Bonus Scene: Unadorned and Undiluted, a bonus Rachel PoV for Rules and Roses
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“He said he’s going to wear red, who wears a red tie?” Sharon smirked in the mirror as she checked her eyelashes, but Patty gave her a shove that nearly had her poking her own eye with the mascara. “Watch it.”
“Then don’t be rude about Archie. He looks damn good in red.”
“But he drives an orange Ferrari, it’s going to clash.” In Sharon’s world that probably registered somewhere between laughable and apocalyptic.
I rolled my eyes.
“Who cares if it clashes,” Patty said, her voice all breathy. I used to think that was attractive, now I just wanted to offer her an inhaler. “He drives a Ferrari and he definitely knows what to do with a stick.”
“Oh you didn’t,” Maria said with a snort as she joined them.
“Of course, I did,” Patty told her with a playful pout. “What’s a matter, Jake still not giving it up for you?”
“I wouldn’t tell you even if he was.” Well, at least discretion and Maria appeared to be acquainted.
“That means no,” Sharon said as though confirming that in other news, water was wet. “Poor Maria, you just have to distract him. Maybe do something with your hair.”
Was that bitch really going there?
“Dye it blonde,” Patty finished. “You’d make a great blonde.”
“Then throw in green contacts,” Sharon added with the worst kind of laugh.
Bitch was supposed to be her friend.
I flushed the toilet. I’d been done for a while, I just hoped the boob crew would move their tight little asses, slimmed down by starving-themselves diets, the fuck out of the bathroom before I had to deal with them.
“You know, you really suck sometimes.” Maria told her as she pulled down some paper towels to dry her hands.
“That’s what Bubba says,” Patty said with another laugh that actually got Sharon to glare. Which wasn’t true. The guys might talk to each other, but they sure as shit didn’t spread it around who was giving it up for them.
All three of them turned as I let myself out of the stall. A flash of fear in Patty’s eyes followed by a guilty flush on Maria’s face amused the fuck out of me. For one split-second, they had forgotten someone else was in here. Not Sharon, no, she just looked disappointed.
I’d like to boob punch her right back into training bras not that the B cup she sported was anything to brag about.
“We gotta go,” Maria announced as if I cared. Sharon and Patty followed her with Sharon asking, “If he’s wearing red, are you going to wear red? With your hair?”
Bile coated the back of my throat. I fucking hated the idea of those bitches talking about her like that. Worse, I hated that they weren’t wrong. The shitheads waved off anyone who even looked in Frankie’s direction. If the rumor was right, Jake damn near put a senior in the hospital three weeks earlier because he announced that he was going to nail Frankie at the dance.
I appreciated the effort, but goddamn, they were all asking girls out and getting laid. Why the hell couldn’t she? It pissed me off.
It was still pissing me off two hours later as the last bell of the day rang and I watched the girl who’d become something of my own personal obsession gather up her things. She was talking to math whiz Jane about helping her study for her lit test. Frankie had been tutoring her on and off when she wasn’t working at Mason’s or hanging out with the guys
Jane was cool. Nerdy. Smart. Totally my type and yet it was like trying to appreciate a rare gem while the brightest diamond in the world kept pulling all the light and refracting it back out. Frankie outshone them all and was so damn oblivious to it, she hurt my fucking heart.
Maybe that was why when Jane waved goodbye and shot me a shy smile, I winked at her.
And maybe that was why I packed my shit slowly because Frankie was staring down at her phone and texting furiously. Not with any kind of smile or bounce, but with a look of such profound disappointment it burned. Probably one of the asshats scaring everyone off from asking her out.
She startled with a jerk like she’d forgotten I was even in the room. Yeah, that would probably sting more if I was actively trying to get her to notice me, but bless this girl’s beautiful eyes and brains, but she wouldn’t see someone interested in her if they walked up to her and hit her over the head like some caveman.
Fuck, it would probably take something like that.
“Hey,” she said, shooting me an apologetic grin. “Sorry! Didn’t realize anyone else was still in here.”
For all of two seconds, I debated ripping the Band-Aid off. Not everyone wanted the blinders removed. Sometimes, we were a lot happier in ignorance. But if it were me and my best friends were cunt-blocking me at every turn, I’d sure as fuck hope someone would tell me.
I’d hope someone would break the little conspiracy of silence they’d wrapped around her. No one crossed those boys.
But I was about to because fuck them and their goddamn double standard.
“No problem, you got a sec?”
