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I stared at the questions on my math worksheet, not really processing any of the equations. Ms. Turner was walking about the room, peering over students’ shoulders, making sure that they were doing their problems correctly. I could hear the furious scribbling of pencils and the continuous ticking of the clock. Twenty more minutes.
The clicking of Ms. Turner’s heels on the tile floor was approaching me from behind. I panicked, wondering what she would think of my blank paper.
“Miss (last name)…”
She was interrupted by a knock on the door.
Ms. Turner gave me a look that told me that our conversation would continue from behind her glasses and then glanced at the door.
Standing by her desk at the front of the room, now, was a blondish brown haired student waiting for her patiently. At this point, all of the class had their eyes on him and I wasn’t surprised. I found it rather hard myself to look away from him. There was something striking about his looks and demeanor. I knew everyone could feel it. There was an inexplicable force of attraction emanating from him and pulling us all in. I wanted to know who he was. Heck, I could tell everyone wanted to know who he was.
For a moment, our gazes locked, and I was falling into the depths of his green eyes. Then, he looked away, and I wished I had smiled. I wished I had shown him some sign of welcome.
“Welcome, Mr. (last name), is it? It’s very nice to have you in our class. You can go find an empty seat anywhere you’d like.”
Before I knew it, he was there, sitting right beside me. I saw the class turning around in their seats to glance at the new student. My friends threw me meaningful glances.
“What?” I mouthed, but they turned away without a word, smiling.
Ms. Turner brought over the worksheet that we were working on and began to explain to the new student what we had been recently covering in class.
“And I’m sure Miss (last name) would be more than happy to help you. Or perhaps, you can help her.”
She walked back to the front of the room and I glared at her retreating figure. Ms. Turner seemed to have developed a growing hobby for embarrassing me.
“Is she always like that?”
I turned to the guy beside me, half surprised that he was talking to me and half amazed at the sound of the richness of his voice.
“Yeah. And this is one of her good days.”
He chuckled, which made me smile.
“I’m (name), by the way.”
“Hi, I’m (name).”
“So, do you need help?” He wasn’t making fun of me; his question was sincere.
“Actually, that’d be great.”
When the bell finally rung, I realized that math wasn’t all that bad when you had a gorgeous new student helping you out every step of the way. We were gathering our things together when I was pushed aside by a group of students, making me and my books scatter onto the floor.
I felt my cheeks flush as I slowly collected my stuff back into my arms, hoping that the crowd of people had hidden me from his view. I was ridiculously clumsy and my friends and I were rather used to these situations, but I didn’t want to leave this kind of first image in his mind.
All of a sudden the students in front of me parted to the side and my books were taken from my grasp. I looked up to see slightly disheveled brown hair and smiling green eyes. He stuck out the hand that wasn’t full of my books and I took a hold of it as he helped me back to my feet.
“You should watch out,” he said, chuckling.
He led me out of the classroom, still holding my hand, as the group of students watched us leave. We stopped outside the door where we were met by a rush of students socializing and getting to their next classes.
“You kinda left them hanging back there,” I said, laughing.
He shrugged and handed me my books, standing impossibly close due to the students pushing around us.
“If I were you I’d keep my distance from her.”
I stopped breathing, recognizing that voice. I was too stunned for my body to even react to his comment about the little space between us and blush.
Jake’s hand was firmly around my arm, yanking me away from (name) in seconds.
“What’s it to you?” (name’s) question sounded casual, nonchalant.
I hoped that was enough to keep Jake’s temper from flaring.
“She’s my girl, so stay away from her,” his voice was deep and full of warning.
(name) was looking at me, questioning me with his expression.
I nodded. But I wished I could’ve said no.
He looked from Jake to me, and then back to Jake, assessing. I wanted him to see the tension that lay underneath our relationship. I wanted him to save me from Jake and myself.
“No problem. We’re just friends.” Then, he walked off.
The two were of similar stature, both tall and build, and I couldn’t imagine who would’ve walked away if a fight had broken out. I was relieved that Jake had managed to keep himself under control. At least while we were in school. I couldn’t guarantee that his anger wouldn’t lash out later.
I felt Jake’s eyes on me, along with the rest of the football team. I inwardly laughed at their resemblance to pets that followed their owners around. When I turned to meet Jake’s icy blue eyes, they seemed to be raging with an internal fire. His face was completely composed, but I could see the anger beneath.
I turned away quickly, wishing that (name) would reappear. When I saw him nowhere in sight, I sighed and I realized that I had been pointlessly hoping that he could have gotten me out of my desperate situation.
At the end of the school day, after the final bell rang, I walked to my locker slowly after everyone else was gone. I hated this time of day. I knew what was coming at night and I had no way of escaping it. But then, I caught sight of something that gave me hope. I knew hope was foolish, I had learned that after a couple months, but I still couldn’t help myself.
(name) was leaning against my locker. I didn’t know how he had found it, but I didn’t care at the moment. However, when I reached him, I saw that his expression was hard, his jaw set, his eyes dark. It reminded me too much of Jake when he was mad at me and I immediately took an unconscious step back.
