Adam was still thinking about Mason’s ‘plan’ when he got ready for school the next day. It was ridiculous, he knew. Pretend to be friends with Ronan Lynch to sabotage his relationship with Blue and/or mess with him? He couldn’t do that.
But Lynch was an asshole. Ever since Adam had started at Aglionby, Ronan had been torturing him - mimicking his accent, calling him ‘pathetic’ and ‘loser,’ insulting him whenever he put his hand up in class. And then there was Kavinsky, who had always said things that managed to cut right through Adam’s protective shell to puncture him where it hurt the most. How many times had Ronan Lynch witnessed Adam’s humiliation and simply laughed or done nothing in response? Maybe Lynch was the kind to keep out of other people’s businesses, but he always seemed to have things to say until Kavinsky was calling Adam a ‘mongrel’ or ‘trailer trash,’ and then he was rendered mute. Lynch deserved to have someone show him what it was like to be humiliated for a change. He deserved to know what it was like to hurt and be able to do nothing about it.
God, what was he thinking? Adam berated himself. He was being stupid. And mean. This whole thing was so incredibly stupid and mean.
He hopped on his bicycle and started pedalling, wishing he had enough money for breakfast or coffee. Or even a granola bar. Maybe he could get a small one? His mind ran through the numbers again, trying to see what he’d have to give up to eat breakfast this morning. The hunger he felt was all-consuming. He couldn’t bear the thought of going to school all day having eaten nothing.
He was daydreaming about eggs and bacon when he took a turn on the road towards school and screeched to a halt.
There, just a few steps ahead of him, was the smoking engine of a car. Not just any car, but Richard Campbell Gansey III’s brilliant orange Camaro. Deja vu hit him flat in the face.
A vision amidst the smoke, Dick Gansey was staring blankly into the open engine. And in the back, lounging against the seats with his shoes on the headrest in front of him and his arms crossed behind his head, was Ronan Lynch.
Adam stared at them. Something slick and wicked was curling in his gut, setting fire to his blood. Here Adam was, trying to put Mason’s absurd idea out of his head, and he was presented with an opportunity to make it happen. The coincidence was disconcerting.
If Adam believed in fate he would have seen this as a sign from the universe. But Adam didn’t believe in fate. He did, however, believe in taking control of his own life. Why shouldn’t he do this? He struggled and went against the grain in every other way. Why should this be any different?
Plus, there was no crime in befriending Ronan Lynch. That’s all Adam was doing anyway. Trying to befriend him. Testing the waters, as it were.
He walked his bicycle to the car.
“Is everything alright?” he asked.
“Oh yeah,” Ronan drawled from the backseat. “Everything is just peachy fucking fantastic.”
Adam glared at him before catching himself. He was here to befriend Ronan, not antagonise him. He was going to be civil with Ronan, and nice to Gansey. Gansey was his foot-in-the-door to getting on Ronan's good side.
Adam cleared his throat, turning to Gansey. However, the second he met Gansey’s bright hazel eyes, Adam tensed up. What was he doing? Here was the most luminescent boy in school. A boy who so obviously came from a monied upbringing that he couldn’t outrun it, just as Adam, in his horribly unfitting school uniform, with his stupid bike and stupider accent couldn’t outrun his poor one.
“Adam Parrish, right?” Gansey asked.
His voice was like music. Adam felt shame and embarrassment wrap around his throat, choking him.
“Yeah,” Adam said. He tugged at his sleeves. “Richard Gansey, right?”
“Cool.” He swallowed hard, then pointed at the car. “Do you need help? I know a bit about cars.”
Ronan snorted from the backseat. Adam threw him a cold look.
“I’m sorry,” Adam said. “Did you have something to say to me?”
For a second, Ronan looked alarmed. Then his expression fell into a scowl Adam had seen dozens of times. Adam berated himself for his reflexive reaction to Ronan being an asshole, but when he turned back to Gansey, the other boy looked a little impressed. Adam felt a thrill of excitement run down his spine.
“Yes,” Gansey said. “Would you be able to tell us what the problem is here?”
