Grayson pulls up outside my house and Mr. Swain pats me on the shoulder. “We had a lot of fun tonight Skye.”
“Yeah, me too. Thanks again for having me,” I say, stepping out of the car.
“Our pleasure. You can join us any time.”
Grayson walks me to the door, smiling. “It’s weird.”
“What’s weird?” I ask quickly.
“I actually had a really good time tonight. I even forgot about the project. Did you manage to write anything down while we were there?”
“Kind of… but that was before I got pulled into your competitive dart tournaments.”
Grayson scratches his head. “Yeah, I forgot to mention that I hate losing.”
“I already figured that out way before tonight, so don’t worry.”
He thinks for a moment and then reaches into his back pocket. “Oh! Your present. I almost forgot.”
He hands it to me again, only this time there is no wrapping paper.
I open the lid and gasp. It’s a necklace in the shape of a seashell. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
“Grayson! What the heck? This is too much!”
With Rory buying me a bike and Grayson investing in a very expensive looking necklace, I have been well and truly spoiled.
“I could see how much you liked those Belgian chocolate seashells and I thought it made sense to buy you a necklace in the shape of one… even though it’s not edible and I’m pretty sure if you tried to eat it you would choke and probably die.”
I take a deep breath. “That’s good to know. I’ll be sure not to go through with something as stupid as that. I would like to see my teenage years through till the very end.”
Grayson gives me a sheepish smile. “Yeah… well, you’ve gotten this far, it would be a shame if you flunked out on me now.”
We both break into giggles. I find it funny how we couldn’t even stand to be around each other a few weeks ago and now look at us. We’re not attacking each other.
Grayson is still Grayson, but a slightly nicer version. I don’t know if that’s because we’ve gotten closer by spending so much time together or if Barnett college is really having an effect. Whatever the case, he’s a lot easier to be around and I’m not going to complain about that.
“Well, I should probably head inside.” I point to the box in my hand, beaming. “And thank you for the present. It means a lot coming from you.”
His cheeks are slightly flushed from the cool air. “No worries. Have a good sleep.”
I turn to him. “Have a good sleep? Seriously?”
He slaps his head. “Ugh, that was so lame.”
I chuckle and step inside, glancing back at him. “Goodnight Grayson.”
I’ve never been so excited to ride my new bike to college. My heart jumps with nerves as I take a step inside the building alone. It’s almost like I never left, especially when I walk into class and everybody acts normal. I’m glad they aren’t fussing over me.
“Skye! Oh my gosh, you’re back!”
My shoulders sag down, as Harper charges at me, throwing her arms around me.
So much for a quiet welcoming.
I pat her on the back and blow some of her hair out of my eyes. “We’ve missed you!” she says, damaging my eardrums. “We’ve had the whole church praying for you and your mother.”
“Thanks. She’s doing a lot better now.”
I sit in my chair and breathe out a sigh. I have missed Harper and the others, as much as they sometimes drive me mad.
Ricky stops gathering his notes at the front of the class to look at me. “Great to have you back Skye.”
“Thanks sir. It’s good to be back.”
He turns to the rest of the class and I sink down in my chair. At least the worst part is over.
“Just a reminder, the presentations will be held in this room from nine o’clock next Thursday.”
I still can’t believe the presentations are next week. “Also, if you haven’t already started writing your speeches by now, then I would be worried. You can’t just wing this and hope for the best.”
This is getting more and more intense. Ricky is right. This is our last chance to show what we are able to do as writers. I have got to get this right.
Grayson arrives late to class, which is the most surprising part of my morning. There’s a light tap on my shoulder. He’s leaning towards me. I check him over twice, because he doesn’t look like himself right now. He’s wearing designer glasses that make him look even more intelligent.
“Hey, what did I miss?” he whispers.
“Oh, just Ricky giving us a pep talk, as usual.”
“Nothing out of the ordinary then.” He flashes me a genuine smile. “I’m glad you’re here.”
“Me too.” And strangely, I mean it.
When I said that things had gone back to normal, I underestimated how much can change within the span of two weeks. I approach the lunch table with confidence, until I spot a new face sitting amongst our group. It’s Shelly Matthews.
Did I miss something, or is she really associating herself with the ‘Barnett college wannabes’ as she put it?
Sheryl is up on her feet when I get to the table. “Yey! We’re all back together again.”
I glance down at my toes. “Uh, yeah… I guess so.”
But why is Shelly Matthews invading our table? That’s what I want to know.
I try to say all of this to Sheryl, without moving my lips, but she’s already resumed her conversation with the girls.
I flick some hair over my shoulder and sit down. Josie and Shelly are acting like the best of friends. I don’t get it. They hated each other the last time I checked.
Harper is removing the foil from around her sandwiches and I’m quick to ask, “What’s up with Shelly?”
She looks at me briefly. “What do you mean?”
“Is she lost? She never usually sits with us.”
I’m not sure how I feel about this new seating arrangement. In fact, I’m not happy about it at all.
“Oh yeah, well, Josie and Shelly are friends now.”
More like, why?
“I’m not sure. I guess they found out they had a lot in common. This project has actually brought everyone closer together. I knew it would work out.” It’s messing with people’s heads, that’s what it’s doing. “It’s nice to see that you and Grayson are getting along better though.”
“He’s not as bad as I thought.”
“I didn’t suspect he was. She’s got that one right.
Speaking of Grayson, he quickly slides in next to me and I’m forced to scoot over.
First Shelly - now Grayson. Who’s next?
“Talking about me again are you Skye?” he teases, meeting my eyes.
“Pft, don’t flatter yourself Swain.”
He grins. “I know I’m good to look at, but I’m trying to eat here.”
My gaze turns icy. “Oh, shush you,” I scold, batting his arm lightly.
“What are you doing after the presentations tomorrow?” he asks, before taking a large bite out of his cheeseburger.
A flicker of surprise passes my face. “Uh, I’m not sure yet. Why?”
“We deserve to celebrate after working so hard. How would you feel about coming over to my house for dinner? You can bring your mum along if you want.”
I’m not so sure about this plan of his.
He shoots up a hand. “Before you go saying anything about it being awkward, it won’t be,” he says, reading my thoughts.
“How did you know I was going to say that?”
“Your face is easy to read.”
Great. “I’m just not sure that it’s the right place for my mum right now. She’ll probably say no if I ask her anyway.”
I don’t want Grayson’s mother judging her, like she judged me the first time we met. That’s the last thing she needs.
“Come on, it’ll be fun,” Grayson insists. “And my mother isn’t going to be there by the way.”
“No. She’s got a court case.” Well, that makes all the difference. “I promise it won’t get awkward either. I’ll read some of my poems out if it does.”
My eyebrows rise. That could work. “Really?”
“Yup. You have my word.”
If Grayson is willing to risk the embarrassment, then I’m more than happy to tag along. “Alright then, I’ll ask her, but I can’t guarantee anything.”
I stare into the crowded cafeteria and it takes my brain a few seconds to work out who’s watching me from across the room. Rory is sitting between two other boys and my throat contracts. His eyes travel to Grayson and then back towards me. I catch him throwing us a disapproving glance.
Even from a distance I can tell that something is bothering him, but before I can dwell anymore on it, he storms out of the cafeteria.