Since Sheryl is the only person sitting at the lunch table, I decide to tell her all about my growing friendship with Rory.
“I thought you guys hated each other,” she says, once I’ve finished explaining.
“We did... but he seems different now. I don’t understand it myself.”
“Do you think he likes you?”
I start laughing. “No! Are you kidding me? He sees me as a friend. Or maybe he just feels sorry for me.”
She rolls her eyes. “Here’s a thought. Maybe he used to tease you in High School because he secretly had a crush on you.”
Rory Keaton is not interested in me. I know that for a fact. I’ve seen the kind of girls he dates and I don’t resemble any of them.
“That’s definitely not true,” I tell her, confidently.
“How can you be so sure? Don’t you think it’s a bit odd that he’s turning over a new leaf all of a sudden?”
I clasp my hands together. “Well, there’s been a shift ever since I kissed him.”
Sheryl’s eyes light up. “Hang on. You kissed him?” she raises her voice. “When did this happen?”
“I was drunk and he was just there. We didn’t go any further than that though, thank God. At first, I was mortified, because I thought he’d give me a hard time about it. He did at first but then he stopped. The whole thing is weird.”
Sheryl taps her chin, deep in thought. “I reckon he fancies the pants off you and when you kissed him, he finally realised how much he wants you.”
“I’m not so sure about that.”
“Trust me Skye. He’s probably had a thing for you for a while, but he’s been too scared to do anything about it in case you rejected him or something. When you made the first move, he was finally brave enough to do the same.”
When she puts it like that, it does sound as if he likes me. But what if she’s wrong? What if he only sees me as a friend? And what if I’m trusting him too easily?
The Rory Keaton I know is not serious about anything. He’s always cracking jokes and trying to be the life of the party.
“Maybe he’s just looking to sleep with me,” I joke.
I wouldn’t put it past him to try this. Rory has had his fair share of girls, even Freddie was quick to admit that. Why would he invest so much time in trying to get to know me of all people if he didn’t have some kind of agenda?
I’m nothing special and I won’t be classed as another one of his conquests, no matter how hard he tries to win me over. It won’t work.
“I reckon guys like Rory enjoy the chase,” I continue. “Then, once they’ve got what they wanted they lose interest and decide to trade for someone better.”
“But maybe Rory does genuinely want to get to know you. Would it really be the end of the world if he did?”
Sheryl has no idea what I have to deal with on a daily basis. If she knew, she would understand why opening up and letting my guard down is not easy for me.
Just because Rory has seen me in a vulnerable state, that doesn’t mean I’m prepared to sell him my sob stories now that we’ve established I can cry in front of him and that he’s a good listener.
My eyes do an automatic roll when Grayson Swain approaches the table with Eddie and his Lakeside crew.
“Ugh and just like that, my week has gone from bad to worse,” I mumble, causing Sheryl to look up and turn on a glare of her own.
When Grayson is near the table, we exchange unfriendly looks between us. “Did you get your results back from Ricky yet?” he asks, distastefully.
I haven’t looked at mine yet. I’ve tucked them away in my bag and won’t be opening them until I get home.
“I’ll look at my results in my own time.”
“Do you think you might have failed? Is that why you haven’t looked at yours yet?” The words become a jumbled mess in my head and my mouth stays closed.
“Don’t be embarrassed Skye, we’ve all been where you are...” he taps his chin and then laughs, “Nah, I’m kidding. I’ve never had a bad mark in all my years of studying. I can’t relate, but I’m sure your friend Sheryl can.”
Sheryl is a ball of tension next to me. “You are so full of—”
I interrupt before she can continue. “Got the sympathy vote again did you Grayson?”
“It has nothing to do with sympathy. I’ve got the brains and the looks. What can I say? I’m just lucky.”
I wring my hands together and pretend I’m crushing his head. “What you don’t happen to have is a personality. Maybe you should try working on that,” I add.
I can hear Sheryl giggling from my left side and I keep my mouth firm, trying to stare him down the best I can.