Adam walked over to the front of the car and peered into the engine. He identified the problem almost instantly. He reached for his backpack and then realised he had no gloves or tools with him.
He glanced quickly at Gansey before turning back to the engine. “I know what the problem is, I just…”
“You need tools?” Gansey guessed. “They’re in the trunk.” He turned to Ronan. “Ronan?”
There was no response. Adam looked over the hood. Ronan was pretending to be asleep in the backseat, one arm slung over his eyes, his legs splayed, one leg sticking out of the side. Adam rolled his eyes.
“I’ll get them,” he said, trying not to clench his teeth.
He made sure he jerked Ronan’s foot as he walked towards the trunk. Ronan shot him a scalding look.
Adam retrieved the tools and returned to where Gansey stood, looking expectant. Adam opened the tool box, realising with a sinking stomach that there were no gloves. His hands and - very possibly, his uniform as well - were about to be covered in grease. He took a deep breath, and braced himself.
Narrating his actions in a slow and simplified manner to an awed Gansey, Adam worked on the engine.
It took hardly a few minutes to finish up, but his hands were black when he stepped back. He asked Gansey to start the car. The Camaro let out a low, purring growl, and Gansey’s face split into a smile.
“That was amazing,” he gushed, and Adam felt like he could melt in the glow of Gansey’s praise. “Thank you! Could we give you a ride to school?”
Ronan grunted from the backseat. Someone clearly wasn’t pretending to be asleep anymore. He sat up, and Adam thought he saw a quick flash of horror in his eyes.
“Parrish can’t just leave his shitty bike,” Ronan said.
Adam felt a surge of hatred for his bike which quickly dissipated when Gansey said, “We could tie it to the back?”
Ronan’s scowl deepened. He remained seated in the car as Gansey and Adam heaved the bike into the trunk and then tied it down. Adam gave Lynch a dirty look as he slid into the backseat beside him. Ronan took one look at his grease covered hands, and climbed over into the passenger side seat. Gansey let out an disapproving noise, but said nothing. Adam felt another bout of hatred and fury towards Ronan. Why did he always have to make him feel like some sort of untouchable? Anger gurgled about in his gut, but it disappeared just as soon as Gansey started the car.
Just like that, Adam Parrish was driven into Aglionby like a chauffeured prince, sitting at the back of Richard Campbell Gansey the Third’s beautiful orange Camaro.
* * *
That day Adam sat next to Gansey in Latin. Even though he had a grease stained school shirt, and had to suffer through Ronan’s incessant swearing, fake yawns, and blatant disrespect towards Whelk, Adam couldn’t remember ever having been happier. Even in his wildest dreams he hadn’t imagined that a boy like Gansey would give him a ride, sit next to him in class, compliment his Latin skills and then make plans to hang out with him later. It was incredibly hard to fathom why Gansey would want to spend more time with someone like him, but Adam was over the moon.
Even being forced to spend time with Ronan didn’t detract from it. After all, it was the motivation to get closer to Ronan that had encouraged him to approach Gansey in the first place. Plus, Lynch was annoyingly good at Latin. He might have had no respect for the teacher, or his books, or the school system in general, but he spoke the dead language in a way that made Adam’s heart ache with longing.
Gansey gave him a ride back at the end of the day, and Adam carefully ignored Lynch’s glaring in the rearview mirror as they rode. It was only when they got closer to his home, when Adam remembered what had happened in the field by his house the day before with Kavinsky. Then everything came rushing back to him - where he lived, who his parents were, how different his life really was from Gansey’s. In the lovely haze of the day he’d forgotten that they were worlds apart. He didn’t want Gansey to see where he lived and remember that fact for himself.
They turned into the field which still held Ronan and Kavinsky’s tire tracks, and Adam asked him to stop.
“I can walk from here,” Adam said.
“Are you sure?” Gansey asked. “We don’t mind dropping you home.”
Adam had a feeling Ronan did, in fact, mind. But the other boy said nothing.
“I’m not going home, actually,” Adam said. “I have to go to work.”