He stood up straight and took a step towards me. This scenario felt all too familiar. It was like the evening routine had come into my life a couple hours too early.
“Stop. Please, don’t.” I closed my eyes.
But instead of the usual impact I felt on my face, I felt his hands grasping the side of my arms gently.
I opened my eyes, seeing confusion in (name’s) green ones.
“Nothing,” I quickly responded. No matter how much I felt compelled to tell him, I knew that I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone. And I wouldn’t, in fear of the consequences.
“Tell me in the car,” he stated simply. Then he started towing me along to the parking lot.
“I’m driving you home. So tell me what’s going on while I drive.”
“Nothing’s going on,” I said, defensively.
He opened the passenger side door of a navy blue sedan, put me inside, and shut the door. He walked over to the driver’s side, got in, and started the car. Before I knew what was happening, he was driving out of the parking lot.
“Do you need directions?”
He might as well know where he’s going if he’s giving me a ride.
“No. Tell me what’s with you and that big football player guy.”
“He’s my boyfriend,” I answered carefully.
“It’s none of your business. You’ve known me for a single day. Stop trying to get into my life!”
But I wanted to opposite. I wanted him to keep asking questions. I wanted him to figure out what he was trying to get me to tell him. He noticed that there was something wrong between me and Jake. He noticed when no one else in the entire school did.
“Is that what you really want?” His green eyes were piercing into mine.
I didn’t answer.
“I could help you, Danielle. I want to help you. But you have to tell me…”
“Why do you want to help me? No one else does.”
“That’s because everyone else is stupid. I’ve seen it. They pretend not to see it because they don’t want to see it. It’s not their problem and they don’t want to get themselves into anything.”
“Do you like getting yourselves into things?”
He laughed, not amused. “Hardly. I try to avoid it as much as possible.”
“I’m not sure. But I can’t just pretend like I don’t see something going on between your boyfriend and you.”
“You just met me. I’m practically a stranger. You can’t help everyone in the world you know.”
“Do you really not want any help? Is that why you keep on asking me these questions?”
I was silent again. I was being so defensive. Why couldn’t I just take his help?
“Where are we going?”
“Nowhere. We’re just driving until you start talking.”
“I can’t. Besides, I really have to go somewhere.”
“You have a three o’clock curfew or something?”
“No. I just…” I quickly tried to think of an excuse to get me where I needed to be without him suspecting anything. “I have plans to meet my friends at a restaurant.”
I gave him directions to the restaurant where Jake and his friends would be. They’d be waiting, like always, at the bar section, for me to show up. I couldn’t be late. There was no knowing what Jake would do.
Paul came to an abrupt stop outside the restaurant doors.
“Thanks for the ride.”
“Don’t think you’ve gotten out of telling me. I’ll find a way to get it out of you.”
I smiled and opened the door, meeting the cold air outside. I walked into the restaurant quickly, hearing the quiet engine of Paul’s sedan leaving behind me. I walked over to the bar, seeing Jake and the team drinking and laughing loudly.
Jake immediately pulled me to his side when he saw me. “Danielle, I was waiting.”
His last word made my heart stop. I couldn’t have been late. I was so sure that I was on time. I looked over at the clock behind the bar. The clock read three-oh-two.
I turned to face Jake slowly. He was smiling at me as I could feel my heart beat speeding up.
“Jake, I’m sorry. I swear it won’t happen again.”
“Where were you? My Danielle is never late. You weren’t with that boy from this morning were you?”
“Danielle, you really shouldn’t try to lie. You’re a horrible liar.”
“I’m not lying. I wouldn’t lie…” I saw his hand raise and my words died in my throat. I closed my eyes for the second time today, waiting for the hit.
But I never felt the blow. I opened my eyes tentatively to see Jake’s hand being restrained by someone else’s.
I looked over to see Paul. His expression was furious as he stared down at Jake. It made me frightened and relieved at the same time.
Jake let go of me to get at Paul, but he was too fast and he twisted his arm behind his back, keeping him from hurting anyone. The few people at the bar were staring at us, but I could have cared less.
Then, Paul suddenly released Jake and grabbed my hand. He quickly towed me along towards the door, and we exited the restaurant. We got to his car quickly, where he opened the door and set me inside. He walked around the car and got into the driver’s seat.
I thought he was going to speed out of the parking lot but instead he closed his eyes and rested his head against the back of the seat. He was breathing deeply.
“I’m such an idiot,” he whispered. “I can’t believe I let you go like that. I should’ve known.”
“No, don’t. It’s not your fault. How could you have possibly known?”
“I don’t know! I just…” His voice was deep and smooth as ever.
He continued to concentrate on his breathing and I put a hand on his arm. He opened his eyes and looked at me.
His expression was still pained, but he smiled at me and took a hold of my hand. He reversed out of the parking space and drove out of the parking lot. I didn’t know where we were going, but I didn’t really care at the moment because, now, I could hope.