From Opposite Sides

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Chapter 49

Half term week is supposed to be a time to rest from the basic pleasures of being a college student. However, my week has been the busiest yet and I have had no time to do anything aside from work on the final touches for the house and arrange to have regular contact with Michael.

I still haven’t called him dad yet and I don’t know if those words will ever leave my mouth. But every time I see him, I learn something new. Secretly, I’m enjoying trying to figure him out because I know that part of him exists in me.

That doesn’t mean I’m taking it easy on him. He mostly does the talking and I sit there absorbing the information, unable to get involved as much as I would like to. I’m holding myself back, in case he decides to give up on me for good. I’m always worried that he won’t stick around.

I blocked Rory’s number from my phone. Maybe it was a drastic decision. There are two sides to every story, but I don’t want to hear what he has to say.

I take baby steps into the college classroom and my eyes instantly go in search for Grayson. His chair is empty.

That’s odd. He is always the first to be sat in class. I wonder if he’s told anyone else that we’re… that I’m his…

“Ow!” someone cries into my left ear.

I look down at Shelly Matthews, whose face is shrivelled up so tightly I do wonder whether she’s constipated. Or maybe she’s just angry that I barged straight into her.

“Sorry Shelly, I didn’t see you there,” I say, not wanting to push anyone’s buttons this morning.

She scoffs, not believing a word I’m saying. “Well, maybe you should get your eyes checked.”

“I’ve got perfect vision actually,” I correct her, “Maybe you should be more aware of the people around you.”

I can tell that Shelly doesn’t like me and I can’t say that I like her much either. At least Grayson was honest. I always knew where I stood with him. Shelly is fake and the sooner everyone knows that the better. I can see straight through her façade and unfortunately the rest of the girls are clueless to it.

Sheryl is suddenly bouncing over to us, breaking some of the tension. “Hey girlies! What are we chatting about?”

I’m relieved that she’s here. Now I can retreat to my table in peace. But before I go, I’m quick to say, “We were just discussing Shelly’s bowel issues.”

I can practically feel Shelly’s eyes glaring into mine but I ignore her. Then I place a hand on her shoulder. She flinches. “And don’t worry Shelly, I’m sure with the right treatment the burning sensation will die down eventually.”

Her whole face drops and I giggle to myself as I sit at the table. Maybe that was a bit harsh. She totally deserved it though.

Throughout the lesson, I’m constantly checking over my shoulder to see if Grayson has turned up. It’s bugging me that he hasn’t. Even at lunch, I can’t stop thinking about him.

Things might be different now, but they don’t have to be. We can carry on as normal if that’s what he wants. I am secretly hoping that one day we will be able to acknowledge each other for what we are – family.

“Where do you think Grayson is?”

At the mention of his name, I’m drawn into the conversation at the lunch table. I’m sure Shelly’s question was aimed at the girls and not at me.

“It’s not like him to miss a day of college, especially on the first day back.”

Sheryl stops eating her pasta to provide a response. “Yeah… it is kind of strange. Do you think he’s alright?”

Shelly shrugs. “Maybe he’s argued with Sophie again. You know what they’re like. They bicker all the time.”

If only they knew the truth about us. The girls wouldn’t be able to handle it. And I wouldn’t want all the attention. This is my private life we’re talking about. It’s called ‘private’ for a reason.

“But they’ve argued before and he’s never had a day off,” Sheryl argues, lowering her voice for this next part. “Speaking of Grayson, I actually had this weird message off Eddie during half term. Apparently, Grayson went AWOL for a few hours and nobody could find him.”

There are a few gasps from around the table. My head sinks to the floor. I know exactly what was running through his mind when he disappeared.

“That doesn’t sound good,” Josie half whispers. “What do you think happened?”

Sheryl brings a piece of pasta to her mouth and holds it mid-air. “God knows. But I definitely think something fishy is going on.”

Josie speaks up quietly. “I heard Levi mention something the other day about that.”

The girls are leaning in now, eager to hear what information she has to share. I roll my eyes at their inability to keep their nose out of other people’s business.

“He’s going through a bit of a bad time according to… inside sources.”

Inside sources? What is this? The daily mail?

“Levi said that he thinks Grayson’s parents are splitting up.”

