He watched her longingly as she happily made her way around the party, much like he had since the first time he laid eyes on her in fourth grade. She'd been short and chubby then, clutching to her pet gerbil. It was the second day of school and Tiffany barged into the classroom in tears. She explained to a roomful of watching classmates that her mom had gotten a cat and she was petrified that she'd come home to a mangled and ultimately dead gerbil if she left him alone and defenseless. She pleaded with their teacher to make Gerb, as she'd named him, the class pet as the only means of keeping him alive. Even then, her practiced skills of reasoning and logic were ones to be pitted against used car salesmen. It'd only taken her ten minutes to convince their teacher that the classroom, up until then, hadn't been whole, and that the gerbil was the key to making the atmosphere more welcoming.
He blinked away the memory and focused on the now. He'd loved her for years, though she didn't have a clue. He'd watched from afar as she grew older and became a beautiful young woman. He'd been lingering on the outskirts of their shared clique as she'd finally gotten boobs, the ones that eventually helped deem her "the class whore." All he could do was stand by idly, afraid if he stepped in that she would banish him from her life altogether. So he just accepted her for the girl she'd chosen to become. But she was very unlike the typical stereotype, because she also doubled as their class valedictorian, something that kept him remaining hopeful for the eventual realization that she was worth so much more than what she gave herself credit for. She wasn't one to tolerate labels or generalizations, and had made it her life mission to push every boundary she encountered. Aside from being known for her perfect 4.0, everyone in their school knew she'd sleep with any guy who gave her the time of day, something that made her smile when those who accused her of being too sexually advanced for her age also realized it was a difficult task to accomplish.
"Hey Damien," Tiffany said as she plopped into his best friend Dylan's lap, who was sitting directly beside him.
"Hey," he responded, immediately chomping down on his back teeth as Tiffany leaned into Dylan and whispered something in his ear. Dylan's eyes widened and he let his hand rub further up her thigh, getting dangerously close to slipping under the hem of her mini skirt.
She jumped up suddenly, leaving Dylan's mouth agape in confusion as she made her way through the french doors into the exposed living room, laying her charm on another hopeful and willing victim.
"Damn, she makes me crazy," Dylan spoke softly, more to himself than Damien.
He quickly arose and followed after her, leaving Damien by himself to smoother in his own silent rage. He watched as Dylan approached Tiffany, who was now splayed out on the poker table that was surrounded by six serious male players who were gladly accepting the interruption.
He could hear a few cheers of "Strip! Strip! Strip!" beginning to echo through the room, and he felt his muscles tighten in sickening bitterness as he struggled to control the fury aching to burst out of him. He couldn't allow her to expose herself so openly to a roomful of pathetic and drooling strangers. Sure, they were classmates, many of which she'd been with intimately, but if she did this, she was coming face-to-face with a whole new level of embarrassment and shame, a level that only God knew how it would affect her.
She stood upright on the table and taunted the crowd, encouraging their enveloping chant. Even Dylan had taken a front row seat and looked up, licking his lips in anticipation. She began to reach around herself, pulling her already transparent lace shirt up over her head to allow an unobstructed view of her gorgeous upper body. He'd often fantasized about that body, and although the sexually-driven male inside him longed to see more, the moral, sympathetic side of him pushed out of the chair and sprinted inside. It wasn't about being a hero or her savior; he cared for her, loved her, even with all her baggage and her sordid past. When he reached her, she was beginning to unzip her skirt, though its smallness didn't leave much to the imagination while it still remained on her.
"Tiffany!" Damien shouted over the loud, bumping bass driving the music that circled around the room.
She looked down and winked at him, thinking he was egging her on. "Hey there! Liking the show?" she teased. She started to tug her skirt down and Damien felt his pulse quicken, knowing he had to act now or everyone was going to get a full-on view of Tiffany's goods.
"Stop!" he yelled at her, pleading in his eyes for her to just get down and away from here.
A couple guys, Dylan included, shot him hateful glares, and Tiffany yanked her skirt down to the ground with a mischievous grin, unveiling her matching lace panties. Without thinking, his instincts took over and he reached up and grabbed hold of her calves. With all his might, he yanked her downwards, and she stumbled forward, right into his arms.
"What the fuck are you doing?!" she yelled, as the crowd booed and the music changed to something more dancey. She struggled against his stronghold, but he situated and pinned her under his left arm as he snatched up her clothes. He fought against the still-angry crowd and her almost naked body as he dragged her through the party into a more secluded room.
As the bedroom door banged shut behind them, he finally released his grip on her and she flung herself away from him. He dropped her clothes on the ground beside her, but she wasn't about to give into him and do what he wanted her to. She was livid. She was boiling over and was so afraid to turn around and confront him, unsure if she'd be able to control her anger with him. She liked Damien, a lot, and although he'd been one of the few guys who she'd yet to get with, this was making her think failing at her goal all because of him was almost worth it.
"Tiffany, what were you thinking?"
She spun around, knowing she'd yet to compose herself, but unwilling to let him speak to her as if she were a child.
"I was thinking I wanted to liven up the damn party! I was thinking I'm a grown ass woman and can do what I damn well please! I was THINKING how is any of this your fucking business?"
