Author's note: I hope that teenagers, like myself, read this entrancing novel and find themselves falling in... Show full author's note »
The New GirlStreams of sunlight woke me on time this morning, and I scrambled together much more quickly, eager to see Alex begin school. I planned to arouse her, but when I went into the kitchen, I was stunned to see her already at the kitchen table fully dressed, makeup on, and two bowls of cereal in front of her. She immediately caught my eye, and her kindest look without smiling lightened her face. Her hair was curly today, laced gently over her shoulders and full of luster; her skin was shaded slightly darker with the mascara she had on, her lips bright purple. My leather jacket wrapped around her small upper body and her nails were painted black as coals. Alex dressed strongly today and contained a light, velvety scent that wafted from her—I could just smell it as I drew nearer. I almost stopped in my tracks; Alexandria was very pretty, and her choice of style gave her a dark and almost sinister appearance, like she was hiding some sort of black secret. And with her mind so closed…
It only made me want more.
“Good morning,” she said pleasantly. “Did you sleep well?” She curled her fingers around one another and leaned conspicuously on the hard wooden table. The sleeves of my coat hung past her knuckles and practically covered her fingers, but she kept it pushed back by the careful lining of her hands. Her ankles were crossed, chair scooted to the bare edges, and her lips pressed smoothly together.
“It was good,” I replied, and looked down at the bowl; my favorite type of cereal, on my side of the table. I sat down and looked at her curiously, but politely. “Thank you for the breakfast.”
Alex didn’t say anything, but merely started picking at her bowl. I joined in, and together we ate quietly until both of us finished. “You make me breakfast every morning,” she shrugged. “Shouldn’t you get a day off?”
I smiled crookedly, swallowing my last spoonful. “A day off? Not with you around,” I joked.
Although my tone had been light, a brief moment of mourn slithered in her eyes, and then summarily disappeared without a trace. “Then make me leave,” she mumbled seriously. I detected no hint of sarcasm in her solid stare.
I lowered my spoon, a little bewildered. “What?” I asked dumbly, for I had never seen this kind of attitude in Alex before. What did she mean?
Her eyes darted away from mine, and I could barely make out her next words. “I’ve been a huge burden for you—you should’ve made me leave a long time ago.”
I blinked, totally lost. “What are you talking about?” I stared at Alex blankly.
She shrugged again, seeming to push the thoughts aside. She looked at me again, this time her eyes back to its liquid, lovely violet gaze. “I don’t know.” But I could hear the lie in her tone.
“Do you want to leave?” I asked sympathetically, my voice even and calm. I still didn’t understand what she was trying to get at, but I went along with the conversation.
“Not at all,” she answered bluntly, and looked away again. She rose to go dump her bowl in the sink, and then sat back down shyly, like a schoolgirl on the first day, head down.
“You’re always welcome here,” I said. “And I’m glad you’re around.” That was all I could think to say.
Alex’s eyes brightened up again. “Good,” she enthused. “When does school start?”
My head was still jumbling with the mixed emotions she had just displayed, but I chuckled and got rid of my own bowl. “In about an hour,” I told her from behind my shoulder. “After I take a shower and put on fresh clothes, we’ll leave. First, we stop by the office to grab your new schedule, and then I’ll show you all your classes.”
“Sounds good,” she said, gliding towards the couch. “I’ll wait here for you.”
As I put away the dishes, I stopped in the middle of the hallway and turned around; it now finally struck me to question Alexandria about my jacket. She was curled into a ball on the sofa, chin resting on her knees and arms wrapped around her calves like a hug. The TV was on low.
“Alex,” I called from the hallway. I noticed her jump by a fraction of an inch, and she took in a sudden breath of air before turning her head in my direction. “Yeah?”
That was strange, I thought, holding back a giggle. “I was wondering…” I began. “Why is it you always like to wear my jacket?”
Alex instantly returned her attention back to the television, and answered simply but loud enough for me to hear, “It’s warm.”
Fair enough. I shook my head, smiling to myself, and went to take my shower.
“I’m really nervous,” Alex edged along the way, stiff as a board in the seat next to me., I stayed calm and relaxed, even a little excited as I drove to school. Alex being there should make things much more interesting for me, and I wouldn’t have to constantly worry about her anymore.
“Don’t be,” I encouraged. “I’ll be with you all day long—as much as I can be.”
“What about Peter?” She asked in concern, nails gripping the sides of the leathery seat. “Won’t he miss you?”
