansas, and definitely before the move to Virginia. Cerise and her suitcase had been through alot together, and she wasn’t about to let anyone take it away from her.
Cerise was so lost in thought that she stumbled over a girl wearing a pair of paint splattered jeans carrying art supplies. The girl fell to the ground, and Cerise rushed to help her pick the art supplies up. “I’m so sorry,” Cerise apologized.
“No problem,” said the girl, “I’m used to getting run over.”
“Yeah,” she shrugged before sticking her hand out, “I’m Cedar, by the way. Cedar Wood.”
“Cerise,” Cerise said, standing up and handing the art supplies to Cedar. “I’m new here.”
“I know,” Cedar said with a grin, “I mean, I haven't seen you around here before. So, I figured you were new. You a Senior?”
“Cool,” said Cedar, “So am I. I’m sure everyone keeps telling you what a great school GPA is, but it is. The arts program is amazing.”
“That’s cool,” Cerise said as she began walking towards the dormitory. Cedar fell in step beside her.
“What room are you in?”
“Thirteen,” Cerise answered.
“That’s great!” Cedar exclaimed, “I’m in twelve with Raven.”
“Raven Queen,” Cedar said, as if that explained everything. Taking in Cerise’s confused expression she continued, “She’s the daughter of Senator Queen. You know, the democratic senator.”
Cerise shook her head. “I just moved here,” she offered.
“Don’t worry,” Cedar said, “You’ll figure it out soon enough. This school practically runs off of status. All that matters is who your parents are. Luckily, I’m a scholarship student. I don’t have to worry about all that mess.”
“All that mess?”
“Yeah, you know...Here we are,” Cedar stopped mid sentence as they stopped in front of room twelve. The door was open, and the room was decorated perfectly. The right side of the room was bright yellow with artwork covering every available space. The left side of the room was purple with band posters hung up all over the walls. Sitting on the bed, strumming an electric guitar was a girl with black hair. Cerise could only assume that this was Raven Queen. She looked up when they stopped, then glanced from Cedar to Cerise then back to Cedar then back to Cerise.
“Who are you?” Raven Queen asked.
“I’m Cerise,” Cerise said, “I’m living across the hall.”
Raven snorted. “Good luck with that,” she said.
“What does that mean?”
“It means,” Raven said, pausing for dramatic effect, “that Apple White is going to be your roommate, and that, my friend, in a hard knock life.”
“What’s so bad about Apple White?” Cerise asked.
Raven was about to answer, but Cedar cut in. “She’s a bit extreme. She wants what she wants, and she will stop at nothing to get what she wants. Take being class president-for example. Last year this girl, Maddie, ran against her for class president. Maddie hasn’t been seen or heard from since.”
“I heard from her,” Raven interrupted, “She moved back to Wonderland.”
“Yeah,” Cedar said, “It’s in Maine. The point is, don’t get on Apple’s bad side.”
“Okay,” Cerise nodded, not quite understanding what the other girls were trying to tell her. “Anything else I need to know?”
“Don’t get on Headmaster Grimm’s bad side either,” Raven said.
Cedar nodded in agreement. “Basically,” she added on, “stay under the radar. If nobody sees you, then nobody can stop you. Also, don’t end up on Blondie’s.”
“School gossip website,” Raven explained.
“There’s a school gossip website?”
Raven grinned. “They didn’t have one of those at your old school?” she asked sarcastically.
Cerise shook her head. “I was homeschooled.”
“Then you are in for a big shock.”
Daring Charming was, to say the least, tired of rooming with Sparrow Hood, and they had only been in the same room for the past five minutes.
Daring had been in the same class as Sparrow since kindergarden. He was selfish, narcissistic, and annoying, at the best of times. At the worst of times he was a downright toolbag. Sparrow was the complete opposite of Daring. He didn’t care about school, or sports, or anything else for that matter. The only thing that he cared about was that stupid band of his, ‘The Merry Men’, and they weren’t even the best band on campus. Raven Queen’s band, ‘The Rebels’, blew them out of the water at the last competition.
Daring glanced at the redhead, who was currently jamming out to the worst music Daring had ever heard, and sighed. He was never going to survive rooming with Sparrow for an entire year.
“Dude,” Sparrow said, turning the music down a notch so that Daring could actually hear him, “Do you think that you could get me a date with your sister?”
“No,” Daring said as he finished unpacking his clothing.
“Because she’s my sister.”
Sparrow shrugged and went back to rocking out to his music. A second later, however, he interrupted Daring again, “What about Apple White?”
“What about Apple?” Daring asked.
“Could you get me a date with her?”
Daring studied Sparrow for a minute, trying to figure out why he wanted to go on a date with every girl that Daring knew. He didn’t stand a chance with Darling, and Apple would walk right over his heart in her high heels. On top of that, Apple and Daring were practically dating. Didn’t he know that?
“No,” Daring said.
Sparrow groan. “Well, what about-”
“The answer, Sparrow, is going to be no. If you want to go on a date, ask the girl out yourself. I’m sure that Duchess Swan would be happy to go out with you.”
“Not cool, man,” Sparrow said, “Duchess is my best friend.”
“That doesn’t mean that you can’t go on a date with her.”
“Yeah, it does,” Sparrow muttered.
Sparrow shook his head. “Just wait until you find a girl that you really like. Things won’t be so easy for you then Prince Charming.”
“Things are always easy for me, Sparrow.” Sparrow muttered something under his breath but Daring didn’t catch it. He tuned out the boy and his music as he returned to unpacking. Things were always easy for Daring Charming. After all, he’d had his entire life planned out for him since he was three. Things really were easy when all that you were doing was following a guidebook.
If Cerise could describe her roommate in one word it would have been ‘extreme’. Apple White had extremely blonde hair and an extremely high pitched voice that she used to sing extremely annoying songs while tidying their extremely tidy room. Oh yeah, everything about Apple White was extreme.
“So, do you do any extracurricular activities?” Apple paused from her singing to ask.
Cerise shrugged as she made her bed, placing a patchwork quilt that her mother had made on the top. “Well, I’m good at sports.”
Apple squealed. “Oh, that’s just wonderful,” she said, “We have a very successful equestrian team.”
Cerise snorted. Equestrian team? When she said that she was good at sports, she meant football and track, not horseback riding. “Are you on the team?” she asked.
“Of course I am,” Apple said, sitting down on Cerise’s bed, “It would be just wonderful if you were to join.”
“I’ll think about it,” Cerise said, tucking her hair behind her ear.
When she turned back to face Apple, she was staring. It took Cerise a second to figure out what she was staring at. A second later, Cerise covered her ear with her hair. She had to remember that the prep school kids wouldn’t be used to it like her mom, Romana, and even her father were.
“What happened?” Apple asked, her voice more curious than concerned.
“Accident when I was eight,” Cerise shrugged it off. She grabbed a red hoodie and tugged it on over her plain t-shirt. “I’m hungry,” she said, “I’m going to head to the mess hall.”
“We call it a cafeteria.”
Cerise nodded. “Okay,” she said. She paused at the door, “Apple, could you not tell anyone about...you know?”
Apple smiled. “Of course not.”
Cerise left the room and walked to the cafeteria. Her sister was waiting outside, scrolling through her phone. She glanced up as Cerise approached. “Do you know this school has a dress code?” she asked.
“Don’t most schools?”
“Yeah, but here we have to wear uniforms,” Ramona groaned, “how come no one told me this?”
“Why else did you think we ordered uniforms?” Their father had ordered uniforms for them earlier that summer, and they’d come in about a week ago. Both of the uniforms were too short for the tall sisters. The jackets barely fit across their broad shoulders.
“It’s still stupid,” Ramona mumbled.
Cerise shrugged, there really wasn’t anything that she could do about the school’s dress code policy. “How’s your roommate?” she asked.
“You mean roommates.”
“You have two?”
“Three, actually,” Ramona said, “Apparently it’s tradition for Juniors to room in groups of fours.”
“Are they alright?”
“Well, there’s the princess, her daddy’s a senator or something, but she seems to be a work out freak, and then there’s the dancer, her mom owns like seven ballets, and then there’s the activist who’s already gotten me to sign four petitions.”
“So, you like them.”
Ramona shrugged. “There okay. How’s yours?”
“I don’t know,” Cerise said, “The girls across the hall seem to think that she’s evil, but she seems okay. I’ve been told not to make her angry, though. I think it’s good advice.”
“That’s good,” Ramona said, pulling a piece of paper out of her bag and handing it to Cerise, “I’ve got to go. I promised my roommates I’d meet them for dinner.”
Cerise watched her sister’s retreating form then glanced down at the paper. School didn’t start for another week, but it seemed that football tryouts were tommorow. According to the flier, everyone was welcome. Cerise smiled. Ramona knew her too well.
Tucking the flier into her back, Cerise walked into the cafeteria to join Cedar and Raven at their table.
Chapter 2: Don't End Up in Charming Crushes
Apple, it appeared, was an early riser. Cerise didn’t have a problem with this, really she didn’t. What she did have a problem with was Apple’s high pitched singing at this godforsaken hour in the morning. Cerise rolled over and looked at the clock on her nightstand. Okay, so it was eight and she had to be at the football field by nine...still, she would’ve liked to catch a few extra minutes.
Cerise sat up in her bed and rubbed her eyes. She really needed to get earplugs to block out Apple. “Good morning, Cerise,” her roommate chirped.
Cerise muttered something incomprehensible.
“Equestrian tryouts are this morning,” Apple sang, “I expect to see you there.”
“Anyway, bye bye,” with that Apple left the room.
Cerise pulled herself out of bed and shuffled towards the closet. She pulled out a box and smiled at the contents. The flier had said to bring your own equipment. Luckily for Cerise, she had her dad’s old stuff. Cerise strapped on her pads, finishing by pulling her shoulder length hair back and settling the helmet on her head. She turned and faced herself in the mirror. The white practice jersey had the number forty-two on it, her parents’ lucky number.
She smiled at herself in the mirror and grabbed her mouthpiece. She was never going to join the equestrian team anyways, football had always been Cerise’s sport. Cerise grabbed her ball and headed out the door. Apple would be so disappointed, but, Cerise figured, she’d have to get used to it since she had Cerise as a roommate.
Daring glanced over the list of names. It was pretty much the same as last year, and the year before that, with a few exceptions. A couple of his cousins would be trying out this year, not that it really mattered though, seeing as he already knew how they played. He sighed and looked out at the crowd of guys assembled in their gear before him. Nothing ever changed.
White Daring had been provided with a list of last names and first initials, every player wore a number for tryouts, so as to have an unbiased team. At least, that was supposed to be how it worked. Daring already knew what everyone's number was. Coach Man did too, so it kind of ruined the whole thing.
“Alright,” Coach Man, a short, pudgy brown man who ate way too many sweets to be a football coach, called, “listen up men. Most of you know the drill, but for those of you that don’t I will explain. This tryout is based entirely off of your skill set. It doesn’t matter who your mommy or daddy is, all that matters is how you do today. While you ladies run drills, you captain and I will be assessing you. Tryouts are ‘til noon. You’ll know results tonight. The’ll be posted on the door of the gym. Let’s get started.”
With that, the guys around the field broke into their preassigned groups. Daring grabbed his clipboard from the bench and walked over to the first group.
“What’s up, Cap’n?”
Daring smiled as number eighty-nine sauntered up beside him. “Do me a favor Hunter and crush Hood during drills.”
“Which Hood?” Hunter asked, “S. Hood or C. Hood?”
“There’s another Hood?” Daring asked. Of course, he knew that there was another Hood, he’d seen it on the list, but he hadn’t put two and two together.
“Yeah,” Hunter said, “Poor kid’s a twig. I don’t think he’s hit puberty yet. His voice hasn’t dropped.”
“Crush Sparrow,” Daring said, “Leave the other one alone.”
“Got that Cap’n,” Hunter mock saluted.
“Where’s my brother?”
Hunter rolled his eyes. “Probably hiding in the bushes,” he said.
“Probably,” Daring muttered and went off in search of Dexter.
Cerise was in her element.
She was running, dodging, jumping over barriers that seemed to be barely there. She also happened to be tackled several times, each time getting the wind knocked out of her in the process. That part was not fun. Not fun at all.
Cerise slowed down to a stop as the whistle was blown. She wandered over to the bleachers and grabbed a drink with the rest of her group, not bothering to remove her helmet. It was all part of the strategy. If no one knew that she was a girl, then they couldn’t stop her from joining the team.
“I’m going to die,” a brown haired boy flopped down on the bleachers beside her. “Daring’s going to kill me.”
The boy groaned and looked at her. “Are you new here?”
“Figures,” he said, “Daring’s the captain.”
“Okay,” Cerise nodded. Daring was the cute blonde guy that was walking around with the clipboard. It was nice to finally know what his name was.
“He also happens to be my brother,” the boy said, “So, I’m supposed to be as good as him when I’m really not.”
“Tell me about it,” the boy said, “I’m Dexter, by the way.”
“Cerise,” Cerise said without a second thought.
Dexter raised an eyebrow. “Odd name.”
Cerise shrugged. “Whatever,” she said.
“Just so you know,” Dexter said, “my twin sister, Darling, got on the fencing team by pretending to be a boy. I won’t tell.”
Cerise shook her head. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Number forty-two was fast. Extremely fast. Daring watched as the small figure dove his way between his most skilled linemen without getting touched at all. He whistled under his breath as he walked up to Coach Man. Whoever he was, the kid was good.
“Are you seeing what I’m seeing?” Coach Man asked as Daring came to a stop beside him.
“Forty-two’s pretty good.”
“Pretty good?” Coach Man chuckled, “The kid made it past Tiny. I think she’s great.”
Coach Man ignored his question. “I’m putting her on varsity.” With that said, the coach walked away towards the next group.
Daring lingered, staring at number forty-two. She? Number forty-two was a girl? Daring honestly couldn’t tell under the thick pads. How did Coach Man know that she was a she? Daring shook his head. He couldn’t believe it. It was his senior year, and he was getting a girl on his team.
“There goes the dream team,” Daring muttered under his breath and moved on towards the next group.
Cerise flopped down on her bed, still wearing her pads. She was gross and covered in sweat. She doubted she’d ever played so hard in her life, and this was only tryouts. What would the actual games be like? She pulled off her pads and threw them into the box they’d come from. She wouldn’t need them anymore. If she made the team, she’d get her own newer set. Cerise popped out her mouth guard and went to get a shower.
Ten minutes later, Cerise flopped down on her bed once again, only to be brought up this time by a knock at the door. Groaning, Cerise pulled herself out of bed to answer it.
Standing at her door, wearing identical smiles on their faces, were Cedar Wood and Raven Queen.
“Good, you’re finally up,” Cedar said, “We were afraid that you’d sleep the day away.”
Cerise eyed her friends. Could she call these two girls friends? They were the closest things to friends that Cerise had at this school.
“I don’t know how you do it,” Raven said, “Apple’s an extremely early riser.”
“You’re telling me.”
“Anyways,” Cedar said, “We were wondering if you wanted to grab lunch with us.”
Raven Queen had a lot of friends. A lot.
Cerise looked over the crowd gathered at their lunch table. An indian girl with her hair tied in ponytails and round pink glasses sat at the end of the table. Across from her sat a blonde girl dressed entirely pink. She was flirting shamelessly with the boy next to her, Dexter. On the blonde girl’s other side sat a tall, broad shouldered boy with half of his head shaved. Sitting next to the indian girl was a girl with black hair piled on top of her head in a bun, she was sketching something in a sketchbook in front of her. They all looked up as Raven, Cedar, and Cerise approached.
“Hey guys,” Raven said with a smile as she took a seat next to Dexter, whose attention automatically focused on Raven, much to the blonde girl’s dismay. “This is Cerise.”
“Hey.” Cerise took a seat next to Cedar, who was sitting next to the girl with the sketchbook.
“Cerise, this is Dexter, Cupid, Hunter, Ginger, and Lizzie.”
“Cerise?” Dexter eyed her, “You’re the one who tried out this morning.”
“Tried out for what?” the broad shouldered boy, Hunter, asked.
“Football,” Cerise answered.
“You tried out for football?” Hunter asked skeptically.
“Dude,” Dexter said, “She’s number forty-two.”
“Wow,” Hunter said with admiration in his eyes, “You can run real fast.”
“Thanks,” Cerise mumbled, hiding herself behind her water.
“How fast?” the black haired girl asked.
“She’s on varsity, definitely,” Dexter said.
“Good for you,” she said, offering her hand to Cerise, “I’m Lizzie, the school fashionista and head of the croquet team.”
“Nice to meet you Lizzie,” Cerise said, shaking Lizzie’s hand. They had a croquet team? Really? Cerise didn’t even think anyone played croquet anymore.
“Well,” Cedar muttered, “There goes everyone at school not knowing your name.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means you’re going to end up on Blondie’s,” the blonde girl at the end of the table said, “Of course, it’s basically a right of passage, so you’ve got that down.”
“Cupid,” Lizzie shot the girl a warning glance. Cerise looked from the one girl to the other then back again. What were they not saying?
“Cupid and Lizzie were featured in the Charming Crushes article last year,” Cedar whispered to Cerise, “They both hate Blondie now. Well, as much as Cupid can hate a person.”
“Charming Crushes?” Cerise asked a bit too loudly.
“Yeah. The Charmings. You know, Dexter, his twin sister, Darling, and their older brother, Daring. They’re kind of a big deal here.”
Cerise shook her head. This school was weird. There were so many rules about Grimm’s Preparatory Academy, rules that Cerise had never even considered before enrolling. All of these rich kids constantly worrying about the status of the people that they went to school with. Cerise had never been to public school, but she was fairly certain it didn’t work this way.
“I know,” Hunter said with an understanding look, “It’s a lot to follow. You’ll get used to it.”
Cerise doubted that she ever would.
Daring watched from the shadows as boys came and went from the gym door, reading the list and turning away with either a smile or a shrug. He did this every year. It was a way for him to get to know his team, know how they reacted to the news that they were on his team.
His head turned as he heard laughter coming from the hallway. His brother, Hunter Huntsman, Raven Queen and their posse of friends were making their way towards the gym door.
“Are you really filming this, Cedar?” a dark haired girl asked.
The dark skinned, curly haired girl next to her, Cedar, smiled and shook her phone. “Of course I am, Cerise. I don’t want to miss your expression when you find out that you make the team.”
“You didn’t even know that I was trying out for the team until an hour ago,” Cerise snapped back.
Daring eyed Cerise. So this was number forty-two? This tall girl was going to be the first girl to ever be on a Grimm’s Preparatory Academy football team. She looked different from what Daring had expected her to.
“Alright,” Hunter said, “I’m going to check it.” He broke off from the rest of the group and walked towards the gym door.
“Please tell me that I didn’t make it,” Dexter shouted after him. Daring shook his head; why couldn’t his brother grow a pair and tell their parents he didn’t want to play football?
Raven Queen, apparently, was thinking the same thing. “You know, you could just tell your parents that you don’t want to play football, right?”
“Not my parents,” Dexter said, “I have to be perfect, like Daring.”
Raven rolled her eyes.
“D.X. Charming, you made the football team,” Hunter read out, “So did H. Huntsman. I’m an offensive guard, like usual.”
“C. Hood,” Hunter said with a wicked grin, “You’re Grimm’s Preparatory Academy’s new running back.”
Daring shook his head. Cedar was right, though; the look on Cerise Hood’s face was priceless. This year was going to be a strange one.
Chapter 3: Don't Argue With Daring Charming
Grimm’s Preparatory Academy has a long tradition of excellence and superiority. Since our founding in 1815, GPA has been well known for the impact this establishment has on the world, and the football team is no exception. Our award winning football team is headed by the dashing and brave Daring Charming. Along with other star players, such as Hunter Huntsman, Daring has led the football team in both victories and losses.
A new development has recently taken place in the Grimm’s Preparatory Academy football team. A new member has joined the team, her name is Cerise Hood, and she is GPA’s new running back.
Now, you may be wondering, who on earth is Cerise Hood? I know I was when I first discovered the news. Cerise Hood is a recent addition to Grimm’s, along with her younger sister, Ramona. I cannot tell you who the Hoods are, but there is a slight possibility that Cerise is related to Sparrow Hood(son of Robin Hood, from the rock band The Merry Men). It is a common enough surname.
This is not the first time that a girl has tried out to be a member of an all male team. Many of you will probably remember that Darling Charming pulled a similar stunt just last year. Darling, however, is a Charming-a family that is known for their abilities as athletes. Cerise is not.
I had the chance to attend one of the football practices, and it seems that our new running back is in over her head. I cannot claim to know how this football season will turn out, but I can claim this: Our football team is a great one, and if Cerise Hood does anything to ruin it there will be hell to pay.
“Did she just threaten me?” Cerise asked, looking up from her phone at the other occupants of the room. Along with Cedar and Raven, Cerise was in Cupid and Lizzie’s room, Lizzie busy at her sewing machine ‘fixing’ their uniforms.
“Are you reading the article?” Cedar asked.
“Yes,” Cedar said, “She did threaten you.”
“I wouldn’t take it personally,” Raven added, “Blondie’s known to be a bit extreme at times.”
“Well, she seems to really like football.”
“It’s Daring Charming she likes,” Cupid said from where she was lying on her bed, “She doesn’t care a bit about football.”
“I thought that you got off pretty easy,” Lizzie cut in.
“That was easy?” The other four girls in the room nodded. If that was easy, what did hard look like?
“You should’ve been here last year,” Cupid said, “She dragged me and Lizzie through the dirt.”
“All because I allegedly had a crush on Daring Charming,” Lizzie muttered, “I did not. If anything, he had a crush on me.”
“It was all because of that stupid bet.”
Cupid glanced at Lizzie. “Can I tell her?”
Lizzie sighed. “I don’t see why not. It’s practically common knowledge.”
“You don’t have to tell me anything it you don’t want to,” Cerise said. She could hardly imagine what the bet was, this school was crazy at times.
“Daring made Sparrow a bet that he could woo any girl,” Cupid said, “Sparrow, being the genius he is, bet Daring that he couldn’t woo Lizzie, seeing as she’s a bit of an ice queen.”
“We went on a date.”
“Unfortunately,” Cedar joined the conversation, “Apple found out. Next thing you know-whala-Charming Crushes.”
“So, Blondie and Apple are friends?” Cerise wondered.
“You could say that,” Raven said, “Apple’s clique is pretty tight. We call them the Princesses. Blondie wants desperately to be a princess, so, she’ll do almost anything to become one.”
“To be fair,” Cedar interrupted, “Blondie’s a nice person.”
Cupid nodded. “The Blondie in real life is very different from the Blondie on paper.”
Cerise shook her head, this school was causing her head to hurt.
“How is football practice going?” Cedar asked.
Cerise sighed. “It’s okay,” she said. In all truth, it was anything but okay.
Coach Man, Cerise had quickly discovered, was as incompetent as coaches came, sleeping through most of the practices. The real coach of the team was Daring Charming, and he refused to let her do much more than drills. It made Cerise want to scream. Whenever they scrimmaged Daring put in Sparrow Hood instead of her, even though Cerise was much faster and leagues better.
She knew that it was because she was a girl. Despite the constant pats on the back and reassurance from Hunter and Dexter, Cerise doubted she would ever get to really play this season. Daring Charming didn’t like her. It made Cerise want to punch him in his ridiculously straight teeth.
“I’m done,” Lizzie stood up and tossed each of the girls their uniform. Cerise looked down at hers, it didn’t look that different than before.
“What did you do to it?”
“I added a pocket with an animal embroidered to the inside of the sweater,” Lizzie said.
Cerise unfolded the sweater. Sure thing, there was a pocket on the inside, and embroidered on top of it was-
Lizzie shrugged. “We all have animals,” she said, “Cupid has a pegasus, Raven has a dragon, I have a hedgehog, and Cedar has a cuckoo bird. I figured you should have a wolf, seeing as they’re fast.”
“Than shouldn’t I have a cheetah?”
“Would a cheetah try out for the football team?” Lizzie asked, “You get a wolf. I feel like there’s a lot more to you than meets the eye.”
Cerise awoke the morning of the first day of school the exact same way she’d awoken every morning for the past week: to the sound of Apple’s singing. Cerise groaned and rolled over, stuffing the pillow over her head. She was not ready for school to start. Here at Grimm’s Preparatory Academy, Cerise knew hardly anyone. She had run her schedule by the few friends she’d made only to find out that she shared one class with Cedar, one with Hunter, and one with Raven and Lizzie. For her other four classes, Cerise was totally and utterly alone.
“Rise and shine, sleepy head,” Apple sang, “It’s the first day of school.”
Cerise yanked the pillow off of her face and glared at her roommate. Apple was a bit of an enigma to Cerise. From what Cedar and Raven said about her, Cerise was sure that she would have been furious about Cerise joining the football team, yet Apple had simply shrugged. She’d said that she was a bit disappointed that Cerise wasn’t joining the equestrian team, but she hadn’t said anything offensive beyond that. It was strange.
Deciding that she really should get ready for school, Cerise dragged herself out of bed and made her way towards the shower.
As usual, Daring made it to class early. Glancing around the room, he took in the familiar faces surrounding him. After a boring summer and a chaotic first week back, Daring was grateful to have some normalcy back in his life. Boring old english class with Ms. Gold was about as normal as it got.
Daring took a seat at one of the many groups of tables in the classroom. Ms. Gold always insisted that groups helped to stimulate conversation. A minute later, a familiar ginger joined him.
“Thank goodness you’re in this class,” Ashlynn Ella said, taking the seat next to Daring, “I was afraid that I wouldn’t have any friends to sit with.”
Daring snorted. Worried that she wouldn’t have any friends? Ashlynn Ella was easily one of the most popular girls at Grimm’s Prep, and definitely the nicest of them.
“So, how was your summer?”
“Same old thing,” Daring shrugged, “We spent a month at the lake house, then went on a cruise. You?”
“I spent the summer volunteering at the local animal center,” Ashlynn sighed dreamily. Daring shook his head, only Ashlynn would think that volunteering with smelly animals was better that going on a cruise.
“Is that all?”
Ashlynn blushed. “Well-”
“Hey, Daring. Do you mind if I sit here?” Daring tore his eyes off of Ashlynn to find Hunter standing across the table from him.
Daring shook his head. “Feel free,” he said, returning his attention to Ashlynn, whose eyes were now focused entirely on Hunter Huntsman, her lips slightly parted. “What were you saying?”
Ashlynn’s head snapped towards Daring. “Oh, just nothing. It’s nothing really.”
Daring raised an eyebrow, but didn’t say anything.
“Hey, Cerise,” Hunter bellowed across the room, drawing the attention of a tall girl with short brown hair in a skirt that was much too short for her long, toned legs. Daring shook his head. Didn’t they have a dress code for a reason?
“Hey Hunter,” Cerise said, shrugging off her messenger bag and taking the seat next to Hunter. She glanced across the table at Daring. “Captain,” she said with a nod in his direction.
Daring gaped. This was his new running back? How come she looked so different with a skirt on? Why did she even bother wearing football pads with legs like those?
“Cerise,” Daring said awkwardly.
Beside him, Ashlynn piped up, “You’re Cerise Hood?” she asked.
Cerise nodded stiffly.
“I think it’s great, what you did,” Ashlynn said, “This school is built on tradition, but I think that some traditions need breaking.”
Daring was about to speak up to add his input that some traditions were traditions for reasons, when the bell rang and Ms. Gold brought the class to attention. “I’m so glad to see so many familiar faces back again this year,” the short red headed woman said in a thick scottish accent, “I’m sure that we’ll have a great time this year. We will be studying Shakespeare.” A collective groan went up from the class, but Ms. Gold rambled on. “Take a good look at your table, because this will be your group for the rest of the semester. Alrighty everyone, Humphrey’s going to pass out an assignment for you to fill out with the rest of the group. It’s due at the end of the class.” With that, Ms. Gold returned to her desk while Humphrey Dumpty, a pale junior prone to falling over, passed out their assignments.
One paper landed in the middle of the table, and Ashlynn reached for it, reading it over and then setting it down. "This should be easy," she said, "It's a survey of what we want to read this year."
"Didn't she just say that we'd be reading Shakespeare?" Cerise asked.
"She did, but we get to pick the play," Ashlynn answered, "I think that we should read Romeo and Juliet."
"We read that last year," Daring commented, "How about Hamlet?"
"The one with the spoiled prince of Denmark with family issues?" Cerise muttered, "Figures."
Daring's eyes narrowed. "And what do you want to read?"
Cerise seemed surprised that he was talking to her. She shrugged. "I like Twelfth Night."
"The one where a girl disguises herself as a boy to get what she wants?"
"Yeah," Cerise crossed her arms, "Do you have a problem with that."
"Why would I have a problem with it when it goes against everything that-"
"I agree with Ashlynn," Hunter cut in, laying a hand on Cerise's shoulder and giving her a look. Cerise slumped back in her chair and shrugged.
"Sure," she said, "They're worse things than Romeo and Juliet."
Daring glanced at Ashlynn, who was staring at Hunter's hand on Cerise's shoulder. "Ashlynn?"
Ashlynn's eyes snapped to Daring, a smile instantly on her face. "Romeo and Juliet it is then," she said, her voice a bit too perky.
As soon as class ended, Hunter grabbed Cerise's elbow and dragged her out of the classroom, barely giving her time to grab her bag. "What was that?" he asked when they were a sufficient distant away from the classroom.
"I don't know," Cerise sighed, "He just makes me so angry."
"It's not that," Cerise said, "He doesn't play me, and he never will. He didn't want me on his team in the first place."
Hunter shook his head. "Daring's an idiot. You just need to show him how good you are."
"That what I've been trying to do. Maybe I should just quite."
"Don't you think about quitting for a minute. The team needs you. Daring will realize that you're better than Sparrow soon enough."
"And if he doesn't?"
"He will, trust me, and arguing with him isn't going to help him realize it."
Cerise glanced at Hunter out of the side of her eye. He gave some good advice, when he wanted to. Even though Cerise was too much of a hotheaded idiot to heed that advice. "So, what's going on with you and that girl?"
