Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2130284-WHAT-AM-I--Stella-Chapter-3
by Denine
Rated: 18+ · Chapter · Young Adult · #2130284
Stella and Conner get a invite to a party. Stella cant get Sebastian out of her head.

Chapter 3

I sat at my kitchen table, my knees bouncing agitatedly under my clasped hands, a once forgotten nervous habit. For the first time in my life, I was about to go out in public wearing an item of clothing with the express purpose of looking good. Ever since I'd bought the dress, more and more doubts had been budding in my mind, little bubbles of uncertainty. Now that it was actually the night of the party, those bubbles were bursting one after the other, pushing themselves to the surface until they were all but impossible to ignore.

Standing dismally in front of my mirror that afternoon, all I'd been able to see was a skinny, barely seventeen year old who looked about eight trying, and failing, to dress up like all the big kids. My cheeks looked bright pink under the blusher my mother had almost forcibly applied, as if I couldn't have handled that naturally. The dress was one that Brooke would wear, or Amanda, but not me. My reflection looked almost alien, unfamiliar under the tight fitting fabric. My mother's reassurances did little to calm my nerves, and as I sat waiting for Conner, I was nothing but grateful that he was running late.

Fifteen minutes after Conner was supposed to pick me up, a sharp rap at the door made me leap hastily out of my seat. My mother, who had been standing at the kitchen bench, moved to answer the door, rolling her eyes as she passed me. I grabbed a tea towel, nervously wiping my clammy hands, loath to touch my dress. I could hear Conner chatting away casually with my mother in the hallway, her laugh echoing through to the kitchen. For some reason the sound turned my stomach to knots, and I moved jerkily to the kitchen sink to pour myself a glass of water.

I drank slowly, stalling for time more than out of actual thirst. I couldn't figure out why I was so nervous already; it was only Conner. I took a deep breath, still amazed by this entirely unfamiliar embarrassment, before moving back towards the table to reclaim my seat. My knees felt strangely wobbly.

I made it halfway there before my mother re-entered the kitchen, with Conner following closely on her heel. His eyes widened when they fell on me, and I felt my cheeks flushing, no doubt just emphasizing their already unnatural blush. I must have looked ridiculous to him. I waited for him to start laughing, but he just kept on staring at me.

"She scrubs up alright, doesn't she?" my mother said, grinning widely.

"Yeah," Conner murmured, his eyes scrutinizing my face. "You look great, Stella."

I fidgeted under their collective gaze, fighting the temptation to run upstairs and grab my jeans and tee lying in wait on my bed, just in case.

"You're sure? It's not too much?"

They shook their heads together, and I sighed.

"Well, I guess we'd better get going," I groaned, wondering if it was too late to back out. I moved to Conner, and looked at him properly for the first time since he'd walked in. He was wearing a pair of dark grey jeans and a white button down top, complete with a slick black vest, all looking brand new. He, too, was more dressed up than I'd ever seen him.

"You went shopping," I accused as we walked out my front door.

He raised his eyebrows at me, looking pointedly down at my outfit. "I'm not the only one."

I laughed, the blush returning to my cheeks. I realized then why it seemed so horribly embarrassing to be so dressed up in front of Conner. It felt awfully like I was pretending to be someone I wasn't. A disturbing image of Brooke flashed into my mind.

"Who're you dolled up for, then?" he asked casually, holding the passenger door of his car open for me in an unusual act of chivalry.

I climbed into the seat, glad for the surrounding darkness. My cheeks must have been crimson.

"Just myself," I laughed, hoping the half-truth wasn't apparent. "What about you?" I countered as he got into the driver's seat. "Who're you dolled up for?"

He stared ahead, starting the car engine before he replied. "Yeah, just myself."

I watched him as we pulled out of my driveway and into the dark street, and noticed that the corners of his mouth were turned down slightly. I turned my attention ahead after that, and we spent the rest of the trip to Amanda's in silence.

We could hear the party before we could see it. I recognized the song blasting as one of the recent hits off the radio, and sighed. It was obvious that none of my favorite bands would be featured. Conner and I walked towards the house slowly, and I could feel my own apprehension mirrored by his. This was something that neither of us had any experience with.

We got to the already open door much sooner than I'd hoped, and I instinctively reached for Conner's hand as he pushed it forward. He squeezed mine reassuringly, and we walked into the house together. No one looked up as we walked in, and it was instantly obvious what held their attention.

Every pair of eyes in the room was glued to a water bottle that spun in the middle of a tight circle of about ten kids, all of whom I'd grown up with. I barely noticed them, though; I was preoccupied, searching the room for a more recent addition to the teenage population of Niceville high. I was a little disappointed, but mostly relieved, when I quickly realized that the room we were in contained no one I considered even remotely interesting.

"Hope the rest of the party isn't like this," Conner whispered in my ear, and I turned to see him eyeing the crowd in front of us with more than a little distaste.