“Sure.” With a wary look I probably deserved, she tucked her phone into her pocket and then slid her backpack on. “What’s up?”
“Look, we’re not besties or anything. But you’re basically a cool chick.”
“You’re welcome. We don’t always get along, but I’ve never lied to you.” Well, lied by omission but this wasn’t about me goddammit and I sure as shit wasn’t cock blocking her.
“Rachel, is something wrong?”
“As matter of fact, there is. You’re not going to believe me, probably not at first and you won’t want to hear this but I promise—it’s the unadorned and undiluted truth.”
“Okay.” Arms folded, she met my stare. Goddamn if she wasn’t gorgeous doing it, shoulders squared, feet slightly apart and her lips pressed closed but not clamped. Defiant. Defensive. Delightful.
Right. Not a pussy call. I was going to give it to her straight and walk away. Maybe then she could get out from under the shadow they cast. She deserved to shine and not be hidden away like some damn possession.
“You don’t have a date for the spring dance.”
“So?” Aww, sweetheart, don’t look at me like that. I’d take you in a heartbeat if I thought you might go for it but you don’t even pick up on the most straightforward clues. “What does that have to do with anything?”
It was the hurt lurking there in her voice that pushed me the last two steps I needed to make.
“It has to do with those so-called friends of yours. You know, your four Musketeers? Or maybe I should call them Stooges—look it doesn’t matter. You don’t have a date because there isn’t a guy in this school they haven’t warned off either with verbal threats or beating the shit out of them. No one is going to ask you. Ever.”
It was like kicking a puppy. Before she could hide it, the hurt in her voice reflected in her eyes. “What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about the fact they made you untouchable, girl. It’s about damn time someone told you. They are so busy sticking their dicks in anything that moves, but if a guy so much as glances in your direction—they are taking their lives in their hands.”
“The guys wouldn’t…”
Yeah, I thought she wouldn’t believe me, so I opened one of the multitude of chats that I’d managed to get looped into over the years. I lurked in a lot of them. I swore these guys never checked to see who was also in the chat when they started talking.
I just handed her the phone and she read the messages. The thread had been started by the senior Jake beat the crap out of. He wanted to know what the hell was up with the untouchable girl. The explanations ranged from the blunt to the crude, the same thread was present in all of them.
You didn’t want Archie, Bubba, Coop, or Jake coming after you. Especially Jake. Though Archie could probably pay someone to destroy his foes. They were merciless and relentless in their protection of Frankie.
You’d have better chances of breathing if you hit on one of their girlfriends than on her.
Cheryl had appeared in the doorway. Fuck, I forgot I was supposed to give her a ride. Frankie glanced from the phone to the door and back again. “They wouldn’t. I could walk out there and ask someone right now.”
God, the denial hurt me. “Good luck with that. The guys know you’re untouchable. No guy is going to risk it and ask you out, so go by yourself or don’t go at all.”
Looping her arm through Frankie’s, Cheryl gave me a look like what was I thinking? I yeah I was thinking I was tired of the damn double standard.“She’s not lying. I mean, I know she sounds like a bitch, but Archie and the guys? They made it clear. No one touches you; no one dates you. There was a guy last year who was gonna ask. I’m pretty sure he got a black eye and busted lip from Jake because he’d been looking at your ass when he said he was going to ask you out.”
Ahh, Kent. On that one I totally agreed with Jake. Dude was a damn douche. He was all about tapping it and leaving it. Pretty sure at least three girls in our classes had STDs because of him.
“Don’t believe us? Try asking out a guy. See what happens.”
Always a hugger, Cheryl gave her a quick one. “It’s sweet, how they want to look after you.” Not in my opinion, but whatever. “Also, Rach, I gotta stay later than I thought so I’ll just get Mitch to pick me up after practice.”
“Sounds good.” Fortunately, Cheryl didn’t stick around. Sweet girl. Too sweet sometimes.
Licking her lips slowly, Frankie handed me back my phone. “Why are you telling me this?”
“You need to know.”
“Today?” She sniffed and turned but not before she swiped a hand against her eyes. “I needed to know today?”
“Yeah,” I said with a sigh. “Today. If I’d told you yesterday it wouldn’t be any better and if I waited until tomorrow—it could get worse.”
“Right.” She shook her head and headed for the door.
Without looking back, she paused, “What?”
“No,” she said with a snort. “You’re not.”
“Well, I want to be sorry.”
“Yeah well, I want you to be wrong.”
I guess we were both doomed to disappointment. She didn’t look back as she left and I sighed.
God I hated high school.