Hunter stiffened. "What girl?"
"The pretty red head. I think her name was Ashlynn."
"Nothing's going on between us."
"Uh huh," Cerise said sarcastically, "So, how long have you two been going out?"
Hunter glanced around, making sure that no one was listening. "Since July, but you can't tell anyone about us," he whispered.
"Why?" Cerise whispered back.
"Because she's basically engaged, and I'm a scholarship student. If anyone heard about us, I'd be kicked out of the school faster that you can run."
"I can't run that fast." Hunter glared at her. "Okay, okay. I'll keep you're secret. I don't see why it matters, though."
"Things work differently here," Hunter said, "Money matters, and Ash, she's practically engaged to Prince Charming."
"His names Prince?" Cerise shook her head, "I thought the only person named Prince was the rockstar."
"Me too," Hunter muttered.
"He sounds like a prick."
"How can you know? You've never met him."
"I just know things like that," Cerise said with a shrug, "Don't tell anyone, but I'm kind of physic."
Hunter smiled. "Sure you are, Cerise."
"You can't tell anyone. I don't want to end up on Blondie's again. Can you imagine it? Nobody Cerise Hood Claims to be Psychic."
At that, Hunter laughed. "This isn't a laughing matter," Hunter said between chuckles.
"I know," Cerise said, "But I can't let this school get to me, and neither can you."
"It will, though," Hunter murmured. Cerise didn't doubt for a moment that he was right.
Chapter 4: Angry Cerise in not a Fun Cerise
There was a strange man at the door. Cerise peeked through the eyehole, fully taking in his gruff appearance. He looked like her papa, the same build, the same hair color, but his expression was grimmer. He did not have the same smile that her father had every time he saw her, lifting her up in his arms and calling her his little lupa.
This man was not her papa.
He pounded on the door again. “Open up, Cattivo. I know you’re in there.”
Cerise stepped back with a gasp. Cattivo-that was her papa’s name. This man knew her papa. She shook her head. That was impossible. They had barely been in Chicago for more than a week. She’d only started school a few days ago. How could this man know her papa?
“Cattivo, please.” Cerise could hear the desperation in the man’s voice, the way he said her papa’s name made Cerise want to open the door, despite her parents constant warnings. She had started to reach for the knob when another voice joined the one in the hall.
“Domonic, what are you doing here?” It was her papa.
The other man, Dominic, looked up at her father. “They’re coming,” he said, “I don’t know how they know you’re here, but they’re coming.”
The words meant something to her papa for he opened the door, causing Cerise to stumble back, off of the stool that she had been standing on. “Cerise,” he said, giving Cerise a stern look. Cerise felt her mouth grow dry. This look from her papa was never a good thing.
“Is she yours?” Dominic asked. Cerise’s attention snapped to him. Up close he looked even more like her papa.
Her papa nodded. “Cerise,” he told her, “go get Ramona.”
Cerise nodded mutely and ran off to her and her sister’s shared room. Ramona was lying on her bed, already dressed in her pajamas, a book stuffed in her hands. “Mona,” Cerise dragged her sister out of bed, “Papa wants you.”
“Okay,” Ramona said. She slid out of bed and headed towards the kitchen, her book still in her hands. Cerise followed her.
Dominic looked up as they came in, taking in Cerise and her younger sister. Her papa was talking on the phone in rapid italian. Cerise only caught one word-Rose-her mother’s name.
Dominic stood up and faced her father. “You can’t be serious,” he said.
“I most definitely am.”
“Think about the girls,” Dominic said, placing a hand on her papa’s chest, “Imagine what will happen to them.”
“Nothing will happen to them,” her father snapped back, “Cerise, Ramona, pack some clothes. We’re going out of town for a while.”
“But, I have a spelling test tomorrow,” Ramona whined.
“You’ll have to worry about that later,” Papa said, “Pack a bag of clothes then go get in the car.”
Cerise dragged her sister away, and followed her papa’s rules. Together, they each packed a bag of clothes, her sister stuffing her easy chapter book on the top. “What’s going on?” Ramona asked her sister with wide eyes.
Cerise didn’t know what was going on. This was all happening so fast. They’d only arrived a week ago, and they were already moving. She was used to moving, they did it alot, but not moving in the middle of the night.
“I don’t know,” Cerise said, grabbing her sister’s hand, “but everything’s going to be okay.”
Cerise shot up in her bed, her heart racing. She glanced around the room, taking in the bedside lamp, then the clock sitting on it. 4:34 AM. She let out a sigh and leaned back in her bed. It was just a dream. Just a dream. She was at Grimm’s Prep in her dorm room, not in the small two bedroom Chicago apartment. She glanced at her clock again. 4:35 AM. There was no way that she was going to fall back asleep now. Not when memories that should’ve been long buried resurfaced.
Her eyes shot over to Apple’s bed. Her roommate was sleeping peacefully, her hair falling around her perfectly shaped face in a halo. Cerise snorted at the imagery her mind made up. So, Apple was a perfect angel now?
Cerise swung her legs over the side of her bed. Padding silently across the room, she pulled a pair of workout shorts and a tank top on, and laced up her running shoes. She grabbed her keys and phone off of her nightstand, placing her earbuds in her scarred ears.
She hadn’t had the dream in months, not since her mom had died. There was no way that she would be able to fall back asleep after that, part of Cerise didn’t want to. Cerise left, locking the door behind herself. The only thing that would make cerise feel better was running. Taking a deep breath, Cerise headed towards the football field.
Sparrow was crying. Daring flipped over on his stomach, trying to ignore his roommate’s sobs. Whatever Sparrow was crying about was none of his business. As long as he could still play in the game tomorrow, Daring didn’t care what Sparrow did in his free time. After a moment, the crying stopped, and Sparrow sighed.
“Do you think...” Sparrow trailed off from the bed next to his.
Daring flipped over again and glanced at his redheaded roommate. “Do I think what?”
Sparrow faced him, taking notice of Daring for the first time. Daring took in his bloodshot, red rimmed eyes, the way he sunk back into his bed. Daring shook his head. “Are you high?”
Sparrow shrugged. “So what if I am?”
Daring sat up, burying his face in his hands. “So what? Sparrow, you do realize that you can get kicked out of school for having drugs, right? You’d most definitely be kicked off of the football team.”
Sparrow shrugged again. “So?”
Daring groaned. “Then GPA would be without a running back, and we can’t win the season without a running back.”
“No, you wouldn’t. You’d still have the girl.”
Daring shook his head. “A girl can’t be Grimm’s running back.”
Sparrow laughed. “You know what I think? I think you’re sexist.”
Daring scoffed. He wasn’t sexist. He was just following the rules, and the rules said that girls couldn’t play on the football team. Headmaster Grimm had even called him into his office the other day to talk about it. They had agreed that it would be better for the school if she stayed on the bench, and she had. On the game the previous Friday, she hadn’t been played once.
“Cerise is, like, a bagazilljilion times better than me.”
“Bagazilljilion’s not a real number.”
“And she’s hot. I would totally tap that.”
Daring’s eyes snapped towards his roommate. “Don’t talk about her like that, she’s your teammate.”
“My teammate that you’re never going to play.”
“You’re high. I don’t even know why I’m talking to you.” Daring stood up and yanked on his letter jacket over his pajamas. “Don’t come to practice high. If you do, I’ll kick you off the team.”
“You wouldn’t do that.”
“Try me.” Daring walked out of the room, slamming the door behind him. High Sparrow was less fun than normal Sparrow. Daring locked the door and headed down the hall.
Somehow, he found himself at the football stadium. It made sense, in a way. Daring always solved his problems on the football field, and Sparrow was definitely a problem. Daring let himself in and went to change in the locker room. Five minutes later, he found himself on the field wearing a pair of workout shorts and a t shirt. He started his warmups, taking notice of the figure on the other side of the field. Daring shook his head, as long as they didn’t bother him, he’d be fine.
Cerise pulled her headphones out, looking at the figure across the field between pants. He’d shown up about fifteen minutes after she had, and he’d taken his shirt off about thirty minutes after that. He had nice back muscles, Cerise decided. Really nice back muscles.
Cerise wiped the sweat off of her face and headed towards the girls’ locker room, located right across from the boys’ locker room. She didn’t know why the school had included a girls’ locker room when they built the stadium, but she was grateful for it. Cerise opened her locker, took out the shampoo, body soap, and towel that she stored there, and padded over to the showers.
A few minutes later, Cerise emerged from the shower and slipped back into her sweaty clothes. She really needed to start keeping something besides her football pads in her locker.
“I’m telling you, Ramona,” came a voice from just outside the locker room, “Baba Yaga has something against me.”
Cerise closed her locker as her sister entered the locker room along with probably the prettiest girl Cerise had ever seen, with big blue eyes and platinum blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail. Both girls were wearing workout shorts a shirts that read Grimm’s Preparatory Academy Track Team. Cerise raised and eyebrow. Ramona? On the track team? When did this happen?
“Hey,” Ramona said when she noticed Cerise.
“Hey, yourself. When did you join the track team?”
Her sister looked down at her shirt. “Oh, that,” she said, “I let DC talk me into it. I don’t know why.”
“It’s because you’re fast, that’s why,” the blonde girl beside Ramona cut in.
Ramona snorted. “Not compared to her, I’m not. Cerise, this is Darling Charming. Darling, this is my sister, Cerise.”
“Hey,” Cerise said.
“Oh my wow!” Darling Charming exclaimed, “You’re the girl that joined the football team.”
“Yeah,” Cerise nodded.
“I love what you did so much,” Darling said dragging out the so, “I think that girls should speak up for what they want.”
Cerise glanced at Ramona. “Is this the activist?”
Ramona shook her head. “She’s the princess.”
Princess? Darling didn’t seem that much like a princess.
“You totally pissed off Daring. I can only imagine what will happen when our parents find out.”
Cerise paused. Our? That would mean-
“You’re saying that Daring Charming’s your brother.”
Darling nodded. “My older brother, unfortunately. He’s only older by nine months.”
“And what's-his-face, the glasses nerd-”
“Dexter,” Darling supplied.
“Yeah,” Ramona nodded, “He’s her twin brother.”
“Cool.” How come Daring Charming’s siblings were so nice. Did all of the niceness genes go to them? All that he ever was to her was cold. He refused to talk to her, to even acknowledge that she was part of his team. They’d lost the game last week because he refused to play her.
Ramona was looking at her. “Are you okay?”
Cerise nodded. “I’m fine.”
“‘Cause you don’t look okay, and you’re out of bed before seven, which never happens with you.”
“I was having nightmares.” Cerise shrugged.
Ramona nodded understandingly. “The accident or Mom?”
“The accident.” Cerise glanced at Darling, who was looking back and forth between the sisters. She could tell that Darling wanted to ask what they were talking about, but was refraining herself from doing so. For that, Cerise was thankful. “Anyways,” Cerise said, “I’m gonna be going. It was nice meeting you Darling.”
“You too,” Darling said.
“See ya,” Ramona said as Cerise left the room.
The Hood sisters never talked about the night of the accident or the things that followed. Cerise didn’t know what Ramona remembered from that night, but she never had the courage to ask her about it. That would mean bringing up the past, and Cerise was a strong believer that the past should stay in the past.
Cerise was so lost in thought that she ran directly into a figure making it’s way toward the locker rooms, causing her to nearly fall over. She would have kissed the concrete if it weren’t for the pair of arms that shot out to grab her.
“Thanks,” Cerise muttered, looking up at her rescuer. The pair of steel grey eyes that met hers shocked her, causing her to push herself out of his arms and stumble again. Again, Daring Charming caught her. Setting her upright and chuckling. “Thanks,” Cerise muttered again.
“No problem,” Daring said, “We couldn’t have my running back getting injured, could we?”
Maybe it was due to the bad dreams, or the fact that he never played her, or that stupid project that they were doing on Romeo and Juliet, but Cerise snapped. “I don’t know,” Cerise snapped back, “I didn’t think that you realized I was on your team.”
Daring took a step back. “I know everyone who’s on my football team.”
“Oh, really?” Cerise laughed, “Then care to tell me why you never play me. Why you didn’t play me in the game last week-which we lost, by the way.”
Daring didn’t say anything. He just stared at her.
“I thought not,” Cerise said, turning on her heel and walking away from him, only to realize that she was going the wrong way. Cerise huffed and continued going in the direction she was going. She had a good two hours before class started, she could head back to the dorms the long way.
Daring watched Cerise go in a state of shock. He didn’t think that that quiet girl had so much anger in her. Daring shook his head. Maybe he was being a bit unreasonable not playing her in the game at all last friday, but that was what Headmaster Grimm had wanted, and Daring was one for following the rules.
“Wow.” Daring looked up to find his sister standing in front of him along with a girl with long brown hair and dark blue eyes. The girl was studying him curiously. “What did you do to piss her off so much?”
“It’s easy,” Darling said, “He was a buttface and didn’t play her in the game last Friday.”
“Thanks, Darling,” Daring muttered.
“This is your brother?” the other girl asked.
“Yeah,” Darling said
The other girl laughed. “Listen to me, Daring,” she said, slapping him on the back, “You should fix things with Cerise. Rule number one; mad Cerise is not a fun Cerise.”
“How do you know that?”
The girl smiled mischievously. “I’m her younger sister,” she said, “I’ve had my fair share of mad Cerise.” With that said, the girl dragged Darling toward the football field.
“You did what? ”
Cerise looked down at her feet. She had no idea why she had told Hunter about the events of the morning. She supposed it was because he was the only one of her friends who would understand. Cedar or Raven would’ve been sympathetic, but Hunter understood.
“I got mad. I was having bad dreams, and him being shirtless wasn’t helping anything, and all I could think about was how unfair it all was, so I snapped.”
“Newsflash, Cerise,” Hunter said as they entered the classroom and set their books down on the desk, “Grimm’s Prep isn’t exactly known for being fair.”
“I told you not to argue with him.”
“I didn’t really argue with him,” Cerise supplied, “It was more of me yelling at him and then leaving.”
“That’s even worse.”
“What was I supposed to do, then? Just keep practicing until he magically let me play?”
“I wasn’t-” Whatever Hunter had been about to say was cut off by the arrival of Daring Charming, impeccably dressed in his uniform and, thankfully, not shirtless.
“Hunter, Cerise,” He nodded at both of them, placing his books down on the table.
“Daring,” Hunter said. Cerise didn’t say a word, choosing instead to sink lower into her seat, and bury her face in her hands.
Daring glanced across the table at Cerise. The quiet girl hadn’t spoken a word the whole period. It was strange, seeing as this was the exact same girl that had shouted at him only a few hours earlier.
Cerise was engrossed in reading Romeo and Juliet, though Daring doubted that it was that interesting. She was probably just avoiding him. Daring smiled at the thought. He was honestly surprised that she hadn’t decked him the moment he’d entered the room.
Angry Cerise is not a fun Cerise. Daring shook his head. Sure, Cerise’s sister had a point, but angry Headmaster Grimm was not a fun Headmaster Grimm either. Cerise shot up as the bell rang and rushed out the door.
“Can I talk to you?” Hunter asked as Daring packed up his stuff.
“Cerise told me that she talked to you this morning.”
“She calls that talking?” Daring raised an eyebrow.
“Okay,” Hunter sighed, “She more like yelled at you, but you’ve got to understand she’s frustrated.”
“I do.” Daring nodded.
Hunter looked taken aback. “You do?”
“Yeah,” Daring said, “but here’s the thing; Headmaster Grimm doesn’t want her to be played.”
“And you don’t either.”
“I didn’t say-”
“You didn’t have to. You’re Daring Charming, you enjoy following the rules.”
Daring watched as Hunter retreated down the hall, and joined Ashlynn. Was that really how people saw him? Sparrow had called him sexist, but Sparrow had been high. Maybe he was right, maybe Daring didn’t like the idea of having a girl on his award winning football team. Daring shook his head and headed towards the headmaster’s office. He had some things he needed to talk about.
“Alright guys, listen up,” Coach Man bellowed, “Today we’re going to be scrimmaging against Beanstalk High in preparation for the game against Bloodless this Friday.” Cerise felt her heart sink. A scrimmage against another high school meant that there was no way she was going to be played. “Your captain has put together the teams. Remember, we’ve got to beat these monsters Friday, or our program loses funding. Got it? Good.”
Cerise removed her helmet and sat down on the bench, pulling out her copy of Romeo and Juliet and beginning to read as Daring Charming started to list off the first string.
Cerise looked up from her book. “Huh?”
“Get out there,” the captain said.
Cerise tugged on her helmet and ran out to join the team, a smile on her face. She was being played. She couldn’t believe it. Was this because she’d yelled at Daring that morning?
As she passed him, Daring caught her arm. “If you screw up, you’re back on the bench for good.”
Cerise grinned. “Don’t worry,” she said, “I won’t.”
Chapter 5: A Charming Gets What They Want
"I still don't get it," Cerise said, leaning back in her chair at the dinner table, "What's the big deal with the game against Bloodworth's?"
"Easy," Raven said, "They're our rival school."
"So, we have to beat them?"
"Yep," Lizzie said, "Who are you texting?" she asked Cupid, who bent over her phone, her thumbs moving rapidly.
"Frankie," Cupid said, "She invited us to the after party."
"Ooh," Lizzie cooed, "We have to go. I have just the dress."
Cerise shot a look at Cedar, who explained. "Cupid went Bloodworth's Academy for Gifted Children her freshman year. Frankie's one of her friends."
"She's the cheer captain," Cupid added.
"I thought that Cleo was the cheer captain," Raven said.
"She was, but she's going to school in Egypt for the semester."
"Yeah, something about her dad wanting her to experience the culture."
Cerise smiled to herself at her friends conversation. It was amazing how normal it all seemed to her now. Three weeks ago, she would've found talk about after parties strange. She still found it a little strange, but it wasn't as weird as it would've been the first day of school.
"We've got to beat Bloodworth's this year," Raven groaned. Cerise nodded, she'd been hearing that from the captain and the coach all week.
Cedar shrugged. "You know what they say, fifth time's the charm."
"Nobody says that."
"Well, I do," Cedar crossed her arms defensively, "And this year we have Cerise. She'll win it for us."
While Cerise loved how much faith her friend put in her, she wasn't sure that they could win against Bloodworth's. Not if everything they were saying about their team was true.
Cerise found her way to her dorm a few hours later. Letting out a yaw, Cerise unlocked the door and let herself inside. She tossed her backpack beside her bed and glanced at the other occupants of the room.
Apple had her friends over. Sitting just to Apple's left was a Latina girl with bright pink sunglasses perched on her hair. Next to her sat two red haired girls, one with super long hair and one with super short. Sitting on the floor was a girl with corn colored hair and a ipad in front of her. Sitting to Apple's right was someone Cerise actually recognized: Ashlynn Ella.
"Hey," Cerise said, grabbing her pajamas out of her hamper.
"Hello," Apple chirped, "Are you excited for the game tomorrow?"
Cerise shrugged, not really having the energy to answer.
"Oh, how rude of me," Apple said, "These are my friends. This is Briar Beauty, her mom's a designer, and the O'hair twins, Holly and Poppy, their mom's owns like two hundred beauty salons, and Ashlynn Ella, her mom-"
"We have a class together," Ashlynn interrupted Apple.
Apple didn't seemed phased. "We're planning the after party for tomorrow."
"Cool," Cerise glanced at the girl sitting on the floor, the one that Apple hadn't introduced.
"I'm Blondie," the girl supplied with a nervous wave. Right, Blondie, the gossip girl that had threatened her. Nice to know what she looked like.
"It's going to be the best party of the year," the girl next to Apple, Briar?, gushed, "are you planning on coming?"
Cerise shook her head. "No," she said, "Now, I'm gonna go to sleep. You know, big game tomorrow and all that." Cerise headed towards the bathroom to get changed, picking up a pair of earplugs that she'd purchased two weeks earlier. Yeah, those had been a good investment.
Daring eyed his teammates in the visitor locker room, none of them muttering a word as they went about their business, lacing up their shoes, needlessly tightening and loosening their helmet straps. They were nervous, but Daring was sure however nervous they were he was a million times more nervous.
For the past four years, Bloodworth's Academy for Gifted Children had beaten them in football. Their rival school lived up to their name in every way possible, recruiting the best athletes in the state of Virginia. This year, though, it would be different. This year, Grimm's Prep would win.
Daring had been planning this game for the past three months. It was only the second game of the year, but if GPA didn't win this game then they were screwed for the rest of the season. This year they had a chance, a shot at winning, and Daring was going to take it.
The first reason the Grimm's was going to win was because Bloodworth's captain and star quarterback, Claud Loup, had graduated last year, receiving a full ride to Ohio State University, and taking with him the majority of Bloodworth's talent. Without Claud, Bloodworth's would suffer.
"Cerise! What are you doing here?" Daring was dragged out of his thought by his brother's startled yelp.
"I'm on the team genius," Cerise said, "Where did you expect me to be?"
Daring chuckled as the second reason they were going to win the game against Bloodworth's took a seat in between Dexter and Hunter. Over the past week, Daring had payed attention to Cerise and realized just how good she was. She may not have been as strong as the rest of the team, but she was fast, and for a running back fast mattered. He wouldn't admit it to anyone, but Cerise was easily one of the best players on the team. Daring doubted that he was going to play Sparrow again the rest of the season, and, to his surprise, he was okay with that.
Casting a glance to the coach sleeping soundly in the corner, Daring called the team to attention. "Alright guys, most of you know the drill. We've been prepping for this game for the past week, and I'm confident in your abilities. Are you ready to win this thing?"
"Shoot me now." Daring glared at his brother. "I mean, yay!"
"Let's go." Daring headed out the locker room, the rest of the team on his heels.
"I can't believe that we're losing," Laura groaned, dragging her hands down her face, "We never lose."
Frankie took her eyes off of the upset Bloodworth's students and alumni to smile at the small Asian girl. "I'm sure it's only temporary."
"Temporary?" Claudine laughed. "There's no way we can get forty points in the next three minutes. Number forty-two is whipping our boys' asses. He's faster than my brother."
"And Claud came to see the game," Laura whined, "He's going to see us lose."
"The party will still be fun," Frankie said, always looking for the bright side of things.
"Not if we lose."
"That's not true," Frankie said, "Grimm's always has a fun after party, and they've lost for the past four years."
"Yeah, as fun as a bunch of rich kids' party can be."
"We're rich kids," Laura pointed out.
"Yeah," Claudine said, "But we're not as rich, and we've got more professional criminals than Grimm's." The other two cheerleaders nodded in agreement.
"Oh," Frankie jumped as Grimm's scored another goal, "That reminds me. I invited Cupid and her friends to the after party."
"How many of her friends?" Claudine asked skeptically.
"Only a few," Frankie nodded reassuringly.
"I just don't want a bunch of Grimm's kids crashing my well planned party."
"Hey!" Laura said, "Cupid's our friend. She helped me with my issues with Claud."
"I'm not sure I'm thankful for that."
"Claudine." Frankie scolded.
"What?" Claudine raised her hands in defense. "I'm just saying. My best friend is dating my older brother. I'm never going to get used to that."
Another groan went up from the home team as their quarterback fumbled the ball. Again. Claudine could feel the Grimm's kid gloating from the other side of the stadium. They were never going to hear the end of this.
"Good game Cerise." Cerise nodded as another person she didn't know the name of patted her on the back.
"Thanks," She said, looking over the heads of the crowd for her friends. They had promised to meet out here once the game was over and she'd showered.
"Hey, Cerise!" Cerise's head snapped to her left as Hunter jogged up to her, dragging Daring Charming in tow. "That was amazing. I had no idea that you had that in you."
Cerise felt her the blood rising to her cheeks. "Thanks," she mumbled.
"Really," Hunter continued, "If you play like that for the rest of the year we'll win every game."
"I'm not sure that we'll win every game."
"Oh, you're just being modest."
"You played well," it was Daring Charming. Cerise felt her cheeks flush even more, sure that she was the color of a tomato now. She had never been good with handling positive attention, especially from people that she knew.
"Are you going to the after party?" Hunter asked.
Cerise shook her head. "No."
"Why not?" Hunter questioned.
"There you are," Cerise turned around to find Lizzie Hearts standing right behind her, decked out in a strapless red dress and a pair of black pumps, her hair pulled up in an intricate up-do that Cerise would never attempt. "Is that what you're wearing?"
Cerise looked down at her sneakers, jeans, and athletic tee. "Yeah. Why? Is there something wrong with it?"
"It says "Grimm's Preparatory Academy Football" on it."
"I'll get a new one," Cerise said, turning to where the bus was parked.
"It's an after party, Cerise," Lizzie sighed, "You're supposed to dress nice. Lucky for you, I knew that this would happen, and I brought a few spare dresses that should fit you." Her eyes roamed over Cerise, mentally taking her measurements. "Though they may be a little short."
"I thought you weren't going to the after party," Hunter said.
"We're going to a different after party," Lizzie answered for her, "Now, if you'll excuse us, I have to go make a beauty out of this beast." Without waiting to be excused, Lizzie dragged Cerise away, leading her toward her car. "So, is there something going on between you and Hunter?"
Cerise choked. "What?"
"It's just, he seemed pretty intent on you coming to the after party," Lizzie said, rummaging around in the trunk of her bright red bug. "I thought that you two might like each other, or something."
"No," Cerise shook her head, even though Lizzie couldn't see her do it, "Nothing like that. We're just friends."
"Aha!" Lizzie exclaimed, pulling a bag out of the trunk along with a pair of black heels, "This one would be just perfect for you."
Cerise eyed the bag warily. "What's it look like?"
"A dress, obviously," Lizzie said, handing the bag to Cerise, "And it's one of my favorites. Now, do you have any makeup with you?"
Cerise shook her head.
"Thought not. Good thing for you, your skin's pretty clear. I have some blush, eye shadow, mascara, and lipstick that you can use."
"I'm not really that into makeup," Cerise pulled the dress out of the bag and froze. Dangling on a hanger from her hand was the prettiest dress Cerise had seen. Ever. It was red, with a full skirt hung down to what Cerise was sure was just above Lizzie's knee but was Cerise's mid thigh. It had an illusion neckline that was dotted with black jewels. It was simple, especially for one of Lizzie's designs, but Cerise liked it. Lizzie was right, it was perfect. "I can't accept this."
Lizzie rolled her eyes. "I promised the others that we'd meet the there in half an hour, and there is no way that I'm letting you go it that. So, yes, you will. Besides, it's not like I'm giving it to you. You're just borrowing it for the night."
Cerise knew that there would be no arguing with Lizzie on this issue. With a huff, she ducked into the back of the bug and changed clothes.
Cerise stepped out of the car and immediately tripped over her heels, her athletic reflexes the only thing stopping her face from meeting the soft grass. She glared venomously at the shoes that Lizzie had forced her to wear, and bent down to take them off.
"What are you doing?"
"I can't wear heels, Lizzie," Cerise groaned.
"Well, I'm not letting you wear your sneakers to a party."
"You're the worst."
"No, I'm not," Lizzie said, "I'm your fairy godmother. Now, hurry up, the others will be waiting."
"Worst fairy godmother ever," Cerise mumbled as she followed Lizzie into the Gothic house.
If Cerise hadn't known any better, she would've thought that it was a Halloween party and not an after party for a football game. The hoard of students wore bright colors with face paint, some of them even wore masks. Cerise was suddenly glad that Lizzie had forced her into a dress, she would've stood out like a sore thumb in her jeans and sneakers. Not to mention her Grimm's Prep shirt. The students would've probably torn her apart the moment that they saw that.
Cerise turned around to tell Lizzie her thanks, when she noticed that the black haired girl was no longer in front of her. Lizzie had been lost in the crowd. Great.
She fished her phone out of the bag that Lizzie had thrown at her, and searched for her contact. It appeared that during the four weeks that she had known the girl, she hadn't gotten her number, but she did have Cedar's. Cerise hit call and held the phone to her ear. Just as Cedar answered, Cerise was plowed over from behind. She fell to the floor, her phone falling out of her hand and scattering a few feet away from her.
"I'm so sorry," said a guy's voice from above her head.
Cerise mumbled that it was okay and started to pick herself up when something appeared in front of her face. It took Cerise a moment to recognize it as a hand. A rather nice hand. She accepted it, and a second later she was hauled to her feet.
"Thanks," Cerise said. Looking up at her rescuers face all of Cerise's brain functions stopped. He was Hot. With a capital H.
Deep brown eyes stared out at her from a tanned face. Angled cheekbones were accented by a pair of full lips that were smiling. No, Cerise realized, he was chuckling. Why was he chuckling? Cerise realized a moment later that he had asked her something.
"I'm sorry. What did you say?"
His smile deepened. If possible, he looked more attractive. "I asked you if you're okay? Do you have a concussion?"
"No." Cerise shook her head.
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah," Cerise said, "I've had worse falls than that."
"Okay," Mr. Attractive said, "Do you know where your phone went."
Right. Her phone. She had lost that when the hot guy had bumped into her. Where had it gone?
"Um," Cerise tore her eyes away from the guy's face to search for her phone. There it was, only a few feet away. Cerise bent down to retrieve her phone at the same time at Mr. Attractive. "Ow!" Their heads hit, and pain raced through Cerise's skull. She reached up her hand to rub it.
"I'm sorry," Mr. Attractive said as he handed her her phone, "I'm usually better when pretty girls are around."
Cerise cheeks flushed. He thought that she was pretty. "It's no problem," Cerise said, "I'm Cerise, by the way."
"Romulus," Mr. Attractive said, "Do you go to Bloodworth's?"
"Rom!" Cerise's answer was interrupted by a tall, dark skinned boy, who bounded over with a small Asian girl attached to his arm. "It's about time you showed up. What took you so long?"
Romulus shrugged apologetically to Cerise. "I got stuck in traffic, and then I accidentally ran over Cerise here."
The other boy eyed Romulus. "Is that all?"
The Asian girl rolled her eyes. "Ignore them," she said, "They're idiots. I'm Laura, and this is my boyfriend, Claud."
