I stole a glance at David; he was walking beside me in physical form, but his mind and spirit were so far away that his eyes had completely fixed on one spot—narrowed with deep concentration. I almost wondered if he was trying to start a fire with telekinesis.
“So…did you…did you get up to anything interesting last night?” I asked.
“Interesting?” he said, kind of confused.
“I just…never mind.” I looked away. And he didn’t mind. Didn’t even bother to engage in small talk.
At the top of the stairs, Emily and Alana talked casually as if they’d been close their whole lives, despite their friendship being only as old as theirs to mine. They didn’t really match, as friends. Alana was so plain and almost gothic; she was smart and read books by indie authors, whereas, Emily was so colourful; she always looked fresh and happy, or maybe…overexcited. She must drink coffee every morning—lots of coffee. Mind you, that never worked for me. But despite originating from different ends of the galaxy, they seemed to fit on exactly the same page. Kind of like I thought David and I did—until today.
“Hi, guys.” I waved as we reached the top.
“Not for me. Had a meeting with the school board.”
“Right here.” He popped out from behind the glass doors, wearing a wide grin.
“Hey.” He gave me a quick hug, then cupped hands with David, who’d managed to wake up enough to appear social all of a sudden.
“So, new girl. You made it through your first week, and—” Ryan scratched the back of his neck and looked at Emily.
“Well, we were thinking,” Emily jumped in. “Would you like to come to Betty’s Café tonight—to celebrate?”
“Is that the little fifties-style café?” I asked.
“It belongs to Emily’s aunt.” Ryan hooked his thumb in Emily’s direction.
“How’d you guess?” Emily faked surprise, then waved a dismissive hand in the air as she laughed.
“Well—” I looked at David, wondering if he’d go. He placed his guitar case on the ground and rested his hands in his back pockets, then, ever so subtly winked at me. “Uh, sure, you know what?” I looked back at Emily. “That sounds really great.” The distraction would be a welcome relief; maybe I could stop thinking about David for a while.
“Okay, it’s settled then.” Emily bounced on the balls of her feet. “So, we’ll carpool?” She looked at Ryan and Alana, then especially at David.
“Um—” I froze, trying to think of a way to say I never went in cars with teenagers. I didn’t want to insult their driving ability or have them make the standard enquiry, complete with raised brow.
“Actually.” David took a small step forward. “I uh—I was going to ask Ara out tonight.” He looked directly at me then. “So, perhaps…I could be your escort?”
My brow folded. He was going to ask me out? What kind of out? Friends? More than friends? Friends who like to hold each other’s hand then ignore each other in the morning?
“Oh, a date? Really?” Emily said. “I’m sorry, I didn’t realise you two had—”
“We’re just friends,” David said in a very business-like tone.
“So you don’t mind sharing her for the night, man?” Ryan asked.
“Yeah, and, um,” I chimed in, looking sideways at him, “—and, really, hanging out with you guys’ll be great.”
“Okay. So, you bring Ara, David, and I’ll go with Ryan and Alana.” Emily linked her arm through Alana’s.
Ryan, all tall and lanky-looking, sighed enviously at Emily, subconsciously imitating the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It was so obvious he liked Alana. I wondered why he hadn’t just got with the programme and asked her out. I mean, it was obvious the feelings were mutual.
The routine catch-up at the top of the stairs continued then, without my cerebral focus. They were all smiling and talking, but I couldn’t really hear them. My thoughts were off with my troubles, somewhere in clueless land. David wasn’t really present, either. He was smiling and talking, too, but kept looking at me with those narrowed eyes—studying me—probably unaware he was even staring. And all my brain could do was worry that he felt he’d made a mistake talking with me that way last night. But I could feel the energy between us, still alive as always, and after praying so hard, every breath of yesterday afternoon, that he’d lean forward and kiss me, I think I grew a little tired of wishing. Yet, despite that, I still kept looking at his lips, imagining it. My feelings had manifested overnight and ‘I think I like holding your hand’ was not going to do for me. Not long term. Either he had a confession of love buried somewhere in those emerald eyes, or I needed to go to therapy.
David laughed, catching a paper canon, then hurled it up the back of the room where its journey ended on the brow of a football jock. I slinked down lower in my chair; I’d really rather avoid getting a headache from unfinished English homework. It was bad enough that Mr B, with his strict designated seating plan, placed me right up front, right next to David. Not that I minded the David part, I was just kinda worried I might do something to embarrass myself—like drool all over his notebook or start playing footsies with him under the table.
“Morning, class.” Mr Benson walked in, oblivious to the origami air-raid going on behind him.
David sat quickly in his seat, playing the good student.
He opened his mouth to speak, then dropped his words with a smile as his hand shot up behind his head. Everyone behind us broke into claps and cheers. “Nice catch, man,” one of the jocks called.
“Settle down, class.” Mr Benson eyed the room for a second before turning back to write on the board.
Totally and utterly confused, I frowned at David. What the hell was all that about?
He smiled broadly and opened his palm to reveal a paper cannon.
“Did you just catch that behind your head? Without looking?”
He dumped the scrunched up paper onto his desk and leaned closer. “Of course not. I just made it look that way.”
