Hello, yes, I'm alive. I have spent my absence being completely and devastatingly uninspired, so I would like to request that you please don't murder me for my lack of updates. It's been a rough couple of months. But I'm back! Thank you for your patience. Now, FINALLY, here is the long awaited chapter eight.

"This is so childish, for God's sake, you're almost fourteen," she huffs, still flailing to reach her journal.

"I—

Neither hear the RV door rattle open until a curvy woman with thick, tumbling hair stands in front of them, putting a quick end to their near wrestling.

"Mom," Beck breaths.

Chapter Eight: The Art of Eye Contact (Part Two)

"The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed."

-Carl Jung

"I'm sorry, did I interrupt something?"

Beck and Jade both scramble upright, fixing their clothes and hair.

"Um, no. Uh, this is Jade. She's in the advanced musical with me. We were just doing an… acting exercise. Um…"

"The goal was to get more comfortable with each other since our characters are pretty close," Jade covers with ease. Beck gives her a brief look of surprise, and she prays her uncomfortable shifting isn't as visible as she thinks. Thankfully, Beck appears equally as mortified by his mother's abrupt intrusion.

Mrs. Oliver's expression remains unamused. "I see. Can I speak to you outside for a minute, Beck?"

"Um, sure." He stands and follows his mother out the door, sending a desperate glance in Jade's direction.

Beck Oliver? Desperate? Damn… I should have gotten a picture for blackmail.

As soon as Mrs. Oliver cracks the door shut behind them, Jade's racing mind gears into overdrive.

"That was the worst possible first impression you could have made. Great work, Jade," she mutters to herself as she begins pacing up and down the RV, slipping her thumbs out the holes she'd cut in her sleeves and letting the fabric ride up her wrists. Her nails dig into her palms and send sharp pain signals to her distracted brain.

Wait, why do I suddenly care what some random kid's mom thinks of me? Does he even count as a 'random kid' anymore? Fucking pathetic. I've got to get out of here. I could just escape right now and— shit! There's no back door in this damn metal garbage can.

Thoughts swarm her head, and Beck's outside argument with his mother interweaves with her mental battle while—

Wait, they're arguing?

Jade slows her footsteps as she approaches the door just near enough to hear clearly.

"What did I tell you about having girls over?" Mrs. Oliver speaks.

"I swear we weren't doing anything. It was just homework."

"You're not mature enough to make those kinds of decision yet," she continues as though not having heard him. "I need you to prove your independence before you do adult things."

"I've been working since I was ten, Mom, I really don't think—"

"Listen to me. You live under my roof—"

"You live by my rules, I know," Beck finishes.

"Your father and I are going out tonight. You can order a pizza for dinner. Finish your homework as soon as possible, please."

If anything else is said after that, Jade doesn't hear it.

She moves quickly to the other side of the RV, sitting on the floor just in time as the door slams open. Jade looks up from her innocent phone scrolling.

When Beck collapses onto the couch above her with annoyance and frustration radiating off of him, she turns to face him. There has never been a more awkward silence between the two of them.

"Look where your antics got us." She breaks the tension because dear God, somebody needs to wipe the piteous puppy dog expression off that boy's face.

"My antics?" he questions.

She shrugs. "You started this madness."

"How did I start it?" Despite his embarrassment and exasperation, a small smile tugs at the corners of his mouth.

"I think you're forgetting something." She holds her hand out with a knowing look.

"Oh right, here," Beck says, placing the black journal back in Jade's possession.

"Yeah yeah, now go fall off a cliff or something," she mutters. Her eyes fall to her lap where she quickly tucks her thumbs back in her sleeves, and Beck looks away for a moment before speaking into the sudden silence.

"Sorry… about all that. My parents are a little…" He pauses.

"Strict?"

"Yeah."

"It's okay."

He fidgets with his rings and bounces his foot up and down subconsciously, as though he's mulling over something in his head.

Her guard is slipping; she can feel her walls beginning to give way, so before prying words can escape Beck's mouth, Jade begins to gather up her script and tuck her belongings back in her bag. "Well, I think we did what we needed to do, so I should probably get going. My dad has a business dinner, and the nanny he's hired for my brother is insufferable, so wish me luck." She breaks the vulnerable silence.

"Then stay," Beck says as if it's the most obvious thing in the world. He seems to have snapped out of his thoughtful daze.