"Cerise," Cerise offered.
Laura seemed to roll her name over in her mind for a moment. "Are you one of Cupid's friends?" she asked.
Cerise nodded. "Actually, I should probably go find them before they start to worry about me."
"Hold up," Claud said as Cerise started to leave, "You go to Grimm's?"
"Do you know who number forty-two is?"
Romulus eyed his friend curiously. "Number forty-two?"
"You weren't there," his friend said, "That kid is the reason Grimm's won."
"Yeah," Laura pitched in, "He's fast. Faster than...anyone on our team."
"Um," Cerise cut in, "He's actually a she."
"No way," Claud exclaimed, "Grimm's let a girl on their team."
"Well, they didn't really let me in willingly." Cerise tugged on the edge of her skirt.
"You play football?" The look on Romulus's face was enough to make Cerise's knees feel weak.
"Yeah," Cerise said, "It's my favorite sport."
"Good job!" Claud slapped Cerise on the back as Romulus muttered, "Pretty and athletic. Next thing you know she'll be smart," to himself.
"Right," Cerise nodded, "Well, I should probably go find my friends."
"I'll go with you," Romulus said, and followed behind her.
Laura put a hand on her boyfriend's arm, stopping him as he started to follow them. "What?" Claud asked.
Laura rolled her eyes. "You can be so clueless at times, you know that?"
"So, you keep telling me."
"That was fun," Apple said, sliding into the booth next to Daring with a smile. Daring smiled back at her.
Daring had known Apple since he was born. Their parents were friends, her mom owned a multi billion dollar corporation, and they had always been paired together because of their age. For the longest time, their parents had told them to run along and play, leaving the adults to do their adult related things. Now that they were at school, they still hung out, Daring being Apple's date to every dance, even though there was nothing more than friendship between the two of them.
"Hey guys," Briar slid into the booth across from them, "Good job winning tonight, Daring."
"Thanks," Daring said, "Not like I had much to do with it though."
"You played fabulously," Apple insisted.
"Cerise was a beast," Briar commented, "You're right, there's no way you would've won without her. I'm glad you stopped being a bigot."
"I'm not a bigot," Daring protested.
"Who's a bigot?" Ashlynn asked, appearing at their table with Hunter Huntsman in tow. Daring raised an eyebrow at the pair's flushed appearance. Since when were they an item?
"Briar thinks Daring was being a bigot not letting Cerise play the first game," Apple answered.
Hunter chuckled. "That's because he was."
Apple shot Hunter a venomous glare. "No one asked for your opinion, Huntsman."
Hunter raised his arms in surrender. "I was just say," he said, "I've had to listen to her complaints for the past month."
"Of course," Apple said as if Hunter was suggesting something. What, Daring didn't know.
"Speaking of Cerise," Briar said, offering Ashlynn and Hunter a seat next to her, "Do you have any idea where our star player is tonight? I know that she said she wasn't coming, but after the game she played I thought she would."
"The girls got invited to a Bloodworth's party."
"And by the girls you mean?"
"Cerise, Cedar, Cupid, Lizzie, and Raven."
Daring nodded. "That explains where Dexter is."
"Why?" Apple inquired. The rest of the table rolled their eyes. Daring had no idea how Apple didn't know about Dexter's huge crush on Raven Queen. Not that their parents would ever approve of it. After all, Senator Queen was a democrat. They couldn't have their son date one of those.
Apple grabbed Daring's arm a second later. "I want to dance," she said. Daring grinned as Apple led him out to the dance floor.
As the two of them started to dance, Daring felt his eyes wander back to Ashlynn and Hunter. They fit well together, that was for sure. The two of them were both vegetarian nature freaks. He wondered how long it would last. His cousin's parents desperately wanted Ashlynn to be their daughter-in-law, and if there was one thing that Daring had learned over his years as part of the Charming clan it was that when a Charming wanted something to happen they did everything in their power to make sure that it did.
Daring felt sorry for Hunter and Ashlynn. He wasn't the one that made the rules. If he did, maybe they'd be different.
"No way," Cerise breathed, "You're studying law?"
"Among other things," Romulus said, "I'm also interning with a friend of my dad's."
"That's cool. What are you doing?"
Romulus opened his mouth to answer but was cut off by the arrival of Raven. "Sorry," Raven said, dragging Cerise up from the couch they were sitting on, "We've got to go."
Cerise smiled apologetically. "I had a really fun time," she said, grabbing her heels from the floor and strapping them on her sore feet.
"Me too," Romulus said with a smile. He tugged a piece of paper out of his pocket and scribbled his number across it. "Here you go. In case you want to talk or go out some time."
Cerise raised an eyebrow. "Are you asking me on a date?"
"Only if you want to go," Romulus said.
"I'll think about it," Cerise said as her friend dragged her away.
Romulus smiled and sat down on the couch. Cerise was a cool girl. She played football, she was smart, and she was pretty. She was perfect. Romulus looked down at his phone. He prayed that she would call him. He really wanted to get to know her better.
"So man," Claud flopped down on the couch next to his friend, "Did she say yes?"
"She said that she'd think about it."
Claud shook his head. "That means no."
"No it doesn't," Romulus protested, even though he had a few lingering doubts. She'd had a fun time talking to him, right? He hadn't said or done anything stupid. "Stop being a pessimist."
"I'm not a pessimist, I'm a realist," Claud said, "Did you tell her about your internship?"
"Kind of," Romulus shrugged, "I figured that she didn't need to know."
"You should probably tell her if you plan on going out."
"Why?" Romulus stared at his friend. If Cerise knew then there was no way that she would agree to go on a date with him. After all, he was working for one of the biggest criminals in the world. What girl would want that in her life?
"The girl deserves to know what she's getting into," Claud said, standing up, "She deserves to know that you're working for Cattivo Wolf." With that, he left, leaving Romulus alone with only his thoughts for company.
Chapter 6: Obey Your Father
Daring's day was ruined before he made it to first period.
"Dad wants to know if you're coming home for his birthday," Darling said, taking the seat across the table from Daring.
There it was, the question of the week, though Daring knew better than to think that the senator's request was a question. He had almost made that mistake once, and he'd lived to regret it. It may have been a request for Darling, but for Daring, it was an order. The eldest Charming son was required to attend every Charming event. After all, he was the shining jewel of the Charming children.
Daring had been dreading his father's birthday this year because of one reason; Cerise Hood. His father was a traditionalist in every way, and he was adversely opposed to her being on the football team. He could live with her on the team, but the fact that she had replaced Daring as most valuable player was not a fact that his father was proud of.
"Tell him that I'll be there," Daring said.
Darling nodded, flipping her blonde hair over her shoulder. "And I suppose that you'll be taking Apple?"
That was another, although more minor, issue. Apple White seemed to have it in her head that they were going to be married one day. Daring supposed that with their parents' they were, but it didn't mean that he had to spend every single dance, party, and charity event together. He had asked her to homecoming due to his father's constant insistence that she was the perfect date, but he'd be damned if he took her to his father's birthday party as well.
"No," Daring said.
"Yeah," he shrugged, "I'll ask someone else."
"Okay," Darling nodded, "Should I tell her, or will you?"
"Why should we have to tell her anything? It's not as if we're dating."
Darling raised an eyebrow. "You should probably tell her that then. I've seen her pinterest boards, and the wedding one has 'Charming Wedding' written all over it."
"Isn't this one just perfect?"
Cerise looked up from the homework that she was finishing last minute at Apple White, who was holding a dress up in front of herself in the mirror.
"Sure, I guess," Cerise said, and returned to her homework.
Apple sat down in front of her. "I'm wearing it to homecoming," she said.
Cerise raised an eyebrow. Homecoming? Wasn't that, like, a month away?
"I can't believe it's only in two weeks," Apple sighed.
Two weeks? When did that happen? Cerise had been meaning to ask Romulus since two weeks ago.
Bloodworth's party two weeks prior had led to Cerise calling Romulus the next morning and talking to him on the phone for over an hour. Lizzie and Apple both said that calling him so soon would make her seem desperate, but Cerise hadn't cared, and Romulus had been excited. They'd gone on three dates, and each of them was perfect.
She'd skated around the topic of family, only saying that her mom was dead and she had a sister. Romulus had talked about his family enough for the both of them. They had the kind of unity that had made Cerise jealous. He had everything; crazy uncles, overdramatic aunts, a mother who was always trying to marry him off to a nice italian girl. After the third date, he'd invited her to dinner with his family, which was to take place the upcoming saturday.
"I suppose that you'll be taking Romulus," Apple said, "You two match so well."
"Thanks," Cerise said, trying to return to her homework, and failing now that homecoming was on her mind.
The thing was, Cerise didn't know how to dance. She'd grown up on a farm, and there wasn't much use for ballroom dancing in a barn. She hated to think of what Romulus would think when he saw that she couldn't dance. He was so good at everything. Cerise was sure that she'd make a fool out of herself in front of him.
Cerise shook her head. She shouldn't be worrying about this stuff. She was Cerise Hood, she didn't care about dances or boys. But, all of a sudden, she did. It had crept up on her and knocked her over the head with a frying pan. She cared, even though Cerise a month ago wouldn't've. In fact, Cerise from a month ago would've laughed at the thought of meeting a guy's family.
What was happening to her?
"Do you want to come to my dad's birthday party with me?"
Ashlynn's eyebrows shot up. "Your date?"
"Yeah," Daring shrugged, "My father insists that I have one." To make him look better, Daring mentally added on. His father always wanted the Charmings to appear as a united front, and, to him, that meant that Daring have the perfect date. Since he was against bringing Apple he figured that Ashlynn was a safe bet. There was no way that she would be interested in him. Not when she had a secret relationship to keep under wraps.
"What about Apple?"
"What about her?"
"Aren't you two," Ashlynn gestured with her hands, "you know?"
"Nope," Daring said, "We're just friends."
"Who's just friends?" Hunter asked, taking a seat at their table. A second later, Cerise stumbled in the door and collapsed in her seat, her hair looking frizzled. "What's wrong with you?" Hunter asked.
Cerise sighed. "Raven and Cedar," she said, "with a curling iron." Ashlynn nodded sympathetically as Cerise raised a hand, flicking her hair and briefly exposing her ear.
It was only years of manners training that stopped Daring from staring at Cerise's ear. A long, jagged scar cut across her ear, starting at her helix and ending at her lobe. He could see the marks left behind from when it was stitched sloppily together. Smaller scars flecked around the first one before disappearing around the back of her head, no doubt covered by her dark brown hair.
What happened to her?
"Alright class," Ms. Gold said, bringing everyone's attention to the front. "Today we will be starting on our Shakespeare presentations."
"It's about time," Cerise muttered.
"Those of you that are in theatre will be happy to know that you will be acting out a scene from your selected play."
A groan went up for the class with the exception of Holly O'hair who squealed with delight. Daring shook his head. Theatre kids.
"You will have the next three days in class to work on your projects. We will be presenting on Friday. So, just keep that in mind. I want it to be the best quality that it can be, and for all of your lines to be memorized. Get to work." With that said, Ms. Gold sat down in her chair.
"So," Ashlynn said as the four table members turned around to face each other, "What do you guys want to do?"
"How about the opening scene?" Cerise suggested.
Ashlynn leaned back in her chair with a sigh of relief. "That sounds great. So Hunter who do you want to be?"
Cerise flopped down on the grass and stared up at the setting sun. September was coming to a close and it would soon be chilly, but right now the weather was just right. She had sweated during practice, but now that it was over she was no longer hot.
Cerise studied the pink clouds overhead. Practice today had gone fantastically. There was no way that Grimm's Prep wouldn't make it to the playoffs. Cerise smiled. She was good at football, she knew this. If only she was as good at social interaction as she was at football.
Cerise tugged her phone out of her pocket and read the message over again.
Romulus-I'd love to.
Even though they'd gone on several dates, she still couldn't quite believe that he'd agreed to go to homecoming with her. One day you will meet someone who will steal your heart and never give it back. Then, there's nothing to do but love them back, her mother had always said whenever Cerise insisted that she would never fall in love. Cerise shook her head. This wasn't what that was. This wasn't love. Right?
"Howdy ho, neighbor," Cerise glanced sideways as Hunter sat down on the ground next to her, "If you keep lying out here, then you'll miss dinner. And we couldn't have that, it's turkey night."
Cerise kept silent, choosing to instead study the quickly vanishing sun.
"Penny for your thoughts."
"Do you know how to dance?" the words fell out of Cerise's mouth before she could stop them.
Hunter raised an eyebrow. "Why? Are you looking for a partner?"
Cerise shrugged. "I don't know how to, and homecoming's in a week, so I figure that I should ask someone to teach me."
"Are you going to homecoming."
"Yeah," Cerise nodded, "With Romulus."
"Really?" Hunter sounded surprised.
"It's just...." Hunter trailed off, "Never mind."
"What about you?" Cerise asked, "Are you going with Ashlynn?"
"Yeah, no. I'm pretty sure that she's going with Prince."
"Have you asked her?"
"Then how do you know?"
"What are you two still doing out here?" Cerise and Hunter glanced up to find Daring Charming jogging towards them.
"Nothing," Cerise said.
"I was trying to help Cerise with her problems," Hunter said at the same time.
Cerise rolled his eyes. "Hunter-"
"Problems?" The look in Daring Charming's eyes was one that she'd never seen before. He looked...concerned? Daring Charming concerned about her? That couldn't be right.
"Yeah," Hunter said, and Cerise could hear him grinning, "You know how to dance, right?"
"Yeah," Daring said cautiously, "Why?"
"That's just perfect. You can teach Cerise how to dance."
"Great," Hunter jumped up and started running towards the locker rooms, "See you guys in lit!"
"Don't think that this get's you out of the conversation!" Cerise yelled after him as he disappeared around the corner. She flopped back down on the ground as the sun fully vanished from the sky.
"I want to ask what that was about, but I'm not sure that I should." Cerise sat up and looked at Daring, who was standing awkwardly above her.
"I was trying to get him to ask the girl that he likes to homecoming," Cerise said, "You know, girly stuff?"
Daring snorted, which shocked Cerise. Did Daring Charming really just snort? She hadn't thought of him as the snorting type of person. To be honest, she hadn't really thought about him at all.
"You're not that girly," he said, taking a seat next to her on the grass.
Cerise crossed her arms in front of her chest. "How dare you. You barely even know me."
Daring shrugged. "What was the dance thing about?"
"Just nonsense," Cerise explained, "I don't know how to dance, and I want to learn since I'm taking this guy I've been going out with, and he's really cool, and probably knows all of the dances."
"So you need a teacher?"
"I don't need-"
"I'd be happy to help," Daring said, "Since I've been formally dancing since I was six."
"Yeah," Daring said, "It's no problem."
"Good. 'Cause I don't want it to be a problem for you."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, Cerise. I'm sure."
"Good." Cerise hoisted herself off of the ground. "I'll see you tomorrow then."
Cerise shrugged. "Is lunch good?"
"Sounds great," Daring said, and for some reason a smile made it's way across his face.
"Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?"
"I do bite my thumb, sir."
"Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?"
"Is the law of our side, if I say ay?"
"No," was all the Ashlynn managed to get out before she burst into giggles, "Sorry," she apologized to the other members of her group, "I just can't take you seriously when you talk like that Hunter."
Hunter puffed out his chest. "Talk like what?" he asked in the exact same voice that he'd been talking in before.
"Like that," Ashlynn said, "I've seen the play before, and I'm pretty sure that Sampson doesn't talk like that."
"And I'm pretty sure that Gregory and Abraham are not women," Hunter crossed his arms.
"We're making some changes to the play," Daring interrupted their lovers quarrel, for which Cerise was thankful, she wasn't sure she could've taken much of their fighting today, "Sampson can talk like that, but I'd prefer it if you didn't."
"I'm just trying to get a good grade," Daring said, "Sampson talking like that isn't going to get us a good grade."
"How do you know?"
"Because I know Ms. Gold, and she's a very serious person when it comes to Shakespeare."
"It's not like we're actors she can't expect us to be that good."
"She will expect what she expects," Daring said.
Cerise rolled her eyes. Great, now the two of them were arguing. There was no way that they were going to have this memorized and finished by Friday. It was just impossible.
Before Cerise could interrupt and get the group back on task, her phone buzzed, signaling a new text message.
Romulus-I have to cancel saturday. Sorry:(
Cerise's heart sank. She'd known that her relationship with Romulus was too good to be true. There was no way that anything could be this perfect.
Romulus-Boss wants me to go to a party with him. I'd rather be hanging out with you.
Cerise-Ur boss sounds like a jerk.
Cerise eyed the text. Romulus had complained several times about his boss, but he had never told her exactly what the man he worked for did. She didn't even know his name.
Cerise-What's his name?
For a minute, Romulus didn't respond.
Romulus-Alexander Kingsley. He's a lawyer.
Romulus-He is. Sorry that I had to cancel.
Cerise-It's okay. We'll have to do it another time.
Romulus-We will. Ttyl.
"What do you think, Cerise?" Ashlynn's voice broke Cerise away from her phone.
Ashlynn sighed. "You weren't listening."
"Sorry," Cerise apologized.
"That's alright," Ashlynn said, "We'll just have to take it from the beginning. Daring it's your line."
"Two households, both alike in dignity," Daring began, and Cerise abandoned her phone for her script. She could make plans with Rom later, right now she needed to focus on not failing this assignment.
Daring dropped his bag on the floor of the weight room with a thud. It was the only place that he could find where they could practice in private, and he definitely wanted to practice with Cerise in private. If Blondie learned about this, there would no doubt be some scathing review posted within the hour, and Daring didn't want to draw that attention to Cerise.
Sitting down on one of the benches, Daring waited for Cerise to show. The girl herself was a sort of enigma. With the few exceptions from the beginning of the year, Cerise rarely spoke out against others. Daring knew that she was close friends with Raven, Cedar, and Lizzie, the last who hated him due to events from the previous year, but Cerise didn't seem much like them.
It wasn't like she acted like a boy-Cerise was very much a girl, a thing that Daring was very much aware of at the most inopportune times-she just didn't act like the other girls that Daring knew. She was quiet, yet she had snapped in his face at the beginning of the year. She would never know it, but she kept Daring in check. He knew that if he ever benched her again, she would leave the team, and Daring didn't want that to happen. He didn't know why exactly. He chalked it up to her being his teammate.
The door banged open, pulling Daring out of his thoughts. Standing in the door panting was a very frazzled Cerise, her tie lopsided and her sweater missing. Daring raised an eyebrow as she marched in and sat down next to him. Without saying a word, she grabbed the water bottle from his bad and started to waterfall from it.
"Sure, you can have some."
Cerise stopped drinking and blushed. "Sorry," she muttered and handed the water bottle back to him, "I ran all the way here."
"I can tell."
"Mr. Stiltskin had a pop quiz today then kept us after class."
"I'll keep that in mind."
Cerise nodded awkwardly. "So..."
"You're going to teach me how to dance."
"I am," Daring nodded, standing up. Cerise stood up. "Do you know anything about dancing?"
"My mom and dad used to..." Cerise trailed off, "No. I don't."
Daring nodded. "Alright then," he said, "We'll start with the basics." He walked towards Cerise until they were standing a breath apart. Daring looked down at her, admiring her silver irises. How had he never noticed them before? They were so...Daring cleared his head. He didn't think about Cerise that way. She was his teammate, not someone that he wished to woo. Never someone that he wished to woo.
"You put your hand here." Daring placed Cerise's hand on his shoulder. "My hand goes on your waist." He wrapped his hand around Cerise's waist and she giggled. "What?"
"Nothing," Cerise said through a smile. "I'm just a little ticklish."
Daring raised an eyebrow. "Really? Cerise Hood is ticklish?"
"I'm not-" her protest was cut short as Daring's fingers danced across the fabric of her shirt and she burst into a fit of giggles. Daring grinned as she pushed him away to catch her breath. This was fun. When she turned back to face him the look in her eyes was murderous.
"Don't do that again," she said.
"I wouldn't dream of it." Daring smiled mischievously. Despite her better judgement, Cerise stepped close to him once more, and placed her hand on his shoulder. A second later Daring's fingers moved again and something hard landed on his foot.
Cerise smiled innocently. "I told you not to do that again."
"Doesn't mean that you had to stomp on my foot."
Cerise shrugged. "Are you going to teach me how to dance or not?"
"I will once I can feel my foot again," Daring said, as Cerise stepped close to him a placed her hand on his shoulder.
"I think you should take some on your own advice, Captain, and suck it up."
Daring huffed, but placed his hand on Cerise's waist and grabbed her hand with his. "Alright, Little Miss Running Back, try and follow my lead."
The rest of practice went by without an incident. Not to Daring's surprise, Cerise was a fast learner. She picked up the steps easily and was even a little better at it than him. Not that he would ever tell her that. By the time that lunch was over Cerise had memorized most of the steps that Daring had ever learned. He stepped back from her with a smile.
"Good job," he said.
"Thanks for teaching me," Cerise said, grabbing her back from the ground.
Daring nodded as she headed towards the door. The events from earlier monday morning coming to his mind. "Cerise," he said. She stopped at the door and turned to face him.
"Are you doing anything saturday?"
Cerise frowned. "Unfortunately, no."
Daring nodded. "Do you want to go to my Dad's birthday with me? It might give you the chance to practice dancing with someone other than me."
Cerise seemed to think about it for a moment before nodding. "Sure. Why not?"
Daring smiled, though he was unsure as to why. "I'll see you saturday then."
"Sounds good." Daring watched as Cerise left.
He picked up his bag from the floor and followed after her, not quite sure why exactly he had asked Cerise to come with him to his dad's party. He shrugged. She was his teammate, that was why. Apple knew that there was no way that he would ever go out with Cerise, therefor she wasn't in any sort of social dancer. Not that Cerise would've cared about any of those things. She didn't care about where she stood in the social hierarchy of Grimm's Prep.
Daring cleared his head as he entered his next class and took a seat next to Blondie. The girl could probably read his thoughts, so he wouldn't think about Cerise. They were going to the party as friends. It was an opportunity for her to get more dance experience. Never mind that Daring could've taken almost any other girl at GPA. He wanted to take Cerise. She was his friend.
She was his running back.
Chapter 7: Daring Charming Isn't 'Just Friends' with Girls
"I need to borrow a dress."
Lizzie looked up from where she was lying on the floor with her sketchbook. Standing in the doorway of her room was Cerise Hood, wearing a sports bra and a pair of shorts. She raised an eyebrow. Cerise was just about the last person that she expected to borrow clothes from her. Last time, she'd had to force the girl into anything remotely feminine.
"You need a dress?" she asked, and Cerise nodded. "Is this for the thing with Romulus this weekend, because I'm sure that meeting his family doesn't require you to wear a dress."
"Um, actually, that was canceled."
"Yeah. He said that he had other obligations. I'm going to Dr. Charming's birthday party."
"Really? I thought Dexter was taking Raven."
Cerise tugged at the edge of her shorts. "Actually," she said without looking at Lizzie, "I'm going with Daring."
Lizzie stopped. "You're going with Daring Charming?"
"As friends," Cerise added quickly.
"I wasn't aware that you're friends," Lizzie said.
"We're on the same football team, and he's in my english group," Cerise said, "He needed someone to go with, so he asked me."
Lizzie let out a bitter laugh. The memories of what had happened last time she'd dared to flirt with Daring Charming were all too fresh in mind. "If he needed someone to go with he would've asked Apple. Are you sure that he doesn't like you?"
Cerise scoffed. "Why would he like me?"
Because you're pretty. Because you're athletic. Because you don't take shit. Lizzie could think of a lot of reasons why Daring Charming would have a crush of Cerise. "What kind of dress do you need?"
Cerise shrugged. "A fancy one."
Lizzie sighed, she shouldn't have expected Cerise to know the difference between a cocktail dress and a ballgown. She hopped up and walked over to her closet. After a few minutes spent rummaging around, she pulled out a simple red dress with a high neckline that she hadn't worn in years. It would look good on Cerise. Red was her color.
"Thanks," Cerise said as Lizzie handed it to her.
"I could help you do your hair and makeup, if you want," Lizzie offered, "You should probably pull it back and wear earrings. That's what I would do."
Cerise nodded. "I'll think about it," she said, and Lizzie shook her head. That was practically code for 'I'm not going to do it'. "Thanks," Cerise said again, and left.
Lizzie sat down on her floor and picked up her sketchbook. She rummaged through it, flipping through the pages until she finally stopped on one. She let out a huff as she looked down at the roughly sketched head in front of her. She had thought of ripping this page out many times, but something had always stopped her.
"If you hurt her in any way, Daring Charming," Lizzie said to the page, "You will wish that you'd never been born."
Daring stared at himself in the mirror. He looked impeccable. He was dressed in a black suit with a blue tie, wearing the cuff links that he had received for his birthday last year, with a handkerchief hanging out of his pocket. There was no way that either of his parents could complain about how he looked.
The only thing about Daring that they could complain about was his date.
Daring slicked back his hair. Why had he done that? Maybe it was because he thought that if he brought someone that his parents disapproved of they would not talk to him. Yeah, that had to be it.
Daring opened the door to be met by the grim faces of his siblings. Dexter was dressed much like Daring, but he managed to look awkward. Instead of dress shoes, he was wearing his converse. Classic. Darling was dressed to the nines, wearing a pale blue designer dress that looked like it was straight out of the sixties and a pair of silver heels.
"You two look like someone just signed your death decrees," Daring commented.
"Didn't they?" Darling muttered under her breath.
Daring rolled his eyes. "Come on, guys," he said, "It's not that bad."
"That's because you are the pride of the Charming family," Dexter said, "I'm not that lucky. Come on. Raven said that they'd meet us at the car." Dexter started down the hallway, and his siblings followed.
Darling raised an eyebrow. "You're taking Raven?"
"Yeah," Dexter said, "D'you think that Dad will have a problem with it?"
"Good," Dexter said. Daring raised an eyebrow. Dexter had never particularly liked their father, but he never tried to deliberately piss him off. None of them did.
So, why was Daring not taking Apple? His father loved Apple, and would love to have her as a daughter-in-law. Daring had no doubt that his father was already planning the union between the Virginian Charmings and the daughter of a multibillionaire.
So, why had he decided to take Cerise? She was the exact opposite of Apple. The anti-Apple. She had deliberately broken a set of unspoken rules upon trying out for the football team, and his father loved rules more than anything in the world. Maybe he'd invited her because she was safe. Cerise had a boyfriend, or, at least, a guy that she was interested in. And that guy was not him.
Daring followed his siblings as they headed towards the parking lot. It was odd for Daring to have a friend that was a girl who was not also in love with him. He had Ashlynn, of course, but there'd been that awkward incident freshman year where they'd tried to date. Cerise, on the other hand, had made it very clear that she was not interested in him.
Maybe if Daring turned on the charm, she would be. He shook his head. He did not want that. His family did not want that. Cerise could be a friend, but nothing else.
All thoughts left his mind as he rounded the corner, and Raven and Cerise came into view. Daring stopped in his tracks. Cerise was wearing a red dress with a high neckline that fit her in all the right places, stopping mid thigh, leaving much of her long, toned legs in view. She was also wearing a pair of black heels, making her almost as tall as Daring himself. It annoyed Daring slightly that his running back had to keep reminding him that she was in fact female. But not immensely.
"You look nice," Daring said, taking in Cerise.
The ends of her lips quirked up. "Not too shabby yourself," she said.
"Thanks," Daring said, gesturing for Cerise to slide into the limo. Darling stopped Daring before he could enter the car.
"I knew that you didn't want to take Apple, but Cerise..."
"Why?" Daring asked, "What's wrong with Cerise?"
"Her father's..." Darling shook her head. "Never mind. Have fun." Daring shot his sister a puzzled look, then slid into the car next to Cerise.
This was not a date.
It did not matter what Lizzie said, or what Cedar insisted, or what Cupid had argued, this was not a date. As Cerise surveyed the perfectly decorated ballroom of the Charming Mansion the fact clicked firmly into place. This was not a date. Her first date with Daring they'd go out for burgers.
Woah, there. Where had that thought come from? Cerise was not interested in Daring, not in the slightest. He may have been a fine specimen, but he was not dating material. Not for her, at least.
"It looks nice," Cerise commented.
"It does," Daring agreed, leading her to a refreshments table off to the side.
"So, how does this work?"
"We pretend like we're the perfect little family," Daring said, "People will talk to me in an effort to suck up to my father, which means that they'll talk to you. You're not related to anyone famous, are you?"
Not unless you count my father.
Cerise shook her head. "No."
"Good," Daring said, "They'll mostly leave you alone then."
Cerise eyed Daring, who, she would admit, looked very handsome in his suit. "Is that a good thing."
"Trust me," Daring offered her a small smile. "it is."
"When does this party start?"
"It's already started."
Cerise nodded. Right. Okay. She could do this. After all, it was only a party for the senator of Virginia. She felt someone squeeze her hand. She glanced down to find Daring's hand in hers. "Hey," he said with a smile, "It'll be fine. You can leave if it become too much." Cerise nodded as warmth flooded through her hand and up her arm. If it got to be too much, she could just leave. She could do this.
"I'll be fine," she said. Daring nodded, but his hand still stayed in hers. Cerise didn't remove it.
As it turned out, Cerise had no reason to be nervous. No one talked to her for more than a few seconds. One old man had struck up a short conversation with her about football, but aside from that Cerise had barely talked to anyone. All that she had to do was smile and nod.
Cerise glanced at the woman that Daring was currently talking to. She was short, and very attractive, with bright red hair tied up in a knot and her makeup applied perfectly. Cerise listened to her conversation with Daring. It was something about the current debate over the sales tax. Cerise raised an eyebrow. Since when did Daring talk about politics. A second later, the woman turned her attention to Cerise.
"What did you say your name was?" the woman asked.
"I'm Cerise," Cerise offered.
The woman smiled. "Sarah," she said. Cerise expected her to walk away, but Sarah stayed where she was standing. "You look awfully familiar."
Cerise stared at the woman, mentally trying to fit her face with a name from her past. She came up blank. "I have one of those faces," Cerise said.