“He’ll be with me a lot, too,” I assured. Her knuckles were whiter than usual as they strained together. I flicked my eyes over at her, now a bit uneasy. “Alex, please relax. Everything will be fine. I’m keeping my promise to protect you, remember?”
That eased her up, and she finally released from her tense position. She even almost smiled again. “The look on Ricky’s face when you stuck him in the nose.” She clasped a hand to her mouth, stifling back a burst of laughter. Her suffocating giggle caused me to chuckle regardless.
“Almost there,” I informed. The small bricked building came into view seconds later, the tall American flag waving in the frosting breeze. Students were scuffling inside the school in pairs and packs, some alone, the bell ready to ring in two minutes. Peter was waiting, as I asked him to, just outside the main doors, a distracted look on his countenance, eyes scooping around aimlessly.
Alex was close to hyperventilating when the car slowed into my standard parking space. I tried not to find her short spasms humorous, but failed—they were absolutely hysterical. She breathed rapidly like a pregnant lady and darted her eyes in every direction, her hair flung carelessly in all directions as her head zipped like an owl.
I suppressed a smile walking over to her side of the car and opening the door for her. She swiftly clambered out and gripped my forearm, ignoring her comfort zone and no-touch policy. “Blake,” she hissed nervously. “I haven’t been to school in a while, and people used to make fun of me. They would laugh at my makeup and point and call me weird names and whisper behind my back—“
I pressed a finger to her lips, and she quieted, eyes focused below. “Alex,” I soothed. “I promise that I will not allow a single human being to make fun of you or even look at you the wrong way. And if you see anybody, anybody—teachers included—that does, they will personally answer to me. Do you understand?”
She nodded blandly and relaxed her shoulders, politely pushing my finger away from her mouth. “I understand,” she confirmed. “Blake…thank you.”
“No thanks necessary, protecting you is becoming something of a sixth sense,” I said, flashing a grin. “Now let’s go.”
Alex followed right at my heels all the way to the door, where Pete waited patiently. Most of the students had already gone off to class, so we avoided staring for the time being. Peter smiled brightly at both of us when we approached, clasping hands with me and nodding respectfully at Alex.
“Hey, guys. Ready to go?”
I nodded. “When you are.” I looked at Alex, who had a confused expression. “Peter is going to memorize your schedule for me, so whenever I’m not around, he can be. Oh, and if you have classes with him as well, if you don’t with me.”
She understood then, and nodded once. “Okay.” She turned to Pete. “Thanks for helping Blake baby-sit me—I need all the help I can get.”
Peter and I laughed sharply at that.
“Hey now, don’t thank me,” he said, still chortling. “This was all Blake’s idea. I’m just here as a right-hand man.”
“What’s so funny?” Alex asked me, frowning.
I waved a hand off, grinning. “It’s nothing. I just like your choice of words there.”
She rolled her eyes. “Nerds.” She shook her head reproachfully.
We both laughed again, and simultaneously started walking with Alex into the building. The office was close to the entrance with a tall glass window occupying the wall and a tiny door that read office in big letters. I held the door open for Alex and pointed her toward Mr. Thurman’s room. She hesitated at the door and beckoned for me to go first, a painful look in her eyes.
I shook my head. “Must I do everything for you as you continue to act like a five-year-old?” I gave her a half smile. “Grow some backbone.”
She knew I was kidding with her, and swelled up her cheeks. “Fine,” she snapped. “Next time you need me for something, I’ll make sure to let you down hard.”
I couldn’t help it a second time; I barked in laughter, sounding like a howling dog. “Of all the things,” I said between chuckles. “And you disregard my help because I make you walk to the office door before me?”
The corners of her lips twitched, and I knew she was fighting back another smile. She huffed loudly and stomped ahead, not looking back. One glance at Peter had us both cracking up, and we stifled our tones as we followed her.
Alex walked into the office cautiously, like she was expecting Thurman to jump out and throw a pie in her face. I picked up my pace and stood directly behind her, brushing her shoulder to let her know I was there. When the principal saw us, he rose and handed Alex a thin sheet of paper.
“Good morning to all of you,” he said. “Ms. Lexington, here is your school schedule.”
She took the slip from his firm grasp and glanced down at it—mostly for an excuse not to look at the principal directly; I knew her well enough to understand that much.
“I’m assuming Blake will still be your guide, so with that I dismiss the three of you; Peter, what are you doing here?” Thurman turned his attention to the third member of the group that did not belong with skeptical, beady eyes.