He looked to the front of the class, crossing his arms over his chest, laughing to himself.
I left my lips slightly open as I smiled, because the sweet scent of his cologne brushed pleasantly over my tongue every time he leaned in or spoke. He smelled so fresh, like he’d just stepped out of the shower, still steaming and hot, then sprayed deodorant all over his skin.
“I need everyone to take out their notepads and jot some notes down for...” Mr Benson started, but I lost focus as David leaned down and unzipped his bag. With his body angled that way, one side lengthened, his arm slightly up, stretching forward, his cologne dominated our private little space; I drew a really deep breath, then opened my eyes slowly—meeting with his direct gaze.
“You okay?” He held back a chuckle, placing two pens and two notepads on his desk.
“Yeah.” He bit his lip, looking at mine. “You looked like one of those girls off a seductive ice cream commercial.”
I flashed him a grin and he sat back, breathing out his laughter.
“Okay.” Mr Benson folded his arms, leaning on the front of his desk. “Today, we’ll be having a class discussion about…”
Toes in the sand—standing on a beach at sunset, kissing, making everyone who passes jealous...
“Ara?” Mr Benson said. “Perhaps you can answer that question for us?”
David nudged me and held out three fingers under the desk.
“That’s correct.” Mr B turned back to the board. “There were three characters in…”
“Don’t mention it.” David folded his arms again and kicked his legs out straight in front of him, crossing his ankles. He was wearing those heavy black boots again; I’d seen him in those nearly every day, except yesterday, when we sat on the grass by my swing, talking for hours—our fingers entwined; his cold, like mine, yet warmer than mine. It felt so good, but for such a short time, because as soon as the sun went down, he left. I offered him to stay for dinner, but he said he already had plans. Talk about disappointment.
I wanted to touch his fingers again—to make sure they really felt the way I remembered.
When David’s head turned to watch the pacing teacher move around the class, I stared down at his hand, just to gauge the distance. Maybe I could accidentally brush past him or…
“You could at least try to concentrate.” He leaned his head a little closer as he spoke, keeping his eyes forward, his arms folded.
How could I concentrate when every time he breathed, I could feel it and hear it? All I wanted was to rest my head against his chest and listen to his heart.
“You…you know that look you get—when you’re thinking…things?”
His lips parted, his eyes sparkling with a grin. “Well, you’re…thinking.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t sit next to me then,” I whispered back playfully.
“I shall ask Mr Benson to move my seat if you wish,” he muttered.
The eyes of every student in the class made my spine go stiff. Damn this tongue.
When Mr Benson looked away, I tore a strip of paper from my notepad, coughing over the sound it made. David smiled, watching my crafty display of rebellion. “What are you doing?” he whispered so low it was only his cool breath I heard as his lips shaped the words.
“Shh.” I frowned at him and nodded toward the teacher.
“Show me,” he said, leaning over to look at the paper.
“No peeking.” I hid it with my elbow.
He sat back in his chair, chuckling quietly.
Sorry, I wrote. When I said that, I just meant that you make me lose my concentration. I want to be next to you. I just wish we weren’t at school.
There, that should do it. Somehow, it was so much easier to say what I wanted to say when I didn’t actually have to say it. “Here.”
David placed a fingertip on the top corner of the note and slid it across the desk.
“I want you all to write this down,” Mr Benson said, scribbling on the board.
I dared to glance back to see what David thought of my note; he slipped it into his pocket, smiling my favourite smile—the one that lit up the corners of his eyes before showing in his lips—but didn’t say anything.
“Point one.” Mr Benson wrote number one to ten on the board, and kept talking about something I cared nothing for.
David, with his left hand, started taking notes, looking up at the board and back down again, and I watched in amazement. How did I not notice he was left-handed? His guitar wasn’t left-handed.
“Here.” He slid a page of notes across to me; an exact copy of what was on the board.
“Thanks. But, don’t you need these?”
He smiled down at another page in front of him; the same notes.
“Oh.” I toyed with the edge of the paper.
The idea took my breath. I couldn’t even nod. I felt his cool touch just above my elbow before he slid his fingers slowly down the length of my arm, making little bumps lift the fine hairs as they followed the curve to the back of my hand. I flipped my palm over and our fingers laced.
I nodded, squeezing his hand tightly. Just don’t ever let go, David.
We sat with our hands concealed under the desk for the rest of class. But every now and then, David ran his thumb over mine and smiled at me—and every time he did that, my heart skipped into my throat like the rush you get on a roller coaster.
I grinned like the Cheshire cat, silently praying the teacher wouldn’t notice the reason for my happiness, and as I sat, feeling closer to this boy than I had to anyone in my life, ever before, I drew a conclusion again that I thought I’d discarded completely; I was in love. Even if you couldn’t fall in love with someone in four days, I didn’t care. It didn’t change how I felt right then. I could only hope, as I watched David trying to conceal his own smile, that he’d one day feel the way I did. Definitely in love.
Dad paced the floor, hands behind his back, droning on about some faerie myth, and as usual, Emily and I quietly gossiped our way through the hour. She scribbled another fact about her latest crush on a page and passed it to me. Since he sat behind us, the only thing we could actually talk about in here was David. Which is why History was my new favourite, David-less class.