Her chest was heaving up and down and she fought to catch her breath. Damien had taken a few steps backward, palms out in a sign of apology and surrender, but it didn't matter to her. She knew it'd be very difficult to accept any apology he might offer.
"Look," he spoke slowly, licking his dry lips, "I wasn't saying it's my business what you do. I just," he paused, seemingly searching for the right words to say, "I didn't want all those people looking at you like some dirty skank! I was trying to help you maintain some dignity."
"It's not your place to decide that!" she yelled back. "And who gives a shit what people think of me or how they perceive me?"
"I do," he whispered, pain written all over his face.
For some unknown reason, his response shocked her, and she found herself stepping toward him, being drawn to him unlike she'd ever been to anyone before. In the past, her attention was captivated simply by physical attraction. It wasn't like Damien wasn't a handsome guy, he just never expressed any interest in the attention that she was ready and willing to give. But at this moment, she was seeing him in an entirely new way, and she couldn't quite understand what had suddenly clicked within her.
It was true, Tiffany had been with almost every guy in her graduating class, and she'd always viewed it as an accomplishment. Her family knew she was promiscuous, and she was always safe, so what real threat did her actions pose? Many thought she'd made a name for herself, but labels didn't mean jack shit to her. Along with being a slut, as so many people referred to her, she was also the smartest person in her small-town school's history. She'd had a perfect 4.0 since kindergarten, never failing a single assignment in her entire life. She wasn't a genius or anything, but school was something that came easily to her. So when she hit high school, she needed a challenge, something to keep her occupied and sure to enjoy every minute of the time set out before her. She told herself she'd get with every guy in her grade by graduation. In what way, it didn't matter. The only rule she had was that she'd never be with a guy who was already spoken for, and she kept true to that 100%. To many, and especially those who knew why she did what she did, she was immoral and deemed a sex addict. But she knew that this was yet another thing she was good at. She did love sex, who the hell didn't, but she also loved accomplishing her goals and pushing people's buttons. This was just another way for her to stick out as the success she was.
Damien watched as she got closer to him and he looked nervous. Tiffany was hoping to put a little fear in him, but all she really wanted was to understand why he looked at her so much differently than everyone else.
"Why?" she finally asked, as she stopped only inches from him.
"Um, why what? Why do I care?"
She nodded her head in acknowledgment and tried to make her face less harsh, more open to listening to the puzzling answer she was sure to come. She expected some sort of stalker-ish answer like, "I want you all to myself," or "I've been secretly watching for you months and want you to become my girlfriend." The thoughts repulsed her, any idea of a relationship, being tied down, not something that had ever appealed to her.
"I care because you're a person, not some sex bot. I can get how maybe you like sleeping with all those guys. Trust me, if I had girls throwing themselves at me like guys do to you, I probably couldn't resist it either, but..." he trailed off, relaxing and taking a small step forward, immediately putting her back on-guard, "I don't think that's really the person you are inside. I'm sure you have some reason for why you've done what you have, not that any of it is a bad thing. I mean, you should be allowed to live your life however you want. I'm just saying, you are more than just sex and a slutty attitude."
"Says who... you? You don't know me."
"O-of course I do," he stuttered. "You're that girl in fourth grade who saved her gerbil from an untimely death. You're that chic from seventh grade who picketed in front of the school cafeteria for a week because they refused to provide an additional vegetarian menu for students who didn't eat meat. You're that girl from ninth grade who helped me with my biology homework every Thursday after school for the entire semester because I couldn't understand that teacher's German accent."
She laughed out loud and then clamped her hand over her mouth, trying desperately to show no emotion towards the memories he ignited within her.
He looked down for a moment and then softly said, "You're the girl who scraped me up off the ground outside school our junior year, after I got into a huge fight with my best friend Jared. You walked with me to my house and told me that everything would be okay."
She fought back tears as she remembered how much their lives had intersected for so long. But instead of allowing herself to get lost in the girl she used to be, she spat at him, "Yeah, and what have you done for me? Where were you when I needed someone to save me from myself."
As she spoke the words aloud, something within her snapped and she realized that what she had been doing wasn't something to be proud of. Challenging oneself to a contest where the winner has the most notches on their bedpost wasn't something she would proudly put on a resume or offer up as a prideful time in her life to her future children. Before she could think any deeper, he spoke to her again.
"You're right... I haven't been there in the way you probably needed. But I've always been here, waiting for the day when maybe you'd stop this foolishness and realize that you are worth more than a few one-night stands or crazy stripping sessions. You're an amazing person, Tiffany, and I've never known how to tell you before. I've been scared that you'd reject me and push me away. I've been unsure of how to approach you because I didn't want you to think I was just another one of those people judging you. I've just been waiting in the background until you noticed me." He paused and she looked at him, really looked at him, and saw the boy who used to share their seat on the bus during elementary school. She saw the boy who stood up to bullies for her during their first year of middle school. She glimpsed the boy who hit puberty and began growing and changing into a cute guy during their freshman year, but who she knew would never take her up on her inappropriate advances, so she'd always just written him off. She finally really saw the guy he was now, the one who had become her hero to her helpless damsel in distress.
Part Two to come next week!!