The woman nodded. "You wouldn't happen to be related to Rose Hood, would you?"
Cerise felt the blood drain from her face. She hadn't heard her mother's name in a long time. Not since the funeral. Even once she'd moved in with her father, he had not mentioned it once. Maybe it had been too painful for him to say, but hearing a stranger say it made Cerise want to weep.
"Um," Cerise said, "I'm not sure what you're talking about."
"Such a shame," Sarah said, "I knew Rose when I was younger. She procured a few items for me, and I would very much like to thank her."
You can't. She's dead.
Cerise didn't speak those words. She didn't say anything as Sarah excused herself and left. This woman had recognized her. She'd seen some sliver of her mother within her. Cerise didn't know whether to shout or cry. She opted on excusing herself.
"I've got to go to the restroom," Cerise told Daring before she slipped away.
Daring watched Cerise disappear. He didn't know what Sarah Blake had said, but whatever it was had shocked Cerise. He had watched as her face became deathly pale, and something close to horror had crept it's way into his body. Daring started after Cerise, but was stopped by his father's voice.
"Daring," the patron Charming said. Daring turned around, plastering a smile on his face as his father approached with a tall, burly man with a beard and his hair slicked back in a short ponytail behind him.
"Father," Daring said, keeping the polite smile on his face. He wanted nothing more than to race after Cerise and see where she'd disappeared to, but he could not leave his father, especially since he had someone that he wanted Daring to meet.
"This is Cattivo Wolf," his father introduced the other man, "He's one of the men that I was telling you about."
So, the man in front of him was a criminal. Daring studied him. He had a certain appearance to him that Daring doubted anyone in the room missed. It was obvious to anyone who looked that Cattivo Wolf had seen the more unfavorable side of life. And if his father was bothering to introduce him...that could only mean that he was very powerful. A mob boss, perhaps?
"We were just talking about how well Grimm's football team is doing," Doctor Charming said.
"Oh?" Daring feigned interest. The sooner that he could finish this conversation, the sooner that he could find Cerise.
"Yes," Cattivo Wolf said, his voice low and guttural, "Your team seems to be doing rather well."
Daring said that one thing that he could think of. "Well, that's mostly thanks to Cerise."
A look of warning flashed over the senator's face before he laughed. "You are too modest."
Daring nodded, but he could have sworn that he saw something close to a twinkle in Cattivo Wolf's eye before his father excused himself and the criminal moved on. A second later, Daring disappeared in the direction that Cerise had gone off in.
Cerise felt her breathing get deeper as images of her mother's death flashed in her mind's eye. Images of the mystery illness, of how she'd wasted away until she was nothing, of how her father had done nothing. The last look on her mother's face. The last words.
Cerise's breathing became more erratic, and she let herself into the first unlocked room that she could find. Cerise slid down the wall. She could not have a panic attack. Not now. Not now.
She had survived. She had lived through the accident. She had dealt with her mother's death. She would not have a panic attack. Cerise steadied her breathing.
And that was when she hear it. The sound of two people passionately making out on the desk in the dimly lit room. Cerise glanced at them as she backed away, careful to not interrupt anything. She didn't want anyone to know she was in here. Or to know-
Cerise froze as she recognized one of the figures. "Romulus?"
Cerise watched in dread as the larder of the two figures stopped, before turning around to meet her eyes. Cerise stared into those familiar eyes that were filled with something akin to shame. To regret. Cerise shook her head, unable to form words.
"Right," Cerise stepped towards the door, "I'll leave you to it." She fled.
Cerise raced down the hallway, unable to comprehend what had happened back there. Romulus? What had he been doing there? Why had he been kissing...Cerise shook her head. This wasn't about that other girl. It was about Romulus. He'd lied to her. He'd said...It didn't matter what he said. He had lied to her. He had lied to her about everything.
Cerise smashed into a firm chest. "Sorry," she mumbled as a hand reached out to steady her. She looked up to find Daring staring at her through blurry eyes.
"Are you okay?"
Cerise smiled weakly, her lip quivering. "Of course, I'm-" her voice cracked, and tears started rolling down her face. How angry tears. Because of Romulus, because of her father, because of her mother. Because they'd all left.
"It's okay," Daring said, his voice soothing, "It's going to be okay."
Cerise nodded, but the tears did not stop. Tentatively, as if he was unsure what he was doing, Daring Charming closed his arms around Cerise, holding her in a hug. Cerise cried into his dress shirt, no doubt staining it.
There, in the middle of a dark hallway, Cerise Hood clung to Daring Charming as if he were her only lifeline. Which he was.
Chapter 8: Don't Hurt Cerise Hood
"How was your date?"
Daring froze. He turned towards his roommate, who was lounging at his desk with a computer on his lap. He glanced at the large clock hanging on the wall. It was three in the morning. Most weekends, Daring didn't even see Sparrow until long past seven. This was new.
"It wasn't a date," Daring said, removing his tie and getting ready for bed. After all, it hadn't been a date. Cerise was just a friend, and that was all that she'd ever be.
"Are you sure?" Sparrow asked.
"Yes." Daring was sure. Cerise had a boyfriend. He'd heard her talk about him with Hunter and Ashlynn before.
Sparrow snorted. "That's not what Blondie's says."
Daring felt his stomach drop. Blondie's? She wasn't even invited to the party. How could...Daring shook his head. No. That would never happen. Apple was better than that. They were friends. She knew that he did not like Cerise that way. That Cerise and Daring could never be a couple, even if they wanted to-which he didn't. Blondie had nothing, just a rumor.
"It's a rather cute picture," Sparrow said, looking at his computer, "I have to say, I didn't think that you had it in you."
"Picture? What picture?" Daring walked over to Sparrow's desk. On the cover page of Blondie's gossip site was a somewhat fuzzy picture of Cerise sobbing into Daring's shirt. From this angle it looked horrible, and it was easy to mistake the look on Daring's face as something other than friendly concern. But it was just friendly concern. That was all.
"So, what happened?" Daring stared at the image on screen. He knew who had taken it. Only one of Blondie's friends had been invited to his father's birthday party, but he hadn't seen her all night. Daring had just assumed that she had not decided to go. Apparently, he was wrong.
"She was crying," Daring said, "Like, sobbing. I've never seen her cry like that before. I didn't think that she could."
"She is a girl," Sparrow said.
"I know," Daring said. Cerise kept reminding him of that fact.
Daring climbed into his pajamas and went through the messages on his phone. Since the article had gone up, he'd received several. The majority of them were from...Lizzie? That was weird. He thought that she'd blocked him.
"In case you're wondering," Sparrow said, returning to the article on his screen, "She barely even mentions you. She drags Cerise through the mud, though."
"Cerise is tough," Daring said, "She can handle getting dragged through the mud." Still, a part of Daring worried. He'd seen a side of Cerise that he hadn't even known existed. For some reason, Daring had assumed that his tough, quiet running back didn't have any feelings. He had been wrong.
Daring sent a text to Cerise, telling her not to worry, before finding Apple's contact. The conversation was full of their plans for homecoming. He'd need to buy a red tie. Daring cleared his head and sent her a message:
We need to talk.
Cerise blocked Romulus, but not before he managed to send a couple of messages to her offering to explain it to her. Cerise stared at her phone, at the picture of Romulus that was her screensaver. What was there to explain? He had been at Dr. Senator Charming's birthday party making out with a girl in a dark room. Lord knows what they would've been doing if she'd showed up a few minutes later?
Cerise changed her screensaver to a picture of her, Hunter, and Dexter after a game that Ashlynn had taken. She stuck her key in the lock and opened the door to her dorm. The first thing that she noticed was that the lights were still on, despite it being well past lights out.
Apple was sitting on her bed with her phone in hand, a smug smile on her face. Cerise ignored her and pulled on her pajamas. She climbed into her bed, and turned off the lights. Cerise stared at the dark ceiling. How could he do that? Didn't he know how much Cerise liked him? Had she done something wrong?
Cerise rolled over in her bed as her phone pinged. She picked it up and glanced at the text. It was from Daring, and only read 'I'm taking care of it. Don't worry.' Cerise stared at the message. Don't worry? Don't worry about what? She set down her phone and drifted off into an unpeaceful sleep.
Cerise stared through the hospital window, looking out at the snow covered parking lot outside. She glanced at Ramona, who was sleeping on the couch, then to the frail figure barely breathing on the bed. The skeleton under the sheets looked nothing like the mother that Cerise had been laughing with only a few days previously.
Cerise's gaze returned to her SAT prep book as the nurse, Wendy, entered the room and quietly closed the door behind her. She smiled a small smile. "Do you know when your father is arriving?" Wendy asked.
Cerise shook her head. She had found her father's contact information in her mom's phone and called him two days earlier. He had told her that he had business that he needed to take care of. In Cattivo Wolf speak, that meant that he'd never be there. Maybe he'd make it by March. Cerise would have laughed at it, if she could have.
"Do you have any other relatives that you could call?" Wendy asked.
Cerise shook her head again. She did not know much about her parents' love story, but she knew that her mother's parents disowned her the moment that she eloped with Cattivo Wolf. Her father's only brother had died in the accident. No. Cerise had no one to call. She would have to wait and see if her dad ever arrived.
"I'll stare here and watch them if you want to get something to eat," Wendy said.
"Thanks," Cerise muttered, her voice hoarse from disuse. She left the room, moving through the halls like a spirit. It didn't feel real. How could it be? One of the only constants in Cerise's miserable life was dying. Nothing, absolutely nothing, could make this better.
Cerise grabbed an apple and a bag of chips from the cafeteria. In a daze, she made her way back to her mom's room. What would happen to them if their mom died? Where would Ramona and Cerise go? Cerise took a bite out of the apple and chewed. She cross that bridge later, right now she had to focus on her mom.
Wendy was sitting in a chair next to her mom. She looked up as Cerise entered and smiled. "I have to go," she said, "but I'll be back as soon as I can." Cerise just nodded, taking the seat that Wendy vacated as she left.
Wendy had turned on the TV. Fox News was playing. Cerise watched as the politician on screen spouted false lies of hope to the American public, his perfectly functional family standing behind him in support, smiles on their faces as well. Cerise felt anger well up inside of her. Those spoiled rich kids didn't know what it was like to have their family torn apart by the past, or to catch their mother as she collapsed in the kitchen, or to have their ear ripped in half as the car windows exploded around them. They didn't have a father who disappeared for years on end, or a mother who was dying.
Cerise threw her apple at the television.
Daring stared at Apple's dormitory room door, and took a deep breath. He had to do this before the weekend was over and the school went crazy with homecoming week. Daring knocked on the door. It was answered a second later by Apple, who was wearing a black mini skirt with a white blouse, her hair curling in ringlets around her face. She wasn't smiling.
"Daring," Apple said in the most venomous voice that she possessed, "What are you doing here?"
"We need to talk," Daring said. Apple held the door open for Daring to enter. "In private," Daring added.
"My roommate's out," Apple said, closing the door behind her, "Now, what do you want to talk about?"
"Don't act naive, Apple. It doesn't suite you."
Apple smiled. "Oh, that article. What about it?"
Daring crossed his arms. "I know that you're the one who put it up."
Apple laughed. "Don't be silly," she said, "It's called Blondie's, not Apple's."
"Yet everything that Blondie publishes she does so with your permission," Daring said, "We both know this."
"Okay." Apple took a seat at her desk. "Then why are you so angry? Did you not want people about your relationship?"
"It's not..." Daring sighed. "I wouldn't care if it was a relationship, but it isn't. So, I would prefer it if you didn't spread false rumors."
"It didn't look fake to me. Not with how she latched herself onto you."
"She didn't latch herself onto me." Honestly. How could Apple think such a thing? How could she do such a thing? The Apple White that Daring knew, that he'd been friends with for years, wasn't mean to other girls. She wasn't mean at all. And why did she suddenly decide to go after Cerise? They were friends, and that was it. She was a good friend, something that Apple wasn't. At least, not at the moment. "Just take it down," Daring said.
Apple smiled sweetly. "I don't think that I will."
"Freedom of speech, Daring. I'm sure that you've heard of it."
"It doesn't mean that you should spread lies."
"They didn't look like lies to me," Apple said, "It seemed like you really liked her. You did invite her to the party instead of me."
"We're not dating, Apple!" The words spilled out of Daring's mouth before he had the chance to stop them.
Apple stared at him, eyes wide. "Excuse me?"
"We," Daring said, pointing from himself to Apple, "are not dating. We never have."
"Of course we're dating," Apple scoffed, "We go to every social event together."
"Because I like to hang out with you," Daring said, "Because it used to be fun to hang out with you, before you started being mean."
"I'm not mean."
"Then what do you call the article? Because I call it being mean." Daring stared at his oldest friend. What had happened to her? "I'm not sure that I want to go to homecoming with you anymore." Daring turned to leave, but Apple stopped him before his hand even reached the door.
"Wait," she said, "I don't want to lose you."
"You haven't lost me. I just feel like I don't know you anymore."
"If I take the article down will you go to homecoming with me?" Apple asked.
"I will," Daring said, making Apple's features light up, "as friends." Apple's face fell.
"Well," she said, "I suppose that that's better than nothing." She took out her phone. "I'll call Blondie."
"Thank you," Daring said. As Apple dialed the number, Daring left the room. He had no idea why Apple would do such a thing. Daring shrugged and decided that it was just a mishap. Apple wasn't mean. She wouldn't so much as swat a fly. Still...
"I need to talk to you." Daring looked down to find Lizzie Hearts standing in front of him, dressed impeccably in an outfit that she'd probably designed. Daring had no clue what he'd done to make Lizzie hate him, but she did. He had thought that she'd liked him last year, but apparently he'd been reading her wrong.
"What do you want to talk about?"
"Cerise," Lizzie said. Daring groaned. Why did everyone care so much about him and Cerise?
"We're not dating," Daring said before Lizzie could ask him.
"Oh, I know." Lizzie crossed her arms. "This would be better if you were dating. But, since you're not, you should probably stop dragging her to social events. She has enough to deal with without having to also deal with your crap."
"What do you mean?"
"If she hasn't told you, then I won't either," Lizzie said, "Just, make sure you think about her before something like that happens again."
"I already told you," Daring said, "We're not dating. We're just friends."
"I know you think that," Lizzie said, "but I have eyes. And so does everyone else, for that matter."
Lizzie shook her head. "Just know if you hurt her, in any way, I will make sure that the rest of your Senior year is a living hell." With that, Lizzie turned on her stilettoed heel and walked away. Daring shook his head.
Chapter 9: Don't Make the Same Mistake as Sparrow Hood
"Would you like to go to homecoming with me?"
Cerise stopped, and turned to face the boy walking beside her. "What did you say?"
Hunter sighed. "I was wondering if you would like to go to homecoming with me."
"What about Ashlynn?"
"She's going with Prince," Hunter said with a defeated sigh. "I figured that since you have no one to go with and I have no one to go with we could go together."
Cerise stopped in front of the girls locker room. She hadn't spoken to Romulus since Saturday night, but she had made it very clear that they would not, under any circumstances be going together. It was a bit of a blessing that she had yet to buy a dress. Lizzie had offered to make her one, but Cerise had turned her offer down. She'd already borrowed enough from Lizzie. She didn't need to have her own custom dress from the aspiring designer. That would be too much.
"I wasn't actually planning on going to homecoming," Cerise said.
"We can hang out instead, if you want," Cerise offered.
Hunter shook his head. "Thanks for the offer," he said, "but I kind of want to go because...you know."
"I still think that it's stupid that you won't just ask her out and make your relationship public," Cerise said.
"It's complicated," Hunter said, "This school is complicated."
Cerise nodded. "I get that." Because she did. She was starting to understand how this school worked, and the only word that could describe it was 'complicated'. "I'll see you on the field."
"See ya," Hunter said, and Cerise entered the locker room.
It was Wednesday afternoon so the locker room wasn't busy. Only a few other girls stood around, gossiping with each other. Cerise opened her locker and started getting dressed in her football gear. Daring had the team working double time getting ready for the homecoming game. The entire week was filled with both morning and afternoon practices.
"I need to talk to you."
Cerise paused in pulling on her pads to find Darling Charming standing in front of her wearing a tank top and a pair of athletic shorts with her hair pulled up in a ponytail. It was unfair how amazing this girl managed to look in workout clothes.
"What do you need to talk about?" Cerise asked. She didn't really talk to the youngest Charming, but she felt like they could be friends.
"It's Ramona," Darling said, and Cerise raised an eyebrow.
"What about Ramona?"
"She keeps disappearing at odd times, and she's stopped showing up to track practice. I'm afraid that she's gotten into something."
Cerise shook her head. "I wouldn't worry about it," she said, "Ramona's a bit different. This is fairly normal for her."
At least, it was normal for post Kansas Ramona. Both of the Hood sisters had dealt with their mother's death differently. Cerise had blamed their dad, but Ramona had refused to. Instead, she had retreated into her room for a full month, only coming out for meals. Grimm's had been good for Ramona, forcing her to socialize and make friends. She had probably just had a bad dream, and this was her way of dealing with it.
"Are you sure?" Darling asked.
"Yeah," Cerise said, "We all deal with our problems differently, this is how Ramona deals with hers."
"Should I ask her if she wants to talk about it?"
"No," Cerise said. The Hood girls had made a pact not to tell anyone about their past or their family. They would talk about it with each other, but not with other people. They simply wouldn't understand it. "I'll ask her about it."
"Good," Darling nodded, and left with a smile. Cerise finished pulling on her pads and joined the team on the field. This was normal for Ramona. After the accident, she'd done the same thing. Cerise wouldn't worry about it. Eventually, she'd stop.
Cerise yanked on her helmet and started doing warm ups.
It was unfair how good Cerise managed to look in her practice uniform.
"What did you say?" Coach Man asked from beside Daring.
Daring's eyes widened. Had he just said that? Had his coach just heard him say that? Please, let this be a bad dream.
"I was just thinking about strategies on how to win the homecoming game," Daring said.
Coach Man nodded suspiciously. "You better be, Charming."
"Don't worry, I am," Daring said as Coach Man headed off towards his office. He leaned back in the bleachers and let out a sigh of relief. There was no doubt that Coach Man had heard him. Thankfully, he'd let it slide.
"Hey, roomie." Daring groaned as Sparrow Hood plopped down next to him. Why wouldn't his roommate leave him alone?
"What do you want, Sparrow?" Daring asked.
"I just thought that you'd like to know that I heard Hunter ask your girlfriend to homecoming."
"She's not my girlfriend," Daring said through his teeth. Everyone except for Sparrow acted like the article didn't ever happen. He was fairly sure that Cerise never saw it, and for that he was thankful. However, Sparrow now only ever referred to Cerise as his girlfriend, and it was irritating.
"If she's not your girlfriend, then why are you admiring how great she looks in her practice uniform?"
God hated Daring. That had to be the answer. There was no other reason why both his coach and his least favorite person on the earth would hear his slip up. "I wasn't..."
"You weren't what? Don't bother denying it, lover boy. I heard every word that came out of your mouth."
Daring wanted to strangle Sparrow. "What do you want?"
"A date to homecoming might be nice," Sparrow said.
"Then go with Duchess."
"Ew," Sparrow said, "Like I said before, she's my best friend. Best friends don't go out with one another. But, since I'm feeling so generous, how about you ask Cerise to homecoming and we call it even?"
"Because I'm already going with Apple."
"What did you just call her?"
Sparrow shook his head. "Nothing," he said, "Oh, would you look at the time? I have to be going.
Homework, and stuff." He jumped up from the bleachers and scrambled away.
Daring shook his head. What an idiot. What had he called Apple? A she-devil? Apple wasn't the devil. She wasn't anywhere close to the devil.
He needed to buy a red tie.
And Cerise...Daring and Cerise weren't a thing. The entire school was aware of this. Why couldn't Sparrow get the message? So what if he thought that she was attractive? Every member of the male species thought that she was attractive. He sure wasn't alone in that. And if he thought that she was interesting what difference did it make? They would never be an item. Never.
Daring was dragged out of his thoughts to find the very subject of them standing in front of him. He smiled. "Hey."
"I just wanted to tell you that I'm canceling on the whole dance lessons thing," Cerise said, "I'm not going to homecoming anymore."
For some reason, Daring felt his heart sink. "Oh. Okay. Why aren't you going anymore?"
"The guy who I was going with...well," Cerise laughed, "It's actually kind of weird. I saw him...Let's just say that he made it very clear that he didn't like what I had to offer."
"He cheated on you."
Cerise nodded. "Yeah."
"He's an idiot." Daring might have imagined it, but he thought he saw Cerise blush.
"Thanks," she muttered, "Anyways, I thought that you should know. I'll see you in english."
Daring nodded. "See you." He said as he watched Cerise retreat, the setting sun making her tan skin appear golden.
There was no way that Cerise would ever be his girlfriend. He knew too little about her. He didn't know how she got her scars, or who her parents were. She had more secrets than the average GPA student. And that was saying something.
The morning of the homecoming game, Cerise was up before the sun. Dressed in workout shorts and an old shirt, Cerise slipped out of the dorm room and closed the door behind her. Plugging her earbuds into her ears, Cerise escaped down the hallway, heading for the football field.
She hadn't talked to Apple in days, or, more accurately, Apple hadn't talked to her. At first, she hadn't known what it was about. As far as she was concerned, nothing happened to make the other girl stop talking to her. Her friends would have let her keep on believing that, but Cedar was a terrible liar. Apple want talking to her because of her non-date with Daring. Apparently, she thought that Cerise going to an official Charming event with Daring meant that she liked him.
Well, that wasn't true. Cerise liked Daring, and she would be lying if she said that she wasn't attracted to him, but she wasn't in love with him. He was simply attractive, and that was it.
Cerise arrived at the football field and stopped short. Speak of the devil and he shall appear. Shirtless. Cerise shook her head and started jogging around the field.
A second later, Daring fell in line beside her. Cerise glanced at Daring in all of his chiseled, shirtless glory out of the corner of her eye. Yeah, she was definitely attracted to him. She upped her pace and Daring followed suit.
Cerise pulled the earbud out of her left ear. "Couldn't sleep?"
"I can never sleep in on game day," Daring panted.
Cerise nodded and upped her pace once more. This time, she pulled ahead of Daring. Surprised, Cerise glanced back to find him jogging behind her. She stopped, resting her hands on top of her head. "What's taking you so long?" she asked Daring once he finally caught up to her.
Daring walked onto the field and collapsed onto the ground. Cerise took a seat next to him. "I'm no where near as fast as you," Daring said, "That's why you're the running back."
"Are you admitting defeat?" Cerise raised an eyebrow. How very un-Daring-like of him.
Daring grinned. "Never."
"Are you sure? Because that sounded like you were admitting defeat."
"Positive," Daring said, "I could beat you in any sport."
Cerise laughed. "I'll hold you to that, Captain."
Daring nodded and they fell into a comfortable silence. Cerise leaned back in the grass to watch the sun rise. This was perfect. She was sitting in the football field at the school where she was a star football player with a very attractive boy beside her. The only thing that would make it better is if her mom were still alive.
"What happened to your ear?"
And it was ruined. Cerise turned to Daring, prepared to give her typical answer and stopped. The look on Daring's face was not one of malice or curiosity, but one of concern. He honestly cared about what had happened to her. Cerise crossed her legs and tugged on the lobe of her scarred ear.
"I moved around a lot when I was younger," Cerise started, "I didn't really understand why at first, but then I think that I began to. My dad...he was involved with some very unfavorable people. Not good people. But when he fell in love with my mom, he left them.
They didn't exactly like that, so they hunted him. That's why we moved around so much. I was eight, and we were living in Chicago when they finally caught up to us. My dad went to lure them away, and he had my uncle take us to a rendezvous point.
We never made it there. The car was tee boned by some of the people that we were on the run from. The window next to me shattered on impact, nearly severing my ear in two...Mona was rendered unconscious, but I wasn't...I watched from the backseat as two men approached the car door and shot my uncle six times. It was..." Cerise couldn't hold it in anymore, she started crying. She didn't remember that Daring was there until her put a hand on her shoulder.
Cerise shrugged his hand off of her shoulder. "Yeah, well it's all in the past. Right?"
Daring shook his head. The concern written over his face was overwhelming. Cerise picked herself up, brushing invisible grass off of her clothes. "I'll see you in english," Cerise said and she retreated.
Angrily, Cerise brushed the tears off of her face. Why had she told him that? That was a part of her past that she refused to talk about with even her sister. Why would she talk about it with Daring Charming?
What made him so special?
Cerise didn't talk to him for the rest of the day. She didn't talk to him in practice, and whenever he got near her she found something to be busy with. Daring concluded that Cerise needed time, so he would give her time. He could only imagine what it must be like for her.
Daring would be a fool if he thought that any of his experiences would be able to compare to Cerise's. She had watched her uncle be murdered in front of her and feared for her life, Daring's experiences couldn't even compare. Still, she had survived through it all, because Cerise was a survivor. He admired that about her.
"Can I talk to you for a sec?" Daring closed his locker to find Dexter standing only a few feet away from him.
"Whatever you need, little bro," Daring said.
Dexter nodded and started walking. Daring fell in line beside him. "I don't think that you should play Cerise tonight," Dexter said.
Daring shook his head. "No can do bro. It's homecoming. We need her to win the game."
"This isn't coming from me," Dexter said, "but according to Raven, Cerise isn't doing her best right now. She's a bit distant."
Daring thought that he knew why. "Okay," Daring said, "I'll think about it."
"Thanks," Dexter said, and ran off to find his friends before the game started.
Cerise might not be on her game today, but an off-her-game Cerise was better than an on-his-game Sparrow. Plus, if Cerise was anything like Daring she needed this game to get her mind off of things. Daring entered the locker room and and tossed his bag in his locker. He then headed across the hall into the girls locker room.
"Cerise!" Daring yelled. He turned the corner to find Cerise standing in front of him in just her football pants and a sports bra. Daring's mind ceased functioning at the sight in front of him.
"What do you want?" Cerise asked, her hands on her hips and her face red.
Daring swallowed. Right. He had come he for something. What was it? Oh, that's right. "You're starting," Daring said. With that said, he turned around and left the locker room.
His face was redder than a grape tomato.
They won the game. Cerise grinned as her teammates around her celebrated their victory. They had totally annihilated the other team. They had never stood a chance. Cerise started heading towards the locker room, but stopped when she spied her captain hanging out by the bleachers. Cerise walked up to him. "Thanks," she said, hoping that Daring would know what she was talking about.
Daring turned away from his fan girls for a moment and nodded. "You looked like you needed it. Are we good?"
Cerise nodded. "Yeah," she said, "We're good."
Daring grinned. "Good."
From behind Daring, one freshman girl groaned. "What are they talking about?" she asked loudly.
Cerise laughed. She looked at the younger girl. She probably had a crush on Daring. She probably thought that Cerise was dating Daring too.
"Senior stuff," Cerise said, "don't worry about him. He's all yours." Cerise turned and skipped away, Daring's shouts of protest echoing in her ears.
"You are an idiot."
Daring finished slicking his hair back and sighed. Sparrow needed to stop being so cryptic. "Would you care to tell me why I am an idiot, or will I have to solve this one on my own?"
"Cerise would have gone out with you if you'd asked her," Sparrow said, "And don't start that bullshit on me. I've seen the way that you two look at each other. There's something more there than just friendship."
Daring shook his head and straightened his tie. "I don't see why you care who I do or do not go to homecoming with, Sparrow."
"I just don't want you to make the same mistake that I did," Sparrow said causing Daring to pause. Did Sparrow really just say that he had made a mistake? "Because you're right. You know that? I do like Duchess, and she did like me...last year. Now, she only wants to be friends with me, so I'm stuck in the friend zone. It would be sad to see you in the friend zone too."
Daring shook his head. "I don't know what you're talking about."
Sparrow laughed bitterly. "If you want it to be that way then be it. Don't say that I didn't warn you."
Daring shrugged and grabbed his jacket off of the peg it was hanging on. "Whatever." Without a second glance to Sparrow, Daring headed out of his dorm towards Apple's.
Sparrow was just being stupid like usual. That was all that it was. He knew nothing of Daring's relationship with Cerise. They were friends. They got along. And they were attracted to each other. That was it. They would never be romantically involved because...because why?
Daring knocked on Apple's dormitory door. Why was it that he couldn't go out with Cerise? Personally, he couldn't think of one reason why he couldn't. Sure, her dad was involved with some unfavorable people, but he was just an average joe. It wasn't as if her father was Cattivo Wolf or anything.
"Earth to Daring," Cerise's voice rang out in front of him.
Daring blinked to find Cerise standing only a few feet away from him wearing a pair of sweats and a ratty old tee shirt. She looked great.
"Wow," Cerise said, "You look nice. Did Apple pick out the suit?"
"Yes." Daring shook his head. "I mean, no. I picked it out myself. You may find that I have impeccable fashion taste."
"And you're modest too," Cerise said as she opened the door wider for Apple to slip through. "Have fun kids," she said, before she closed the door on their faces.
"Wow," Apple huffed, "That was rude. So, how do I look?" Daring glanced over Apple's red dress that matched perfectly with his red tie.
"You look good," he said, offering his elbow to Apple. She hooked her arm into the crook of his elbow.
"We look perfect," Apple said and they started down the hall.
Daring nodded. They did look perfect. Absolutely fabulously perfect. He glanced at the door behind him. Was Sparrow right? Was he making a mistake?
As soon as Apple was out of the door, Cerise slammed it in his face. Sure, it was rude, but he deserved it for...for looking so perfect and getting her hopes up like some silly little girl. Yeah! That was right.
Cerise gagged at the thought of him and Apple dancing the night away together. She was thankful that she hadn't taken Hunter up on his offer. She didn't want to have to witness that.
Cerise took out her phone and started playing her music on maximum volume. What was wrong with her? She expected to be upset over Romulus, but she'd barely thought about him all week. Instead she had spent the week spilling her heart out to Daring Charming, blushing when he caught her without a shirt on, and laughing at the stupidest of things. Was she flirting with him? No. That couldn't be right. Cerise didn't flirt with boys. At least, she didn't use to.
