Shelby sighed, dropping her eyes to the ground, “Maybe this was a mistake.”

Chase rolled his eyes, “Yeah, I know. You already said it was a mistake to come home. Stop being like this, Shelby. Just grow up–”

“No,” Shelby interrupted him. “Not coming home. This. Living together. Trusting you enough to think this could work. You are too angry all of the time. I can’t take it. And I can’t take someone watching my every move, planning my every step.”

“What are you saying, Shelby?”

“I don’t know,” Shelby said, honestly. “But I’m leaving. We both need to cool down and I need time to think. Trust me.”

Shelby went to turn toward the stairs, but Chase grabbed her wrist and pulled her back to face him, “No. You can’t say something like that and then just walk away. What are you saying? You want to break up?”

Shelby pulled her arm away, “No. I mean… I don’t know. But I don’t think it’s a good idea to talk about it right now.”

“Well, we’re sure as hell going to!” Chase yelled.

“Fine!” Shelby screamed, stepping toward him so that she had to crane her neck upward to look him in the eye. She screamed up at him, making him flinch, “You want to do this? You want to scream? You want to yell? Fine! Let’s fight! Come on, Chase! This is what you want!?”

“Get out of my face, you crazy bitch!” Chase said, shoving her away.

“You aren’t leaving,” Chase’s voice seethed as Shelby took a few steps away from him.

Shelby whirled to face him, “Oh, I’m not? Stop me.”

“You can’t just walk away when there’s a conversation that you don’t like!” Chase snapped, stepping toward her. His figure towered over her as he fumed, “You always do this. One argument and you go running in the other direction.”

One argument?” Shelby laughed. “We argue all of the time!”

“We do not,” Chase frowned. “But regardless, adults don’t argue like this. You aren’t a child anymore. Stop running away from your problems. Face me and have a conversation with me like a grown ass woman.”

Shelby ran her hands over her face in frustration. She was so angry, and there was no talking to him. She wanted to scream at the top of her lungs to give her anger some sort of outlet. “I can’t have a conversation with you! You get offended by everything I say! I want to leave. I want to go be by the side of my best friend! I want to go hold his hand and tell him it will be alright. I won’t apologize for that!”

“I appreciate it,” Chase laughed. “He might be a ball of fluff towards you, but I’m pretty sure he could take me.”

Shelby smiled, “You’ve got to stop with the puppy comparison. You’re ruining his image.”

Chase ran a hand through his hair, “My bad. Because he’s a guard dog, right? I got that vibe the first day I saw you two together.” He paused, “But I can also see the puppy love in his eyes when he looks at you.”

“We aren’t like that,” Shelby corrected him.

Chase shrugged, a somber look on his face, “Does he know that?” He gave a nervous laugh and shook his head, “Again, just me butting in where I don’t belong.” He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and glanced at the time, quickly changing the subject, “Oh shoot. I’ve got to get going. I’ve got a student council meeting upstairs in five.” He motioned towards the door, “Until next week?”

“You’re threatened by him,” Shelby retorted. “That much is obvious.”

Chase pinched the bridge of his nose, “I’m… I just don’t… I don’t understand how he can disappoint you time and time again, and yet you still just… You just keep letting him!”

“It isn’t his fault. He has a problem.”

“A problem that he caused,” Chase snapped. “It’s not like he was born with some disease. He caused this, Shelby. He did this to himself and you keep treating him like a victim.”

“Addiction is a disease, Chase,” Shelby said.

Chase groaned, rolling his eyes, “Yeah, and so is being an asshole, right? Stupidity? Let’s not blame all of the douchebags of the world! They can’t help it! Poor things!”

“I don’t appreciate your tone,” Shelby said, narrowing her eyes at him.

“Yeah, well I don’t appreciate you acting like a dumbass.”

“F-f-f…” Shelby stuttered, suddenly forgetting English. She blinked several times, “I feel like you don’t even know me. I’m… I haven’t exactly… let you get very close.”

Chase grinned, “I always loved mysteries.” He laughed, “But in all seriousness, I feel like I know you pretty well. I know you don’t talk about yourself all of that much, but I’m falling for the person you’re showing me when you don’t realize you’re doing it.”

“What?” Shelby said with a nervous and confused chuckle.

Chase’s cheeks tinged pink, “I love the way you ramble on and on about how worried you are about Reed because it shows me how much you care about your friends. I’m crazy about the way you talk about your family and get excited about your niece, because I see how much you love your family. I love how quiet you get when you’re thinking about schoolwork, because I can always see that brilliant mind of yours working. And I love how much you can talk about old movies and video games, because it makes me so happy to hear what you’re passionate about.” Chase paused, “And I know it probably feels like I’m giving you some sappy speech from a 90’s romantic comedy, but I am falling for everything about you, and I cannot wait until the day when you let me learn more about you.”