"What?" Halfway up with her knees pressed into the carpet, Jade stops moving to glance at him tentatively.

Don't you fucking dare give into your stupid feelings.

"My parents are going out, obviously. You're going to be miserable with your brother's nanny, and I'm just going to end up watching Full House reruns. So… stay?"

"You watch Full House?" Jade doesn't even try to cover the judgment in her tone.

"…Yeah?"

"Every assumption I've ever had about you has just been confirmed."

He mocks flattery. "You had assumptions about me?"

"More like one assumption."

"Which is?"

"You're a total pansy."

"You have no proof of that," Beck says defensively.

"Oh no, did I damage your male ego?" Jade's tone is sickly sweet.

"If I admit it…" he pauses, and it takes everything in Jade not to slap his self-righteous face, "will you stay?"

"As much as I'd love to hear you admit your lack of manliness, it'd make you happy if I stayed, so I'll just stick with my original plan and go." Much to Beck's apparent dismay, she continues gathering her things.

He's trying way too hard. I have to get out of here. Now.

"Come on, please?" His eyes subtly solicit pity.

Disgusting.

She tries to avert her attention, but something pushes her best judgment aside.

Why is it always the fucking eyes?

She sighs and plops down on the couch next to him, though still a safe distance away. Her binder thuds to the ground. "Ugh, fine!" she groans.

"You're staying?" His eyes light up.

"Whatever, I'll stay. But I am not watching Full House." Leaning forward, she grabs the water bottle from her bag and takes a sip.

"What's wrong with Full House?"

"Everything," she emphasizes. "Expect an essay with my list of reasons on Monday."

"Okay?" he says, and Jade smirks because nothing is better than leaving people flustered and confused.

Okay, leaving them terrified might be the best, but this is a close second.

Beck changes the subject. "You know, I don't think you've ever actually talked about your dad before."

Immediately, Jade stiffens.

This was such a mistake. He's already talking about the crap I wanted to avoid.

"There's a very specific reason for that, and you don't need to know it," she snaps.

Shit shit shit shit—

He nods. "I'll respect that."

Oh.

"…So, what are we doing?" she asks, still on edge and suddenly self conscious. Beck stands, taking a few steps away from the couch.

"Well, I can order pizza soon, but in the meantime," he turns to face Jade, "want to play Bananagrams?"

"What?" She scrunches her nose up.

"You've never played Bananagrams?"

"I've played Scrabble, like a civilized human being."

"Come on, it's fun." His pouting brown eyes seem to pull strings in Jade's mind, because her mouth is forming an unexpected answer.

"Alright alright. But if I hate it, I'm quitting."

What the fuck is happening here?

"You're not going to hate it." He stands, adjusting his clothes and flipping his hair in that most obnoxious way he always does. She rises to her feet as well, crossing her arms over her chest.

"Somehow, you saying that makes me think I will."

"You're the master of words," Beck replies, reaching into a cabinet to pull out the yellow bag containing the game, "so you'll probably win."

"Probably? Beck, you have the vocabulary of a naked mole rat."

He lets out a stifled chuckle. "Why a naked mole rat?"

"Because they're ugly," she defends.

"Because they're naked." He smirks, and she rolls her eyes.

"God help me, where's the holy water…"

"I thought vampires didn't like holy water."

"They don't, but I'm willing to make the sacrifice."

"Don't sacrifice me. You'll miss my face."

"Hardly," Jade retorts.

"Remember that time a couple hours ago when you called me attractive?"

She twists the cap of her water bottle open threateningly. "Cleanse yourself of sinful thoughts," she demands, and though her tone is joking, it still manages to hold an iciness behind it.

"Ah, yes, because Jade West is one for having the most Godly, holy mind."

In one motion, she sends a stream of water at Beck, hitting him above his left eye.

"Hey! Watch the hair!" he exclaims, shaking his head and brushing water off his face.

"You got what you deserved." Jade's face twitches as she tries her best to bite back laughter and remain smug.

"I was only kidding! I take it all back."

"You weren't kidding until I messed with your precious hair."

Beck changes the subject. "Are we going to play or not?"

"Damn it, I thought I'd avoided it."

He begins to clear off the coffee table, throwing the garbage into a pile on the ground and tossing the guitar paraphernalia into the corner. "It's going to take more than some probably spit infested 'holy water' to distract me."