What was wrong with her?
Chapter 10: Don't Tell Lies
"Mona," Cerise knocked on the door to her sister's room, "It's starting."
Ramona Hood emerged from the depths of her room, wearing a dark blue dress that their mom had loved. Her usual leather jacket was missing. She wiped her eye, smudging the mascara slightly.
"Is Dad here?" Ramona asked.
Cerise nodded. One week after her mom had fallen ill, Cattivo Wolf had finally decided to show his face. He'd apologized, of course. Cerise hadn't believed him. It wasn't hard to catch a flight to Kansas, even for a criminal like him.
"Let's go," Ramona said. She grabbed Cerise's hand and dragged her outside before either of them had the chance to turn around.
The funeral was everything that Rose Hood would have wanted it to be. It was small, simple. Cerise and Ramona each said a few words, as did their elderly next door neighbor, Leslie. Afterwards, the funeral goers went into the house. Ramona retreated into her room, leaving Cerise to face everyone alone.
"Are you okay?" Leslie asked, taking a seat next to Cerise on their worn leather couch.
Cerise shrugged. "As okay as I can be."
Leslie nodded understandingly. "If you need anything," she said, "feel free to give me a call. I'm always here for you."
"Thank you," Cerise said, looking at the palms of her hands. She sounded detached. Emotionless.
"Do you know what you're going to do after this?"
Cerise shook her head. "I think that we're going to live with our father. In Virginia."
Leslie nodded. "If you're ever in the neighborhood, make sure to give me a call. I'd love to have you or Ramona over for dinner."
Cerise smiled weakly. "Thank you."
"I'm always here for you, Cerise," Leslie said, "Anything that you need, all that you have to do is ask."
Cerise stared at the white haired woman, wondering how much she knew of their mother and their past. From the sound of it, Leslie Jones knew a lot more about the Hood sisters than they did.
"Thank you," Cerise said again.
"I should have stayed in with you last night," Hunter said as he took a seat next to Cerise at the breakfast table.
Cerise looked up from the homework that she was working on at the football player across from her. Hunter looked awful. He had dark bags under his eyes, and his hair was a mess. Cerise probably didn't look much better herself, but she didn't really care.
"It wasn't that fun," Cerise said, "I just watched Netflix."
Well, she had started watching Netflix once she had stopped freaking out over the possibility that her feelings for Daring Charming might be more than friendly. But Hunter didn't need to know about her possible feelings for the football captain.
"I just..." Hunter trailed off, "I love her. I love her so much and it's killing me every time that I see them together."
Cerise glanced around as more students began to file into the cafeteria. They wouldn't have privacy for much longer. "Let's take this elsewhere." Cerise left the table with Hunter on her heels.
Somehow, the two of them found themselves in the library, tucked away back of the nonfiction section. Cerise set her stuff down and sat down on the ground cross legged. Hunter joined her, leaning up against the shelf of cookbooks behind them.
"I don't know what to do, Cerise," Hunter said, "It's like she only remembers our relationship when it's convenient for her."
Cerise doubted that that was what Ashlynn was doing. She was a pretty nice girl, but Cerise doubted that she had really thought about how her actions would affect Hunter.
"Maybe," Cerise said hesitantly, "you should break it off with her."
Hunter placed his hands on his knees. "I don't know. I don't think that I could make it long without her. I mean, she's perfect."
"Well, it's not like you have many options," Cerise sighed, "It's not even an official relationship. The school doesn't know about it."
"I suppose that you'll have to confront her, or break it off," Cerise said, "I wish that there was another option."
Hunter sat there in thought for a moment, his thumb rubbing circles around her pants. "What if there is another option?" Hunter asked after a minute.
"Then, I'm all ears."
"What if I give her a taste of her own medicine?"
Cerise shrugged. "It could work. What did you have in mind?"
"I'm not really sure," Hunter said, "Maybe I could see someone else?"
"There's only one small problem with that," Cerise said, "You're completely and totally in love with Ashlynn. Everyone would be able to tell that your relationship was superficial."
"Aren't most high school relationships?" Hunter asked.
"I don't know. It's my first high school."
"So, what do you say?" Hunter asked, "Will you help me?"
"You want me to be..." Cerise shook her head. "Look Hunter, you're my friend and all, but I kinda like someone else at the moment."
A small smile spread across Hunter's face. "Daring?"
Cerise froze. "Yeah. How'd you know?"
Hunter laughed. "There's a bet going on with the team. Sparrow's running it."
"Of course he is," Cerise muttered. She couldn't believe it. Did the whole school know about her crush?
"Can you still be my girlfriend?" Hunter asked, "I swear that it won't be for long. Please. Please. Please."
"Fine," Cerise huffed, "But we break up before Thanksgiving break. Deal?" Cerise stuck out her hand.
"Deal," Hunter said, shaking Cerise's hand.
Blondie's All Exclusive on the Latest GPA Relationship
This morning, only a few hours after the final after parties from homecoming finished, a new couple debuted in the cafeteria.
Hunter Huntsman has long been a popular member of the Grimm's Prep football team. Though he is a scholarship student, he is one of the most desirable young men at GPA(see Who's The Hottest? for more listings). With his athleticism and love for nature it is easy to understand why. I'm sorry ladies, but he is now taken.
Who is it that is dating Hunter Huntsman?
Well, it is none other than the star football player Cerise Hood. There has been speculation that Cerise had a crush on Daring Charming, the captain of the football team, but it seems like that was nothing more than rumor. Cerise Hood is now in a loving relationship with Hunter Huntsman, the two of them pictured in the image below after one successful football.
Though the two didn't appear together at homecoming, it would seem that love is in the air for Cerise Hood and Hunter Huntsman(or Huntrise, as I like to call them).
Daring Charming had made a mistake.
He stared at the image on his phone screen. It was a picture of Hunter with his arm hanging over Cerise's shoulders. Both of them were grinning at the camera. It was a picture from the game two weeks earlier, Daring had been there when it was taken. But he had thought that Hunter and Cerise were just friends.
Apparently, he'd been wrong.
Daring sat down on his bed. Was Sparrow right? Would Cerise had gone to homecoming with him if he'd asked her? He'd never know.
Because Cerise was with Hunter now. He'd thought that Hunter and Ashlynn were an item, but apparently he'd been wrong there too. The worst part was that Hunter was a nice guy. Daring genuinely liked Hunter, and he couldn't think of a single reason not to.
Just when he'd started to consider acting on his possible feelings for Cerise, this happened. Daring stared at the other photographs on Blondie's. There were a few with other members of the football team, as well as Cerise and Hunter's friends. There was even one from english with Daring in it, where the four of them were acting out their scene from Romeo and Juliet. Had Cerise like Hunter even back then?
Daring tossed his phone onto his nightstand and flopped down on his bed. Sparrow was right, he had made a mistake.
And now there was nothing that he could do to fix it.
Chapter 11: Ms. Gold Is Not a Fan of Couples
"How's my favorite half of Grimm's newest couple?" Cupid sat down at the breakfast table, a clipboard in her hands.
Cerise eyed the clipboard warily. "What's that?"
"Oh, this?" The blonde shrugged. "Just my favorite couples costume ideas."
"For Briar's Halloween Bash, duh. Aren't you and Hunter going?"
Cerise groaned. She hadn't been "dating" Hunter for more than twenty four hours and people already wanted to know if they were going to some dance together. Which-given that they were a couple and all that jazz-they probably should. Still...dating was a lot of work.
"Cupid's dad owns a greeting card company," Lizzie said, taking the seat next to Cerise, "So holidays are kind of her thing."
"Is she bothering you about costumes, too?"
"Hey, guys. I'm right here."
Lizzie rolled her eyes. "I've already got my costume planned out. I'm going as Wonder Woman."
"You know," Cupid said, scribbling something across her clipboard, "I think that I have just the perfect costume for you and Hunter, and it won't even take that much work. How many dresses do you own?"
"None," Lizzie said. Cerise shrugged. It was true.
"Alright. Wait, what about Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf."
"That qualifies as a couples costume?"
"Sure, it does," Cupid said as she began to plan Cerise's costume out for her.
Cerise stared at the door of the English classroom. She had arrived early to escape Cupid and her talk of couples costumes. Honestly, the girl was so obsessed with Cerise's relationship that you would have thought it was hers.
It wasn't even a real relationship! It was fake. It was like if Cupid had agreed to go out with Dexter to make Raven jealous. It was stupid. Why has she agreed to be part of this?
"Cerise Hood," Ms. Gold's Scottish accent came from behind her. Cerise turned around to meet her short teacher, who was glaring at her with her arms crossed.
Great, what did she do now?
"I heard about your new relationship." Ms. Gold pushed past Cerise to unlock the door. "I should have you know that I do not agree with having students in my class date. It is just a cause for distraction."
"I can assure you," Cerise began, following Ms. Gold into the classroom, "Hunter and I will not be distracted at all."
Her teacher turned around and looked at her. "I am sure that you believe that. But Hunter is a boy, and I know what boys are like."
Cerise's jaw dropped. Of all the ridiculous, old fashioned notions. Cerise wasn't a distraction for anyone, least of all Hunter.
"I am not done yet," Ms. Gold interrupted her, "I have decided to switch you with Humphrey Dumpty." She pointed to a table in the middle of the room. "You will sit there."
Cerise sighed and sat down at the table she was directed to. It would be of no use to argue with Ms. Gold on this. She would just have to put up with new table mates. Cerise felt a pang as she watched Daring enter the room laughing with Ashlynn. He glanced over at her, and their eyes met. There was something in his gaze that sent shivers down Cerise's spine. She tore her eyes away and focused on the table in front of her.
Daring and her were just friends. He had Apple, and she was 'dating' Hunter for the next couple of weeks. Anything that she thought that she saw in his gaze, she was imagining.
Cerise was snapped out of her thoughts by a tall girl with pale blonde hair(so pale that it was almost white). She tried to remember who the girl was, but her memory came up blank. She had never seen this girl with either Apple or Raven.
"I'm Crystal," the girl said, taking the seat across from Cerise, "Crystal Winters."
Cerise nodded. "I'm-"
"Cerise Hood," Crystal said, "I know."
Crystal laughed. "Of course. You tried out for the football team, and totally inspired me."
Cerise gaped at the girl. "Really? How?"
"I've decided to try out for the hockey team," Crystal said.
Cerise smiled, glad that she had inspired someone with her rash decisions. "That's great," she said just as the seat next to her was occupied.
The girl next to her had hair the color of corn, and a blue bow on her official Grimm's Preparatory Academy headband. Cerise frowned. Out of all of the tables in all of the classes she had to wind up sitting next to gossip queen extraordinaire: Blondie.
Crystal was still talking when Ms. Gold called the class to attention, and instructed them to read their respective Shakespearean plays. Cerise glanced at the two girls sitting at the table, then at the fourth empty chair.
"Who's missing?" she asked.
"Briar," Crystal said with a fond smile, "She probably just overslept. She's notorious for doing that."
"Right." Cerise nodded. "So, what're you guys reading?"
"Hamlet," Crystal answered, offering Cerise a copy. Cerise frowned and took the book. Blondie stayed silent throughout the entire exchange.
Daring glanced around the locker room, noticing that several of the members of the team were eyeing him warily. Daring rolled his eyes, tossed his duffle bag in his locker, and started getting dressed. His ears perked up as he heard Tiny whisper something behind him.
"Do you think that he knows?" Daring raised an eyebrow. Knows? What was he supposed to know? Before Daring got the chance to ask, Sparrow slammed his locker and leaned up against it.
"Hey there, boss," Sparrow said with a wicked gleam in his eye.
Remembering his last full conversation with Sparrow, Daring frowned. His roommate was just about impossible to understand. Annoying and impossible. "What do you want, Sparrow?"
"Nothin'," Sparrow said with a smile. He glanced behind Daring briefly, making eye contact with Dexter and Tiny. Daring raised an eyebrow. What were they up to?
"You know," Sparrow said, "I was thinkin' that since this is our off week, you should go a bit easier on us. You know, let us out of practice just a bit earlier?"
"Because Coach wants us practicing all week." It wasn't necessary true. Coach Man hadn't told Daring anything about practicing, but, then again, he almost never did.
"Coach really said that?" Dexter asked behind him.
Daring crossed his arms. "Yes." Fully dressed and ready, Daring headed out of the locker room.
Sitting in the middle of the football field were Cerise and Hunter, the former tugging nervously at the turf. Daring felt a pang of jealousy at the sight. Only a few days earlier, Cerise had been sitting there with his, her eyes full of tears as she entrusted him with her past. Had she told Hunter all of that?
Daring pushed the thoughts aside. They were his friends, he should be happy for them. He had seen how Hunter reacted during class when Cerise had been moved. The frown had mirrored his own. He hadn't missed the wistful look sent Hunter's way by Ashlynn though. Daring frowned. If there was something going on there...if Hunter was cheating on Cerise, Daring would strangle him. Cerise already had enough issues in her life. She didn't need an unfaithful boyfriend on top of that.
"You should probably stop staring, Charming." Daring turned around to find Coach Man behind him, his pudgy arms crossed over his chest.
"I wasn't staring," Daring said, tearing his gaze away from the couple in the middle of the field and heading to fill up the water cooler.
"Sure." Coach Man nodded. Daring huffed, and started shoveling ice into the bucket. He sent one last glance at Cerise before focusing on the task at hand.
Those thoughts would lead nowhere good. That was the road that led to destruction.
"I think that Blondie hates me," Cerise said, picking at the food in front of her.
The thought had been plaguing her all week. Since Monday morning, Blondie had not spoken a word to her, though Crystal and Briar said enough for the whole class. Cerise was trying to figure out why Blondie had not spoken to her, and the only explanation that she could come up with was that the gossip guru hated her.
Besides her, Hunter shook his head. "I doubt it that."
"Yeah," Hunter said, "Think of it from her perspective. You have been the source of many of her most viewed articles, and now she has to interact with you on a daily basis. It has to be awkward."
Cerise raised an eyebrow. "Are you defending her?"
"I'm not..." Hunter trailed off as his phone vibrated. "It's from Cupid. She wants to meet us in her dorm room."
Cerise cursed. "This is about couples costumes, isn't it?"
"Yeah. She's obsessed with the idea."
Five minutes later, they found themselves standing in front of Cupid's down room, listening to her hum inside. "Cupid!"
The blonde opened the door with a smile on her face. "Oh. I see that you two have made it. I got Lizzie to help make the costumes. Come on in."
Cerise and Hunter stepped into Cupid's dorm, which was now decorated very festively for Halloween. "Nice spiderwebs," Hunter commented.
"Thanks," Cupid said, "I made them myself. Now you may be wondering why I asked you here."
"Does it have something to do with couples costumes?"
"Yes, and no. I want to know why the two of you have decided to become a couple when you are both obviously in love with someone else."
Cerise choked on air. "W-what?"
"I don't know how anyone else doesn't see it," Cupid said, "You obviously have the hots for Daring, and he," she pointed at Hunter, "is practically made for Ashlynn. I want to know why you two thought that it would be a good idea to go out?"
"We're doing it to make Ashlynn realize what she's missing," Cerise confessed, her face as red as the time that Daring caught her changing.
Cerise shook her head. Bad Cerise. Those were not good thoughts. Daring didn't like her that way.
"Oh." Cupid nodded thoughtfully. "In that case, I want to help."
Cerise was about to protest, and insist that it was really a stupid idea, and that they should not have done it in the first place, but Hunter beat her to it.
"What did you have in mind?"
Cupid smiled. It was practically feral. "I'm glad that you asked."
Chapter 12: Whoever Controls the Gossip Controls Grimm's
Cerise tugged at the bottom of her skirt. Dang this thing was short. It was shorter than her Grimm's uniform skirt and that was saying something. She frowned at her reflection in the mirror.
She was wearing a short, black skirt with a pair of black heeled boots that Cupid had miraculously found and a tight black tank top. The cape that Lizzie made last minute was draped over her shoulders. Cerise's frown deepened as she studied her reflection. It was all so tight. Not very...her.
But she could fix that. Cerise turned to her closet and dug through it until she found what she was looking for. The black and red plaid shirt fit perfectly. It was huge and oversized, covering both the tank and the skirt. Cerise smiled at her reflection. That was much better. Still, a mile and a half of leg peeked out from underneath the shirt. Oh well. It was better than the skirt.
With another tug of her skirt, Cerise left her dormitory and joined her friends in Raven and Cedar's room. Cedar was sitting in the middle of the room intricately painting a design on her arms. Cerise let out a low whistle. That was impressive.
"What are you doing?" Cerise asked, unsure of how painting yourself qualified as a costume.
"She does this every year," Raven said, emerging from the bathroom. Cerise raised an eyebrow at the other girl's costume. She was wearing a black pantsuit with a silky red blouse under it. Was she going as her mom? "The art kids have a contest to see who can do the best design."
"Cool," Cerise said, "Who exactly are you going as?"
"Regina," Raven said. At the confused look on Cerise's face she explained, "From Once Upon A Time."
"Oh. I don't really watch TV."
"I noticed," Raven said, "And I take it that this is Cupid's masterpiece that she was talking about?"
Cerise nodded. "I made a few adjustments."
"I can tell." Raven smiled. "Plaid isn't really Cupid's thing."
As if she had heard her, Cupid chose that exact moment to walk through the door with Lizzie only a step behind her. Cupid was wearing a fitted white toga, no doubt going as Aphrodite. True to her word, Lizzie was dressed as Wonder Woman. Both of them looked great.
"What are you wearing?" Cupid asked upon seeing Cerise.
Cerise shrugged. "I'm not really into short and tight."
"But this will ruin the plan," Cupid complained.
"What plan?" Lizzie asked.
Cupid and Cerise shared a look.Cerise swallowed. Cupid had said that nobody, absolutely nobody, could know about her magical plan to get Ashlynn and Hunter together. That included their best friends.
"Nothing," Cupid said hurriedly, "Hey, Cedar. Cool design."
Cedar jumped up from her position on the floor, allowing the girls to appreciate the body art that she had done to herself. She was wearing only a short white dress. Her dark shin was covered in bright neon swirls and patterns. It was truly a masterpiece.
"You're definitely going to win," Raven assured her.
"Thanks," Cedar said, "But the competition is pretty hard. I heard that Ginger is planning on dyeing her hair pink."
"She can't do that," Lizzie said, "It breaks dress code."
"She's an art student," Cedar said, "Following the rules isn't her top priority."
"I don't think that it's anyone's top priority," Raven said.
Cerise just smiled and followed her friends out the room.
Daring didn't know how she did it, but Briar Beauty managed to plan a great Halloween party. Every. Single. Year. This year's was in an old house that was rumored to be haunted located just off campus. Briar had invited him to join in the setting up, but Daring honestly hadn't wanted to go to the party. It had been a last minute decision to attend on his part.
"Who are you supposed to be?" Darling narrowed her eyes, trying to figure out who exactly Daring had decided to come as. She was wearing a red skirt and a blue shirt with an S scribbled across it in a last minute Supergirl costume. "Let me guess, Edward?"
"From Twilight?" Daring winced. "No. I'm just a vampire."
"You kind of look like Edward," Darling said, "Anyways, are you ready to party?" Daring followed his sister into the house and stopped in his tracks.
The entire house was dimly lit with cobwebs and jack o'lanterns decorating the rooms. Grimm's Prep students were already milling about, talking to each other, dancing, and drinking from red solo cups. "Is there alcohol?"
"I wish," Briar said coming to a stop beside him, "No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't smuggle it anywhere near the house. It's like Grimm's watching me or something."
"He probably is," Daring pointed out.
"Well," Briar huffed, "he should try spying on someone else. Is that Faybelle? Ugh. There's a reason that I don't invite her to parties. Sorry about this."
"No problem," Daring said, and Briar excused herself to kick the head of the cheer squad out of her party. Daring chuckled as he watched Briar shout at the blonde girl. Faybelle really didn't deserve this.
"You look good." Daring froze as Apple White came to a stop beside him. They hadn't really spoken since homecoming due to the events that happened with Cerise. He supposed that it was because he had been coming to terms with the fact that he liked Cerise as more than just a friend, and Apple would just stand in the way of that.
"Thanks," Daring said, "You too." As usual, Apple was dressed like Snow White. She smiled at his compliment.
"Thank you," she said, "Would you like to dance, Edward?"
Daring groaned. "I'm not Edward."
"But you've got the fangs."
"I'm just a vampire," Daring said, "And, yes, I think that dancing with you would be fun." Apple smiled and dragged Daring into the next room, where Melody piper was blaring her music loudly.
"Okay," Cupid said, pulling Cerise and Hunter to the side and letting their friends go first, "Now, it has to be public, and it has to be loud."
Cerise frowned. "But we've only been dating for a week. Can't we say that we're just not a good fit."
"Yeah," Hunter agreed.
Cupid shook her head. "Trust me. This won't work unless it's big, loud, and public. If not then there might still be rumors."
"There's going to be rumors regardless," Cerise pointed out, "This school runs on them."
"But we want to be able to control said rumors," Cupid said, "This way, we'll be able to."
Cerise glanced at Hunter who nodded. It was his call. After all, they were doing all of this for him. Even if she was single Daring probably wouldn't think of her as anything more than a friend. That was just the way that it always was with her.
"That was fun," Apple said with a perfect smile as the song came to a close.
"Yeah," Daring agreed. It was nice to have Apple back as a friend again. Not talking to her had been strange. "I'm going to go get some punch!" Daring shouted over the music.
"Sounds good!" Apple shouted back.
Daring left the room, making his way towards the kitchen and the rows of drinks lined up there. His brother was seated at the island with Raven Queen, the two of them dressed as Robin Hood and Regina Mills from Once Upon a Time. Daring rolled his eyes. They might as well have written 'we are now officially dating' across their foreheads in sharpie. There was no way that their father would be okay with that.
"Hey big bro," Dexter said when he noticed him, "Nice Edward Cullen costume."
"It's not Edward Cullen," Daring said through gritted teeth.
"Of course he's not Edward," Raven said, "He's Klaus from The Originals."
"I'm not him either," Daring said.
"So you're just a boring old vampire?"
"Of course he's a boring old vampire." Daring's breath caught in his throat, and he turned around to find Cerise Hood standing behind him.
She was dressed in a plaid shirt over a black mini skirt and a black tank top, a hood covering most of her hair and face. She looked great. She fiddled with her sleeve, and Daring realized that he had been staring. "You look good," Daring cleared his throat.
"Thanks," Cerise said with a small smile. "Have any of you guys seen Hunter? I can't seem to find him."
Daring was jolted back into reality at the mention of Hunter Huntsman. Right. Cerise had a boyfriend. A very nice boyfriend who Daring happened to be friends with. It was weird to be crushing on your friend's girlfriend. Even if she was Cerise Hood.
Cerise sighed. "That just great," she said sarcastically, "Anyways, thanks for the help." Daring watched as she walked away.
"Um..." Dexter said awkwardly, "Do you think that you could leave us alone for a bit?"
Despite his earlier disappointment, Daring grinned. "Sure." He grabbed a cup off of a nearby table and exited the kitchen.
Daring wandered from room to room, occasionally chatting with people, complimenting their costumes, and sharing stories. Blondie Locks had decided to go as Cinderella. His sister's roommates Rosebella Beauty and Justine Dancer were dressed up as Batgirl and Bumblebee. Crystal Winters, a Canadian semi-foreign exchange student, was dressed as Elsa. Duchess Swan had dressed like a goth, while Sparrow Hood had dressed like a prep. Daring smiled as Sparrow shot him a wink. Maybe things were going well for them.
Daring found himself climbing the stairs to a small room that was surprisingly unoccupied. Maybe no one had figured out that it was there yet. It was the perfect place to make out with someone. Daring flopped down on one of the many couches and stared at the ceiling.
Why was it that the only thing that he could think about was Cerise Hood? Why was it that the Halloween bash was ruined just because he knew that she was down there dancing with Hunter? He should be happy for the two of them, yet he couldn't bring himself to be.
A Charming always got what they wanted, it was a sacred rule. Charmings don't settle for second place. But Daring couldn't bring himself to compete for first place of it meant destroying all of his friendships. He would just have to settle for second best. For the first time in his life, Daring Charming would have to settle for the friend zone.
"I can't believe you!"
"You can't believe me?! I can't believe you! To think that I ever wanted to go out with you!"
"If that's how you feel about it then maybe it was a mistake!"
"Maybe it was!"
"Great!" Cerise stomped her foot on the floor and stormed off. The crowd parted to make way for her. Cerise almost smiled to herself. She and Hunter had put on a good show. If Cupid's prediction was right, all that they'd have to do is sit back and wait for the rest of the plan to fall in place.
Cerise pulled her phone out of her pocket and checked her messages. She hadn't seen her sister at the party, so maybe she was elsewhere. Cerise climbed the stairs, making her way to one of the more private rooms at the back of the hallway. She picked one at random, crossing her fingers and hoping that there weren't students enjoying the time away from same sex dorms on the other side.
The door opened to reveal a room with a couch that was already occupied by a figure lying on the couch and a love seat. Since there weren't any other students there, Cerise closed the door behind her. She crossed the room, taking a seat on the empty love seat, and let out a sigh of relief.
It was so nice to be 'single' again.
"Hey," Cerise glanced up to find Daring Charming in all of his perfection sitting on the couch.
"Hey." Cerise smiled weakly. Interacting with Daring was always so natural, but she felt her stomach tying itself into knots as Daring took the seat beside her.
"So, what're you doing up here?"
"Oh," Cerise said, "Stuff."
"What kind of stuff?"
"Stuff stuff," Cerise said. Wow she sounded dumb. She sounded like an idiot who didn't know how to talk.
"Where's Hunter?" Daring asked, much to Cerise's surprise.
"I don't know," Cerise said, "Probably off doing stuff."
"Stuff like us?"
Cerise laughed. "I doubt that he's sitting in a dusty room making conversation."
Daring nodded. "I hope that you don't mind me saying this, but I was kind of surprised when you two started dating."
"Me too," Cerise said, "It was a little too fast. I don't think that it was that wise of a decision."
"You don't?" There was a note of hope in Daring's voice that made Cerise look at him. He was sitting closer to her than she had realized with their thighs touching, his blue grey eyes staring back at hers. Unconsciously, Cerise locked her lips. Daring's eyes followed the movement.
"Yeah," Cerise's voice came out hoarse, "I don't."
"Really? Because I really like both of you guys. And I would never want to do anything to hurt the friendship that we share as teammates. It's a special bond-"
"Shut up." Cerise's lips molded against Daring's as she kissed him.
Chapter 13: Some Things Aren't Meant to Be
Daring Charming had been kissed many times before. He was a stud-a chick magnet-and girls lined up to get the chance to kiss him. He had kissed Apple when they were seven, and, as far as he could remember, it had been fine. He had kissed Ashlynn back when they'd tried dating, but that had felt like kissing his sister. He had kissed Lizzie only the year before when he had believed himself to be in love with her, but something about that was just off. He had even drunkenly made out with Darling's friend, Rosebella, at a party. But none of those kisses had felt like this one.
It was just a quick peck, her lips barely brushing against his, but it felt different. It felt...right. Just as quickly as it began it ended. Cerise retreated, her face the shade of a rose.
"Um..." Cerise muttered, "Sorry. That was-"
"Wonderful," Daring murmured. It had been wonderful. That was the only word to describe the feeling that he had felt.
Cerise chewed on her lip. "Really?" she breathed.
"Really." Daring scooted closer to her until that they were only a hairbreadth away from each other. Cerise's big grey eyes stared into his. Daring smiled. He tilted her chin up and pressed his lips to hers.
They were instantly moving. Lips against lips. Cerise kissed just as passionately as she played football. It was a competition to see who could outdo the other one, and Daring wasn't about to let her win. Daring tugged Cerise closer.
It was perfect. Completely and utterly perfect. Cerise Hood-the girl of his dreams-was kissing him on the couch in a dusty attic room. No one was around to see them. Not Apple. Not Sparrow. Not her boyfriend.
Daring stopped and pulled back. Boyfriend. Cerise had a boyfriend. One who was one of his best friends, and here he was making out with Hunter's girlfriend. Daring stood up.
"Daring?" Cerise looked up at him with curious grey eyes.
Daring swallowed and tore his eyes away from her face. "I've got to go," he said and left the room, leaving a confused Cerise Hood behind him.
Cerise may have been the most amazing girl that he had ever met, she may have been the closest thing that he'd ever had to a best friend, she may have been the only person in his life to trust him with her secrets, but that didn't change the fact that she was dating Hunter Huntsman. It didn't change the fact that he had just made out with his friend's girlfriend. It didn't change the fact that he had totally ruined two great friendships.
He was the worst kind of friend.
Cerise stared at the closed door. What was that? What had just happened? One moment she had been making out with Daring Charming, and the next he was unresponsive. What was going on?
"Daring!" Cerise hopped up from the couch and ran out of the room. She descended the stairs, her eyes scanning the crowded house. Daring was nowhere to be found.
Cerise stopped at the bottom of the stairs as a blonde figure bumped into her. "Oops, sorry," Darling Charming apologized.
"It's fine," Cerise said, her eyes still scanning the crowd, willing Daring to show himself. "Have you seen your brother?"
"Dexter's in the kitchen," Darling said, "Daring just left." She made a face. "He took the car with him."
"Do you know where he went?" Cerise asked hopefully.
Darling shrugged. "He could be anywhere."
"Right." Cerise left the blonde to herself, and wandered through the house. She eventually found herself outside in the small garden, and took a seat on a stone bench.
What had she done wrong? She had thought that she was doing everything right. It had seemed right at the time. Everything had seemed right. Daring had been sitting there with her, and he had been bumbling like an idiot. Kissing him had just seemed like the right thing to do. And, for a second, she had thought that he reciprocated her feelings.
"Hey." Cerise glanced up as Hunter took a seat next to her.
"Hey yourself," she said.
"So how'd it go for you?"
