metropolis“That sucks?” Tonio echoed in disbelief. He’d gotten his best friend a copy of the newspaper as soon as he’d caught the name of the girl who’d had him so entranced only days before. His response was far from what he’d expected. “That’s all you have to say about it?”

“Just give me the lines so I can say what you’re looking for,” he said unstrapping the gloves from his hands and throwing them into his backpack. “Hurry up. I’ve got class in a few minutes.”

Tonio grabbed his shoulder, jerking him around so they were facing each other. “Whatever’s buggin’ you, forget about it for a minute and focus. You don’t think it would be a good idea to call her? Check on her?”

He shook off Tonio’s hand and tossed his backpack onto his shoulder. “Lay off it, Tonio. I don’t need your help.”

“Dylan–”

“She’s not interested, alright?” he snapped, turning to face his friend full on. “She thinks I’m playing games and she’s not interested in anything I have to offer. I doubt she’s waiting on a call from me.  Now let it go.”

“ You haven’t talked seriously about a girl since last year. You’d be stupid to walk away now. You haven’t been Mr. Steady and she’s not exactly Miss Popular. Can you blame the girl for wondering?”

“I took her on a date, asked for another. Heck, I even told her dad I was interested. What else is it going to take to make her realize I’m serious?”

Tonio held up the newspaper and flapped it in Dylan’s face. “This. Call her.”

Dylan hesitated. Exhaling a harsh breath, he swatted the paper out of his face. “After class.”

“After everybody’s pretty much eaten her alive? Don’t be a punk, Ramsey. Call her now.”

Dylan rolled his eyes but pulled out his phone in search of the number Tamar had called him from that morning. He ignored the prompting wave of Tonio’s hand and pressed talk.

Tamar looked up from her bones and muscles textbook as her phone vibrated loudly on the table. Class hadn’t yet begun and the room was still empty. Sighing deeply at the sight of the number saved as ‘Sinatra,” Tamar hesitated only a moment before answering. ”Yea… It’s true.” Undoubtedly, he was calling to confirm what he’d read, but the thought of him finding out that way stung.

“That’s not why I was calling,” he bit off in annoyance. “Dang it Tamar, what did I do to make you think I was the scum of the century? I was calling…to check on you…”

Tamar rolled her eyes, leaning back in her chair. ”Never said anything about anyone being scum. Did you call to continue fighting with me?” She frowned at his soft words. ”Don’t worry, it’s not that big a deal. I’m fine.”

“That’s the only thing you seem willing to let me do with you,” he grumbled under his breath, waving at Tonio and starting for class. “You’re telling me you’re not at all bothered by the article?”

Tamar shifted her eyes to the window, imagining the many people that were reading the article. ”You know, I’m relieved that it came out now. Saves me the trouble.” She crossed her arms. ”What else d’you wanna know about me not already mentioned?”

“Is there anything else you’re willing to tell me, you know, since you’re not interested in being my friend or anything?”

Tamar smiled wryly. He had a nice phone voice, even if he was pouting. ”You’re really a dunce, aren’t you?” She crossed her legs. ”I guess you probably just skimmed the article, saw my picture and didn’t read it completely, am I right?” She sighed. ”It’s because of stupid stuff like this, that’s why I don’t want to be your friend. What else will they put in the newspaper to keep me in my place?” She could already see the next headline;  Psycho Tamar stalking beloved college football star.

“I prefer to hear things like that from my friends, not from some article. So what? You’re saying this is about me? Tamar, they talked about you before I ever entered the picture.”

”Sure they did but it was harmless enough. Immature, petty stuff. I can handle that. Digging up crap about my past because I dare look at their beloved quarterback much less think of dating him, I won’t deal with that.”

“All it takes is a few words to the right people and it’ll die down,” he promised, his lips setting in a firm line. He had a good idea of where to start. “No one decides who I talk to or who I date. If they have a problem with it, they can come see me.”

Tamar laughed gently. ”Don’t make it sound like you’re the Godfather putting things in order.”

“Somebody needs to if it’ll make you see reason.”

”What is this, me and you against the world?” Tamar shook her head, not believing she was even giving it a second thought.

“Why not? Sounds like good odds to me.”

”You don’t mind the impending scorn that you’re keeping company with a mental nutcase?”

“People have talked about me all my life. I doubt I’m going to hear anything worse than I already have. You seem like you’re in your right mind to me. Screw what everybody else has to say.”

”Easy for you to say, everyone worships the ground you walk on…” Everyone avoids the path I’m on. Sighing, Tamar rose to her feet. ”Fine. Screw them. Let’s be friends.”

He could remember a time when the things people had to say hadn’t been positive, when worshipping him was as far-fetched as liking him. He didn’t mention it. “You’re not going to change your mind on me?” he asked carefully.

Tamar frowned, thinking for a moment. ”I can’t say that I won’t. Life is unpredictable and we’ll only get hurt if we make plans that end up not happening. I don’t expect anything from you but if you do from me, then maybe we shouldn’t start anything.” How many dreams had she given up because of the cruelty of life? ”I won’t hold it against you if you change your mind about being friends.”

“All I’m asking is that you give me a chance, that you base whatever decision you make off of me and not everybody else.”

Tamar bit her bottom lip. ”Okay. If you can do the same for me, okay.”

A slow smile spread across his lips. “You’ve got a deal, pretty girl.”

She smirked. ”Stop it…” Her cheeks tingled as her classmates trickled in, staring at her curiously. ”Let’s talk later. Class about to start.”

“Text me and we’ll meet up after. Try to learn something,” he teased.

Tamar rolled her eyes even as a soft smile crossed her lips, lowering the phone to her lap. As the class began, she found herself smiling despite the curious looks directed at her, anticipating meeting with Dylan later. She couldn’t deny that he perked her interest.

<<Chapter 8 || Chapter 10>>

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