“Blake asked me to help him out with Alex,” Pete told him, lifting and lowering his shoulders. “Just helping out, Mr. Thurman.”
“Ah,” he confirmed. “Very well. Mr. Moss, I trust you will be on your best behavior with Ms. Lexington, yes?” Thurman eyed me in warning.
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. “That won’t be a problem, sir,” I said formally, smiling. “I’ll take good care of Alexandria.”
Thurman nodded in agreement, stuffing his hands into the thick pockets of his tan jeans. “Yes, yes, I know. The two of you seem to be rather close, though I could be misjudging.”
If that’s what you think, I thought, unsure myself of what to call us; friends, acquaintances? What did she think? I didn’t think I’d ever have those answers.
“They tolerate one another,” Pete chimed in, smiling sheepishly. “But that’s about it.”
This time, Alex did roll her eyes, and actually spoke to the principal. “We’re friends,” she assured blandly.
I raised my eyebrows, startled by her statement. Nonchalantly, I agreed. “Yes,” I said. “Your judgment is correct, Mr. Thurman.”
“As I thought.” He smiled subtly, in the ways teachers attempt to be friendly towards students. “I hope you enjoy your first day, Ms. Lexington. I’ll see the three of you off, then.”
“Pardon me, sir,” I inclined. “Her name is Alexandria. Thank you again for everything.”
With that, together we swept out of the room and out into the hallway, where not a student could be seen; the bell would be ringing in less than a minute. Hurriedly, I stepped to the front counter. Alex followed suit, while Pete lounged behind.
“Ms. Ronda?” I politely interrupted her file of paperwork. The plump secretary raised her too-round eyes at me in slight annoyance, licking the tips of her fingers and shuffling through paper after paper. “Yes?” she asked, a sharp edge in her voice.
“Would you mind writing the three of us a note, excusing us for being late? Mr. Thurman personally asked Peter and me to show our new student around and where her classes are.”
“Yes, alright,” she sighed in a dismissive tone, and quickly scribbled on a small pink slip. “There.”
I happily took the paper, thanked Ronda, and turned to Alex. Her expression returned to its frightful nervousness. Her bright violet eyes danced around the hallway and summarily focused on my face alone. She had her hands clamped together, and I could swear her knees were buckling. Peter seemed as if he didn’t notice anything, and waited quietly for us.
“Still nervous?” I asked rhetorically. She nodded in short, swift motions, never ripping her gaze from mine. “It’s bee so long since I’ve…been in a public place for this long.”
I tried to calm her with my smile and sympathetic eyes. “Alex, I’ll be here. Now let me see your schedule.”
She handed the paper to me, and I reviewed over it for a moment. Briefly, my eyes lighted up with joy; we had three classes together plus lunch: PE, Home Economics fourth hour and Algebra III seventh hour. That was good enough for me, and she also had one class with Peter. That was four classes that guaranteed her protection. As for the other three…I’d handle anything necessary if she were to tell me if anything bad happened to her.
Peter also looked over the list, and we both turned to Alex. “You have three classes with me,” I told her, showing the wide grin on my face.
“And one with me,” Pete jumped in, smiling as well.
The happiness that came over Alex in that second made me want to rejoice with her—her emotions were very effective on me. She cracked the tiniest, faintest form a smile can be, and seemed to beam at me with her very eyes. “That’s great,” she enthused. “That’ll really help out my days.”
“Humph,” I smirked. “I was under the impression you were spending too much time with me. Does spending even more during school actually increase your mood?”
Without looking at me, she replied, “It’s still not enough.” And she began scurrying down the hallway before I could say anything. I chuckled, partially in disbelief and partially out of satisfaction, and walked after her.
“Where do we go first?” She asked me as I came up next to her, keeping up with her pace. She had her nose buried in the schedule, her light footsteps not making a sound against the cold floor. She was about a head shorter than me, but loose ends of her hair occasionally brushed my nose or cheek; Alex’s long and curly hair blew carelessly and, quite frankly, nicely, in the small rush of air that went along with our movements.
“Hm…” I mused, racking my brain. “You have Environmental Science first hour with the same teacher I do, which is around the corner over here.”
I took the lead, Pete two steps behind me, and directed her to the classroom. After I showed her, I explained how to get there from the front doors, and so on. I walked her to each class she had, the lunchroom, library and gym, all of it. She listened intently and silently, following me easily and looking around constantly. I told her the best routes to take to every room, where I’d be waiting for her after classes, and offered her a space in my locker. Once I thoroughly helped her with everything, I dismissed Pete (assuring he understood what he needed to) and Alex and I stopped beside our locker.