I nodded, sharing his feelings. We moved through the room towards the kitchen, and no one seemed to notice us as we passed. A muted cheer sounded from the group that was now behind us, and more than one person whistled. I glanced back and saw what had them excited: the bottle had stopped spinning. I turned back just in time, a girl from my grade was already leaning across the circle towards an excited looking boy I'd never seen before. The knots in my stomach twisted uneasily.

We'd barely stepped into the kitchen when Amanda spotted us. Or, more accurately, spotted Conner. I groaned when I noticed her walking towards us; hers was one face I would have been more than happy not to see. Conner's poorly disguised horror at seeing her made it slightly more bearable, though.

"Hi Conner!" She grinned at him toothily, and he returned her smile with a considerably less enthusiastic one of his own.

"Hello, Amanda. The, uh, party looks like it's going well."

I snickered loudly, but she seemed entirely oblivious, intent only on Conner. I must have seemed like an annoying pet to her.

"Oh, yeah! Doesn't it? Everyone's having a really super time, tons of people are here."

"Yeah," Conner murmured, obviously searching for a suitable response. "That's good."

I tuned out of the conversation, suddenly uninterested in Amanda's ditzy flirting with my best friend. I'd found the face I'd been searching for.

Predictably surrounded by a giggling group of girls, a few that I recognized and several more that I didn't, Sebastian was sitting at a picnic table in Amanda's backyard. Heading up the onslaught, Brooke Dawson sat to his left, leaning in to him as she whispered something in his ear. My blood churned as I watched his mouth turn up at the corners in response to whatever she was saying, a musical laugh that managed to project all the way into the kitchen bubbling past his lips. The girls around him fell quite at the sound, their eyes glued to his face.

Under any other circumstances I would have laughed at them, at how ridiculous they were being. But I was just as star struck as they were.

"I'm going to get some fresh air," I murmured to Conner, barely noticing the indiscrete way he shook his head or the unmasked horror in his eyes at being left alone with Amanda. I thought I heard Amanda saying something about going somewhere alone with Conner, and in the back of my mind, I was glad. I knew Conner wouldn't approve.

I crossed the small kitchen in a few steps, pushing the screen door open and stepping outside. I ground to a halt there, though, unsure of what to do next; knowing only that I had to get closer to Sebastian. I noticed an table full of drinks, and moved to fill up a plastic cup, all the while carefully avoiding looking at the table where he sat. The idea of getting caught staring was mortifying.

I barely noticed what I was pouring into my cup; I was so focused on the boy sitting mere meters away from me. At this proximity, my head was full of him, full of questions.

I was worried suddenly, by the strength of these emotions, and for a boy I'd never even spoken to. I'd never in my life felt jealous of anyone before, least of all Brooke Dawson, but that had to be what was twisting my stomach into knots at the thought of her arm, pressed casually against his as they sat side by side. This boy, with his clear gray eyes and milk-white complexion, had somehow crawled under my skin in a way that no one else had ever managed to. And he hadn't even spoken to me, or so much as glanced at me since that first day at school. I was abruptly grateful that I hadn't had a conversation with him; the strength of these feelings was already shocking; I couldn't imagine how it would feel if he actually spoke to me.

Anger coursed through my veins suddenly; anger at myself for feeling this way, anger at this boy for making me feel this way, anger at Brooke, for having the courage to speak to him, to whisper things in his ear. I realized then that my cup was overflowing, sticky soft drink spilling onto my hand. I jerked the bottle upright, snapping out of my daze with a sudden resolve to walk back into the house and find Conner.

I jumped at the feel of a hand on my shoulder, and turned too quickly, sloshing my too-full cup of soft drink onto my dress. I stared down at the quickly spreading patch of drink in horror, and noticed that, mercifully, it was lemonade I'd been pouring. The sticky wetness soaked through to the bare skin of my stomach, and I stood frozen on the spot, fighting the fast settling sick feeling at the sight of my brand new dress soaked in lemonade, potentially ruined.

"You might want one of these."

I jumped again at the instantly recognizable voice, reminding me why I'd turned around in the first place. I couldn't help but stare at Sebastian as he held a box of serviettes out to me, his eyes holding mine.

"Uh, thanks." I tried to concentrate on the chilly lemonade soaking through my dress, in a desperate attempt to counter the heat that threatened to flush my face, but when the corners of his mouth twitched up into a smile, I knew it was useless.

"I'm Sebastian, by the way," he said, leaning in almost imperceptibly as I took a second serviette from the box.

"Oh, um, Stella" I spluttered, the heat in my face spreading to my scalp and the back of my neck. I dabbed at the lemonade on my dress, keeping my hands busy so that I didn't have to say anything.

"Nice to meet you, Stella."

I nodded enthusiastically, trying to think of something witty to say. Something comprehensible would have done. It was useless though, facing him, I could barely think straight. My heart hammered painfully at being so close to him, even having what could only be considered a pathetically mundane conversation.

The silence between us stretched until I felt uncomfortable enough that I almost wished I'd spilt more of my drink. My dress was beginning to look almost normal again, and I knew it wouldn't be long before I'd have to look up at him.

