Chapter Fourteen -- The Final Nail In The Coffin

“A penny for your thoughts?”

Andy stifled a groan of disgust. Why did he always have to show up this way? They had been good at avoiding each other most of the afternoon, and now he had approached her. He was really trying her patience, but she decided ono being ncie, for her own sake.

“I wasn’t thinking, AJ,” she smiled at him.

“Looks to me like you were. Anything I can help with?”

“Not really,” she replied.

“Look,” he said, sitting on the cement in front of her chair. “I come in peace. Honest.”

“I suppose you do,” Andy sighed. “You didn’t start the conversation with a snide remark.”

“Gee, I’m flattered by your observation.”

“Touching, really. So what’s up?”

“Not much really. I wanted to ask you a few things, if that’s OK with you.”

“I don’t have to answer if I don’t want to?”

“Not at all,” he promised. “I’m just curious about a few things.”

“I can leave this discussion whenever I deem it reasonable to?”

“Whenever you feel like it,” he replied.

“OK. I suppose this won’t lead to bloodshed,” Andy smirked. “Proceed.”

AJ sighed. Her choice of words was driving him up the wall. But, he thought, if he could still tolerate her after this, he figured she was well worth the trouble.

“I know we got off to a bad start, and I know I really haven’t done much to justify my actions,” he began. “But I think it’s about time I did.”

“Come again?” Andy asked. “I don’t think I’m hearing right. Did you just say-”

“That I want to start over with you. I hate fighting with you,” he grinned.

“Because you never win?”

“Because I never win,” he admitted. “You’re too much for me. That mouth of yours is your most powerful weapon.”

“A compliment? AJ, you’re losing your touch!”

“Gimme a break, Andy,” AJ groaned. “I’m really trying here.”

“When have I given you a break?” she asked him. “Come on, you can do it!”

She was really trying his patience. And enjoying it, he mused. This was not going to be as easy as he thought it would be.

“Andy, look, I really do like you. Seriously. You’re not like the typical women that I encounter on a regular basis.”

“How flattering,” she snorted. “AJ, just ‘cause I’m not throwing myself at your feet doesn’t make me better than the next person. We’re all the same, I guess, so there’s really no reason for your statement.”

“Andy, come on! Look, I know you’re never going to forget the night we met, neither am I. I shouldn’t have come on to you like I did.”

“You weren’t expected to walk on eggshells around me, either,” she shot back. “AJ, you did what you knew how to do.”

“OK, that hurts,” he told her. “Is that how you see me?”

“AJ, that’s not what I meant.”

“Oh? Then what, pray tell, did you mean?”

“This is ridiculous,” Andy explaimed, throwing her hands up in the air. “Are we going to have a civilized discussion, or do I have to leave?”

“Just answer the question,” he seethed, trying hard to keep his anger under control. This was one moment she was NOT going to get the best of him.

“OK, you want an answer? Fine,” she began. “That night, I didn’t knwo what to expect. I’d never seen you guys before in my life, and I was nervous. It was a part of Nick I’d never knew of. WE got into the dressing room, and you just STARED at me like I had an extra head coming out of my neck,” she sighed. “Very uncomfortable, if you ask me. Your lewd remarks didn’t help much, either, and when you guys were on stage, your sly little attempts at seduction through song did nothing by rattle my anger. I started to not like you. Honestly. But I kept myself in check, because you were Nick’s friend. The incidents backstage afterward were the icing on the cake though,” she laughed dryly. “That’s what I won’t let go of. You invade my space, you pay for it.”

“Had you been yourself,” she continued. “The amusing AJ, the nice guy I’ve seen on more than one occasion since then, things may have been different. The fact of the matter is,” she paused, looking him right in the eyes. “I don’t like you.”

“You don’t like me?” he asked. That was something he wasn’t expecting. “And I suppose you can’t stand the sight of me, either.”

“Something like that,” she shot back, the pent up anger she’d been dealing with the past two years finally being directed at the right person.

“Oh, that’s really great,” AJ exclaimed, his voice rising several notches at a time. “I’m really glad you let me know this. TWO F*cking years after! Andy, what kind of prank were you trying to pull? Were you just humoring me to make Nick happy?”

“I don’t have to do anything for Nick,” she shouted, matching AJ’s tone to perfection. “If you would be so kind as to recall things, you were always the one to initiate conversations with me; I just stuck up for myself. Had you stayed away from me, things would have been so much better.”

“And to think I was about confess my feelings for you!” he exclaimed. “You don’t deserve them!”

“Feelings?! Oh, that’s a riot! I’m happy you changed your mind though; it saved you a whole lot of humiliation!”

“You think I’m not good enough for you! That’s it, isn’t it?!” He was really angry now. Beyond rational thought, even.

“If the shoe fits, wear it!”

“Beautiful! I suppose you’d prefer one of the other two then, wouldn’t you?!”

“What the hell are you talking about?!”

“Oh, don’t be stupid Andrea! You know as well as I know that those two friends of yours don’t hang on your every word just because they’re your friends!”

“AJ, this isn’t funny,” she said, her voice dropping.

“Maybe not for you,” he continued. “But I’m going to have a blast watching you react to this one! If anything, you deserve what’s coming to you!”

When Andy remained silent, AJ took it as his cue to let the bomb drop. His only intention was to destroy the woman in front of him, the way she had done to him. ‘No mercy, McLean,’ he told himself.

“I am going to LOVE making you suffer,” he growled through clenched teeth. “When I tell you that the two men you call your best friends are completely and impossibly in love with you.”

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