A/N: Thank you for the reviews, they are really appreciated. I am extremely sorry for the delay though, I was really caught up with university and work. So here I am. :D AND, it was my best friend's birthday, so I made her a Naley gift book. :) So anyway. There are Spoby scenes in it, and I didn't go with their traditional dynamic (which I'm extremely fond of) and instead decided that I'll slowly ease into it. The traditional Spoby-ness will soon appear, don't worry. :) I hope you guys enjoy it. Please do not forget to read and review. :D
Chapter 3: Guilty by Association
The free dictionary defined awkward as a situation 'difficult to deal with; requiring tact'. Difficult seemed too mild a word for Spencer. Having grown being taught that it is impolite to keep silent when you were entertaining guests, Spencer hadn't been this quiet during a mealtime since the time she was seated opposite her then boyfriend – who had also happened to be her sister's fiancé, a fact he had conveniently left out. She hadn't known then that it was possible for a dinner to get more awkward…well that was before she had known that she would spend a summer with her best friend and her cousin (and his friend) who also happened the man she had lost her virginity to – a fact life had cruelly forgotten to mention to her. Until now. Kayla was busy chatting up to Chase McAdams, Toby Cavanaugh's friend. The two seemed quite smitten with each other, as they hadn't taken their eyes off each other since the dinner had begun.
Spencer hadn't taken her eyes off the lasagna she was so meticulously eating in order avoid eye-contact with her past. As she chewed, she savoured every bite, every texture and flavour of the dish. It was one of those moments when one felt like a judge on MasterChef. She could distinguish between each and every ingredient, and she felt a sudden surge of pride for her latest accomplishment. Despite the fact that she was thoroughly enjoying her meal, she desperately wished that it would get over soon, giving her an opportunity to escape this torturous meal.
'Ooh Spence, I forgot to tell you!' Kayla exclaimed.
Spencer looked at her, carefully avoiding Toby's eyes. 'Forgot to tell me what?'
'That Toby is from Rosewood,' Kayla said enthusiastically. She faced Toby. 'Spencer is from Rosewood too…I guess I forgot to tell you that too.'
'That's…that's interesting,' Spencer said, forcing herself to look at Toby. He nodded. 'I didn't know.'
'Me neither,' Toby said. He looked just as uncomfortable doing this as she did.
'Isn't it weird that you two don't know each other?' Kayla asked. 'I mean Rosewood doesn't sound like a New York City or a Los Angeles…surely you must have run into each other at some point.'
'I don't remember such a thing,' Spencer lied.
'What about you, Toby?' Kayla asked.
'Not really,' Toby said. 'I mean yeah, I've heard of her and her possee, but we hadn't officially met. Not until tonight.'
Spencer froze. His condescending tone suggested that whatever he heard wasn't positive, and she couldn't blame him for that. Being friends with Alison DiLaurentis hadn't been easy. She was the girl every man wanted to date and every girl wanted to be. You would think such a popular person would have been warm and friendly, but no. Cunning and extremely charming, Alison had constantly gotten her way through manipulation and blackmail. Initially when she had handpicked her and three other girls to be a part of her new 'clique,' Spencer had been thrilled. An actual opportunity to make friends, and being around someone as insanely well known as Alison meant an opportunity to be recognized by the faculty and administration for a lot of activities ensuring her a seat in a good college.
The friendship had been the best part though. Aria, Hanna, Emily and her had become extremely close, but with Alison constantly making sure that none of them were closer to each other than they were to her, the scope for a true friendship with the other three wasn't that high. Initially Ali had been a good friend to the four, patiently listening to their stories and supporting them through their hard times. Though Spencer didn't approve of how her friend treated the rest of the world, she was content because Ali was a good friend to her. Or she thought. When she started using their secrets to blackmail them and keep them close to her, Spencer had finally opened her eyes to Ali. She was not a good person, and definitely not a good friend. She had spent the later half of senior year trying to keep a distance from her 'friend', and had succeeded only when she graduated and got into Yale.