"So, are you friends with Amanda, then?" he asked

Unbidden, a startled laugh burst from my lips and I looked up at him, reluctantly giving up on the idea of further salvaging my dress.

"Amanda? No, I wouldn't say we were friends, exactly."

He smiled, staring at me for several seconds before he spoke again. I let my gaze wander over his shoulder, intimidated by the way he looked at me, his eyes sharp as they studied mine. Suddenly I saw Brooke Dawson, standing by the picnic table, surrounded by the group of previously giggling girls. The furious glares I received made me grin, and I resisted the urge to stick my tongue out at the lot of them.

"So, if you're not friends with Amanda, who are you here with?" he asked, pulling my attention away from Brooke in an instant.

"Um, my friend Conner was invited. I guess I'm sort of, his plus one." I laughed nervously, the sound coming out half strangled. His eyes narrowed slightly, and I remembered, too late, that he and Conner didn't like each other. I groaned inwardly.

"Oh," he murmured, his smile changing slightly, his eyebrows drawing together over his eyes. "Well, that's nice of him to let you tag along."

"Excuse me?" I could feel my face flushing again, but this time it was in anger, not shyness or embarrassment.

"I just think it's great to have a friend who'll invite you to other people's parties when you don't, you know, personally get an invite of your own. Like your very own fairy godmother." He laughed, and my blood roared, an unfamiliar urge towards violence suddenly nearly overcoming me.

How dare he? I gritted my teeth, all my previous inclinations towards Sebastian evaporating, quickly being replaced by new, and much less flattering ones.

"It's not like that," I said, attempting to keep my voice level. I suspected I wasn't doing a very good job, from the startled look I received from a passing girl. Her stare quickly moved on to Sebastian, though, and for some reason that made me even angrier. The wide grin that stretched across his face didn't help matters, either. Still, even then I couldn't help but notice how lovely he looked when he smiled.

"So, what is it like?" he asked, his eyes locked on mine in a way that was more than a little unnerving, considering the tone of our conversation. "You're not friends with any of the other people here, are you?"

I held his gaze, determined not to look away.

"So, why did you come?"

I flinched, dropping my eyes to the ground. I could feel the now familiar blush returning to my cheeks. I took a fast, deep breath. Composed myself. I shrugged, attempting nonchalance as I looked up again to meet his eyes. "Thought it might be fun. A change of scenery."

"Oh, fair enough." He returned my shrug with one of his own, and made a mockery of my attempt at nonchalance by affecting it much more convincingly. He smiled again before continuing.

I resisted the urge to smile back at him, reminding myself how pig-headed he was being only seconds ago. Turned out I didn't have to remind myself for long.

"I thought you might be here for me." He said in his honey voice.

"What?" I knew my mouth was hanging open, but I was reeling inside. Desperately, I searched for something to say. My embarrassment was almost instantaneously overcome by rage.

How dare he?! How dare he suggest such a thing? Regardless of how true it may or may not be... how dare he?

"Well, I saw you looking at me from inside the kitchen, and then again when you came out here. It seemed like the logical reason."

"The logical reason?" I was mortified. Horrified. Enraged.

He just shrugged; forever smiling at me, like this was all some big joke to him. It probably was I realized.

"You're a pig." I told him flatly

He laughed, and I hated the way the sound seemed to reverberate inside my head. A couple of girls standing near us paused mid-conversation to stare, their expressions awestruck. They made me sick, reminding me painfully of myself only minutes before.


I flinched, trying not to groan out loud. This was one conversation I'd been hoping to avoid.

"Hey, Conner." I sighed

Sebastian's eyes narrowed, his upper lip pulling back slightly so that his top row of teeth were bare. A moment later, his expression transformed, an almost convincing smile quickly spreading across his face. I could see the tension in his eyes, though, and the set of his eyebrows. I wondered again at the animosity between Sebastian and my best friend.

"I think it's time we left, don't you?"

I felt his hand close around my wrist, gripping it tighter than I would have thought necessary. I looked away from Sebastian, with more reluctance that I'd have liked, and was shocked by what I saw. Conner's expression was grim, his eyebrows hanging low over his eyes as he glared at Sebastian, never once looking at me. His jaw was set at right angles, and this expression was so unfamiliar on him, I might not have recognized him under other circumstances.

"Yes, okay," I murmured, my anger at Sebastian subdued by the shock of seeing Conner so furious.

Conner jerked me away from Sebastian, and I couldn't help but notice the way he positioned himself between the two of us as we walked back towards the door.

"See you around, Cinderella," Sebastian called his voice strangely jovial. I shuddered, the temptation to turn around and tell him exactly what I thought of him rising in my chest. I resisted though, and not because of Conner's almost painful grip on my arm, but because I was suddenly struck by the fact that I didn't know what I thought of him. I knew that I should hate him, for the things he was saying about me, and about Conner, but I honestly couldn't place my emotions towards him. Walking back into the house, I decided that it was just because it had happened so fast, and uneasily shoved the thought to the back of my mind.

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