I sometimes think my bike is taunting me. I was on my way to college this morning when the chains came loose. I nearly knocked a woman over in the process.
I apologized countless times, but I don’t think she was ready to forgive me. It’s time I invested in a new bike because this one is falling apart.
I bend down to observe the damage and stick my hands into the rusty machinery, putting the chains back in place. I realize that I’m blocking the public path and shuffle myself and the bike closer to the edge of the pavement.
A loud laugh sounds from the carpark and I hear a car door shutting. I don’t need to turn around to know who’s laughing. I continue to adjust the chains and ignore Grayson as he comes to stand in front of me. His timing is the worst.
“The mystery has finally been solved,” he says, swinging his car keys around, trying to act cooler than he actually is.
“Go away Grayson,” I snarl under my breath.
“Is that any way to greet your partner?”
I squint at him. “Right now, you’re nothing but a local pedestrian that’s in the way.”
His smirk widens. “I’ve always wondered why you make a habit of always turning up late to class. This explains why.” He’s making fun of me and I don’t appreciate it. “Do you seriously ride that rusty old thing to college every day?”
I itch my forehead. “Yes. And the correct term is bicycle by the way. I thought you were good at English, grammar boy.”
He pulls a face. “There’ll be nothing left of that soon. Looks like you bought it from the scrapyard.”
I finally look at him. “You’re suddenly an expert in bike terminology now, are you?”
“I can spot a cry for help when I see one. And this poor bike has endured enough sweat and tears. It’s coming to its final days.”
I jump up when my bike is fully functioning again. I don’t know how long that’ll last, but hopefully I’ll be able to get home in one piece later.
Grayson throws me his most dazzling smile and my eyes roll. Then he registers my greasy hands. I stuff them into my pockets.
He starts walking towards the college building, but stops, as if he’s forgotten something. “You might want to pay a visit to the lady’s room by the way. You have grease all over your face.”
My hands automatically cup my cheeks. “I do?”
He laughs. “Hah! No! I can’t believe you fell for that! But now you definitely need to go to the toilets. Go and wash your face... it’s looking a bit shiny.”
I imagine running Grayson over with my bike. That would surely wipe the smirk off his annoying face.
Grayson sniggers when I walk to my seat and I do my best to pretend he’s not there. I had to scrub the grease off my skin several times in the bathroom and it’s his fault it happened. I stink of rusted metal.
“So, since you’ve all got a lot of work to do, I’ve decided to let you use this lesson time to focus on the group project,” Ricky is saying, making me head butt the table.
Great. I’m never going to catch a break. Ricky is really starting to push my buttons with his unexpected lesson plans.
The class starts moving around, joining their partners. I have to practically force myself to look at Grayson. He’s staring out the window, tapping his pen against the desk.
“It’s bad enough having to spend time with you out of college hours. But this is pure torture,” he mumbles to himself.
“Well, I’m not exactly thrilled about it either!” I shout, angrily.
“You have a bad temper Skye,” he declares, pointing the pen at me. “Let’s talk about that. Do you have anger issues?”
“Only as far as you’re concerned. I have a serious problem... with you.”
“Okay, so when did this unhealthy obsession start?”
I snort at him. “Get off your high horse Grayson.”
His eyes are playful. “Don’t be shy. It’s natural to think about me every so often. Lots of girls do. I’m irresistible.”
“More like infuriating,” I correct.
“Ooh, that’s a big word. Did you learn that all by yourself?”
“You’re so full of crap,” I exclaim, with a hint of irritation. “I haven’t found a single good quality in you yet and that’s alarming.”
“At least I can admit that I’ve got flaws. You can’t even acknowledge the fact that you’re no different from me.”
Grayson tilts his head and slumps down in his chair, looking agitated. “We have absolutely nothing in common, Skye.”
“Good. I’m glad!”
We don’t say anything for a few moments. Both of us just glare at each other from across the table, nostrils flaring.
Out of all the people in this class, why did Ricky have to pair me with Grayson? What was he thinking? We’re halfway into the first week and we’ve done nothing but argue. It’s making me slightly nervous.
I point my chin up to the ceiling and cross my arms. To make matters worse, Ricky approaches our table. “How are you two getting along?”