Still, it annoyed her that he had the nerve to judge her like that, especially when he hardly knew her. A passionate one night stand did not count.
'You don't know the first thing about me,' Spencer snapped glaring at him
'Considering the type of people you had for friends, I don't want to either,' Toby said, staring straight back into her eyes.
'So I'm guilty by association, huh?' Spencer asked. 'Well that's cute, considering the fact that I've heard stuff about you too. Something about your intimate relationship with your own sister!'
The colour drained off Toby's face. His body turned rigid, and he clutched onto the fork in his hand tightly. 'Step sister. You have absolutely no idea what you're talking about-'
'And I don't want to either,' Spencer said.
The two stared at each other angrily. If looks could kill, both of them would be dead in an instant. He had only just gotten here, and he was already starting to unnerve her. She hated going into Ali mode and digging up a rumour about him that he clearly wasn't comfortable with, but his clear condescending tone regarding her clique, and his blatant judgment of her personality had really irked her. She toyed around with the fork in her hand, desperately trying to attach some food onto it.
'Ceasefire please?' Kayla asked weakly. 'It's summer guys, the season to be jolly.'
'That's winter, Kayla,' Spencer said, rolling her eyes.
'Same thing,' Kayla said. Before Spencer could interrupt, she continued, 'You both have heard nasty things about each other. So what? That doesn't mean they are true. Toby, Spencer is a wonderful person. She is loyal, smart, funny and determined. Spencer, whatever crap you heard about him and his step sister, I am sure there is more to the story. Stop passing judgments about each other on your first encounter of each other.'
Spencer nodded at her friend, but she wasn't going to apologize. Granted, it wasn't very nice of her to bring out Toby's past with his sister out in the open like that, but she was tired of being judged and disected like that by everybody. Her personal opinion of Toby had been different, as on Prom Night she had discovered that he had been one of the only people to let her be and not expect anything of her. She didn't really believe in the rumour, to begin with, but it was the first thing that struck her mind as a retaliation to Toby's demeaning judgment.
Glancing up, she met his eyes and saw an expression that she couldn't quite fathom. Was it disappointment? Or was it disgust? Perhaps it was plain loathing. Yes. Loathing it definitely was. By bringing out the skeletons from his closet, Spencer had just proved Toby's judgment about her true. Toby looked away, and poured all his concentration into finishing dinner without another incident instead, and somehow, Spencer couldn't help but feel extremely guilty. But she was not going to apologize. That, she wouldn't. It was nearly impossible for someone to weasle an apology out of Spencer Hastings, and Toby was no exception, no matter how good he was in bed.
The cozy little town of Cape May was known for many things. The deep blue sea, the beautiful beaches, the exciting adventure sports, the friendly people, the cheap but quality food, the scenery, etc. But the summer...the glorious summer weather was what people spoke about the most. It wasn't extremely hot, the temperature was about just right. One could spend hours on the beach playing or simply lazing around without the sun draining them of their energy, so it wasn't really surprising that Spencer was perched atop a beach chair holding a book in her hand.
She carefully placed the book on her lap as she flipped the page and took a long sip of the delicious cold coffee in her hand. A bit of coffee spilled onto the pages, and she cursed out loudly, putting the coffee down. Grabbing the bunch of tissues that she had brought, she carefully dabbed at the pages, drying out the coffee. Her battered copy of Catcher in the Rye was something she cared for and treasured as if it was her own baby. Once she was satisfied, she put the book down and took another long sip of the coffee. The more coffee she had in her system, the better she felt. Honestly, after a strong cup of coffee, Spencer always felt like she could go save the day.
Carefully placing the cup down, she picked up her book and started reading again. Before knowing it, she had faded out of Cape May and was in Agerstown, living Holden Caulfield's - her hugest fictional crush - life.