"It..." Cerise trailed off. "Love is complicated."
"Tell me about it," Hunter sighed, "Ashlynn's in there with Prince."
"Did you talk to her?"
"I tried to. I think that she's mad at me," he paused, "What happened with you?"
Cerise cringed. "I don't want to talk about it."
Hunter leaned back and stared at the night sky. "I think maybe this love thing is a bit harder than Cupid thought it would be."
Cerise laughed bitterly. "You think?"
Daring found himself in his dorm room two hours before he planned on being back. He pulled out his notebooks and tried to work on homework for a moment before giving up. There was no way that he could think after what had just happened.
He had kissed Cerise. Well, she had kissed him first. And it had been wonderful. Absolutely, totally fantastically wonderful. Then his stupid brain had to go ruin it.
If only Daring hadn't remembered Hunter. If he hadn't...the he might have been with Cerise at the moment. Instead he was sitting on his bed lamenting the best kiss of his life.
Why had Cerise kissed him? She had a boyfriend, yet she had been the instigator, and she had kissed him back just a passionately as he had kissed her. That had to mean that she had feelings for him. Cerise wasn't the kind of girl to kiss a guy lightly, but she wasn't the kind of girl to cheat on her boyfriend either. Maybe she had been drunk. She hadn't seemed intoxicated, but Daring hadn't been looking for it. If that was true then Daring had taken advantage of her.
Daring pulled out his laptop and logged on. Five minutes later he pulled up Blondie to find six horrifying words staring back at him
Huntrise: Break up and Make up
Underneath was a picture of Hunter and Cerise sitting on a bench outside the party. He was dressed as the big bad wolf and her as little red riding hood. They matched.
Daring's heart shattered into a million different pieces.
Cerise stared at the dark ceiling of her dorm room, mentally replaying the kiss in her mind. It had been the best kiss that she'd ever received, or given. It had been the best kiss of her life. Period. It had been everything that she'd ever imagined it to be. Except for the ending. In her imagination it didn't end with Daring running off because it was a mistake.
"Are you awake?" Apple's bedside light clicked on and she turned to face Cerise.
Cerise continued to stare at the now slightly illuminated ceiling. "Hmmm," she murmured.
Where had she gone wrong? Had she misread him? Did Daring actually not have any feelings for her? Was everything that she'd thought she'd seen-every touch and lingering glance-been imagined?
Apple sighed. "I just wanted to apologize. I've been a bitch recently."
Cerise rolled over on her side so that she could better view her roommate. Apple looked one hundred percent sincere. There was not an ounce of malice on her face.
"You know," Apple said, lifting herself up onto her elbows, "They used to tease us that we'd end up together when we were little. Me and Daring, I mean. I guess somewhere along the line I just started to believe it."
Cerise didn't know what to say as Apple continued, "I used to think that the world was just one big happy fairy tale. I'd inherit the family company, marry Daring Charming, live happily ever after with two point five children and a white picket fence. You know what I mean?"
Cerise shook her head. She didn't know what Apple meant. It had been very clear to her since the beginning that only lucky people got to live happily ever after.
"Well, I suppose that you're the more realistic of the two of us then. But to me, for a long time, that was my happy ending. I wasn't about to let anyone take it away from me. That's why I destroyed Lizzie Hearts last year. I wish that I hadn't. Lizzie's actually pretty cool." Apple looked at Cerise. "You can't tell her that I said that."
"I wouldn't dream of it," Cerise replied.
"I decided at the beginning of the year that this was going to be the year that everything was perfect. I was going to be the class president, the head of the equestrian team, on a million and one dance committees, and most importantly of all I was going to ask out Daring. We'd be like my parents, who met senior year and fell in love. It was all going to be perfect.
Then you walked into my life. You were this country bumpkin with absolutely no etiquette and horrible fashion choices." Cerise stared at Apple in shock. "No offense, but that's how I first saw you."
"None taken, I guess?"
"I remember thinking to myself 'how on earth did she get into GPA?'. So I had Blondie research you, and she came up with absolutely nothing. No one knew anyone about you. Then you tried out for the football team, and I began to wonder if there was maybe more to you than meets the eye. Then Daring began to fall in love with you."
Cerise's breath caught in her throat.
"I'm not an idiot. I know that boy better than anyone. After all, we've been friends since we were in diapers. I can tell when Daring likes someone. At the beginning, it wasn't an issue. He hated you for breaking the rules that are so important to him, but then you two became friends, and there was an attraction between you guys that there never was between us. I became jealous. I wasn't about to let you take away my happy ending. So I did everything that I could to keep the two of you apart. But now...I realize that what I did was wrong. So, I'm sorry. I hope that you can forgive me."
Cerise was silent for a long moment, processing Apple's confession. Apple thought that Daring liked her. Her friends had been right when they said that Apple was threatened by her. It was several moments before she spoke, "What brought this confession on?"
Apple took a deep breath. "You have to swear that you won't tell anyone."
"Cross my heart."
"I got a call from my dad tonight. He and my mom have decided to separate-for good this time."
"So am I," Apple said. "I should have seen this coming. I mean my mom is such a control freak. She's always off doing some form of business or another. My dad's a book nerd, and they rarely even talk during the holidays unless it's to yell at one another. I guess that I was just blindsided by my happily ever after."
"Yeah," Cerise agreed, "For what it's worth though, I think you might have been wrong about me and Daring. I like him, but he's not..." Cerise trailed off.
"I wouldn't give up on him so soon," Apple said, "boys can be difficult. He may just need some time."
Cerise doubted that. "While we're in an opening up mood," she said, "you may want to ask Ashlynn who she really likes."
"Why?" Apple asked.
"Okay." Apple nodded. "Thanks for listening to me rant."
There was another long pause before Apple broke the silence. "Can I ask you a question? I know that I'm probably overstepping boundaries, but I'm curious."
"What is it?"
"How did you get into this school? I mean you're a great athlete, probably a great friend, and a better person than me, but none of that shows up on paper. And you're not on scholarship so someone is paying your tuition. Do you have, like, a rich aunt or something?"
Cerise sighed. "No. There's no rich aunt, but if I tell you this you have to promise not to tell anyone."
"Cross my heart. Hope to die. Stick a needle in my eye."
Cerise smiled. "Wow, you're really curious."
"A genius wants to know," Apple said with a shrug, "It kind of comes with the territory. So, how did you get into GPA?"
Cerise stilled and waited for a minute. Was this the right choice? Was telling Apple this the right thing to do? How could she know that Apple wouldn't just turn around and spread the news?
"It's not that hard to get into GPA," Cerise said, "when your father's Cattivo Wolf."
She watched as the realization dawned on Apple's face. "You're father...wow...what's that like? Are you in the business?"
"No," Cerise said, "and I don't plan on joining. You promise that you won't say anything?"
"I don't know if I could," Apple said.
"No problem." Apple turned off her light and the two girls closed their eyes. As Cerise started to drift off to sleep she heard Apple murmur to herself, "And I thought that my family sucked."
A cold front had come through overnight. There was a chill in the air as Daring made his way to the football field. He was dressed in a pair of sweatpants and a GPA sweatshirt. He could see his breath before him as he walked.
He had left the party early the night before. Partly because of the feeling of dread in his stomach and partly because he was the shittiest friend in the world. What kind of person made out with their friend's girlfriend? A horrible one, that's what. The worst part of it all was that Daring didn't regret it. Not really. That had to make him worse than a horrible person.
Daring stuck his earbuds into his ears and started to jog around the football field. It would be best for both of them if he just forgot about the whole ordeal. He should just act like the party had never happened. But it had. Daring couldn't forget something like that, even if it was a simple kiss.
Daring stopped running as he caught sight of a tall, tan figure just outside the football field. At first glance, it appeared to be Cerise, but her hair was longer, and she was wearing a pair of ripped jeans with a leather jacket. It was Cerise's sister, Ramona.
What was she doing here?
Daring watched as she snuck past the football field back towards the school. She must have been out late last night. Maybe she had spent the night at Briar's party. It wasn't as if it were an uncommon occurrence. Plenty of people crashed at Briar's party(usually because they were too drunk to see straight).
A nagging feeling in the back of Daring's mind told him that that wasn't the reason. He hadn't seen Ramona at Briar's party. She was an easy spot, after all. Not many people looked almost exactly the same as Cerise Hood. If she wasn't coming back from Briar's party, then where was she coming back from? Daring tore his attention away and cranked the volume up on his phone. It wasn't his business anyways. Ramona could do whatever she wished in her free time. Why should he care?
He shouldn't, but he did anyways. It bothered Daring that he did. He had no reason to care about the sister of the girl who had broken his heart. Daring let out a sigh. Maybe he'd mention it to Hunter and he'd tell Cerise. After all, if it were Darling he would like to know.
Daring shoved all thoughts of the Hood sisters out of his mind and resumed jogging.
"I have an idea," Cupid said as soon as Cerise opened her door.
"No," Cerise said.
Cupid bounced up and down on her toes. "Don't you want to know what it is?"
"Not particularly." Cerise started to close the door, but Cupid shoved her foot into the doorframe and inched her way into the room. Cerise frowned.
Cupid picked her way across the room, coming to a stop at Cerise's desk. She took a seat, and began studying a few of the photos that Cerise kept there. "You're mom's really pretty," she said, picking up a picture of Cerise, her mom, and her sister.
"Thanks," Cerise said, taking the picture out of Cupid's hands and placing it back on the desk, "Now what are you doing here?"
"I'm here to help you," Cupid said, "As the school love expert, it is my job to make sure that all true love happens."
"It's not true love," Cerise said.
"That remains to be seen." Cupid grinned. "Can you tell me what happened last night?"
"Yes," Cerise said, "but I won't."
"Because I don't want you meddling in my love life. Me and Hunter are no longer 'dating', so your help isn't needed."
"Blondie still thinks that you're dating," Cupid said.
"Blondie can think whatever the hell she wants to." Cerise collapsed on her bed. "I'm done giving a damn about her gossip blog."
Cupid stared at Cerise. "Why?"
Cerise shrugged. "Because there are more important things to worry about than a godforsaken gossip blog. I'm so sick and tired of this school."
"What happened last night?" Cupid asked after a moment.
There was a long pause and then, "I kissed him."
"And he didn't return it?"
"He returned it all right." Cerise laughed bitterly. "Then he fled because it was obviously a mistake."
"Is that what you think?"
"I don't know what to think," Cerise replied angrily, "But trust me, Cupid, it's not going to happen."
Cupid frowned. Her friend sounded so sure. She sounded so sure that Daring didn't like her, but Cupid has seen otherwise. Daring Charming didn't send girls lingering glances, he didn't ask girls to accompany him to his father's parties, and he didn't let girls on his football team. Yet Cerise was the exception to all of those things.
Cerise Hood was special.
The Prince's Bodyguard
Daring Charming: Crown prince of Ever After, celebrity party boy, one of the most pursued men in the world, six feet four inches tall with shimmering golden hair, athletic, enjoys long walks on the beach and good dance music.
Cerise Hood: Six feet tall, one hundred forty pounds of solid muscle, master in eight different forms of martial arts, fluent in six languages, can kill a man using 'just this thumb'.
Since she was fourteen years old, Cerise Hood has been Daring Charming's bodyguard. Their relationship exists somewhere in the space between best friend and annoying partner. They work well together, with Cerise following Daring around the world. She is his shadow, his constant companion in life, and the keeper of many of his secrets.
Until she's not. It starts small, so small that Daring doesn't notice it. Then he begins to notice the little things. Soon enough it turns into full on pining. But it is something that can never happen. After all, Daring is the crown prince of Ever After, dating Rosebella Beauty. Daring Charming cannot fall in love with his bodyguard.
The problem is that he already has.
Chapter 15: It Doesn't Always Work Out
That was how long it had been since Cerise had spoken to Daring. She'd seen him daily, both in english and at football practice, but she hadn't interacted with him. In both places, Hunter had served as a buffer, whether he knew it or not. She knew that Cupid wanted her to talk to Daring, but she couldn't bring herself to. It was just too...hard.
Cerise's eyes roamed across the english classroom, coming to rest on the figure that she had been so avidly avoiding. Daring was reading his book, his blonde head down so that she couldn't see the concentration on his face. She needed to fix this, but she didn't know how to. Daring Charming wasn't her friend anymore. They had crossed that line the moment that she pressed her lips to his. So, what was he?
Cerise had been trying to figure that out for the past week.
Beside her, Blondie shifted in her seat. Like Cerise, she wasn't really reading her book. Instead she was busily typing away on her phone. Cerise glanced at the text on her screen. Blondie had pulled up the notes app on her phone and was typing an article about...the school lunch? Huh, that was different.
Ever since Apple's confession and their weird heart to heart a few days earlier, Blondie hadn't posted a single thing related to Cerise Hood on her blog. It was a nice change. Cerise wouldn't admit it to anyone(most of all herself), but some part of her did worry about what Blondie wrote about Cerise on her blog.
Cerise closed her book as the bell rang, and quickly left the room. She wasn't quite sure why she was avoiding Daring since he seemed to be avoiding her just as actively. Out of the corner of her eye, Cerise saw long brown hair streaked red and a Grimm's uniform with a leather jacket duck into a janitorial closet.
Sighing, Cerise followed her sister. Opening the closet door and almost laughing when Ramona tumbled out with a tall guy that she recognized from the football team(Levi, or something like that). Ramona glared at her as her partner scrambled up and disappeared into the crowd.
"Now that's not something that I expected," Cerise said.
Her sister rolled her eyes. "Whatever," she said, jumping up and brushing off her skirt.
Cerise stared at her sister. She looked different somehow. "How how you been? Darling told me that you quit the track team."
"Yeah," Ramona said, "It wasn't really my thing."
"Why not?" Cerise asked, trying to figure out what exactly it was about Ramona that was different.
"Because I'm not you," Ramona said, "Okay? I'm not some super-duper-break-all-the-rules athlete. Can you just leave me alone?" Cerise watched Ramona stomp off to whatever her next class was. As she turned the corner, Cerise figured out what was different about her.
Ramona's eyes were red, as if she had been crying.
Daring slipped into the locker room as soon as the bell dismissing his last class rang. No one else was in the room yet. It smelled worse than a walrus's armpit, but Daring needed some place he could be alone. He needed some place that he could think.
He hadn't talked to Cerise in a week. Every instruction or order that he'd given her in practice had been relayed through Hunter. Cerise had done everything that he'd asked, but she hadn't spoken to him either. They were at a stalemate, neither of them wanting to talk to the other. He really should discuss this with Cerise. He should tell her how he feels, and be done with it. Whatever done is.
But not today. Not today. It was the first week in November, and their first playoff game. Talking to Cerise would have to wait until the game was finished. He'd received a text from his father informing him that they were coming to the game. That meant that he'd have to play Dexter. His younger brother was sure to be angry about that.
"Hey." Daring glanced up to find his brother standing in front of him, looking incredibly nerdy as usual.
"Hey." Daring dragged himself to his locker and tossed his bag inside.
"I was wondering if you'd heard from Dad?"
Daring nodded. "He's coming to the game."
"Which means that you're going to play me." Dexter took a seat on one of the benches. He pulled a notebook filled with music notes out of his bag and thumbed through it. He let out a defeated sigh as he studied it.
Daring watched his little brother in the mirror. He closed his locker and sat down next to Dexter. "Have you ever thought about telling him that you don't like playing football?" Daring asked.
"All of the time," Dexter said, "but I never would."
Dexter shook his head. "You wouldn't understand."
"Why do you think that?"
Dexter's bright blue gaze held Daring's steel one. "Because you are their golden child. I mean, come on. We both know that you're going to Dad's alma mater next year to play football. And then you're going to work as a lawyer and follow in his footsteps. With me...it's harder. They expect me to be you, and I'm just not."
"Mom would probably understand that," Daring said.
"Mom won't understand anything that Dad doesn't want her to." Dexter smiled sadly. "They both freaked out when they found out about me and Raven. She's a year older than me and a democrat. I think that they want to send me to a reformatory school."
"They won't," Daring reassured him, "They care about Grimm's too much."
"Exactly. They care about Grimm's. They don't care about me, or Darling for that matter. They care about you because you're perfect. You'd never make a mistake."
Daring frowned. "I wouldn't be too sure about that."
Dexter studied him for several minutes before speaking. "You're talking about Cerise, aren't you?"
Daring winced. "How do you know?"
"Come on," Dexter said, "I'm dating Raven Queen. Cerise is in her friend group."
"What did you hear?"
"Mostly just Cedar ranting about how you don't deserve her anyways."
Daring let out a sigh. "She's right."
"Stop right there," Dexter said, "The brother that I know doesn't give up on anything. This is not the attitude of Daring Charming. Daring Charming chases after what he wants."
"Not when what he wants is dating one of his best friends."
"Look, we both know that Hunter and Cerise don't really like each other. Whatever reasons they have for dating have nothing to do with love."
"I'm not sure," Daring studied the cement floor.
"I'm sorry. Am I interrupting something?" The brothers' heads snapped to the doorway at the sound of Sparrow's voice. "It looks awfully intimate here. Should I give the two of you a moment?"
"Screw you jackass," Dexter said making Daring smile, "For what it's worth, though," he said as Sparrow went about his own business, "Cupid and I are rooting for you."
Maybe Dexter was right. Hunter and Cerise...they just didn't seem right. They acted like close friends, not like lovers. He had never seen Cerise kiss Hunter as she had kissed him. Come to think of it, Daring had never seen them kiss at all. They hugged a lot, but there was no physical contact aside from that. Still...
Daring shook his head. What was he doing? He was Daring Charming. It was time that he started living up to his namesake. It was time that he told Cerise Hood how he felt about her.
Cerise stared at her reflection in the locker room. Her eyes roamed over the plains of her face, taking in her sleep deprived eyes, the scars running down her ear and neck, the curve of her mouth. With a sigh, Cerise pulled her brown hair back in a ponytail. Playoff were playoffs were playoffs, and Cerise didn't expect this game to be too different from the last. They were the favorites. The private catholic school that they were playing against had only made it to playoffs because the rest of their pool sucked.
Part of Cerise was hoping that they'd lose just so that the season would be over already. That way she wouldn't have to face Daring on a daily basis. Sure, they'd still be in the same english class, but it wasn't as if they talked to each other there anyways. If football were over than she could focus on her friends, and on her normal school life. After all, she had college applications to send.
Cerise grabbed her football pads and jersey, and made her way into the boy's locker room, where Coach Man was standing in front of a whiteboard going over some last minute drills. Cerise snuck into the back of the room, taking a place behind Tiny, a tall sophomore.
"I just want you guys to know," Coach Man said, "no matter what happens out there on the field I am proud of y'all. This is the first time that we've made it to playoffs in two years." A cheer came from the occupants of the locker room including Cerise herself. "I know that we can win this game. I have complete faith in you kids. Now, let's go out and show those boys what we're made of here at Grimm's." There was more cheering as the team exited the locker room.
Cerise stopped as someone grabbed her arm. "Cerise." She turned to find a pair of steel grey eyes staring into hers. Daring Charming. A part of her wanted to smile. A part of her wanted to flee. Instead, she forced herself to remain neutral.
"Daring," Cerise said calmly.
"I need..." Daring trailed off, "I need to talk to you."
"Okay," Cerise said.
Daring took a deep breath and paused. "Not right now," he said, "After the game. I need to talk to you after we win the game."
"I just..." Daring stopped. "Please. Promise me that you'll stay after to listen to what I have to say."
It was the desperation in his voice that caused her to nod. "Okay," Cerise agreed, "I'll stay after the game."
"Thank you," Daring breathed. He leaned forward, as if to kiss her, then stopped. He gently squeezed her arm instead. "Thank you," he said once more and left the locker room.
Cerise watched his blond head disappear. What the hell?
"We've got this game in the bag." Apple smiled at her friend's comment. True, they did have the game in the bag. Halfway into the second quarter and the other team had yet to score. Grimm's, on the other hand, already had twenty points on the board.
Beside her, Ashlynn ate a chip and watched the game intently. Both Poppy and Holly had decided to skip this game, Briar was already setting up the after party, and Blondie had gotten front row seats to better report on the game. That left Apple with only Ashlynn as company. She was great company, but a single thought kept nagging at the back of Apple's mind.
You might want to ask Ashlynn who she really likes.
Apple had been trying to decipher what Cerise's words meant over the past week. As far as she was concerned, Ashlynn didn't like anyone in particular. She got along with Prince, and she'd dated Daring for a millisecond, but she wasn't head over heels in love with anyone. Then again, Apple wasn't the best at being able to tell who liked who. She could have sworn that Charlotte Anne Cupid was madly in love with Dexter Charming, yet here he was dating Raven Queen.
There's no harm in asking her, said the little voice in the back of her head. True, there was no harm in asking her. Apple took a breath. "Ashlynn?"
"Yeah?" Ashlynn said, not taking her eyes off of the game.
"Are you in love with anyone?"
Ashlynn turned to face her. Her green eyes studying Apple's face. "Why do you ask?"
"Cerise recommended that I ask you," Apple said.
"So you and Cerise are on speaking terms now?"
Apple shrugged. "More or less." Cerise and Apple were by no means friends, but there was an understanding between the two of them that Apple did not have with any of her other friends. They didn't hang out with one another, and outside of their dormitory they never conversed, but when they were alone it was like Apple could finally open up to someone without having to worry about being judged.
"There is someone," Ashlynn said, "We met when I was working at the animal shelter over the summer."
Apple nodded. "What's he like? Or is he a she? I won't judge."
"You won't judge?" Ashlynn raised an eyebrow. "At all?"
"Okay," Ashlynn said, "They're a he. And he's really really sweet. He loves animals, and nature. We went camping together." Ashlynn smiled fondly.
"He sounds like everything you've dreamed of," Apple said.
"He is." The smile on Ashlynn's face disappeared, "But my parents don't approve of him, and neither do my friends, so I screwed it up."
"How?" Apple didn't see how Ashlynn could screw up any relationship. Everyone loved her.
"I went to homecoming with Prince," Ashlynn said, "Even though he asked me."
"Wait. He goes to our school?" Ashlynn nodded. "Who is he?"
Ashlynn took a deep breath and said quietly, "Hunter Huntsman."
Apple's mouth fell open. Hunter Huntsman? The scholarship kid who'd dated(and possibly still dating) Cerise? Ashlynn was in love with Hunter Huntsman? Thinking about it, it made perfect sense. The two of them were like two sides of the same coin. Apple didn't believe in soulmates-not anymore-but they were pretty close.
She was about to voice all of these thoughts to Ashlynn when the band stopped playing and the stadium fell silent. Apple looked out to the field where the players ad all taken a knee, and one of their own was lying on the field with a medic, Coach Man, and Daring hovering over them.
"What happened?" Apple asked. Ashlynn shook her head. She too had missed the action.
Darling Charming tuned around on the bleachers in front of them "It's Cerise Hood," she said, "She was sacked, and she hasn't gotten up."
Daring felt the breath leave his lungs as Cerise's body made a sickening crunch as she hit the ground. The lineman who'd tackled her took a step back and stared at her. The refs began blowing their whistles and Daring jogged up to where Cerise was lying. He knew the sound of bones breaking from his own experience.
Daring paled as he looked at her. Her arm was twisted at an unnatural angle, but that wasn't what scared Daring. No. Her eyes were closed, and she had yet to open them.
"Is she going to be okay?" he asked the medic as Coach Man joined them on the field.
The medic frowned. "I need a stretcher over here," he said into the walkie talkie on his shoulder. He looked at Coach Man. "Hopefully she's just unconscious from the pain."
"And if she's not?" The medic didn't answer Daring as he strapped Cerise's limp body onto the stretcher and wheeled her away.
"Everything's going to be fine," Coach Man said to Daring. Daring didn't say anything. He just stared at the ambulance as it disappeared. "Sparrow Hood!" he shouted.
"Yeah, Coach," Sparrow jogged out to join Daring and Coach Man.
"You're in." Coach Man retreated to the bleachers.
Sparrow placed a hand on Daring's shoulder, bringing him out of his thoughts. "She's going to be okay," he said, "She's tough. It's up to us to make sure that the bastard who did that to her doesn't win."
Daring nodded. Sparrow was right. Cerise would be fine. She had to be fine. And the team needed him to win the game. They could win, and they would win. They would win this game for Cerise.
Chapter 16: The Truth Will Out
"Mom and Dad want to take us out to dinner." Daring stared blankly at his brother as he finished packing his pads and uniform into his duffel bag. "Do you want me to tell them that you can't make it."
"Yeah." Daring nodded. "Just tell them that I have homework, or that Coach held me back, or something."
"Okay." Dexter patted his brother on the back then left the locker room. Daring shouldered his bag and stopped as a figure stepped into his path.
"I'm coming with you," Hunter said. Daring nodded mutely. He didn't have it in him to argue with Hunter at the moment. Together they left the locker room.
The ride to the hospital took thirty minutes at most, but it seemed like an eternity. Daring was far from calm, his heart racing through all of the possibilities of what could happen to her. Was she still alive? What if they were too late? Why couldn't someone else have been hurt?
It was selfish to think such thoughts, Daring knew that. The loss of any of his teammates was a loss for his team, but with Cerisie...with Cerise it was different. Cerise mattered to him, and not in the same way that the rest of his teammates did. If it had been Hunter, or Sparrow, or even Dexter, Daring wouldn't have been as worried, but it was Cerise, and Cerise was different.
Cerise was special.
Daring couldn't say it any other way. He wouldn't say it any other way. His mind simply wouldn't let him think of the possibility that he had fallen in love with a girl that he had met only a few months earlier. That wasn't how love worked. It didn't work this quickly. There was no such thing as love at first sight. The was definitely no such thing as true love. Daring's parents were more than enough proof of that.
Senator and Mrs. Charming were what was best described as a political marriage. They lived on opposite sides of the house. They spent most of their days working. They did not hate each other, but they did not love each other either. They were friends, but not lovers.
Daring had always believed that that was all that there was in life. There was no such thing as true love, or love at first sight. There was attraction, there was companionship, and there was sex. Love was a fleeting emotion, like joy, and it was no basis for a relationship.
All of that had been before Cerise Hood had sauntered onto his football field with her arms crossed and her eyebrows raised, ready to challenge him whenever he did something stupid. That was before Cerise Hood had rushed into the weightroom with her uniform untidy, ready to stomp on his foot when he wouldn't stop tickling her. That had been before he'd fallen in love with her.
He had fallen in love with her, Daring was certain of it. He had fallen in love with Cerise Hood, and he had been about to tell her as soon as the game was over, despite the fact that his parents were there and that her boyfriend was on the team. Her boyfriend...
Daring glanced at Hunter, who was staring at the road in front of them from behind the steering wheel of his pickup truck. Hunter Huntsman was the closest thing that he had to a best guy friend, and he was a good guy. He was a great guy. Daring didn't deserve his friendship, especially since he was in love with his girlfriend.
"I kissed Cerise," Daring confessed in the quiet of the car. It needed to be out there. Hunter needed to know about how Daring had wronged him.
To his surprise, Hunter smiled. "I know."
Hunter shrugged, sparing a glance at Daring. "Well, I kind of figured that was what happened. She didn't explicitly tell me that you two kissed. It's not like it was hard to put one and one together, though."
"And you're okay with it?" Daring asked.
"In terms of bro code?" Hunter asked, "Absolutely not. If we'd actually been dating, I would have to kill you."
"What do you mean 'actually dating'?"
"Cerise was helping me with a problem," Hunter said, "That was all. There was no dating, or romance-y stuff going on. There were no feelings aside from friendship." Hunter glanced at Daring again and smiled. "I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but it was easy to figure out who she really liked."
"And who was that?" Daring held his breath, afraid of what the answer would be.
"If I need to answer that question," Hunter said, "then you're not as smart as everyone thinks you are. After all, I'm not the one that she kissed."
The windows were open so that the bright morning sun would peep through them, letting just a little bit of the crisp morning air in. Cerise sat at the table, her math book open, tracing lazy circles on the pages. Ramona was still asleep in her room, so Cerise didn't have to worry about finishing the lesson quite yet.
"Cerise." Cerise's attention was drawn away from the book as her mother took a seat across from her, placing a warm mug of tea in front of her as she did so. "A penny for your thoughts."
Cerise looked at her mother and shrugged. "I can't think," the twelve year old said.
Her mother smiled, the smile lighting up her face, but not quite reaching her eyes. "Really?" she asked, "I suppose that that means that you can't do math for the rest of the morning too?"
Cerise shook her head. "No. It's...how did you and Dad fall in love?"
Her mother wrapped her fingers around her own steaming cup of tea. "I suppose that you deserve to know," she said. She took a deep breath and began, "When I first met your father it was at a party for a man running for governor. I was twelve, he was fifteen, and I don't believe that we did anything other than insult each other. He was a Wolf, and I was a Hood. Our families were rivals and that's all there was to it at the time. We had both been raised to despise one another, and we probably would have our entire life if it weren't for Dominic.
Dominic was your father's younger brother. He was the baby of the family, and as such he was allowed certain freedoms that were not granted to the other Wolf children. Dominic decided that he would like to attend school, and he was allowed to, even though his siblings were all tutored. The schools in the direct area were all decrepit, so his father ended up sending him to a private boarding school that I also happened to attend.
Dominic was a year younger than me, and, for some reason, he decided to befriend me. Despite his family's reputation, Dominic was nice. He was easy going, and creative. He wasn't corrupted yet. He was a Wolf, but he didn't seem like one to me. We spent a lot of time together. I even taught him a few tricks of the trade.
You see, while the Wolfs were into organized crime, many of the Hoods were thieves. I knew how to pick a lock before I could walk. It came naturally to me. I guess you could say that it was my destiny to be a thief.
Anyways, when I was fourteen, Dominic's father found out about our friendship. He was going to remove Dom from school, but he managed to convince him that school was necessary. Instead of removing Dominic, his father sent Cattivo with him the following semester.