“You have a job?” Gansey asked.
He sounded fascinated by everything Adam had to say. It made Adam equal parts embarrassed and ecstatic.
“I work three jobs, actually,” Adam said, quietly.
He didn’t look at Ronan. He didn’t want to see the contempt on his face.
“Three jobs?” Gansey asked, astounded.
Adam nodded. “I’ll catch you later, then?”
He reached out for a fist bump. Gansey stared at it, curiously.
“You have to make a fist and uh… bump it,” Adam said.
Gansey copied the motion and then grinned at Adam. Adam laughed.
He went to retrieve his bike, noting that - once again - Ronan didn’t bother to help. Being nice to Lynch was going to be so much harder than he thought.
He waved goodbye at Gansey, and then biked down to his double-wide. He was so giddy with the events of the day, he was driving a little faster than usual, and didn’t realise until he was skidding down the road to his house that someone was walking up it. He squeezed the brakes, and the impact tossed the bike off the main path.
Blue stopped in her tracks, looking alarmed. When Adam got to his feet panting, realisation dawned in her eyes.
“You’re the boy from Nino’s,” she said, smiling pleasantly. “The one who fell off his chair yesterday. Am I getting an encore?”
Adam felt another wave of heat sear across his face, but he chuckled, relieved at not having hit her.
“Is that my reputation now?” he asked. “The clumsy boy?”
She laughed. It reminded him of wind-chimes.
“Well, I don’t really know much else about you,” she said, cocking her head to the side. “I know I’ve seen you around…”
“Adam.” He extended his hand, and she clasped it. Her hands were small, warm.
“Blue,” she said.
“I know…” He rubbed the back of his neck. “From your name-tag, I mean. I remember.”
Blue crinkled her nose. “Yeah, it is one of those names that’s hard to forget.”
“You’re lucky. Having a common name is awful. My first grade class there were three other Adam’s. The teacher used to get us confused all the time.”
“Is that right?” she asked. She gave him a half-smile that had a hint of mischief in it.
Adam felt so happy he could burst. Today, he’d befriended Gansey, and now he was talking to Blue the waitress without making a complete fool of himself. He didn’t know how or why his luck had shifted, but he was grateful for every damn second of today. Especially given how mind-numbingly awful the day before had been.
It was then that Blue seemed to notice his uniform. “You’re a raven boy,” she said, with surprise.
“A raven… uh…” she furrowed her brow. “An Aglionby student.”
“Huh. I know some boys who go there. Do you… um… do you know Gansey?”
“Everyone knows Gansey.”
She grinned. “I should have guessed. I also… uh. Do you know Ronan Lynch?”
Adam blinked slowly, his heart sinking.
“Oh…yes.” And then that serpent that lived in Adam’s chest reared its ugly head. “That’s the weird guy who carries a raven around, isn’t it?”
Blue made a face, and Adam felt a thrill of triumph run through him.
“I keep telling him birds like that carry disease,” she said. “But he gets really offended if you say anything about Chainsaw.”
“Chainsaw?” Adam asked, disbelievingly. “The bird’s name is Chainsaw?”
“Yes,” Blue said, pressing a hand to her lips. “And he hates it when you call her ‘the bird’.”
“Oh, it’s a she?”
“Don’t ask me how he knows,” Blue said, shaking her head. “I have no idea.”
Her tone was affectionate, but strained. Were they having relationship troubles? God, Adam hoped so.
He laughed. “So, you and Ronan are close then?”
She made a noncommittal gesture, a strange expression passing over her face. “Yes, we’re… we’re dating.”
“Oh. Sorry,” Adam scratched the back of his ear. “I didn’t mean to call him weird.”
Blue shrugged, but she was smiling. “He is weird.” Her smile drooped. “Um, speaking of... I have to go meet him.”
“Oh, right. Of course. I’m keeping you.” He held her gaze for a moment, then gave her a small smile. “It was lovely meeting you, Blue. I hope we run into each other again soon.”
Blue ducked her head, but Adam thought he saw her blushing.