“We’re not,” I respond. “I can’t even talk to him right now.”
“Me neither. She’s being a right drama queen,” Grayson adds.
I bring our faces closer together. “Referring to yourself again are you Grayson?”
He scowls and Ricky places a hand on the table, interrupting us before the real fight begins. “Can I see your notes please?” We present him with our findings so far and he glances at the single page, perplexed. “This is all you have?”
“Uh, we’ve mostly been getting to know each other on a no-note-taking basis,” Grayson speaks, feeding Ricky a load of BS so we don’t get into trouble. “Also, Skye didn’t want to take notes. I kept telling her that we should, but she wouldn’t listen.”
I feign shock. “You’re talking trash! I never said that! Don’t put words in my mouth!”
“Here she goes again, playing innocent. Don’t let her fool you sir,” he says with a grin, glancing at me furtively.
Ricky shakes his head, not a trace of patience left. “This is not good enough. You don’t have time to mess about or call each other names at this point. You’ve both got to start shaping up, otherwise neither of you will be passing this course and I would hate to see that happen. I really would.”
I exchange worried glances with Grayson and I know he’s thinking the exact same thing as I am - we’re screwed.
A few hours later, I’m on my way out of class when I spot Rory further down the corridor. I notice he’s talking to a girl I don’t recognise. She continues to giggle, as he leans to whisper something in her ear.
What happened to all that, ‘I’m trying to be better’ crap? Was that all just a lie to get me to believe that he’s a decent person now? Or am I just falling into another one of his traps?
I heard the rumours back when we were still in school. He was the male version of me, except Rory was applauded for sleeping around. I was named and shamed.
I hold my head up high and quickly walk past him, hoping he doesn’t see me. Unfortunately, I hear him call my name after a few seconds.
I turn my head to find Rory running towards me. I hurry down the stairs, clutching my backpack firmly in my grip. After spending so many hours with Grayson, I am not equipped or prepared to produce small talk right now.
We barely got any work done today and that’s frustrating. We clash. It doesn’t work. And we’re probably going to fail because we don’t communicate effectively. Half the time I want to punch him.
“Are you heading home?” Rory asks, brightly.
I keep my eyes trained ahead. “Yup,” I say.
“Do you need help carrying those?” He points to my college file and loose papers.
It’s going to take time getting used to this new version of Rory. I’m not sure I’m ever going to warm to it.
“I’m fine. I don’t need your help.”
I try to put some distance between us, but he’s next to me once again. My legs slow down when we reach the bottom of the staircase and I turn to him sharply.
“What do you want?”
He makes a face, like he doesn’t quite get where I’m coming from. “Skye, I saw you coming out of the classroom and I just wanted to say hi. That’s all.”
I search his eyes for any signs that he might be lying. I find nothing.
My phone vibrates in my back pocket and I glance at the screen, fleetingly.
Mum - I’m going out with Ted after work tonight. Dinner’s been left on the stove for you. I won’t be back until late x
I don’t want to go home. I was thankful when mum split up with Rob. Even though it did make her upset afterwards, we were finally moving on. I didn’t have to worry about bumping into him anymore or forcing conversation for my mother’s sake.
Now, it sounds like she’s latched herself onto somebody else and the same thing is going to happen again. I can’t be around for that.
I trade glances with Rory. “What are you doing right now?”
Rory stares at me like he can’t quite figure me out. One minute I’m accusing him and questioning his motives and the next, I’m asking whether or not he’s free to hangout.
“I’m going home.”
“Can I join you?”
He hesitates. “Uh, I – I don’t know if that’s such a good idea.”
Does he think I’m going to try and jump his bones? What does he take me for? I wouldn’t be that stupid.
“I’m not trying to sleep with you Rory,” I snap.
“That’s not what I was thinking at all.”
Oh. Right. He’s probably already made plans with that blond girl I just saw him flirting with. Or maybe he just genuinely doesn’t want me to go to his house.
“I get it. You’re busy. Forget I asked.”
I start walking away, but a tugging on my arm forces me to stop.
“It’s not that Skye. I just...” he’s wearing a pained expression, but it’s quickly replaced with a smile. “I don’t have plans. Let’s go.”