To say that I hated Cattivo Wolf would be an understatement. I loathed him with every fiber of my being. By that time, Dominic had become my best friend, and suddenly his brother was there to ruin every moment we had together. That wasn't even the worst of it. I was very bright for my age, and took several upper level classes. Three of those classes I was so lucky to share with Cattivo Wolf. He was like a parasite that I couldn't get rid of. He was always there with a sarcastic or snarky comment.
Just when I thought that it couldn't get any worse, Cattivo decided to join the track team. He had been on the football team, and he was a fast runner, so the coach had no problem letting him on the team. I-on the other hand-did. He might have been good, but I was better. I was better than him a track, and I was better than him at school. Suddenly, everything became a competition.
I think that Dominic saw it coming before either of us did. It was probably because of my constant ranting about his brother. I have no doubt that he was getting the exact same rants from Cattivo. Dom started doing these stupid things where he made all of us hang out with each other. He'd say 'I can't have my best friend constantly fighting with my brother', and I would agree to whatever stupid activity he had planned for the day.
Slowly I began to hate Cattivo less. Everything remained a competition, but now there was some friendly camaraderie in it. We'd team up against Dominic, the expression on his face always making it worth it. We started talking to each other when Dominic wasn't around. We'd stay after track practice.We'd go running together on the weekends. I could talk to Cattivo in a way that I couldn't with Dominic. Cattivo was more versed in the ways of the world than Dom was. I understood and appreciated that.
Shortly after my fifteenth birthday my mom died. It hit me really hard. My mom was the person who was always there for me, then suddenly she wasn't. Of course, Dom was there for me. He sat up with me that first night while I cried. Cattivo showed up around midnight with coffee and donuts. I don't know where he got them. He still won't tell me.
I fell into a rut after that. I kept to myself, and nothing either of them could say or do would bring me out. Then I quit track. When Cattivo found out, he banged on my door until my roommate opened it, and dragged me out against my will. He dragged me to the track and frowned at me.
'What do you want?' I asked.
His frowned deepened, and then he spoke. 'I heard that you quit track,' he said, 'That is unacceptable. You need to go back to coach and tell him that you want to rejoin.'
I snorted. 'Yeah, right. I don't take orders from a Wolf.'
'I'm not ordering you,' he said, 'What you did was stupid, and not very Rose-like.'
'Not very Rose-like? What do you know of Rose-like?'
'I don't know,' Cattivo sounded flustered, 'It's just...you...you're...' he trailed off.
'I'm what?' I asked.
'Rose. Frustratingly, annoyingly Rose.'
And then he did something that I never even crossed my mind. He kissed me. Full on the lips. And, to my surprise, I kissed him back. After that it was pretty much history." Cerise's mother smiled. "Now, why don't you get back to your math? It won't finish itself."
Cerise picked up her pencil and watched as her mother retreated up the stairs to wake up Ramona. A smile spread across her face as she stared wistfully out the window. One day, she would have that.
One day she would fall in love.
The nurse led them to a waiting room where, to Daring's surprise, Apple was waiting along with Lizzie Hearts, Raven Queen, and Cedar Wood. The four of them looked up at their arrival, Apple offering Daring a weak smile while Lizzie frowned. Daring took a seat next to Apple, away from the other girls.
"What did they say?" he asked Apple quietly.
"She broke her arm," Apple said, "and she's in a coma at the moment. The doctors aren't sure whether or not there will be brain damage. They say that it could go either way at the moment."
Daring nodded. He wasn't sure what he had expected. This wasn't good news, but it sure as hell wasn't bad news either. "Where's Ramona?" he asked.
"Darling called her six times, but she didn't pick up," Apple said, "Then she had to leave to go to dinner. How did you get out of it?"
"Dexter's covering for me," Daring said.
"There's one more thing that you should know," Apple said, "They called her father." Daring nodded. That much was to be expected. It was standard protocol to call a student's parents when they were injured. "And...well...Cerise's father....he's-"
Whatever Apple was about to say was cut off by the sound of heavy footsteps and a powerful voice. "I just want to know how my daughter is."
"Well, sir," came the nervous voice of the nurse, "she's in critical condition."
"How critical?" asked the voice as the door to the waiting room opened and a tall man with his dark brown hair slicked back stepped into the room. He wore a business suit, finely made and well tailored to fit his muscular frame. If Daring hadn't met him before, he would have thought that he was a lawyer, or a businessman, but he had met him before.
And the man standing in the center of the waiting room in front of a cowering nurse was none other than the infamous Cattivo Wolf.
Chapter 17: Sparrow Hood Always Knows
Daring stared at the man who'd entered the waiting room. Cattivo Wolf. A criminal. And, it appeared, Cerise's father. This had to be a joke. Daring had known that Cerise's father wasn't on the right side of the law, but for him to be Cattivo Wolf...
Raven, Cedar, and Hunter all stared at Cattivo Wolf in shock. Lizzie eyed her friends, her expression revealing that she was aware of this secret. How, though, Daring didn't know. Beside him, Apple shifted in her seat. Daring glanced at Apple. She looked uncomfortable, more so as Cattivo Wolf took a seat in the waiting room only three seats away from Daring.
A tense silence filled the waiting room, each of them afraid to speak. To his surprise, it was Cedar who broke the silence. "So, you're Cerise's dad?" she asked.
"Yes." Cattivo Wolf nodded. Daring stared at the man sitting only a few feet away from him. He looked...tired. This was a man who had seen the worst side of life, a man who had lost his wife, and could lose his daughter.
Because he could lose Cerise. Daring could lose Cerise. He could lose Cerise without ever telling her how he felt. He could lose Cerise. The doctors were praying for minimal damage, which meant that they didn't know. They didn't know how Cerise was. So, Daring did what he knew Cerise would want him to do, he offered his hand to Cattivo Wolf.
"I'm Daring," he said, "I play football with Cerise."
Cattivo Wolf's eyes studied him. "I know you," he said, "You're a Charming."
"Yes," Daring said.
Ever the politician's daughter, Raven followed Daring's lead. "I'm Raven Queen," she said, "This is Cedar, Hunter, and Lizzie. We're Cerise's friends."
Cattivo Wolf's hard gaze slid from one of them to the next. "You are all Cerise's friends," he said after a minute.
"I'm her roommate," said Apple quietly, "but I'd like to think that we're friends."
"Good." Cattivo Wolf nodded. "That's good."
The stars were beautiful. Cerise stared at the stars, lying on her back, the red checkered picnic blanket underneath her. They really twinkled in the night sky, like diamonds or crystals. Out of the corner of her eye she could make out the lights of her family's farm house. It was within running distance. If her parents had been home there was no way that they'd ever be so close to the house.
"Penny for your thoughts."
Cerise grinned and turned to face her partner. "My thoughts are worth much more than a penny," she said.
Daring rested his head on his hand so the their faces were mere inches apart. "I know that," he said, "I'm just curious as to what you're thinking about."
"You," Cerise said simply.
"Me?" Daring raised an eyebrow. "I'm honored."
"Not like that, Daring," she said, "I was thinking about how you're scheduling our dates around my parent's absence."
Daring looked offended. "I am doing no such thing."
"Sure," Cerise agreed sarcastically, "There's nothing wrong with being scared of my dad."
"I'm not scared of Coach Wolf," Daring protested.
"That's a lie."
"Fine," Daring said, "Maybe I am a bit scared of what he'll do when he discovers that I'm dating his daughter. I would really hate to have to run extra laps at football practice."
"He wouldn't make you do that."
"You obviously don't know your dad very well," Daring said, "He nearly destroyed the last guy that you went out with."
Cerise made a face. "That was because he was a loser."
"I know that."
"That's not the point," Cerise said.
"What is the point then?" Daring asked.
"The point," Cerise said, "is that you are nothing like him. You are much better."
"And how's that?" Daring asked.
"I'm not going to tell you," Cerise said, "I want to keep you from getting too big of a head."
"You're always looking out for me," Daring said.
"I know." Cerise laced her fingers through Daring's. They fit together perfectly, like two pieces of the same puzzle. "Which is why I'm inviting you to Thanksgiving this year. It's just my mom, dad, Ramona, Uncle Dom, and whatever girlfriend he happens to bring along. I was thinking that since we're...you know, that you could come over this year. You don't have to stay that long, I promise. If things get too awkward, we can leave-"
"Cerise," Daring cut off her rambling.
"I'll go to thanksgiving," he said, "On one condition."
"That you define what we are," Daring said.
Cerise pondered the question for a moment. What exactly were they? Were they boyfriend and girlfriend? Were they a couple? Were they best friends? Were they enemies turned lovers? Were they teammates? Were they desk partners?
"We're Daring and Cerise." She couldn't explain it any other way. He was everything to her. She was pretty sure that she was in love with him. Boyfriend and girlfriend seemed temporary. Best friends didn't capture the full extent of her feelings. Desk partners didn't even come close. They were Daring and Cerise, plain and simple.
"We're Darise," Daring said with a smile.
"Yeah," Cerise agreed, "We're Darise."
"Daring." Daring jumped at the sound of his sister's voice. He had been drifting in and out of consciousness for the past few hours, only moving from his seat to use the restroom. Daring's grey eyes focused on Darling. She had taken the seat next to him and was offering him a coffee. Daring accepted it.
"Thanks," he said. Aside from Cattivo Wolf, Daring was the only one left in the waiting room. The rest of Cerise's friends must have left over the course of the night.
"No problem," Darling said, "Have you been here all night?"
Daring glanced at the clock on the wall. 3:42 AM. "Yeah," he answered.
Darling let out a low whistle. "I guess this means that I owe Sparrow twenty bucks."
"What?" Daring asked, his groggy brain not quite processing what his sister had said.
"It's nothing really," Darling said, "Sparrow started a betting pool a few weeks back on when you'd act of your feelings for Cerise. Today was his day."
"How big is this betting pool?"
Darling pondered the question for a moment. "Let's see...there's me, and Sparrow, and Dexter, and Rosebella, and Duchess, and Hunter, and Ashlynn, and I think that Apple joined last week. So did Briar and Faybelle. Oh, and Raven, Cedar, and Cupid. So...that's...thirteen people."
"Thirteen people?" Daring shook his head. How was it possible for everyone to know how he felt?
"Yeah," Darling said, "So, did you hear anything from the doctor?"
"Not much," Daring answered.
Darling nodded. "Don't give up yet."
"I wouldn't dream of it," Daring answered. After a moment he asked, "How much trouble am I in?"
"Dad wants to kill you," Darling said, "He thinks that you just stood him up because you're being 'rebellious'."
Darling sighed. "I think that Mom knows. I don't know how. I haven't told her, and I know that Dex hasn't said anything, but she knows." Darling handed a pair of keys to Daring. "I thought that you might want to have the car so that you can drive back whenever."
"Yeah." Daring pocketed the keys. "How are you getting back to school?"
"Apple offered to give me a ride," Darling said, "Don't worry about me. You have enough to worry about already."
Darling smiled. "What else are sisters for?" She hugged Daring. "Apple's waiting. I've got to go. Make sure that you call before you leave."
"I will," Daring promised, hugging his sister in return.
"Good." With that said, Darling left the waiting room, leaving Daring alone with one of the most notorious criminals in Virginia.
"You like Cerise," Cattivo Wolf stated after several minutes.
Daring swallowed. There was no point in lying. Cattivo Wolf could see right through him, and he didn't even know Daring. "Yeah," he said, "I do."
Cattivo Wolf nodded thoughtfully. "That's good."
That's good? What did he mean by that?
Boy, do I have news for you.
Ladies and gentlemen, you will never believe what I have recently discovered. At the beginning of the year, I hypothesized that Cerise Hood may be related to Sparrow Hood, for they have the same last name. The truth is so much stranger. It is something that I would have never expected. That’s right my dear readers, the rumors are true. Cerise and Ramona Hood are indeed the children of the one and only Cattivo Wolf.
“Take it down.”
Blondie turned to find Apple White standing in the doorway of her room, her arms crossed. “I’m sorry,” she said, “What?”
“The article,” Apple said, “Take it down.”
“Why would I do that?” Blondie asked, “This is the news story of a lifetime.”
“This isn’t news,” Apple said, “It’s gossip.”
“News, gossip.” Blondie waved her hand. “‘Why do you care?”
“You could ruin Cerise’s life with this,” Apple said.
“Since when are you a fan of Cerise?” Blondie asked, “The last time that I checked, you hated her.”
“I don’t hate her,” Apple said, “Not anymore, and I don’t want you to post this.”
“You don’t control me, Apple.” Blondie took a step towards Apple. “I can post what I want. It’s my site.”
Apple straightened her shoulders, getting ready for a fight that would never come, and took a step towards Blondie. She hated to do this. Blondie was her friend, and Cerise wasn’t, but she wasn’t about to let Blondie ruin the other girl’s life because she couldn’t realize the difference between news and gossip.
“If you publish this,” Apple said, “everyone-Ashlynn, Briar, Holly, Daring, the entire school-will discover that you’re on scholarship. What do you think will happen then? Cerise’s father may be a criminal, but he’s paying her tuition. You, on the other hand, are here because someone took pity on you.” Apple turned, her blonde curls bouncing as she did so. “Make the right decision, Blondie. Take the article down.”
“This isn’t real.”
They were swinging back and forth on a porch swing. Cerise continued to stare out at the setting sun as Daring turned to face her. It was a cool summer evening, the cricket were just beginning to chirp. It was perfect.
“None of this is real,” Daring said, “It’s all just a dream.”
“I know,” Cerise said. She had been aware that it wasn’t real for some time now. The farmhouse was real, it still existed, but Cerise no longer lived there. Her mom wasn’t alive. Her father wasn’t the football coach at the local high school. Her uncle wasn’t coming over for thanksgiving. Daring wasn’t her boyfriend.
“Then you know that you need to wake up.”
“I know,” Cerise said, “It’s just…” she trailed off.
“It’s nice to feel normal for a while.”
“Yeah.” Cerise turned to face Daring, studying the handsome lines of his face. “Which you know because you’re just a figment of my subconscious.”
Daring grinned. “That I am. Do you wonder why?”
“Why it’s you?” Cerise laughed. She picked up his hand, linking her fingers through his. “No. I know exactly why I chose you of all people.”
“Because you’re in love with me.”
“Yes.” She realized as the word tumbled from her mouth just how true it was. She was in love with Daring Charming. She had been for some time now.
“You need to wake up.”
“I know.” Cerise let go of Daring’s hand and let the darkness wash over her.
It was dark. Cerise felt herself slowly waking up. It was like swimming from deep underwater to reach the surface. Inch by inch, Cerise got closer to consciousness until she reached the surface. Cerise’s eyes snapped open.
She had been in enough hospital rooms to know that she was in one. Cerise glanced around the room. She froze as her gaze settled on the figure sitting in one of the faux leather chairs. He was tall, like Cerise herself. She may have had the face structure and eyes of her mother, but everything else could be attributed to her father. Her father who was now sitting in the same hospital room as her, a book resting on his lap.
As if in slow motion, he looked up and their eyes met. They were silver, just like hers. “Cerise,” he breathed.
Cerise shifted, causing her to wince. Every bone and muscle in her body ached. It felt like she had been run over by a truck. She found herself wishing that she could return to unconsciousness. “What’re you…” she trailed off.
Her father stood up, coming to stand awkwardly at the edge of her bed. “The school called me,” he said.
Right. The school called him, because that was what schools did when one was injured. They called your parents, even if your parents weren’t good people. They called them because that was how it worked. Most students would be thrilled to see their parents after a near death experience.
Cerise was not.
“Water,” she croaked.
Cattivo understood what she meant, reaching for a water bottle sitting on the edge of the chair and handing it to her. Cerise gulped it down, the plastic crinkling until there was nothing left. She finished, placing the empty bottle on the tray attached to her bed. They sat in silence, neither of them knowing what to say.
What did you say to the man that you’d personally told that you never wanted to see again? What did you say to the father that hadn’t been there for the majority of your life? Cerise wasn’t sure. How was she supposed to talk to a man who was practically a stranger?
“I wasn’t sure how you take your coffee, so I just got it with cream.” Cerise’s head snapped to the door to find that Daring Charming had just entered carrying a coffee cup in each hand. He froze as his steel eyes met Cerise’s silver ones. “You’re awake.”
“Cream is fine.” There was a smile in his voice as Cattivo walked over to Daring and took his coffee from him. “I’ll leave you kids alone.” He slipped out the door, closing it behind him. Daring stayed frozen in the doorway, not breaking eye contact of moving a muscle, as if he thought that if he moved she would go back into a coma.
“You’re here,” Cerise spoke after a minute of silence.
He was here. At the hospital. Which meant that he knew. Daring knew her secret. Daring knew who her father was. Daring knew who her father was, and he was still here. Why was he here? He should have left the moment that he realized that Cerise wasn’t just from the wrong side of the tracks, she was the tracks. Why was he here fetching coffee for her father instead?
Daring took several hesitant steps forward, coming to a stop at the edge of her bed where he took a seat. “You’re here,” he whispered.
“Yeah,” Cerise whispered in return, “So, are you.”
“Yeah,” Daring said, “I guess that I am. Do you need anything? I think that they’re running a Vampire Diaries marathon on the CW.”
“I’m fine,” Cerise said, even though it was about as far from the truth as possible. Internally, she was freaking out. Now, everyone knew. Everyone knew that Cattivo Wolf was her father. More importantly, Daring Charming knew who her father was. Daring Charming, the boy that she...Cerise wouldn’t think of that right now.
“The cafeteria has some pretty good pudding,” Daring rambled on, “It’s just about the only thing that’s good here.”
“I’m fine.” Cerise grabbed Daring’s hand. He glanced down at it, then laced his fingers through hers, their palms fitting together perfectly.
“So…” he trailed off, “How do you feel?”
“Like I’ve been hit by a truck.”
“Do you know who the president is? What year it is? How many fingers am I holding up?” Daring held up three of his fingers.
“Three.” Cerise laughed. “And, I know all of those things.”
“Good.” Daring squeezed her hand. “I don’t think that you’ll be able to play football for the rest of the season.”
Cerise nodded. “I know.”
Daring was silent for several minutes, seemingly lost in thought. When he finally spoke, it was so quiet that Cerise almost missed it. “Do you want to go out sometime?”
“What?” Cerise asked.
Daring glanced at her, his eyes holding hers. “I was thinking, and I think that we’ve been stupid.”
“Yes,” Daring said, “We’ve been stupid about this entire thing. I like you, and you...you know what I mean. What’s there to stop us from trying?”
“Are you…” Cerise almost laughed. “Are you asking me out on a date?”
“Yes.” Daring nodded.
“You’re asking me out on a date after you found out…” Cerise trailed off, “You know who my father is.”
“Yes,” Daring said, “and I planned on asking you out before I knew who he was too. It doesn’t change anything.”
“What about your parents?”
“Screw my parents,” Daring said, “Screw the rules. You’re not your dad. I’m not my family. So, what d’you say? Do you wanna go get burgers sometime?”
“Yes.” Cerise smiled. “Burgers sound wonderful.”
Apple White redemption arch, am I right?
Thanks for being patient with me. This is getting harder and harder for me to write. Never fear! I am not abandoning this work. No. In fact, I am more motivated than ever to finish it. Make sure to tell me what you think, and if you haven't already make sure to check out "Once", the story of the parents of the current Ever After High students.
Until next time,
Cerise Hood stared into the long horizontal mirror that was nailed to the wall of their dormitory restroom. She didn't often look at her reflection, preferring quick glances to make sure that everything was in order to long stares. Staring only brought out the imperfections, and Cerise wanted to forget about those. Like her ears. Her damned ears.
Today, though, she stared long and hard at her reflection, because everyone-everyone-would be looking for her imperfections today. Everyone knew. The entire school knew. Apple had kept it off of Blondie’s, but even without the gossip blog news spread fast at Grimm’s, and a news story like this...it spread like wildfire.
Cerise wondered how long it would be until parents started demanding that she and her sister be expelled. She frowned as the thought crossed her mind. Despite everything, Grimm’s had become home. Amazing to think about. She really couldn't imagine leaving her friends behind. She couldn't imagine leaving Daring behind.
Daring. They had a date Friday. A date with burgers.
Cerise sighed and leaned against the bathroom sink. She just wanted everything to go back to normal. She wanted to go back to being the girl that broke the rules and joined the football team. She didn't want to be what she was now. She didn't want to be Cattivo Wolf’s daughter.
It always came back to that, didn't it? Her family. Her family that she didn't choose because one does not get to choose their family. Her family that had saved her and destroyed her. Her family that was the cause of her injuries and pain. Her family that made sure that she would never be accepted anywhere. The last name of Wolf that Cerise never asked for.
Cerise’s hand wandered to the inside of the sweater and the wolf that Lizzie had embroidered there. Even then, the other girl had known. She had to have known. Why else would she have embroidered a wolf into her sweater?
Her fingers trailed over the red thread. Lizzie had known, but she hadn't told. She'd chosen to be Cerise’s friend instead. She'd chosen Cerise.
And Cerise had chosen them. All of them. Raven. Lizzie. Cedar. Cupid. Hunter. Dex. She had chosen all of them. She may not have been able to choose her family, but she was able to choose her friends, and her friends would accept her no matter what. That's what friends do.
Cerise buttoned up her sweater and stared at her reflection in the mirror. She stared at her imperfect, scarred ears, and her skin that was in no way porcelain, and her legs that were just a little bit long. She stared at herself, and, with a defiant smile she left the room.
“Did I ever tell you thank you?”
Daring frowned, turning to face his roommate as he tied his tie around his neck. Sparrow starting a conversation this early in the morning was never a good thing. “Thank you for what?”
“Finally getting your head out of your ass and asking Cerise out,” Sparrow said.
“Really, Sparrow?” He still couldn't believe that his sister and his friends had started a betting pool about his love life. Even more he couldn't believe that Sparrow won that pool.
“Yes, really,” Sparrow said, “I know that you think that I’m annoying, and you’re right, I am. Just know that I’m rooting for you two, and so is Duchess, even if she won’t show it. I hope that you guys can survive the storm that’s heading your way.”
Daring paused. Even after knowing him for four years, Sparrow Hood never failed to surprise Daring. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome.” Sparrow shouldered his schoolbag and smiled. “Shit is about to hit the fan, Daring. You better be ready when it does.”
“I will be.”
Sparrow left, closing the dormitory door behind him. Daring would be ready when shit hit the fan. He would be ready because he’d have to be. He had no doubt that he’d get looks, complaints, people challenging his choices. His parents would be less than pleased.
This was not an easy road, but it was the one that he had chosen, and he’d rather be on it than any other road. This was the road that had Cerise, and Daring wanted Cerise in his life. More than anything else in the world.
Cerise was almost late to English class.
She slid in the door. Crossing the room, she took her seat at her table. Briar and Crystal eyed her warily. As usual, Blondie didn’t so much as glance her way. “Hey, guys,” Cerise said, trying to smile and failing.
“Hey,” Briar said.
“How’s your head?” asked Crystal.
Cerise nodded. Small talk. She could do small talk. “It’s a lot better than they expected it to be.”
“That’s good.” Several seconds passed then, “We won the game.”
Beside her, Blondie groaned. “Oh, for the love of everything good and pure, you guys are killing me.” Briar’s mouth dropped open, and Cerise felt...glad for Blondie. At least someone wasn’t talking circles around her, even if it was someone who hated her. “Yes. She got a brain injury. Yes. We won the game. But no one here wants to address the elephant in the room.”
“You’re one to talk,” said Briar, “Who ignore the story the entire weekend, huh?”
“I didn’t ignore the story,” Blondie said, “I didn’t share it because-despite what everyone thinks-I don’t just use Cerise as my personal story machine.”
Cerise was at a loss for words. How was she supposed to respond to that? How could she respond to that? Before she got the chance to, the bell rang, and Ms. Gold called the class to attention. There was no more discussion from her table about her family, but it was by no means the end.
She heard the whispers coming from the tables. She heard what was said as she passed in the hallways. She saw the way that the class turned away when they saw her, only to steal glances later when they thought that she wasn’t looking. She saw them all. She heard it all.
Sticks and stones may break her bones...Cerise sat up straighter in her chair. She could never let them see how much it hurt. The words, those were what caused the most damage. Cerise buried her head in her book and tried to block out the noise.
Minutes passed in a matter of seconds, and, before Cerise knew it, the bell was ringing, dismissing everyone from class. She remained in her seat as the rest of the class filed out quickly, catching a few hushed whispers.
“-father’s Cattivo Wolf-”
“I heard that she’d here to-”
“-and she broke the rules-”
“Cerise.” Cerise jumped at the sound of Daring’s voice. She glanced up to find him standing before her, worry written all over his face. “Are you okay?”
“Me?” Cerise nodded and gathered her books. “I’m fine.”
Daring frowned. “Okay, then.” He took her books from her. Cerise raised a questioning eyebrow. “Follow me,” was all the answer that he offered. He grabbed her hand with his free one, and Cerise followed him out of the empty classroom.
Daring wove through the bodies of students, taking two lefts and a right until he found what he was looking for. He stopped in front of a wooden door in a near empty hallway and reluctantly dropped Cerise’s hand. The hand that seemed to fit perfectly in his. He opened up the front pocket of his backpack and rummaged through it.
“What are you doing?” Cerise asked.
“You’ll see.” Daring pulled out a silver key and stuck it into the door. He turned the key, and it opened. He pushed open the door to reveal a dusty staircase. He smiled before grabbing Cerise’s hand once more and heading up the staircase, closing the door behind him.
“What’s going on?” Cerise asked as they climbed the dirty stairs that hadn’t been touched in nearly three years.
Daring didn’t answer until they reached the top and Daring hoisted himself through the trapdoor. He reached down and helped Cerise up, smiling as she took in the view. On every side the Virginia country sprawled before them. The wind whipped around them, tugging at their clothes and sending Cerise’s hair every direction.
“We’re on one of the towers,” Cerise said in awe.
“My uncle gave me the key my freshman year,” Daring said, “I was having a rough year, and he thought that it’d help to have someplace that I could come to be alone. I haven't been up here since then.”
“And you brought me up here because?”
“I thought that you could use some time away from all of the people,” Daring said. When Cerise didn’t say anything, Daring turned towards her, concerned. There were tears in her eyes.
Before Daring had the chance to say a word-to apologize-Cerise tugged him towards her, and their lips met for one brief second. “Thank you,” she said, when she pulled away.
Daring grinned sheepishly. “It was the least that I could do.”
“How’d you know?” Cerise asked.
Because I heard what Blondie said. Because you looked lost. Because I know you. Because I love you. “You didn’t turn a single page during class,” Daring said.
Cerise nodded. “Of course.”
“Cerise,” Daring said after a quiet moment, “I just need you to know that I’ll always be here for you. I’ll always be on your side.”
“You can’t say-”
“Yes, I can, Cerise,” Daring said, “I can say that because I…” he trailed off. No. Don’t do this, Daring. Don’t- “I think that I’m in love with you.” He glanced at Cerise, to see how she’d react. She was staring at him with wide eyes.
“Me too,” she murmured, “I think that I’m in love with you too.”
Daring let out the breath that he didn’t realize he’d been holding. “Good. That’s good.” Before he could talk himself out of it, Daring’s thumb brushed over her cheek and his lips met hers.
Daring couldn’t say how long they stayed on that tower, the daughter of a criminal and the son of a senator, the November wind whipping around them. He couldn’t say how long they talked, or how long they didn’t, sitting in silent, just holding hands. He didn’t particularly care, because it was perfect, and he didn’t want it to end. Any of it.
April. April. April.
The month of Daring’s birthday. Here is your April update.
Don’t expect the next update to happen quickly as we are moving into AP testing season, and my stress level has skyrocketed. Wow. I just can’t wait to graduate. Did I mention that I have the worst case of senioritis on the face of the planet? Trust me, I do.
For example, when I should have been studying for those AP tests that I mentioned, I was creating a real life version of Blondies. That’s right, you can visit Blondies at www.gpablondies.weebly.com. If you’re interested in writing and article for it(on absolutely anything GPA related) PM me.
Until next time,
Chapter 20: If He Can't Accept Your Scars
On Friday afternoon, he received a call from his father.
He had been more or less expecting it. No matter how hard Daring tried, his parents always discovered what was going on in his life. If it were political, anyways. And this...this was nothing but political to his father.
"Daring," his father said as soon as he answered the phone. No questions. Bo niceties. No small talk. His father got straight to the point.
"Father," Daring returned coldly.
Sparrow glanced up from where he was lying on his bed. He glanced from Daring to the phone then back to Daring. He then proceeded to mime throwing something at the overhead fan. Daring understood the message.
"Your mother and I have recently discovered that the Wolf sisters are attending Grimm's."
"I was wondering why I was not informed of this earlier, but had to discover it from Mrs. White."
"It must've slipped my mind," Daring said.
"Of course." He could tell from his father's tone that he didn't believe him. Not one bit. "Are you still in a relationship with the Wolf girl." Daring didn't respond, which was an answer in and of itself. "I request that you break off all ties with this girl."
"No," the words fell from Daring's mouth. No. He would not do it. He had done everything that his father had asked - he had followed every one of his damned rules. He would not stop seeing Cerise. Not when she was the only person in the world who understood him. Not when she was the only person in the world who meant something to him.
"No?" That shocked his father. "Maybe you would like to reconsider-"
"There's no need," Daring said, "My answer is no now and it will be no tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day."
"Why?" Daring didn't respond. He didn't have to respond. He didn't owe his father anything. "I see." A beat and then, "Make sure that she comes to Thanksgiving. We can spin this to be useful."
"Excuse me?" It was Daring's turn to be shocked.
"Despite what you and your siblings seem to believe, I do understand what it is like to be young and in love. Besides, I have done nothing about Raven, and I prefer Cattivo Wolf to Senator Queen." He spat the name as if it were poison on his lips. A second later the line went dead.
Daring hung up, staring at the phone in front of him. What had just happened? Had his father really just invited Cerise Hood, daughter of the criminal mastermind Cattivo Wolf, to Thanksgiving dinner?
"How'd it go?" Sparrow asked.
Daring wasn't sure how to answer that. "I'm not sure."