"Everything distracts you," Jade says as Beck dumps the Bananagrams tiles out onto the table. "Okay, so how do you play?"

"I win!" Jade declares exactly four minutes and 29 seconds after they begin.

"This was definitely not fair. You got all the easy tiles!" he argues.

"There are no easy tiles, Beck. All letters form words."

"I kept getting x's and z's and no vowels."

"Bad luck," she shrugs. "It's probably the holy water. I cursed it, you know."

"So unholy water."

"Whatever you want to call it, your hair is still wet, and I annihilated you in Bananagrams."

"So humble, this one," Beck mutters.

"It's not my fault you don't know how to spell above a second grade level."

"Stop insulting my lack of literary knowledge."

"Cut the scholarly bullshit; you're fooling nobody but yourself," Jade opposes.

"I'm proving I'm not as dumb as you think."

"Incompetence is not a good look on you." Jade shakes her head in false contempt.

"As far as I know, I have the same brain I had two hours ago when you said I was good looking," he counters with a smirk.

If he brings that up one more time…

"Don't you at least want your body to be found after I kill you?" Jade offers.

"Not if it'd out you for your crime."

"Your thoughtfulness doesn't lessen your chances of a shortened life," Jade says, and Beck begins flipping the remaining game tiles from the draw pile face up. "What are you doing?" she asks.

"Coming in second place." He grins at her cockily.

"Cheater."

"It's called strategy," he argues.

"It's called being a sore loser." She watches him rearrange his tiles, trying to fit together the letters like a puzzle. "You know, if you used longer words, you'd have more to build off of."

"I'm writing one!" he insists.

"No, you wrote cat which is just weird."

"I'm writing catastrophe, Jade, not cat."

"Dear god, how are you ever going to figure out how to spell it?"

"I know how to spell it," Beck defends.

"I'm Beck, I know how to spell big words!" Jade mocks him, her voice dropping a few octaves and dripping with sarcasm. Beck rolls his eyes, continuing to add on letters until he finishes the word. As she looks over his craftsmanship, Jade tries to hold in her laugh, but before she can gain enough control to censor herself, it comes tumbling out of her lips. "Are you fucking high? That spelling is the real catastrophe. C-A-T-A-S-T-R-A-F-Y?" Jade spells out. "I don't think so."

"You know, you could stop laughing."

"We're leaving the word exactly like that so it can stare at you in shame."

"Must everything you say be hurtful?"

She pauses, pretending to think it over. "Yes."

"Good to know."

Silence falls as Beck continues sliding the tiles around in attempt to form a puzzle of words. Without thinking, Jade reaches over to help, causing Beck to look up at her curiously for a moment. The energy between them is as ever changing as Jade's mood swings.

"I want a dog," Beck says abruptly, arranging his tiles to complete the word. "A Rottweiler."

Jade nods and examines the options on the table. "I want a bunny."

"A bunny?"

"Hell yeah."

"Why?"

"I like bunnies."

"Jade West likes bunnies?" He nearly laughs.

"They're cute!" she argues.

"You're losing your credibility as 'tough girl' by the second."

"I brought my scissors with me."

"When will you learn that you don't scare me?"

"And I will not hesitate to use them on your hair."

"…That's my cue to stop talking."

"Oh look," she smirks, "you're finally catching on."

To: Beck Oliver

From: Jade West

9:29 pm

Why the hell do you have a ukulele?

To: Jade West

From: Beck Oliver

9:30 pm

Ha! I knew you'd text first.

To: Beck Oliver

From: Jade West

9:30 pm

Bullshit. You're ignoring my question.

To: Jade West

From: Beck Oliver

9:31 pm

Because I play the ukulele.

To: Beck Oliver

From: Jade West

9:31 pm

Do all the girls at school know how big of a dork you are?

To: Jade West

From: Beck Oliver

9:31 pm

To be honest, I don't think they really know anything about me.

To: Beck Oliver

From: Jade West

9:32 pm

For someone apparently so open, you've got a lot of secrets.

To: Jade West

From: Beck Oliver

9:32 pm

Not secrets. I just don't like to make a big deal out of things.

To: Beck Oliver

From: Jade West

9:32 pm

Why?

To: Jade West

From: Beck Oliver

9:33 pm

Everyone makes a big deal out of things for me.

To: Beck Oliver

From: Jade West

9:34 pm

Conceded asshole.

