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Chapter 7

Henry shifted nervously in is seat, waiting anxiously for Shyla to arrive in science. It was Monday morning, and he was unsure of what he would tell his science partner and desk companion. Shaun, he could hear, was giving a vivid, but slightly untrue, recollection of Saturday night’s incident. “I swear,” said Shaun to his desk partner, Justin Gale. “They were like machines. Ginger Ninja has got to be the hottest ninja I have ever seen. She attacked me, but I fought her off. Then the other guy, damn, was he scary, grabbed her and ran off. Ginger Ninja could kick your ass any day of the week. It was insane.”

Henry wondered idly how Shaun knew her ninja name, but shook his head and glanced impatiently towards the door. Shyla walked into the room at that moment, and Henry looked down, a nervous expression on his face.

Shyla read the expression on Henry’s face in an instant, frowning. Henry was never nervous around her. They had been friends too long to be nervous around each other. She plonked herself down in her seat next to him, shook out her loose hair and leant back in her chair. “Hey,” she whispered, leaning in with easy familiarity.

“Hi,” mumbled Henry, not looking at her.

“Why so nervous?” asked Shyla softly. There was no point in subtlety with Henry. Not that he didn’t understand it, but he found it unnecessary and pointless.

“Listen,” said Henry, turning to her suddenly. “Can I talk to you? After school?”

“Of course,” replied Shyla. Apparently he wouldn’t be subtle either. “What about?”

“I’ll explain later, I promise.” Said Henry, his shoulders relaxing.

Shyla smiled up at him, and Henry felt his heart speed up. It had been the same reaction for the last two years. The lesson passed too quickly for his liking, and soon the bell rang. “See you outside, after school.” Said Shyla as she stood up.

Henry nodded, and, attempting to mentally prepare himself for what he was about to do, he stood up and left the room.

Shyla stood outside the school, waiting for Henry to join her outside the school gates. Other students from her school streamed past her, ignoring the tiny figure in a dark grey shirt and jeans standing near the gates. Shyla had never wanted to fit in, and so had little issue with not being accepted. She always wondered about Henry, because he was good looking enough to have slotted straight into the popular clique of high school students. However, he seemed pretty content to be shunned along with her. It surprised many people, but neither of them cared too much.

The subject of her thoughts suddenly appeared next to her, and Shyla turned and began walking along the pavement towards her house. As soon as they were out of the crush of people, Henry started speaking. “Um, I don’t quite know how to say this,” he began nervously. “But here goes. Shyla, listen, I-I-I…”

“Are you stuttering?” asked Shyla in disbelief, cutting him off. This was a far more serious issue than she had initially realised. “Henry, you know you can say absolutely anything to me, right?”

“I-I don’t know how you’re going to react to this,” Henry mumbled, looking down. “But here goes, again.” He glanced down at her in irritation at her cutting him off, and she raised an eyebrow in response. “Shyla…” he faltered over his words. “Shyla...”

“For goodness sake, Henry,” said Shyla, shocked. “Spit it out.” It had never been this hard for him to talk to her.

Henry took a deep breath, and looked up at the clear sky. They had just reached Shyla’s house, and Henry felt it was now or never. “Shyla, I love you.” He blurted out, instantly freezing her to the spot.

Shyla looked up at him in shocked amazement, an expression of surprise on her face. She didn’t say anything in response. Henry looked away, blushing a deep red. He thought he had blown his friendship forever. He turned to go. “Forget I said anything,” he mumbled, beginning to walk away.

“Henry,” said Shyla, stopping him in his tracks. “Come inside. I’ll give you some cola, and we can relax for a bit. Talk this over.”

Henry looked at her, his blush fading. “You sure?” he asked, confused. What would they possibly need to discuss about this?

Shyla nodded, turned, and with Henry following closely behind, walked up to her front door.

Henry sat on the sofa in Shyla’s living room staring at his glass of cola, bewildered. Shyla sat on the other side of the coffee table on a pale blue armchair, holding her own glass in her hand. “Henry,” she said softly, putting her glass down. “You haven’t said anything since we’ve been inside.”

“I just,” mumbled Henry into his glass. He made fleeting eye contact with her. “Didn’t expect you to be so… so…”

“Accepting?” asked Shyla. She stood up, walked across the room and sat next to him, placing her hand on his knee. “Henry,” she began. “Please don’t beat yourself up over this. It had to come out eventually.”

“Why not?” he demanded, suddenly looking up at her. “Why shouldn’t I beat myself up? I’ve wrecked the whole…”

“What if?” She whispered, cutting off his words with her quiet ones. “What if I felt the same way?”

Henry couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Did Shyla just tell him she felt the same way? “You, you do?” he stammered in disbelief.

Shyla nodded, not looking up. Henry smiled and placed his hand on top of hers. “Don’t worry. We will figure this out.”

Shyla gave him a sceptical look. “So says the person who was stammering over his words not half an hour ago.”

Henry grinned. Shyla sat back on the couch, and smiled at him. Soon, conversation was back to normal between the two friends.

Henry glanced at his watch what seemed like a few minutes later to find that it was almost six o’clock in the evening. “Shyla,” he said, standing up. “I need to go. My uncle is going to kill me.”

Shyla stood with him. “See you tomorrow?” she asked with a smile.

Henry looked down at her. “Don’t worry. We will figure this out.”

Shyla sighed. “I have confidence that we can work it out. I know you do.”

Henry nodded in agreement, and he wrapped his arms around her waist. “Bye,” she whispered against his chest.

Henry let her go and stepped back. “Bye,” he replied.

He turned and walked out of the room, through the front door and into the dim twilight. Shyla watched him leave, and felt a pang of remorse. Dark Ninja had scrambled her head properly. Shyla could forget about him when she was with Henry, but worried just how much they could save if Henry ever found out.

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