More gasps. “What a stupid rumour,” Shelly says, repulsed at such an idea. “I happen to know that Mr. and Mrs. Swain are perfectly fine. They are the strongest couple I know.”

You might want to take a rain check on that one Shelly.

“Besides, if the rumour was true… which it’s not by the way, what on earth could have caused them to split up so suddenly?”

The girls trade glances, unable to come up with an answer. Guilt eats away at me, as I tear up a used napkin that’s been left on the table.

Yuck. That’s kind of gross. I’d better leave it there.

I look forward briefly and catch Shelly staring at me with a wave of creeping suspicion. Oh crap. Have I made it obvious that I’m guilty about something?

“Maybe we should be asking Skye about this. She’s been spending a lot of time with Grayson lately,” Shelly says, diverting the attention back to me.

I feel the breath catch in my throat. I send Shelly an unappreciated look, which she only uses to her advantage.

“I wouldn’t know,” I tell her directly. “And why are you all so concerned about where Grayson is anyway? The guy has one day off and you’re acting like it’s the end of the world. Calm down already. He’s probably just sick. You’re making a big deal out of nothing.”

I register their shocked faces and glance at the floor awkwardly. I couldn’t sound any guiltier if I tried.

I can’t continue to sit here and hear them talk about him. I’m tired of hearing about it.

Harper clutches onto my arm as I stand up. “Skye, where are you going?”

“I’ve lost my appetite.”

I take my tray and dump the contents into the closest bin, before heading into the library and spending the rest of my lunch hour alone.

|||

It’s been a full week without Grayson. He doesn’t turn up for a single lesson and that’s when I know that something is seriously wrong. Call it a feeling… I just get the sense that he’s not coming back to college.

I scope the canteen for one person in particular. I find her sitting near the front windows, surrounded by a large group of girls. They all glance up at the person intruding their conversation and Sophie’s smile fades when she sees that I’m responsible for the disruption.

“What the hell do you want?” She snaps.

“Can we talk please? It’s kind of urgent.” She laughs bitterly, but doesn’t say no as I lead us to a quieter part of the lunch hall. “Have you seen Grayson recently?”

Sophie’s eyes lift towards the ceiling, like she’s enjoying keeping me in suspense. “No,” she delivers eventually. “I haven’t seen him since he decided to break things off with me.”

“What?”

“We’re not together anymore.”

My eyebrows rise in question. “You’re not?”

I mean, I’ll be honest, I didn’t see the relationship lasting very long to begin with. Sophie was always very protective of what she claimed was hers and Grayson didn’t seem to like that about her. The end result was inevitable.

“Yeah. Why are you so surprised? I thought you would have been the first to hear about it, since you’re so close and all.”

I shake my head at her. “It was never like that between us Sophie. We’ve always just been friends.”

She snorts. “Don’t pretend you didn’t want this to happen. You’ve had your sights set on Grayson the moment you were paired up for the project.”

She’s got this so wrong. “No, I haven’t. I’ve never seen Grayson in that way.”

“How could you not like him? He’s good looking. Most girls want him. He’s perfect.”

Grayson is far from perfect. Sophie is only interested in how he appears. She hasn’t gotten to know him like I have. She doesn’t know why he loves to write. She probably couldn’t list all of his fears, wants or needs because all she bases her facts on is what’s front of her.

“There is more to a person than their outside appearance Sophie.” She grows quiet. “Just know that your break up had nothing to do with me. I can tell you that right now.”

“I never suspected that it did Skye. I mean, why on earth would he choose to downgrade? That wouldn’t make any sense.”

I’m going to let that comment slide for now, since she’s clearly in the early break up stages and I’m in the firing line.

“Look, do you know why he’s not in college?”

Please be useful for a change Sophie.

She taps her chin. “We haven’t talked since our argument.”

Great, that’s helpful. Not.

“But, he did say that he’s leaving town for a while – said he needed to sort through some stuff, whatever that means.”

“Has he already left?”

She rolls her eyes again. “I don’t know! I’m not a mind reader.”

My feet are already moving to the exit sign.

“Hey! Where are you going?” Sophie calls after me.

I don’t bother replying. I am only set on getting Grayson to change his mind before he makes a big mistake. I just hope that I’m not too late.

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