'Kayla? Do you have any idea where Chase is? We are supposed to leave for work and he doesn't seem to be here.' Spencer groaned inwardly at the voice, and turned around. On seeing her, the owner of the voice - non other than Mr. Toby Cavanaugh himself - stumbled backwards and rolled his eyes, unable to believe his misfortune. 'You've got to be kidding me. Do you know where he is?'
'I am glad I don't.'
'Do you at least know where Kayla is? I would really appreciate a bit of help here, I'm in a bit of a hurry over here.'
'I don't see how it is my problem!'
Toby raised an eyebrow. 'Seriously?'
'It's the last room to the right down the left corridor hallway,' Spencer said. When Toby was out of sight, she turned around and returned her attention to her book once again. Barely had she read a paragraph, when she heard him call out her name repeatedly. Grumbling to herself, she lay down her book and went inside the house and saw him standing there, looking extremely annoyed.
'She's not in there.'
'Using the beautiful, under appreciated tool of mathematics, I conclude that they are together.'
'That conclusion doesn't help me at all.'
'Who said it was for your benefit?'
He let out an exasperated sigh. 'I'm going to the kitchen to cook myself some breakfast and then leave for work. If...when Chase comes by, be kind enough to tell him that.'
A sudden startling realization hit her.
'My coffee is in there,' she muttered under her breath. No way in hell could she let him have her last bit of cold coffee. No one had that privilege in her life. Her coffee was strictly her own. Clutching the book her hand, she rushed past him and made her way to the kitchen. She placed the book on the table and swung the refrigerator door open, and took out a large glass jar, which had a bit of cold coffee in it. Pulling a glass from the shelf nearby, she poured the remnants of her favourite drink and settled down at the table.
'Woah, do you have some top secret military secret stashed away here?' Toby asked, entering the room.
'Just my coffee,' Spencer said, holding the cup with both hands. 'I couldn't have you taking it.'
'I think you've had enough.' He pointed at the empty jar at the counter and walked towards her. Spencer clutched the glass to her chest protectively. 'Relax, I don't want your coffee.'
Certain that he wasn't going to abduct her precious cup of coffee, she relaxed against the chair and slowly sipped on it. This time she didn't take breaks, and finished off the cup in one long go. Satisfied, she placed the empty cup on the table and opened her book, determined to go back into Holden's world and stay there this time.
But of course, that was not meant to happen. The lovely aroma of fried eggs and buttered toast wafted into her nostrils and she looked up to see Toby bringing a plate of both to the table.
'Do you want me to make you some?' he asked politely.
How charming! On any other day Spencer would have appreciated such chivalry, but today, she was simply not in the mood. 'You don't have to make me breakfast. You're not my boyfriend.'
Taking a seat opposite to her, Toby rolled his eyes. 'Suit yourself.'
Spencer suddenly felt a childlike desire to poke her tongue out at him, but she restrained herself and decided to get back into her book.
'Catcher in the Rye? That is my favourite book,' Toby said'Oh,' Spencer said simply.
'Well I have a first edition copy. I had saved up for it all throughout high school and gifted it to myself for my eighteenth birthday.'
'I've read it in French. Twice. I actually have you to thank for that.'
Spencer raised her eyebrows questioningly.
'Back in school...it was junior year I think, I wasn't doing that well in French and the teacher had called me out on my lack of understanding of a certain verbs, and had asked my classmates to give out suggestions on how I could improve. Most of them just told me to practice harder or meet with a tutor, but you suggested something that actually made sense. You suggested that I read the French translation of a book I was familiar with in English. After class that day, I rushed to the book store and got the French translation of The Catcher in the Rye read it within two days. It helped.'
'L'attrape-couers,' Spencer said. 'I remember. When I initially started learning French I used to read translated versions of my favourite English books. That was the first.'
Toby smiled, and she smiled back at him without hesitation. She found it ironic how at there was no awkwardness or spite, considering how the previous day's dinner had gone. It felt like the comfortable silence that had enveloped the two of them on the night of Prom as they had sat on the bleachers smoking cigarettes. It felt different.