“I suppose that’s it,” I said casually. “All your books for every class are stacked neatly on the top shelf.” I jabbed my finger at the locker.
“Thanks, Blake,” she said. “I’m glad you’re doing this for me.”
“Again, no thanks necessary,” I smiled.
She opened the locker and scrambled through, grabbing the heavy Science book, a notepad, and pencil. As soon ash she gathered it up, I held out my hand. She stared at it in confusion.
“What?” she asked, still looking at my open hand.
“Would you like for me to carry those?” I asked, as if the offer should have been obvious.
“Oh,” she mumbled. “Um…sure?” She handed me the supplies, and I couldn’t help but feel a little entertained.
Together we walked to Environmental Science, both our books under my arms. Alex remained silent all; the way until we reached the classroom.
“This feels so weird,” she commented, shaking her head. “Being back in school and all.”
I nodded, understanding. “Yeah, I suppose it would be a bit different. Just go in there and take your seat, everything will be fine.”
“What if they ask me to introduce myself?” she asked, horrified as her eyes widened.
I suppressed another smile, but my look was obviously in amusement. “You are something else, you know that?” I laughed bleakly. “Just don’t forget your name, and you’ll do fine.”
She narrowed her eyes threateningly. “That might actually happen, you know. I’m not good with speaking to people. And you’ll feel like a jerk when you find out that I turned read like a tomato and blurted out, ‘Miranda’ or something.”
“If that happens and I wasn’t there to record it, we’re both at a loss.” I flashed her a grin and gave her back the books. “I’ll be waiting for you after class.”
I swept away smoothly down the hallway, not glancing back. I could imagine her open jaw and awed expression as I went around the corner towards Language.
I couldn’t deny what sprinted through my mind all during that hour; Peter was hardly able to get a decent sentence out of me, I was so distracted. How was Alex faring right now? Did she have to introduce herself? If so, was she so nervous that it showed obviously on her face? Was she being made fun of, or did no one even speak to her? Was she miserable? How would she feel about the rest of the day? These were the questions that disturbed and tormented me for fifty minutes, ultimately leading me to an unfinished assignment, concerned Pete and my frustration. The very second I heard the loud ring of the bell in my ears, I jumped hastily from my desk and tramped through the door. I probably looked horribly eager, but at the moment, I didn’t care whatsoever. Peter almost laughed as he watched me fumble away.
I was practically breathless by the time I made it outside Alex’s classroom, but I kept a relaxed composure. Clumps of students escaped from the narrow doorway, my eyes laying on each one, waiting for one face in particular. I began tapping my foot out of anxiety, ready to yank my hair out; why was I anxious and a mess like this?
And there she was. Delicate, streaky black hair, snow-white skin that lucidly reflected and broadly outlined her violet lips and purple-highlighted bang; tiny footsteps like a mouse creeping from its hideout, and a book between her arms placed against her chest—Alexandria as I knew her. The first sight of her caused a gentle smile that I could not control. Whether she understood it clearly or not, I could feel the slowly growing bond of friendship between us.
Her lavender eyes were shooting left and right, as if she was looking for something. Apparently, she found it—her eyes rested on me, and her stiff posture eased. Perhaps by only the smallest degree, but her eyes did light up, a dim change that pleased me. I crossed my arms, books shuffling in the backpack across my shoulders, and stared kindly at her until she approached.
“How was class?” I immediately asked, holding a hand out for her books.
She gave them to me hesitantly, and her cheeks puffed out slightly. “It was…alright, I guess.”
“Tell me all about it,” I invited, guiding us through the thick crowd. I was automatically walking towards our locker.
“I didn’t have to introduce myself, which was good,” she sighed. “And I sat in the back of the room. A lot of people turned to stare at me, though, and it was a little intimidating…”
Why did I suddenly feel a tightening in the pit of my stomach?
“…but other than that, it was fine. The work was easy, and nobody made fun of me.”
“Hm,” I acknowledged. “So, the staring wasn’t bothering you too badly?”
“I’m just glad I wasn’t picked on,” she said truthfully, and left it at that. I noticed her eyes narrowed and the defensive look in her expression, trying to decipher it.
“Fair enough.” I smiled at her for encouragement. “At least your learning to survive without my constant hovering. Are you sure you can make it the rest of the day?”
She rolled her eyes. “I won’t die, don’t worry.” Then her tone lightened as she continued. “But I appreciate your ‘constant hovering.’”