9:36 pm

*one image attachment*

To: Jade West

From: Beck Oliver

9:36 pm

Why did you send me a picture of a llama?

To: Beck Oliver

From: Jade West

9:36 pm

Because he has better hair than you, and your ego could use some taming.

To: Jade West

From: Beck Oliver

9:36 pm

That llama's hair is a catastrophe.

To: Beck Oliver

From: Jade West

9:37 pm

Hey, look who learned a new word today!

To: Jade West

From: Beck Oliver

9:37 pm

I can HEAR your condescending tone.

To: Beck Oliver

From: Jade West

9:37 pm

Oh my god, another one? In the right context? God must be real.

9:38 pm

How much did autocorrect have to help you spell those words?

To: Jade West

From: Beck Oliver

9:38 pm

I cannot believe how little you think of me.

To: Beck Oliver

From: Jade West

9:38 pm

You make it so easy.

To: Jade West

From: Beck Oliver

9:39 pm

Oh God, you're already quoting your character.

To: Beck Oliver

From: Jade West

9:39 pm

You'd better get used to it.

To: Jade West

From: Beck Oliver

9:40 pm

You know, I don't think I would ever dye the tips of my hair auburn. It's not a good look on anybody, including your demented llama.

To: Beck Oliver

From: Jade West

9:40 pm

You're too big a wuss to ever do anything interesting with your hair.

To: Jade West

From: Beck Oliver

9:42 pm

Again with the wimp thing? My hair is my best feature. Why would I put myself at risk of it looking like that llama's?

To: Beck Oliver

From: Jade West

9:42 pm

If your hair looked like the llama's, it would be an improvement.

To: Jade West

From: Beck Oliver

To: Jade West

9:43 pm

You know, you say these things like you didn't accidentally call me hot earlier.

To: Beck Oliver

From: Jade West

9:44 pm

I would sleep with one eye open tonight if I were you.

To: Jade West

From: Beck Oliver

9:44 pm

…Why?

To: Beck Oliver

From: Jade West

9:45 pm

I have an electric razor.

To: Jade West

From: Beck Oliver

9:46 pm

Sneaking over to my house already? Scandalous.

To: Beck Oliver

From: Jade West

9:46 pm

You sound like a poorly written sitcom every time you speak.

To: Jade West

From: Beck Oliver

9:46 pm

Stop making fun of Full House! It's a good show.

To: Beck Oliver

From: Jade West

9:47 pm

You have the worst taste.

9:48 pm

Wanna prove you're not a total pansy?

To: Jade West

From: Beck Oliver

9:48 pm

I don't know why I STILL have to prove my manliness, but okay?

To: Beck Oliver

From: Jade West

9:49 pm

Because you play the ukulele, have a YELLOW journal, and watch cheesy 90s sitcoms, Beck. Keep up.

9:50 pm

Take me to see The Scissoring on opening night.

To: Jade West

From: Beck Oliver

9:50 pm

Isn't that the new movie coming out about the girl who murders her friends with scissors?

To: Beck Oliver

From: Jade West

9:51 pm

Yes, based on my favorite book.

To: Jade West

From: Beck Oliver

9:51 pm

So THAT'S why you like scissors so much.

To: Beck Oliver

From: Jade West

9:51 pm

Stop avoiding the question.

Wuss.

To: Jade West

From: Beck Oliver

9:52 pm

Sure.

I'll go.

To: Beck Oliver

From: Jade West

9:52 pm

You have a month to prepare yourself.

To: Jade West

From: Beck Oliver

9:52 pm

You act like I've never seen a horror movie before.

9:53 pm

Do you not remember that I don't get scared?

To: Beck Oliver

From: Jade West

9:54 pm

Electric razor.

To: Jade West

From: Beck Oliver

9:54 pm

Shutting up.

Jade tosses her phone aside and finishes scribbling the day's events in her journal. She pauses, distractedly biting the end of her pen before adding a final sentence to the bottom of the page.

'If I ever do something stupid like fall in love, I hope they're not comfortable being a complete asshole.'

I don't even know what this chapter is. The llama picture is posted on my Twitter (jadevalen_) if anyone is curious lol. And for reference, Bananagrams is slightly like Scrabble. The reason I chose this game will become clear VERY far in the future ;)

Please leave a review and let me know what you all thought! I love hearing from you and am always open to constructive criticism.

"I don't want anyone who's cool to see me like this!"

-Jade