'I better get going,' Toby said, stuffing a large piece of toast into his mouth. Can't be late for work.'
She nodded, as he put the empty plate into the dishwasher and started walking out. Spencer herself took a few slices of bread and started buttering it.
'It'll help if you add some ghee to it,' Toby said. 'Improves the flavour.'
Despite his suggestion, she didn't add ghee to her bread. Instead she just put it into the toaster and looked outside through the window, watching Toby's retreating figure as he walked to work.
'I was with Chase all day,' Kayla said, leaning back into the sheet, her elbows sinking into the sand.
The two friends were lying down comfortably on a yellow beach sheet, with a bonfire crackling in front of them. Spencer was dressed in an ankle length cotton summer dress that made her look like the goddess of the night. Her long black hair was tied into a messy side braid, while Kayla had let down her hair.
'I feel like he really sees me Spence,' Kayla continued. 'When he joined me here in the morning I thought that we would probably end up making out or something, but we just talked. I mean all day long! He even cancelled his first day at work to spend the day with me...talking!'
'Sounds like you finally found the one,' Spencer said smiling.
'I thought you didn't believe in the concept of the one,' Kayla said.
'Not for me. Have you heard of my track record?' Spencer asked.
'Mine is worse,' Kayla said. 'You have been in multiple relationships. I haven't even been in one. It has always been about sex for me. I had never met a guy with whom I wanted a real relationship. Until now. Until Chase.'
'Kay you've known him for a day,' Spencer said warily. 'You barely know him. Take it slow.'
'I intend to,' Kayla said. 'Besides, I don't even know if he likes me back Spence. What if he just wants to be friends?'
'That's his loss,' Spencer said immediately. 'Kayla, I really love you and I'm just being an overprotecive best friend when I tell you to be careful, okay? I will crush his balls if he breaks your heart.'
Kayla started laughing, and soon, Spencer joined in. Both of them were extremely protective of each other, and never hesitated to let that side of theirs emerge. What a vacation this was turning out to be! Something completely different from what was anticipated, and Spencer still couldn't decide whether that was a good thing or not.
'I am sorry,' Kayla said suddenly.
'For being so selfish. I know you aren't having such a great vacation, and I'm here just going on talking about myself. You had been such a darling about it, helping me come to terms with the fact that our vacation would be rudely interrupted, and now that I like Chase I'm totally ignoring you for a boy. I don't want to be that girl Spence!'
'You spent one day with him Kay,' Spencer said chuckling. 'You are not selfish, okay? It's just one damn day. And if you and I spend every day together for three whole months, one of is definitely going to end up killing the other, and something tells me I would be the one behind bars.'
'I really thought Toby and you would be friends. He seemed like such a nice guy, you know? He seemed to have that anchoring quality in him, one that I knew you would appreciate. I honestly didn't expect things to take that turn. Now I think I was wrong about him, with the whole intimate relationship with-'
'That was just a stupid school rumour,' Spencer said quickly. 'I shouldn't have brought it up. I didn't like his blatant judgment of me, so I just wanted to turn the tables over in my favour. Not the nicest thing to do. Besides, weren't you the one who said there could be more to the story?'
'Yeah...I guess I don't really know anything, so I am not going to pass any judgment about him. I'm still sorry that you'll have to spend the rest of your summer with someone you don't really get along.'
'Jesus Christ, stop apologizing,' Spencer said. 'And I'm a grown woman Kay. I can take care of myself. Don't worry about me. Besides, I've got you.'
And she meant it. One of the few things she was thankful in life for was Kayla's friendship. Having a friend she could blindly trust meant a great deal to her. The bond between the two was so unlikely, considering how different they were as people, but then again, the best friendships were those that were formed between two people quite different from each other. Soon Kayla went back to talking about her day with Chase, and Spencer listened patiently. She didn't talk about her interesting encounter with Toby, but considering how their dynamic had changed, she hoped that it wouldn't be such an awkward or bad summer after all.