I turned my head, having to look down a little. “You’re not bothered by it?” I asked, shocked.
She shook her head. “Not at all. Not how I used to be, in the beginning. Now, I actually…expect it, I guess.”
That was a better response than I would’ve thought, so I accepted it. Although it irritated me about the staring, I amazed myself at how well I could really control my expressions and temper. Maybe it was something that shouldn’t be worried about in the first place; I didn’t think on it too often, so long as Alex was always safe and satisfied.
On the way to our locker, I was starting to realize just how many eyes were upon us. Frankly, I was stunned I hadn’t seen it before. Nearly every person we passed cranked their head back or double-glanced, some even gawking like monkeys. I supposed I was a fairly recognized student at school—not quite as popular as Peter, but being friends with him alone gained me significant amounts of attention when necessary. I also had my decent number of friends, but that was beside the point. My beating Ricky in a fight had in turn added some popularity to my name, and now I couldn’t decide if that was good or not. Therefore, people noticed me. With a new girl they had never seen.
That was likely to stir a few gossipy teens or get a few questions, but not something extremely out there; now, rumors spreading that the new girl lived with me…that was something everyone would talk about.
Eye after eye drifted our way or lay upon us as we passed, and there were those who took the time to openly stare rudely like we were part of a circus act. I had a dreaded feeling that someone in the school had learned of Alex’s home, otherwise we wouldn’t be getting this much attention. Peter was walking somewhere behind me, so I couldn’t tell how he was taking all this. If he felt anything like I did, he wasn’t taking it well.
I had to look at Alex, just to see her reaction. It was…surprisingly solid. Her eyes mostly stared at her feet and the ground in front of her, but would occasionally peek over at me strangely enough. Again, she never failed to catch me off guard; I had expected her to dive into panic mode or tense up nervously or, well, something other than complete calmness. Maybe it was one of the things that didn’t get to her as much, or she was too used to it, or perhaps even less sensitive than I’d thought. Regardless, if she wasn’t disturbed, then neither would I be. I was comforted a bit, and soon ignored the stares and simply strode to our locker without a negative or aggravated thought.
I put away both of our supplies and neatly stacked the notebooks and dropped the pencils randomly. I closed the locker shut and turned to her. She was leaning tentatively against a locker door and thoughtfully gazing at the mass of students. Once she saw me looking at her, she blinked and looked down at my free hands.
“Where are your books?” she asked. I took a moment to ponder on the dim reddening of her pallid cheeks, identifying it as a small wave of blush. Could I possibly be the reason she had blushed? But why?
“You and I have PE together,” I informed, smiling and exuberantly rejoicing inwardly.
“Oh.” Her mood brightened noticeably as well. “That’s good. But…”
She looked up at me sheepishly. “I’m God awful at sports.”
My warming smile shifted to a wide grin, and then a bark of laughter just as quickly. I briefly imagined Alex, scrawny and bashful as she was, holding a baseball in the batting position, a cap on her head. It was a hilarious image.
“Why does that not surprise me?” I asked, still laughing.
Her face did go red, then, and her mouth twitched as she forced a frown, knowing she wanted to do the opposite. “Don’t laugh at me,” she snapped. “I’m just not a very coordinated girl, okay?”
“Oh, I think this is going to be my favorite hour of the day!” I exclaimed, grinning so wide it hurt. “Come on, let’s hurry up and get there.”
The maddening stomps and huffy breaths that sounded behind me only fueled my good-humored mood, and I kept glancing back to grin at Alex—she glared at me in return.
“Don’t be offended,” I said lightly as we entered the gymnasium. “But I fully intend on making fun of you if you mess up in today’s sport, which is kickball.”
Her eyes widened like a deer staring at oncoming headlights. “You’re heartless!” she hissed.
“Don’t worry, I won’t let anyone else make fun of you,” I assured, my tone thick with amusement. “I’m just going to have a bit of fun watching you myself. The girl’s locker room is down there,” I pointed, then abruptly turned in the other direction and wisped away.
Minutes later, Alex stood in front of me in red gym shorts—showing her knobby knees—and a thin white T-shirt. That sight alone cracked me up.
Brad jogged over to us, a dozen eyes staring at Alex and me from behind him, and came to my side.
“What up, Moss?” he said, grinning. “How you been doing?”
“Just fine, bro,” I replied.
“How are you, Alexandria?” he asked, and I was surprised that he remembered her name; now that I thought about it, I’m sure everyone knew her name.
