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Then Everything Changed
All alone, Mallory Evans sat on a window seat with her legs drawn up to her chest as tears started to fall. It was the first place she’d thought to go, although she wondered why her mind had picked a place so familiar, a place that reminded her of Sean and his flirtatious behavior.
Almost two months ago Mallory had been sitting in the window with one leg dangling down while the other was bent to cradle the book she was reading. History was truly a dull subject for Mallory – its book being even drier – but she’d found that it was possible to actually absorb the reading as long as she had the option of looking up to see the lake, take a breath, and keep reading. It was working until a boy sat down on the ledge next to her.
“Go away, Sean,” she answered, nose still in her book. Sean Hamilton was nothing more than a silly womanizer, as far as Malloy was concerned. While she knew he had taken a liking to her, the most likely cause was her refusal to fall at his feet with drool dripping her mouth.
“Why must you do that?” he sighed.
Mallory glanced up, although she quickly dropped her eyes again. She didn’t need him thinking she was getting soft and willing to give him even a moment of her undivided attention. “Why must I do what?”
She looked up again, only this time she kept her eyes on his. Considering how easy his face usually was to read, it was amazingly well-guarded “I still don’t know what you mean.”
Sean sighed and took a moment to stare out the window. “You dismiss me so easily.”
Mallory raised an eyebrow. “When you act as you do, it makes it hard to do otherwise.”
“Is everything I do a joke to you?” he demanded. His face opened up, flushing with a look on his face Mallory had never seen before. Then she was hit with what it was: anguish.
“I don’t know,” she faltered. “I guess so.” When she received no reply, Malloy thought back to all the times that Sean had flirted with her over the past two years. In all that time, he had never asked for more than date, though she had not even given him that. To regain composure, she cleared her throat. “It makes it hard to take someone serious when they never seem like they are.”
“Asking you to every party thrown is not serious enough for you?”
She rolled her eyes. “Maybe it would be if you meant it seriously,” she replied.
“How do you know I don’t?”
Mallory started to wonder where all of these questions were coming from, but she always had an answer ready. “If you were serious, you would stop bringing your friends along. You would not ask in public. You would make it sound like a decent offer instead of, ‘Hey Evans, want to go to Jake’s?’”
Sean crossed his arms, leaning back against the window. “I didn’t bring anyone along today.”
“That is true,” Mallory admitted, “but you’re still Sean Hamilton. They’re probably waiting around the corner to see if I will say yes without a posse. Then they will burst out congratulating you.”
Sean smirked and said, “They can’t come bursting out if I never ask.”
He smirked again. “That’s right. I figure if I leave a conversation without rejection once, maybe you will give me a yes the next time.”
She shook her head. “Sean… That is not a very good plan.”
As Sean stood up, he shrugged and agreed, “Maybe it isn’t, but it’s better than repeating what I’ve been doing since freshman year. See you around, Evans.”
Sean had walked away, leaving Mallory alone with her thoughts, having completely forgotten about her history assignment. Despite the whirring it had created in her head, Mallory said no the next time he asked, just like she always did. Saying yes would have felt odd; after all, when you’re the only girl who can refuse a guy like Sean, it would turn the school upside down if you suddenly accepted. She said no again and again for two months.
Then everything changed.
“What does Cara Hartley have that I don’t?” Mallory muttered to herself as her mind returned to the present.
Mallory nearly jumped out of her skin as she whirled around to find out who was spying on her. “Parker?”
Parker Carlson smiled cautiously and nodded at the empty space on the window seat next to her. “May I?”
She nodded, watching carefully as the quietest of Sean’s friends sat down next her. “What did you need?” she asked.
Parker shrugged. “I noticed you seemed a little shell-shocked when Cara came in. Something on your mind?”
Mallory shook her head with a sigh. “No, not really.”
“I don’t mean to be rude,” Parker replied, “but you’re obviously lying.” Mallory glared at him. “No one comes to a place like this with nothing to do and no one to talk to unless they need to think, wallow, or both.”
“What’s it to you?” she snapped. “You are just like he is. Why should you care about me?”
Parker shrugged. “I suppose it doesn’t and I don’t.” He hid a smile as he watched her shoulders fall. “That is the answer you want to hear, isn’t it?”
“What? Oh yes, of course it is.”
Mallory’s whole body slumped as she admitted, “Okay, that’s not exactly what I wanted to hear.”
“I didn’t think so,” he replied and allowed his smile to show this time.
The grin on Parker’s face irked her. “Well?” she demanded. “What’s it to you? You say you have an answer, and I want to hear it.”
“Sean really does care about you.
“I’m serious,” Parker continued when she replied with only a skeptic glare. His friends would have laughed at the look on her face, but he could not be light-hearted now; it was absolutely critical that Mallory understood what he was saying. “Sean hasn’t moved on. After almost two years of doing the same thing over and over, he needed to do something else. That’s madness. Sean couldn’t do it anymore.”
Mallory thought back again to her conversation with him a couple months ago. Sean had said as much then.
“When Sean told me you’d had a serious chat, I thought things might have changed,” Parker said. “Then it didn’t. I honestly think you were starting to drive him to that point of insanity. Since changing a little hadn’t helped, I encouraged him to radically shake up your routine.”
She scowled in disbelief. “This is your fault.”
Parker grinned. “To the contrary, I’d say it’s yours. Sean would not have resorted to dating Cara Hartley if you weren’t constantly driving him away.”
Mallory pulled her arms more tightly around her legs. “So I’ve lost my chance,” she concluded, turning her head to look out the window at the sunshine beyond. Nature was obviously indifferent to her mood.
Mallory glowered at him with her most piercing look. “I see you find my despair funny.”
He shook his head. “No, I’m laughing because you think it’s so final. Please, Sean has fancied you since freshman year. Do you really think he would move on so readily?”
She didn’t respond.
“Mallory,” he said with a small nod. “I give them a week, two weeks tops. You’ll have another chance with him. Just promise me one thing.”
“Say yes this time.”