He let out a tired sigh. "Haley, do we really need to get into this? We both know you could do so much better, Haley." "No, I really couldn't, Dad. I love Jason." "Sweetheart, I know that you think you love him right now, but in time you'll realize that...well, he's not good enough for you." "And why is that, Dad?" she asked tightly, for the first time in her life she didn't bother to hide what she was feeling from him. "Because he works for a living?" "You know I don't have a problem with someone working, Haley. I work for a living," he pointed out. "Then I don't understand the problem," she lied. She knew exactly what her family's problem was from the first moment they laid eyes on Jason. "He's not one of us, Haley. He'll never fit in. Surely you realize that, sweetheart. When you stop pretending to be someone that you're not you'll come to realize that Jason just doesn't stand up to our expectations for you," he said soothingly. She laughed without humor. "Oh, now you have expectations for me? Isn't that convenient? The one time you show concern for me just happens to be when you're worried that I'll sully up the bloodlines and marry someone who might embarrass you." "Haley, that's ridiculous and you know it. I love you and care very deeply for you," he swore. "I'm just watching out for your best interests, sweetheart. In a few years you'll see that. Maybe you should give Robert another chance so that the two of-" "What do I do for a living?" she bit out between clenched teeth, cutting him off. "Excuse me?" "I asked if you knew what I do for a living," she repeated. "You run a day care," he said with such conviction that even she almost believed it. "I teach history at Latin Scribe High School," she informed him, trying not to cry. She had absolutely no doubt that if she asked what committees Rose or Martha were on he would know, mostly because they were a reflection of him. "Oh," he said, sounding surprised. "Congratulations, sweetheart. Why didn't you tell me you got the job? We would have held a dinner to celebrate." She opened her mouth to remind him that they did in fact celebrate her job at her grandmother's insistence five years ago, but what was the point? He was never going to change and was truly never going to care about her until she started living the life that he wanted. He'd start giving her attention and his precious time if she decided to ask for a trust fund and live off him and date men like Robert that fit in. It wouldn't matter that Robert was a cheating bastard and would drop her as soon as she slept with him. Her parents only cared about their image. It was kind of funny that her father started out in life by sharing a room with his two brothers in a small two bedroom cabin, or that his parents worked their asses off so they could go to college and never have to worry about money. He'd been spoiled and she knew that was Grandma's biggest regret in life. "I got the job two weeks ago when I turned thirty," Haley lied, wondering if her father was going to remember this time. Of course he didn't. "Oh, um, did you get my birthday card?" he asked, before he covered the phone with his hand from the sounds of it. She heard him mumble to someone, probably his secretary, to send her birthday card out right away. Looked like she'd be getting three grand in a few days, she thought with an inward shrug. She'd keep it without putting up a fuss this time. She already had an idea of what to do with the money. "Look, sweetheart, the reason that I'm calling is that your mother is having a dinner party next week and we'd like you to come," he said, not surprising Haley that her mother hadn't bothered to call her. It just wasn't worth getting upset about. "I'll think about it," she said, not really sure she wanted to put Jason through that nonsense again. "We'd really like you there. Robert is very excited to see you again. You know he's been trying to call you, don't you? I really think you should give him another chance, Haley." Since Haley doubted that her father knew that his precious Robert had been calling up and leaving messages offering to take Haley away for a weekend and "have some fun and prove that his theory that she was wild between the sheets was correct" she hadn't bothered to call him back. Then again her father would probably just laugh it off if he did because it was someone he approved of. "I'm not interested in him, Dad," Haley said firmly, hoping he'd just let it go. "If I can make it I'll be bringing Jason." "He's not good enough, sweetheart," his said, sounding tired. "Then neither am I," she said, hanging up. She took one last look at the couple walking into Jason's house before walking over to her stereo system and turning it on. She found a heavy metal station, cranked it up all the way until she could actually feel the base vibrate throughout the house. She pulled off her shirt, threw on a very revealing bikini top, grabbed a beer and dumped half of it out before heading for her front door. After mentally promising herself aspirin for the headache that was already forming she pasted a huge smile on her face and yanked open the door in time to see the couple and realtor stumbling out of Jason's house with their ears covered. When they glared in her direction she held up her beer and said, "Who's thirsty?" *********** "If anyone has a problem with the new computer system, please let my office know immediately," Headmaster Jenkins said, reaching for his briefcase. "Have a good first day, everyone." Jason grabbed the pile of handouts Jenkins had swamped him with and headed for the door. He wasn't too surprised when Haley jumped in front of him. She was a persistent little thing. For two weeks she'd been hounding all of his friends and parents, looking for him. Nobody would tell her where he was, not because they were on his side, oh hell no. They were all on team Hayley and they made damn sure he knew that when they managed to get him on the phone. A week ago he finally had enough and threw his phone out his driver's side window somewhere in New Jersey. When he left Hayley two weeks ago he'd been on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He knew if he'd stayed he would go back to Haley on his hands and knees, begging her to give him a chance, and he almost had. The only thing that stopped him was knowing that Hayley would never want him the way he wanted her. "You've put your house up for sale," she said accusingly, pushing her glasses back up her nose as she glared at him. He simply stepped around her and walked out of the teacher's lounge. Of course that didn't stop Hayley. In seconds she was walking beside him. "Jason, we need to talk." "I think we said everything we had to say two weeks ago, Haley." "No, we didn't, Jason. You left before I could talk to you. Look, would you slow down?" she asked, doubling her efforts to keep up with him. "No." He didn't want to talk. Hell, he didn't even want to look at her, but he had no choice in the matter. Until his house sold he was stuck working here and seeing her every day. "Jason, we really need to talk." "No."