Until Alex

kickass heroine
dare to love and hate

I, Arianna Baxter was having a major crush on my best friend's not-quite boyfriend. Okay, I know it sounded complicated. Alex Harrington, the almost boyfriend was keen on my best friend and I had been assigned the duty to assess him. During our coffee dates, I felt an insatiable craving for him to feel something for me instead of Tiffany, and I felt torn between desire and loyalty.

So, when Alex started to reciprocate my feelings, I threw cautions to the winds and allowed myself enough leeway to fall head over heels in love with him. Despite the fact that it created a wedge between my best friend and me. Or that my instincts were screaming at me that it was too good to be true. I knew what I was doing, I told myself. I was going on war with the entire world for him.

Except that, there was much more to Alex than meet the eye, and I might have signed up for more than I could chew. My life’s no longer the same until Alex....

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I never really knew how I always managed to land myself in the middle of intricate situations. Like now when I was waiting for the delectable Alex Harrington at the local coffee shop, completely clueless to what I was supposed to say to him. The thing was that Alex proclaimed himself in love with my best friend - which was no breaking news as half of the world conjured themselves to have feelings for the alluring Tiffany Cox. Rich as sin. Sexy as hell. Sinful rebel. She was the ultimate winner. To be grossly honest, Alex Harrington was no match for my friend in terms of social standards, but unlimited text messages had started raining from him one day, expressing his interest. Tiffany had decided that since he was hot, he was eligible to at least one chance before voicing out a verdict. Any educated guess who was the most reliable person for the dirty task? The ever-dependable Arianna Baxter of course. Grimacing at my line of thoughts, I sat up when Alex joined my table, his blatant attitude on display when he dropped his mobile on the table like he had every right to do so. Physically, Alex was the epitome of the Vitruvian man – which was why I suspected Tiffany had given him a chance, something which she would never have done under normal circumstances. I could attest to that fact having coveted her for almost ten years. For almost half of my life. I was eighteen years old, same as Tiff – we were best friends since middle school all through high school. We were inseparable, I was more a sidekick to her because of her fluorescent personality – Tiff was the queen bee. Everybody fell in love with her – or the image they thought she was. Not that I was envious, it just seemed strenuous to be so admired for something she wasn’t. I wouldn’t want to be in her place. “You’re late,” I attacked him without preamble, measuring him with squinted eyes. He was handsome, even I had to give him that despite my misgivings. With his dark emerald green eyes flashing with intensity, silky auburn hair which will make females swoon with envy, ridiculously long eyelashes which swept his upper cheekbones and that dazzling smile of his, he could make any normal woman lose her mind. So much to say that what Alex Harrington lacked in financial status and pedigree, nature had compensated him amply in the looks department. I wasn’t impressed with his satirical representation though; I might be one of the last surviving ladies who believed that his overconfidence was a smokescreen. It didn’t matter what I thought either about his beauty or his worldly prestige – or lack thereof. What baffled me was that under normal circumstance, neither Tiffany Cox nor I would associate ourselves with an inferior person like him, irrespective of how dashing he was. “Do you want coffee?” I asked when his lack of response rattled me, but my politely plastered smile was unwavering as usual. “I can pay my own coffee,” he muttered gruffly, making my eyebrows rise in surprise, showing real emotion for the first time around him. In spite of myself, I had to admire his gusto – it was quite a terrible ordeal to fall in love with Tiffany Cox. My human side sympathized with him, but I could hardly show him my real sentiments. “Isn’t that a tad too susceptible?” I asked gently, biting back the sarcastic reply of never having suggested otherwise – which I would have normally done. He let out a mirthless laughter, and I found myself enjoying the sound. I usually hated it when others made loud guffaw noises but his were quite sexy and ruffled – like a feral growl. “I’m sorry but you have to admit that you girls haven’t made it easy for me,” he confessed bitterly. Again, I was quite taken with his forthrightness, like he was a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of guy. I was surrounded by so much disguised treachery in my world that I no longer took people at face value. There was always a hidden undertone, a spiteful dig or a snide remark in calculatedly delivered conversations. To his credit, we had indeed never conceded an opportunity to demean him, either with our vicious tongues or with our regal disparity. After high school – which we attended together, Alex handled run-of-the-mill errands for Tiffany’s father, one of the most influential politicians of Boston, his position screaming power and money. I wish I could put everything on Tiffany’s shoulder, but I was unfortunately also involved in her obnoxious activities.   Our meanness was not solely directed towards him, but to the inferior mass who attended the same institution as us. No specific reason, just an entitlement for being an over-privileged kid. It was actually like emulating a role game, something where I didn’t fit but which I found myself playing along, nonetheless. With Alex, it looked so simple and so different. I shrugged off his honesty like it was insignificant, not willing to disclose more about myself, and waited until his coffee arrived to start my analysis. When the waitress delivered his drink, the dichotomy stood out, his as black as a coffee could get while mine was loaded with milk. My nose wrinkled in distaste out of habit, and he caught my revulsion with a mocking smile probably tagging it down to snobbery. It wasn’t. I hated food without extra-milk or extra-cheese. But the bottom-line was that both were sugar-free. It had to mean we had something in common, right? So, I smiled again. My best over-bright, dazzling shot which blinded camera flashes, and charmed my audience. “I know you’re not at all happy with the fact of me being here instead of Tiffany. But I get to decide about your fate. So, if you want this to go on, you need to make me your best friend,” I announced in my no-nonsense voice. He raised skeptical eyebrows – which were so thick that it was insane that they were so well-defined. “Isn’t that a little warped?” “I’ve all you got. Impress the hell out of me, and you get to meet Tiffany if and when I decide so,” I enjoyed pronouncing, playing with my braided hair as I stared at him with devilish effrontery. Completely unfazed, he grinned back wolfishly, and I did my best not to swoon in admiration as his eyes wrinkled with mischief, his white teeth shining at me making him look genuinely handsome. “That doesn’t seem to be too hard. If I guess correctly, you’re already intrigued with me otherwise you wouldn’t be wasting your time sitting here,” he replied carefully sipping his tasteless coffee, and watching me over the rim. “Right,” I snapped bad-humoredly at his cheekiness, deciding that I was going to make this as hard as hell for him as payback. “Just remember. I hold all the cards.” “Do you have a checklist which I have to tick or something?” he asked suspiciously, his tone allowing his disgust of the subject undisguised. I reddened in discomfiture – it was something I never did but I was as guilty as charged. I had indeed concocted a list of a few things which Tiffany would eventually want from her boyfriend. “So far you’re not doing a pretty good job at being in my good books,” I grumbled, subtly avoiding the topic – and removed my Ray-Ban to glare at him. In response, his insolent gaze roved over me with male appreciation, and I bristled with female wounded pride at his obvious perusal waiting until his chauvinist perusal was over before speaking. “We keep regular morning coffees until I decide otherwise,” I announced in a brisk voice, making sure he knew that I did not appreciate him ogling me. “Just don’t fall in love with me instead,” he retaliated with dry humor and we both chortled at the silliest joke of the century.

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