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A Tangle in the Heart [Part 3]

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I walk into the house and immediately search for Tarah. I only have a week to make her fall for me, and if I don't, there goes a month of my summer toward working two shifts at once. Now, in the back of my head, the bet was caveman-like, but since when did I spare Tangle's feelings? I notice her suitcase is back in the corner from the night before. I go to my room and knock the door. I hear footsteps and Tarah opens the door. She looks like she's ready to leave with a subtle trace of makeup and her long hair down.

"Where are you going?" I ask, following her as she goes down the flight of stairs.

"I just...I think I'm going to stay in a hotel for a couple of nights," she admits. "I'm obviously not welcome here, and I'd hate to intrude. Tell your parents thank you for letting me stay a night."

"No, Tarah," I stop her from going any closer to the door. "I'm sorry. Stay, please."

She looked down at my hand that was resting on her suitcase. "I thought I'd never see the day Colin Austin begs me to stay in his house."

"Yeah, well," I murmur, "things change. I've changed. You...you've changed..."

I notice I look and sound like an idiot and what's worse, everything I'm saying is not an act. She has changed, and I do want her to stay...so I can get the motorcycle. Right, this is all for that motorcycle. I graze my hand down her arm and look at her.

"Oh my god," she laughs. "You're hitting on me."

"Is it working?" I grab her hand and give it a squeeze.

She looks down to my hand and her face suddenly gets serious. If it's working, I'll get Martha and Tarah. I think it's all going well from here. I am thinking so much about how Stew will look when I come in the next day and tell him what's happened. I think I've got it all under control until Tangle pinches my hand off of hers.

"What's your deal?" I yell, blowing on the pinch, since it stung so much. I thought she'd be easy, since not a lot of guys liked her when she was younger. I guess not.

"I don't know why you're doing what you're doing, but let's make it clear that I will never like a self-centered, narcissistic, judgmental jerk like you."

I know she means it, because she's looking me straight in the eye and is pronouncing every word like she's been holding it in for years. She acts like I'm really in love with her or something; little does she know, it's all an act to get a motorcycle.

"Don't worry," I counter. "I'd never like a spoiled, stuck up, horrendous snob like you." I say it only to get back at her, but I regret it, since the motorcycle is flashing in my head. I can't win this bet, if I'm being rude to her.

"Well," she swallows a lump in her throat, which then makes me feel like the biggest screw up of the male species. Her eyes turn glassy, and her hands start shaking. "I'm glad we have an understanding."

She pushes my hand off of her suitcase, and she carries it back upstairs. Had I really tell the most beautiful girl I've seen that she was a snob and horrendous? If I did, someone please tell me what's wrong with me. I think somewhere deep down, I really did want Tarah to be with me. If I really did want her to like me for me, it'd take time. How would I get the motorcycle now, if I really just fell for a girl who meant nothing to me for years?

"What are you going to do now?" I call up to her when she's on the last step. She turns back and shakes her head in disappointment.

"I'm going to call Nick," she says. "He hasn't been picking up, but until he does, please, Colin...just stay out of my way."

She turns, and I hear a click of the door. I have a gut feeling that I shouldn't have said everything I just said.

When my parents come home from work, Tarah is still calling Nick like a maniac. She's at the dinner table, clicking away on her phone. My parents are in their room washing up, and I'm making my bed on the sofa. I look over my shoulder while fluffing one of the pillows, and she looks like she's about to cry. Had I really ruined her life that much?

I remember when she opened her locker Freshmen year. Loads and loads of travel size conditioner bottles spilled on the floor. It was April Fools, and even though it was funny, it must have...I don't know. It must have hurt. I'm studying her still, and I noticed how her loose curls are tamed and gorgeous now. She runs her hand through her hair in frustration and slams the phone on the table.

"Everything all right?" I mumble. She looks up at me and blocks her face from me by weighing her head on her palm.

"Why do you care?" she argues. "It's just," she pauses to think about her question, "if you love someone, aren't you supposed to want to talk to them every second you get?"

"Who cares," I scoff. "The guy is probably just trying to get into your pants. Dump him." It was the worst advice I could give, but it needed to be said.

She looks down at her phone and mutters under her breath, "Unbelievable." She pauses and comes two inches away from my face. Her tone remains hush as she retorts, "You're nothing but a heartless jerk. I know what it is." I swallow as she jabs a finger in my chest. "You're a coward." She scans me up and down, and I begin sweating being so close to her. "You put this brick wall up, because you're afraid." I feel her breath coming closer to my lips. "You're afraid to get hurt, to fail." I know she's right about everything, but I don't want to let her know it. I just want her to stay close to me like this and break me down. I want her. "You're feeling pain," she notices. Well, of course, my parents are disappointed in me, and I'm everything they didn't want me to be. Her voice is beginning to comfort me. "You think love is painful," she adds. I lick my lips in anticipation. "I won't hurt you," she says at last and it's everything I want to hear from her. I lean in closer, and our lips almost touch. Until we hear a clearing of the throat from behind us. I turn and it's my father. Great.

"Excuse me," he coughs. He swiftly slides out of the room to the study.

Tarah backs away from me, and goes to the kitchen. She props her elbows on the counter and begins calling Nick over and over again. I wonder if she was calling him just to remind herself that she had a boyfriend she'd see in a few more days. I don't want her to remember though. I needed to be the main thing in her mind now...for Martha. Right, for that darned motorcycle.

I walk back to the kitchen and tell her something I've never said aloud. "I'm afraid to fail," I finally blurt out after silence. "Everything you said was right."

I tell Tarah everything that has happened, and she holds me in her small arms. I don't want her to let go, because I think she's holding me from being hurt anymore. Is everything I'm feeling crazy? Maybe.

She lets me go upstairs to relax in my room for a little, which only gnaws at my curiosity. I look at everything she's set down in my room, trying not to move anything out of place. I see a picture frame decorated with small red hearts. I see Tarah and who I believe is Nick holding hands at a basketball game. She's wearing a Rockets jersey, which sparks my interest even more. I'm looking all over, and I notice that Tarah is a human...just like all of us. And I treated her like she was some creature from another planet. The girl is a fan of the Rockets, has the complete season of The Office, and listens to Snow Patrol. I'm not a fan of Snow Patrol, but nonetheless, she's a person.

I hear Tarah calling everyone down, and I immediately run down. The table is set and dinner's on the table. My father creeps out the study and my mother comes by my side. Tarah smiles at all of us and shrugs. "I just think we should have dinner together."

I smile and sit at the table, glad that this was the first time in a long time that I was at the table with my father. We don't say anything at first, until Tarah kicks me with her foot under the table. She gestures for me to say something first.

And so, I ask my father how his day at work was.



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