“Fine,” she answered shortly, not looking at him. Her legs were shaking from the bleachers, and I knew she was really nervous. I felt bad for her, so I turned to Brad.
“Hey, man,” I said in a low voice so no one else could hear us. “Alex is pretty shaken up about having to play kickball, and we already get enough people gawking at us.”
“Yeah,” he said to show he was listening, staring at me seriously.
“And I know you’re pretty close to most of the guys here. So, for me, can you make sure nobody laughs or makes fun of her?”
“No problem, man,” he said, going back to his grinning, care-free attitude. “I’ll go tell them now. I got your back, Moss.”
“Thanks, B. You my bro.” I fist-pounded him, and he scurried off.
Then my eyes fell upon Alex again. “How are you feeling? I asked.
“Scared,” she replied uneasily. “I hate sports, and kickball is one of the worst.” Her hands were gripping the sides of the metal bleachers, her feet tapping repetitively, in that tense way she got.
“Just kick the ball, run the bases, and catch it when you’re on the outfield,” I shrugged, making it sound like taking a step, even in comparison to how easy it truly was. “There’s nothing to it, Alex.”
“Yeah, but I’m terrible at keeping my balance when I have a lot of people staring at me,” she said. “Blake, I swear, if you make fun of me, I will knock you out when we get back to the apartment.”
I forced back another smile. “Such a huge threat coming from someone so tiny.”
“She gave me the death glare, and I stared back innocently. “I’m not kidding.”
“That’s what makes it funny.”
“Ugh!” she groaned angrily. “You are so irritating when you want to be.”
“Am I?” I questioned. “For you, I presumed that was all the time.”
“You have your moments,” she muttered. “Now leave me alone—I’m trying to concentrate on not dying.”
I stifled my laughter the best I could, mechanically flinching when Alex slapped my shoulder in frustration, which infused my entertainment. I’d never thought one persons petty annoyance could be so amusing before Alex.
The coach stormed into the room and blew his whistle, making the entire class jump. “Get up!” he yelled. “Do your laps and get ready for kickball.”
“Let’s see how fast you are,” I grinned. “Come on!”
Alex ran after me around the gym, shockingly swift for someone her size; on the contrary, she ended up passing me and tossing her hair in my face. “Eat it, Moss!” she cracked playfully, and zipped ahead. I shook with laughter and sprinted after her.
Whenever we stopped, both of us had beads of sweat rolling down our foreheads. I supported myself on my knees while she leaned against the wall, both of us panting and out of breath.
“Too bad you have to see me like this,” she gasped in between words. “All dirty and worn out like I am.”
I shook my head. “So am I, don’t sweat it.” I had to smile at my own pun.
“Why would I worry?” she questioned. “I look way better than you in this situation.”
So, the good humor in Alex was finally staring to blossom more. “You’re funny, I’ll give you that,” I credited. “But, I believe you’re highly mistaken. Come on, we both know who has the charm and good looks here.”
“You little—“ Alex dove at me and swung at the back of my head, but I slid out of the way, chuckling.
“Why so serious?” I asked her, stepping away from another hit. “You should work on that temper of yours.”
She let out a short yell, either hugely frustrated or playfully amused, and stomped her foot. “Shut up, Blake!” When I saw her mouth twitch again, I knew it was a fought-back smile.
I simply grinned at her and walked to where the coach was gathering us, and she followed.
After the coach divided us into two teams, Alex on the opposite side, I observed her carefully each time the ball was kicked. Most of the time she jumped clear out of the way, making flimsy swipes at the ball and poor attempts at participation, her eyes constantly darting in my direction. In one moment, she saw the ball hurtling at her, but this time flung her arms in the air—the balls smacked the top of her head and rolled out of bounds, and Alex blinked and jerked her head in stunning embarrassment. The first time she went up to kick, she missed the ball completely on the first try, but managed to move it a few feet the next. Running wildly, she was tagged before she reached second base, but she didn’t look disappointed.
Once the ball flew right between her open arms for the third time, looking like a fumbling fish out of water throughout the whole game, I couldn’t meet her eye—my ribs were about to crack under all the shakes of laughing so hard.
PE eventually ended, and Alex dressed quickly and came by my side. “That. Was. Torture.”
I shrugged. “I enjoyed the show,” I disagreed. “I can’t wait for tomorrow.”
Alex trudged by my side and nearly giggled. “You’re such a jerk,” she complained lightly. “Why do I keep you around?”
I smiled at her, removing all traces of humor. “What could you do if I wasn’t?”