"You're not sure?"
"Yes," Daring answered and started getting ready for his date. His date. He had a date with Cerise Hood. Internally, he was screaming like a middle school girl.
Wow. He was pathetic.
"You seriously need to invest in a dress," Lizzie Hearts said as she rummaged through Cerise's closet.
"Why?" Cerise asked, "This is a casual date. It's not like I have to wear anything fancy."
Sitting at her desk, Apple sighed. "As much as I hate to admit it, Cerise, Lizzie is right. You're going on a date with Daring Charming? Do you have any idea how many girls would kill to be in your position?"
You're going on a date with Daring Charming. It almost didn't seem real. Her and Daring and burgers. A date. It was nice. Incredibly nice.
"Exactly," Cerise said, stepping up to her closet and removing a pair of jeans and a flannel shirt. "I am going on a date. Not either of you. Therefor, I am the one who has a say in how I dress."
Lizzie snatched the shirt out of her hands. "The pants you can wear, but I'll be damned if I let you wear flannel on a date. Okay?"
Cerise huffed. "Fine."
In the end, Cerise ended up wearing her dark washed jeans with riding boots that belonged to Apple and a scarlet blouse that belonged to Lizzie. The fashionista studied her, taking in her appearance with a frown.
"It's needs something more," she muttered.
"How about these?" Apple asked holding up a pair of gold rose shaped earrings.
Lizzie's face lit up. "Yes. Those are perfect." She took the earrings from Apple and offered them to Cerise.
"No." Cerise shook her head. She was not wearing those. She hadn't worn earrings in years. She didn't even know if her holes were still open. Not to mention...
"Oh, don't be such a baby," Lizzie said bluntly, "We'll do something with your hair so that they look excellent."
"No," Cerise repeated, "I don't-"
"You're going on a date with the boy," Lizzie said, "If he can't accept your scars, then he's not worth your time."
"I agree," Apple seconded.
"No buts. Now sit down so I can do something with that hair of yours." Obediently, Cerise took a seat.
Daring stared at Cerise's door, mentally running through a checklist. Dressed nicely? Check. Car? Check. Car keys? Check. Scared out of his socks? Check. With a deep breath, Daring raised a fist and knocked on the door. It was opened a second later by Apple White, who poked her blonde head out the door and studied him.
"You're going for burgers on a first date?" she demanded.
"Yes," Daring confirmed.
Apple shook her head. "I would have never let you do that."
That's why I'm not dating you, Daring almost said, but he kept his mouth shut. Riling up Apple would get him nowhere. "Is Cerise here?"
"I don't know," Apple seemed to consider his statement for a moment.
"Oh, for crying out loud." The door was yanked open as Cerise came to stand beside Apple.
Daring's eyes wandered her figure, taking in the outfit that probably wasn't hers before stopping at her head. Her hair was braided down the side to show off a pair of rose earrings. Daring had never ever seen Cerise with her hair up. He had certainly never seen her wear earrings. She looked...
"You look good," Daring said. Wow, he sounded stupid. Stupid and way younger than he actually was. He sounded like a hormonal thirteen year old. He was eighteen years old. He was better than this.
"Thanks," Cerise said, closing the door on Apple before she could say anything.
They stood in the hallway for a moment, just staring at each other. "My car's this way." Daring reached for Cerise's hand, thankful when she laced her fingers through his.
"Lead the way."
There was a diner located a few miles off campus in a town called Book End. Cerise had been there once with Romulus before he had cheated on her. She hadn't been back since. That said, Happily Ever After Diner, served excellent burgers and shakes that couldn't be found anywhere else close to Grimm's. And Cerise wanted a burger. She wanted a burger on her date with Daring Charming.
Daring's blue sports car pulled up to the diner and they ordered before taking a seat in one of the booths. Cerise watched as Daring placed the number in the stand before quickly tearing her eyes away to study the decor. The diner looked like something straight out of Archie comics with red padded booths, a bar that sold pie, and a neon jukebox that only played music from the 50s and 60s.
"How's life?" Daring asked her.
Cerise glanced at him. "Good," she said, "I've gotten used to most of it, and nobody's parents have called the school to demand that I be removed, so I'm good. How's the team going?" Cerise hadn't been allowed in a single practice since her injury. It was beginning to drive her crazy.
"It's horrible," Daring said, "There's no way that we're going to make it past the first round of playoffs. We seriously suck without you."
Cerise couldn't help it. She chuckled.
"What's so funny?" Daring questioned.
"Nothing." Cerise shook her head. "I was just thinking of how far we've come. A few months ago, you thought that I shouldn't be on your team, and I hated you."
"I wouldn't say that you hated me."
"Daring, I yelled at you."
Daring shrugged. "It was kind of a turn on."
Cerise's jaw dropped. Daring seemed to realize what he said a moment later as his cheeks rapidly turned crimson. "What I mean is that I'm not used to getting yelled at by others, or told that I'm doing something wrong, so it was a surprise."
"Was that all that it was?" Cerise raised an eyebrow.
They talked well into the night, only returning to Grimm's so that neither of them missed curfew. Daring kissed Cerise at her door, and, for that one moment, everything was perfect. Then he pulled away and ruined it.
"Um, there's something that I have to ask you."
"Shoot," Cerise said, fishing in her pants pocket for her keys.
"I got a call from my father this morning." Cerise stilled. "He wants you to come to Thanksgiving dinner."
Cerise stared at Daring, her silver eyes wide. "Why?"
"I'm not sure," Daring answered, "So, will you come?"
Cerise thought for a moment before nodding. "Yes. I'll come."
Daring smiled. "Thank you." He wrapped his arms around her in a hug. "Thank you so much."
Chapter 21: Secrets Never Remain So
Just Call Us Riverdale
I will be the first to admit that in the beginning I was sceptical. Girls and football have never really mixed well at Grimm's Prep. But now, I am sure that I speak for all of us when I say that the football team was better off with Cerise Hood.
The game started off well enough, with Grimm's scoring a touchdown and a field goal in the first quarter. Whatever luck that they seemed to have soon ran out as the opposing team, The Whitewater Wolves, blocked Grimm's from making plays the rest of the game. While our defensive line held its own, our offensive team seemed to be under the whether. Without Cerise Hood, it seems that the GPA football team is in the exact same position that it was a year ago: last.
But, let's be honest. Who really cares about football aside from rich donors and alumni? What you want to know about is what's new.
Sorry ladies, Daring Charming and Cerise Hood are now officially dating. The Friday following Cerise's revelation, the two went on a date to Happily Ever After Diner. They were they at the same time as GPA freshman, Brooke Page, who posted a selfie featuring the two lovestruck football layer in the background(the image can be found on Brooke's instagram page).
While everything is stars and rainbows for Darise, the rain clouds have moved to a new couple at Grimm's, Ashlynn Ella and Hunter Huntsman. The revelation that these two had been dating came as a shock to the entire school when Ashlynn and Hunter were caught by none other than Duchess Swan. Before the girl could break the story, the two revealed their secret to their friends and classmates.
While most everyone is happy for Huntlynn(cute name, right?), Ashlynn's parents are not. Along with Prince Charming's parents, they have requested that Hunter Huntsman be expelled from Grimm's Prep.
Rosebella Beauty has started a petition in order to combat the Ella's and Charming's demands. When asked about it, she replied "I just don't think that it is fair that Headmaster Grimm should be asked to kick someone out of school because of who they choose to love. That just isn't right."
Whether or not it is right, the Ella's annually donate a significant sum of money towards Grimm's Prep and they may force the headmaster's hand. If you wish to make your voice on this issue heard then make sure to sign Rosebella's petition, which can be found in the bio of her blog, www.beautyisabeast.com.
Shaking her head, Cerise finished reading Blondie's article and stuffed her phone into the pocket of her jeans. "I can't believe this," she muttered.
"Neither can I," came Apple, "I have nothing - nothing - to wear to the beach. When did all of my swimsuits go missing?"
"That wasn't what I was talking about." Cerise finished packing her battered suitcase and zipped it up.
Apple, who was busy tearing through her clothes, turned to her with a frown marring her perfect features. "I'm going home. To California. Do you have any idea how many parties I've been invited to?"
"I'm going to guess and say a lot."
"I wish that it was just a lot," Apple said, "I was invited to Tailor Quick's birthday party. Do you have any idea how many people would kill to get an invitation?" Raven. Dexter. Cupid. Cerise could think of a few off of the top of her head. "But if you're talking about the article, then yes, it is messed up. I don't understand what Ashlynn sees in him, but he seems to make her happy. Who are her parents to take that away from her?"
Cerise nodded. "Yeah." She was more worried about Hunter than Ashlynn at the moment, considering that the former could get kicked out of school at any moment. She knew the feeling. "I'll see you after break."
"Yes. Yes." Apple returned her attention to her missing swimsuits. With a roll of her eyes, Cerise grabbed her suitcase and rolled out of the room.
The door across the hall was open. Raven was stuffing her purple electric into her guitar case while Cedar remained on her bed, completely unpacked. "Hey, guys. What's going on?"
Raven huffed. "My mom's sending a chauffeur to pick me up," she said without looking at Cerise, "I'd rather stay here with Cedar."
"So would I," Cerise mumbled.
Cedar's eyebrows shot up. "Why?"
"Mainly because it's my first Thanksgiving with my dad in forever," Cerise answered, "but also because I agreed to have Thanksgiving dinner at the Charmings."
"I got an invitation too," Raven said, "but I had to turn it down. My mom's decided that we're serving food at a homeless shelter."
"That's good," Cedar said.
"Trust me," Raven said, "her intentions are less than good."
"That sucks." Cerise couldn't think of anything else to say. "I'll see you guys after break. I've got to go find my sister so that our dad's lackey can pick us up."
"Are they really called lackeys?"
"It sounds better than minions."
"I'll see you," Raven said, "Good luck at Thanksgiving. You're going to need it."
"What's Thanksgiving like at your house?" Sparrow asked.
Daring shrugged as he finished packing his suitcase. "It's Thanksgiving. Our parents like to keep it small. Only family and a couple of close friends. Our chef, Martin, cooks the best turkey in the world."
"What?" Daring demanded.
"It's just that your privilege is showing," Sparrow said, "My mom can't cook, period. My dad's even worse than her. Not to mention that he's british. Plus, my mom isn't a big fan of Thanksgiving since it's about killing Native Americans."
"So, you don't celebrate Thanksgiving?" Daring found it hard to believe that anyone did not celebrate Thanksgiving.
"I didn't say that," Sparrow said, "My dad's bandmate, John, makes one hell of a turkey. It's pretty low key."
"That's cool." Daring grabbed his suitcase, said his goodbyes to Sparrow, and left the dormitory. On his way out, he passed Ashlynn and Hunter talking in hushed tones. Daring slid passed them, glad that they didn't notice him. The last thing that he needed was to get dragged into that drama. He felt for them - he really did - but he wasn't about to get roped into helping them when he had his own problems to worry about.
Cerise was coming to Thanksgiving. She was going to meet his parents. Officially. They'd try everything possible to tear them apart. At least...Daring though that they might. They might also try to make their relationship into a political statement. Daring didn't want that anymore than he wanted them to break them apart.
Why couldn't life be easy?
"Oof." Daring stumbled back as he ran into a tall figure.
"Sorry, man." A boy a year or so older than Daring reached out a hand to steady him. Daring shrugged his hand off of his shoulder.
"No big. I wasn't looking where I was going." His eyes narrowed as he took in the figure in front of him. There was something about him that seemed familiar. Daring felt like he had seen him before.
He was dressed nicely, in a grey suit and a pair of oxfords. His dark brown hair was slicked back. His face was chiseled. Daring supposed that one could call him handsome. There was something about him...something familiar.
"It's this campus," the guy said, "It's so confusing."
"You're a chauffeur?" Daring inquired. The only reason for someone dressed like him to be unfamiliar with the campus would be if he had been hired to pick up one of the student.
"Kind of," the guy said, "I'm looking for the Wolf sisters."
Daring's eyes widened. He was one of Cattivo's men. That was unexpected. Daring hadn't thought about how Cerise and her sister were getting home, but he had assumed that they would have a car like him. That was stupid. He knew that Cerise couldn't drive. More than that, she refused to get behind the steering wheel of a car at all. Daring supposed that it made sense. If he'd been in a car accident at a young age, he'd be scared of driving too.
"The chauffeurs wait by the gate. Do you have a sign?"
"Then, you should probably wait out there. That's where you're most likely to find them."
The guy nodded. "Thanks, man."
Cerise had no problem finding Ramona's room. All that she had to do was follow the sound of Rosebella's ranting voice, and, before she knew it, she was standing outside their door. Justine Dancer had already packed up and left while Darling Charming was busy trying to fit her fencing foils into her suitcase. Ramona was lying atop her unmade bed with earbuds in her ears.
"If anyone wants to-"
"Cerise." Darling grinned in relief as she noticed her, cutting Rosebella's rant short. "I'm so glad that you're here."
"Me too, Darling," Cerise said unsurely as Darling pulled her into a hug.
"I made the mistake of asking her about the effect that GMOs have on local wildlife," Darling whispered.
Cerise nodded. Right. She had heard all about Rosebella Beauty's famous rants. She had yet to witness one, but she had heard that they were legendary. "I'm here for my sister." She poked Ramona in the side.
Ramona cracked open an eye. "Oh. Yeah. Give me a second." Without pulling out her earbuds, Ramona grabbed her suitcase and dragged Cerise out of the room.
"I'll see you on Thanksgiving!" Darling shouted after her.
"Ugh."Cerise followed Ramona out of the girl's dorm. She hadn't talked to her sister in the past couple of weeks. Even if she had tried, Ramona would have shut her out. It was how Ramona worked. If something was bothering her, she kept it to herself.
"Hey there, Rise." Cerise grinned as Daring Charming fell in step beside her, causing Cerise to come to a stop.
"Hey there, Daring." She grabbed the lapels of Daring's letterman and pulled him into a kiss. For one glorious moment, the world around her melted away as all that she knew was Daring's lips on hers and the tingles running down her spine. She grinned as they broke apart.
Cerise turned to glare at Ramona. Getting the message, her sister turned and stormed off. "Where's she going?" Daring asked.
"Probably to the car," Cerise answered.
"Speaking of cars, I ran into the guy that your dad sent."
"Oh, really?" Cerise asked, "Was he big and scary?"
"Actually no," Daring said, "He was our age."
Cerise frowned. "Weird."
"That's what I thought," Daring said.
"I should probably be going," Cerise said.
"You probably should," Daring said. Neither of them made a move to leave. Instead, they stared at each other. Daring's eyes were mostly black with only a thin rim on grey around them. Cerise had no doubt that hers were the same. Cerise still couldn't believe that this was real. She was pretty sure that Daring couldn't either. "I need to go...go get my sister."
"You do," Cerise agreed. She pulled Daring in for another kiss before stepping away. "I'll see you on Thanksgiving."
"I'll be there."
Cerise turned and raced after her sister. Ramona was waiting for her a few years away from the chauffeur infested gates. "You guys are gross. Do you know that?"
"I do," Cerise said, looking for a sign that read 'Hood sisters' or 'Wolf sisters'. There, standing in the back, was a tall figure holding a sign at head height. It was good that he was because otherwise Cerise wouldn't have seen it. She grabbed Ramona's elbow and dragged her sister after her.
"We're here," Ramona said loudly causing the sign to lower. Cerise froze. No. This wasn't possible. How could he...
"Cerise," Romulus breathed.
Daring Charming hated his family.
Don't get him wrong, he absolutely loved his siblings. Dexter and Darling were great. But Great Aunt Madden, who was visiting from out of state because she just had to see her darling niece and nephews? Yeah. She could go poke her irritatingly long nose into someone else's business.
"What about you, young man?" she asked, giving Daring a smile that could only be described as predatory. "Is there anyone special on your life?"
The answer, of course, was yes. But before Daring could answer, his father cut in.
"Oh, you know how it is with these kids," Senator Charming said, "Flitting from one relationship to the next. Isn't that right, Daring?"
No, it wasn't right, but Daring wasn't about to start an argument with his father. Not in front of Great Aunt Madden, who 'had lots of money to will to us when she dies.' Mom's words, not his.
Darling leaned over and whispered, "If she asks me about my sexuality I'm going to blow a gasket."
"And you, Darling? Are there any rich, handsome fellas trying to woo you?"
Dexter started coughing, trying and failing to disguise his laughter. "I'm sorry," he apologized.
"No need to be," said Great Aunt Madden, "We all swallow food the wrong way once in a while."
"Yeah," said Darling with a grin. "We all swallow food wrong, Dex."
"And do you have someone special?" Aunt Madden asked.
"Actually, I do," said Dexter proudly.
"Oh, that's wonderful. What's her name?"
"Cake!" Mrs. Charming exclaimed. "I think that it's time for cake. Don't you, honey?"
"Yes, of course," answered Senator Charming. "Dexter, why don't you go tell Carson that we're ready?"
"But we have-"
"Fine," Dexter huffed. He marched into the kitchens.
Great Aunt Madden shook her head as she watched him leave. She then leaned over to Daring and asked, "Is he queer? Is that why they don't talk about his relationship?"
"No," said Daring. After all, since Darling had come out as bi, her father had been using it to prove that he could be an ally. "It's much worse. I fear he's dating a democrat."
"We couldn't have that." Great Aunt Madden's expression was stony, but her voice was laced with sarcasm.
Huh. Maybe she wasn't so bad after all.
Cerise had planned on never seeing Romulus again.
Actually, she hadn't even planned on that, as her ex had been pushed from her thoughts soon after their break up. She certainly hadn't expected to find out that he was working for her father - that he had been working for her father the entire time - and was living in their guest house. Talk about awkward.
She had been pointedly avoiding him ever since he had driven them home, and she supposed that he was avoiding her too. She hadn't seen him in the whole forty-eight hours that they had been back. Guess dating the boss's daughter was bad for business.
Cerise almost laughed at her last thought. It wasn't as if they had ever really dated anyways. He was probably cheating on her the entire time.
Whatever the reason, she really didn't want to hear his explanation. She had no doubt that it was awful.
Besides, it wasn't as if she liked Romulus anymore. She wasn't sure she liked him all that much in the first place. What he represented, maybe, but not him.
Cerise glanced up from her laptop to find her father leaning against the doorframe of her bedroom. Huh. That was weird. She rarely saw her father, considering that he spent his days working in another wind of their empty, cold mansion.
Cattivo Wolf was dressed impeccably in a black pinstripe suit with his salt and pepper hair slicked back. He looked nothing like the father that she had loved all those years ago in Chicago. He looked nothing like the man that her mother had fallen in love with. He looked like a criminal mastermind. All Italian suave and charm.
"Hey?" It was a question. What are you doing here? Don't you have work?
Cattivo cautiously stepped into her room, taking a seat at the foot of her bed. "How's school going?"
He nodded. "That's good. That's good." There was a lapse of silence as neither one of them knew what to say. She had never been good at this. Ramona was the one who connected with their father, not her. "And the Charming boy?"
Cerise paused. She hadn't really considered that her dad actually knew about her relationship with Daring. It was naive to believe that she could have kept it from him even if she had wanted to.
"Are the two of you..."
"An item?" Cerise supplied. It was almost comical how horrible her dad was at talking about a teenage relationship. "Yeah. We are."
"Good." Cattivo nodded. "That's good."
"Actually," Cerise said, "I've been invited over to their house for Thanksgiving dinner. I hope that you don't mind."
Cattivo shook his head. "No. I have plans. Go. Have fun."
Another long pause. "Have you seen your sister? I can't seem to find her anywhere."
Cerise shook her head. "I've been holed up in here all day."
"Avoiding someone?" Cattivo asked with a knowing grin.
Cerise gaped. How did he know?
"Well, I'm off in search of your sister. I..." he trailed off. "It's good to have you home, even if it's just for a week."
With a small smile, Cattivo left Cerise to her thoughts.
"I've got sunshine on a cloudy day..."
Daring glanced at the cell phone that was lying on his bedside table. A smiling picture of Cerise stared back at him.
"When it's cold outside, I've got the month of May..."
Daring snatched up the phone, answering it quickly, "What's up?"
"Not much," Cerise said.
"Yeah." A sigh. "Anyways, I just wanted to let you know that I'll be there on Thursday. How should I dress?"
"What makes you think that there's a dress code?" Daring asked.
Cerise chuckled. "This is your family that we're talking about. Even then, it's Thanksgiving. People dress up for those types of things."
"You mean holidays?" Daring asked. "And, yeah, you're right. So, I don't know, preppy? I guess that's the best way to put it. Fancy but not too fancy. Like a skirt and a sweater or something. I don't know. I'm not the fashionista. Maybe you should ask Lizzie...and I'm rambling."
"Yeah." He could hear Cerise's smile through the phone. "Don't worry. It's nice."
"I'll have you know that Daring Charming does not ramble."
"So, I'm talking to someone else then?" There was a teasing note in her voice that sounded so very much like her that it made his heart ache. Damn, he missed her.
"No. Just me," Daring said, "What I was trying to say is that I never rambled before you."
He wished that she were lying on the bed beside him instead of talking through the phone. That way he could watch her eyes sparkle and a smile creep across her face. That way he could reach out and brush his fingers against hers.
"I miss you," Cerise said.
"I miss you too." And it was true. He missed her and he hadn't stopped missing her. He didn't think that he would anytime soon.
What had he gotten himself into?
Ramona stared at her sister through the window. Her lights were on and she was visible to the entire world. If they had lived in a normal house, Ramona would have been nervous, but their father had installed bullet proof glass in every window frame. She had no reason to worry.
Cerise looked happy as she chatted on the phone. That was weird. Ramona hadn't thought that her sister would ever be happy again after their mom died. Whatever. Good for her. She deserved to be happy.
Ramona leaned against the wall of the garden, lifting the blunt in her fingers to her lips and inhaling. Good for Cerise. One of them deserved to be happy at least. Why shouldn't it be her?
Ramona exhaled, watching the smoke vanish into the night sky.
Guess who's back?
Yep. That's right. I don't plan on abandoning FTR yet. Actually, I have some good news for you: I have outlined the rest of the story and we only have about six chapters left. Daring and Cerise will continue until the end.
Anyways, I would love to hear whatever comments that you have. I love hearing from all of you.
Until next time,
Chapter 23: Be Perfect
As she stared into the depths of her closet trying to find something to wear to the Charming’s thanksgiving, Cerise Hood wished that she’d taken Lizzie up on her offer to design her a dress. At least then she would have had something other than flannel and jeans to wear to the dinner.
It could be worse, she mentally reminded herself as she pulled an old pair of slacks out of her closet. You could be spending Thanksgiving with your family. And that was just about the last thing that Cerise wanted to think about, let alone do. It was awkward enough to be stuck at the mansion that Cattivo Wolf called home, there was no need for them to pretend to be a family for one night.
Man, Cerise missed her mom.
Rose Hood would have had the answers--she always had the answers. Whenever Cerise had a problem in the past, all she had to do was ask her mom, and the problem would be solved. Things are so much easier when your sixteen, living in the midwest, and don’t know that your father is a criminal.
Pulling on a red blouse that used to belong to her mother, Cerise stared at her reflection in the mirror. A year ago, she’d been eating Thanksgiving dinner with her mom and sister. If she closed her eyes, she could still picture herself leaning against the counter in her mother’s kitchen. Rose stood beside the oven, stirring a pot of chili--they never had turkey on Thanksgiving. Ramona was complaining about a boy she was seeing. Cerise was happy.
She’d lost that when her mom died--that complete feeling of happiness that fills your chest and wraps itself around you like a warm blanket. She didn’t know if she’d ever get it back. The closest that she’d come was that moment on the rooftop with Daring, and she’d almost immediately regretted it. How could she be happy when her mom was dead?
It didn’t seem right.
Scree! Cerise was startled from her thought by the shrill ringing of her cell phone. No designated ring tone, which meant that it wasn’t one of her close friends or Daring. Cerise picked up her phone and answered. “Hello?”
“Oh, thank God.” On the other end of the line, Darling Charming released a sigh of relief. “You need to get over here ASAP. Dad is going to kill Dexter, and the only thing standing inbetween them is Daring.”
“Why?” Cerise grabbed her purse from her desk and rushed out of her room. The door slammed behind her. “What happened?”
“Nothing that big,” Darling said, “He just told Uncle Jason that he believes that automatic rifles should be outlawed, which is bad because Uncle Jay is on the gun control committee.”
Cerise’s jaw dropped. “What?”
“Yeah. So, to make a long story short, Dad’s going to kill him as soon as he can find him unless we figure something out to distract him first.”
“And I’m the thing,” Cerise surmised.
“That’s the idea.”
Cerise descended the marble staircase and stopped at the bottom of the stairs. In front of her was a plank of wood with keys hanging from various hooks. It was the old one from Rose’s farmhouse, and Cerise wondered why Cattivo had kept it. She glanced over the keys, each of which belonged to various sports cars and SUVs.
“I don’t think my arrival will help much,” Cerise pointed out. “I’m not sure you dad will like me given that I’m-”
“That daughter of the Big Bad Wolf?”
Darling sighed. “Look, Dad will probably pretend like he doesn’t know that your dad is anything other than a legitimate businessman. So long as you fit the perfect-little-family picture and don’t mention your football career, he’ll like you.”
Cerise frowned. “I’m not sure I want him to like me.” Of course, she wanted Daring’s parents to accept her--it was only normal--but given Senator Charming’s inability to accept his children for who they were, she wasn’t sure that she liked him.
Then again, Cerise didn’t like her own father that much.
Cerise whirled around to find her sister standing at the bottom of the staircase, frowning.
“I’ll be over as soon as I can,” Cerise told Darling. “I gotta go.”
“You’re a lifesaver.”
Cerise hung up. Stuffing her phone into her back pocket, she glanced towards Ramona. “What can I do for you?”
“Where are you going?” Ramona glared at Cerise, causing her to take a few steps back.
“Daring’s house,” Cerise answered.
Ramona’s frown deepened. “Why?”
“Because it’s a national holiday. What’s it to you?”
“It’s nothing. I didn’t know that you’d become a nun.” Ramona’s eyes flicked over her outfit. “Have fun with your boyfriend.” She spit the last word out as if it left a bad taste in her mouth. Turning on her heel, she stalked upstairs.
Cerise hesitated as she watched her sister disappear. What’s up with her? If Cerise hadn’t been in a hurry--if she hadn’t just gotten off the phone with Darling--if she hadn’t had someplace to be--she would have chased after Ramona. Ever since their mom died, it felt like all Cerise was doing was chasing after Ramona--constantly ensuring that Ramona was okay--that Ramona hadn’t been hurt.
Ramona had never chased after her.
If she wants to be left alone, then I’ll leave her alone, Cerise decided. She’d leave Ramona to her own devices and stop worrying about her. Cerise was finally getting her life back on track--she had friends and a team and a boyfriend--people who cared about her. She’d been accepted into Stanford--her dream school.
Cerise was finally starting to feel happy, and she wasn’t about to let Ramona take that away from her.
She glanced down at her outfit. Ramona was right about one thing: it wasn’t appropriate for a girl her age. Cerise may not have anything fancy in her closet, but there was still one more room that she could check.
Squaring her shoulders, Cerise climbed the marble staircase and entered what should have been her mother’s room.
“So, where are you planning on going to school next year?”
Daring opened his mouth to respond to this question for what felt like the hundredth time that night. In truth, he didn’t know yet. He’d been accepted into five schools--all of them Ivies because in this family they were the only acceptable option--but there was one school that shone out above the rest, and it wasn’t his father’s alma mater.
That morning, Daring had received his acceptance letter from Oxford. He felt elated. It was all that he had ever wanted. Oxford was the way out of the chaotic Charming household. Cerise had her heart set on Stanford, so Daring could split his time between England and the west coast. He’d have an excuse not to see his father at football games or spend Thanksgiving in Virginia.
He would finally be free.
And that, Daring realized, was what he wanted.
For a long time, he lived by his father’s rules: be polite to everyone but like no one, always look perfect, flash a smile and you get whatever you want, be better than everyone else, be perfect. Well, Daring decided, perfect was overrated. His father had a perfect life on the outside with perfect children who feared him and a perfect wife who hated him. Daring didn’t want to have perfect: he wanted Oxford, and an English degree, and Cerise.
That was perfect enough for him--even if everyone else in his family couldn’t see it.
Daring plastered on a smile and answered, “You know I’m still keeping my options open.”
Uncle Jason wrapped an arm around Daring, pulling him into an uncomfortable hug. “That’s my boy.”
Daring pulled away from him. “You know. I really should be going. I’ve got…”
Daring trailed off as movement at the entrance caught his eye. Standing in the doorway, dressed in red, was Cerise Hood. Daring felt his chest tighten. She looked...beautiful. That was the only word that could describe her--beautiful.
He left Uncle Jason where he was standing and snaked his way through the crowd until he was standing toe to toe with Cerise. “You look amazing,” he breathed.
Cerise blushed. She glanced down at her dress. “It was my mom’s. She wasn’t as tall as me, so I was worried that it wouldn’t fit.”
“You look perfect.” She always looked perfect, but Daring couldn’t find the right words to tell her that.
Cerise touched her scarred ear, making sure that it’s covered. It was a nervous tick of her’s that Daring had noticed. It was as if she was grounding herself in reality--making sure that everything that was happening to her was as real as her injury.
“Hey.” Daring grabbed her hand in his. “This is real. You and me. Us.”
Cerise quirked a smile. “Thanksgiving dinner with your horrible extended family,” she said sarcastically.
“Don’t forget the photographer from Vanity Fair.” Cerise arched an eyebrow as Daring pointed in the direction of the photographer his mother had become friends with in order to get their family featured in the magazine.
Daring grinned. “I know.” He threaded his fingers through Cerise’s. “So, Cerise Hood, are you ready to face the wolves.”
Cerise laughed. “I know a thing or two about wolves.”
At that moment, Daring wanted nothing more than to kiss her, so he did. Daring kissed Cerise in front of his entire family.
It was perfect.