Chase coughed as the back of his shirt collar was pulled suddenly and he went flying backwards. A quick push at the shoulder and he had spun around, an angry giant standing before him. Zach pushed him roughly back at the window, the glass moaning as he hit it. Chase was not lacking in the height department, but not even he could measure up to the towering and threatening form of Zachary Andover.

“I should throw you through this window,” Zach growled into his face, holding Chase in place with an arm on his throat.

Chase coughed again as Zach pushed forward, “You probably should. I deserve whatever you’re about to do to me.”

“Damn right, you do,” Zach glared down at him. “I should kill you.”

Shelby rolled her eyes, flexing her hand back and forth into a fist as circulation returned to it, “I’m not going to give up on Reed, Chase. No matter how much you’d love that.”

“What?” Chase asked, looking hurt. “I don’t want you to give up on Reed. I just want you to protect yourself a little better.”

“Yeah right,” Shelby scoffed. “You’ve always hated Reed.”

Chase’s frown deepened, “That’s ridiculous. Why would I hate Reed?”

“Because you think he’s going to steal me away or something,” Shelby snapped. “I’m sorry, but I’m not going to turn my back on a friend that needs me just because of your stupid jealousy problems.”

“I can already tell this is going to be a waste of both of our time,” Chase muttered, turning towards the whiteboard and uncapping his marker. He shook his head, “You can’t just fake understanding. It doesn’t matter if you don’t care about Chemistry. Care about your future, and passing Chemistry is a part of that.”

Shelby crossed her arms over her chest, “I’m not stupid, Chase. I’m fucking brilliant. I’m just having some trouble caring about whether an equation is balanced or not.”

“And I get that,” Chase replied. “Do you think I give a rat’s ass about two teenagers who are stupid enough to kill themselves for love after only three days? No. But I still put my best effort into English and my grades reflect that.”

Shelby sighed, “Fine. I’ll try, okay? Let’s just do this.”

Shelby’s heart sank, “Oh.” Was this really the type of person she had become? Someone who surprised people when she was nice? She knew that she had become somewhat distant, but she had never expected to have changed so much.

“I’m sorry,” Chase said quickly. “See, that was rude. You’re obviously trying to get along with me, and here I am saying stuff like that. It was totally out of line, Shelby.”

Shelby held up a hand to stop him, “No, it wasn’t. You’re right. I was… I was a real bitch last week. You were totally right. There was no reason for me to be rude to you, and yet I was.” She paused, “That isn’t the type of person I am. Or, at least, I didn’t use to be like that.”

Chase rose an eyebrow, “What changed?”

“I… I can’t…”

“No, that’s okay,” Chase stopped her. “Again, that was out of line. I don’t want to invade your personal life. That’s just me being nosy, I guess. We can keep this about school, okay? I won’t keep trying to be your buddy.” He chuckled.

Shelby poured all of the necessary ingredients into a pan and set it on top of the stove, turning up the heat and mixing the ingredients together. Chase scratched his chin as he watched her, “And doing your hair… that will make you a better cook, too?”

“What?” Shelby asked, glancing over her shoulder.

“You hardly ever wear your hair down anymore,” Chase grunted. “Not even when I take you out.”

Shelby put her hands on her hips, “What exactly are you implying? Stop dancing around the subject and spit it out already, Chase. I’m tired of this game.”

Chase ran a hand through his hair, “You’re acting like you’re trying to impress an old boyfriend.”

“Ronan and I never dated,” Shelby reminded him.

“Still,” Chase began. “Sprucing yourself up, cooking something fancy. I feel like this is what girls do when they’re trying to rub it in some old flame’s face that they’re happy now. Or, maybe when they’re trying to win someone back.”

“No, I…” Shelby paused, swallowing. “I’d like it if we could be friends. It’s just… there’s some things that I don’t talk about. With anybody.” She sighed, “Wow, I’m being super cryptic. Sorry. I just—”

Chase stopped her, “Hey, not everything should be public business, and I was just putting my nose where it doesn’t belong.” He gave her another one of his crooked smiles, and Shelby was surprised that it made her stomach do a flip. “But I’d like it if we could be friends, too.” He paused again, his smile fading as a look of concern came to his eyes, “…as long as you have somebody that you can talk to.”

Shelby hesitated, nodding slowly, “I tell Reed everything.”

“Surly guy that follows you around like a lost puppy?”

The image caused Shelby to chuckle, “What?”

Chase smirked, “Sorry. I got the puppy vibe.”

“From Jensen?” Shelby shook her head. “I’ll make sure to never tell him you said that.”