Grayson stares at me momentarily, mouth open slightly. “Whatever.” He turns to the other Lakesiders and says, “Let’s go guys. Skye clearly hasn’t taken her happy pills today. Who knows what she’ll try to do next? Murder us probably.”
The boys head off, laughing and nudging each other. I sit there with nostrils flaring, ready to attack.
Then I turn to Sheryl, who looks scared to be in my presence. “Please tell me they’ll be going back to Lakeside soon? I don’t know how much more I can take of this.”
“Hang in there soldier,” she reassures, patting my hand. “They’ll be gone before you know it.”
“What’s wrong with you?” Grayson asks, as I join him in the library.
We’re sitting in a quiet corner to ourselves and I have barely spoken a word. I haven’t had any sleep and my eyes are struggling to stay open.
“Nothing,” I snap at him, rubbing my temples.
I haven’t seen my mother for three days straight and I’ve been purposefully avoiding a run in with her around the house. I don’t want to have to deal with any confrontation. I made sure to leave the house early this morning so I wouldn’t risk bumping into her.
“Doesn’t seem like nothing.”
Being sleep deprived is not helping my situation and neither is his need to question me. “I don’t want to talk about it,” I hiss, grabbing my notes.
Grayson sighs and flicks through his book in agitation. “Fine. I wasn’t offering to be your personal counsellor for the day anyway.”
“I wasn’t asking!”
“Good, because I don’t think I could listen to you complain any more than you already do. It would bore me to death.”
My eyes immediately settle on him. “I guess you’ve been spared then because you’re not the type of person I would ever want to have a decent conversation with. Nothing you say interests me, so it would be dry and bland – painful even.”
It’s taking all my will power to stay sitting here. But I’ve got to think of my future and what this could mean if I pass the project. I can’t focus on Grayson and how he could potentially sabotage my chances of success if I continue to let him get to me.
“What’s the earliest memory you have?” Grayson’s eyes meet mine above the question sheet and my heart rate returns to normal again.
“Ask me something else.”
He groans. “You can’t keep avoiding each question Skye. We’re going to have to answer them at some point.”
The idea of telling Grayson about my childhood is a nauseating thought. “Ask me about my favourite... TV show instead.”
Grayson answers my response with a bored facial expression. “Wow, that’s really going to boost our marks isn’t it?” He has a point. “We’re going to have to get personal Skye. I’m willing to do that if you are.”
It’s okay for him to say this, but I’m the one that’s from a more disadvantaged background. He has a bigger reason to judge me and where I come from. I also have my mother to worry about. If he met her or knew about our situation, he would probably go telling everyone and I can’t take that risk.
“Skye, we’re wasting time here. Eddie and Harper have already broken boundaries. They’ve gone to each other’s houses and everything.”
I can’t even imagine Grayson coming to my house. He would get a glimpse into my home life. That’s way too personal.
“That won’t be happening... with us,” I let him know. “We’re fine as we are – firing questions like this.”
“Yeah, but you won’t answer half of them, so how are we meant to get to know each other intimately?”
“You’ve got some basic information, haven’t you? If you’re as good a writer as you say you are, you should be able to scrap something out of what we already have.”
Grayson runs a hand through his hair, sighing. “It’s not enough Skye and you know it.”
If I was doing this with anyone else, it would be possible. But Grayson isn’t my friend, he’s not even an acquaintance.
He rests his hands on the table. “The question is Skye, are you prepared to fail? Because I’m not.”
“I can’t—” The words are trapped in my throat. “I don’t—” I’m getting emotional. Why the heck do I feel like crying?
Grayson grows quiet. We sit in silence and I can tell he doesn’t know how to react. He’s not making his usual remarks, which isn’t like him. Maybe he does have the decency to know when someone has had enough and needs a quiet moment to themselves.
“What’s your favourite TV show?” he blurts out, trying to lighten the mood.
We both stare at each other, equally confused. And then, from nowhere, I find myself laughing and Grayson joins in. We laugh until the librarian tells us it’s time to leave.