Elements: The Gifted

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Chapter 12: Talent Show

Alexander Torchwood. That was the only thing on my mind the next day as I went from class to class. I felt like one of those infatuated girls that couldn’t get her head out of the clouds – daydreaming about kissing, cuddling, and all that other romantic crud I never used to think about. Sure. I had celebrity crushes here and there like Christian Bale, Orlando Bloom, and Hugh Jackman, but it was nothing like this. When I thought about Alex, all I could think about was him and his perfect lips! And that scared me. What was it about boys and kissing? And why does it drive girls my age crazy? It’s just a mouth for crying out loud! I mean, what was so pleasurable about exchanging saliva? Then again, I’ve never been kissed so maybe I shouldn’t start making judgments on the matter just yet. But could I do it? Kiss Alex without his permission? Would that be considered mouth rape? All these questions were driving me nuts. Not to mention the never ending fantasies that came along with them.

As Jordan, Morgan, Scarlett, and I took our seats in our Communications class, my first impulse was to turn around and to see if Alex was here – but I refrained. I didn’t want to freak him out and besides, I was supposed to appear indifferent, find out if he likes me first. It was kind of cowardly of me, but I didn’t want to make a fool of myself in case he didn’t feel the same way. After all, I think I’ve suffered enough embarrassment in his presence.

It was then that Mrs. York materialized in the classroom, looking jolly and cheerful as ever! “Good evening class!”

“Good evening, Mrs. York.” They didn’t sound, nor look as excited as Mrs. York probably felt. Despite the fact that everybody hated this class, she still managed to remain oblivious to our less-then-enthusiastic expressions. She smiled kindly at us as she gazed from student-to-student. Then again, we could all be facing doomsday and that woman would probably still be smiling.

“Today class I want you to pull out a sheet of paper,” Everyone instantly started following orders. I pulled out a piece of paper from my binder and laid it on the desk, my pencil in hand. “And I want you to write what you’re talented at. Then, write your name and fold it. I will come to collect them. Elemental magic does not count!”

Well, that was completely unexpected. Why does she want us to write down our talent? A million, unpleasant thoughts came unbidden to my mind as I wrote my talent down in clear, eligible handwriting. When I was done, I folded it up as directed and then waited patiently for Mrs. York to collect it.

When Jordan was done and folding his paper, he looked at me quizzically. “So what’s your talent? Besides doing all five elements of course.”

“I’m not telling,” I replied playfully. His lips curved into one of my favorite Jordan smiles. “But I’m sure you’ll find out soon enough. No doubt, Mrs. York is going to have us write a paper on our talents and present it to the whole class.” I shuddered as I recalled our last assignment. We had to write a paper on whom we considered our hero’s and present it. Mine had been on my mom, but the whole time I stood up there, reading my paper – I couldn’t help but feel self-conscious the whole time.

Morgan groaned. “I hope we don’t have to do that. I hate getting up in front of people. It makes my insides hurt.”

“Then maybe you need to get that checked.” Scarlett said, a tantalizing smile appearing on her perfect lips. “Then you wouldn’t have that problem.”

Morgan looked at Jordan, an angry scowl on his face. “Sit on me; otherwise I’m going to kill her.”

“There will be no violence in my class, Mr. Grey.” Mrs. York sang as she picked up our papers with glee. Her happy smile was almost contagious. Almost. “Ms. Blackthorn, try to restrain yourself. I know picking on Mr. Grey can be somewhat enjoyable, but we must treat everyone as equals. That way we can all get along.”

Jordan and I chuckled.

“I don’t know what’s worse,” Scarlett said, as Mrs. York was out of hearing range. “The happy grin or the fact that she wants us all to get along.”

“And what does she mean it’s ‘somewhat enjoyable’ torturing me?” Morgan asked, in a low grumble. “I’ve never done a thing to you people!”

None of us answered him. We merely just stared at him before looking back to the front of the classroom.

“Why aren’t you guys answering me? I’m not that bad, am I?”

“Well, let me put it to you this way,” Scarlett said, turning to look back at him with playful smile. “You’re not exactly the warmest person to be around. You can be down-right depressing sometimes.”

“Am not.”

“Are too.”

“Am not.”

“Are too.”

“Will you two please shut up,” Jordan begged. “You’re giving me a headache.”

“Their giving everybody a headache,” Jennifer shouted from behind us. We turned around and saw half the class staring at us. I could feel my cheeks burning when I saw Alex looking my way. He seemed amused.

“Well, if Mr. Grey and Ms. Blackthorn are done, I would like to explain what we are doing next Tuesday.” Mrs. York said. “Now I know it’s a little soon, but you’ve all got the weekend and Monday to figure out how you’re going to take your talent to the stage.” Everyone in the classroom gaped at her words. Please tell me I misheard her. “That’s right class. We’re having a talent show! Now I know everybody is not going to get a chance Tuesday, so I’m thinking we’ll probably schedule it on Thursday as well, that way everybody will get a turn! Are there any questions?”

Morgan raised his hand. I was surprised to see him calm. “Yes, I have a few. Like why are you doing this to us? Are you really that cruel?”

Mrs. York laughed. “Oh, Mr. Grey, you amuse me. But to answer your questions: no. I don’t consider myself cruel at all. I know it’s scary, but believe me, you guys will have fun. In the end, it will all be worth it.”

“And what about those that don’t have talents? What are we supposed to do then?” The voice that spoke sent warm shivers down my spine. It’s a voice I would know from anywhere. I turned around with the rest of my classmates, staring at Alex as he regarded Mrs. York defiantly. “I mean, not everyone can dance and sing. I sure as hell can’t.”

“But Mr. Torchwood,” she said gently. “You wrote here that you can draw. Surely that is a talent.”

“Yeah, but not for a stupid talent show. I doubt people in the audience want to sit there and watch me draw. Even I would get bored. And the last thing I want is to have a tomato aimed at my head.”

“I assure you no one is going to have tomatoes’. And just to be clear class, it’s just going to be us observing one another. No other classes and different age groups are going to come in here and watch you perform. I promise.”

“Yeah,” Morgan mumbled. Only Jordan, Scarlett and I could hear what he was saying. “Because you are so trustworthy.”

“Well, that still doesn’t solve my problem.” Alex said, tersely.

“Like I said earlier, Mr. Torchwood. You have all weekend and Monday to figure it out.”

Alex frown deepened.

“Alrighty everyone – let’s get on with our lesson.”

Everyone just groaned.

When the bell rang and everyone was packing there things to get ready for their next class, I abandoned Jordan and the others and decided to talk to Alex about an idea I came up with while trying to block out Ms. York’s teaching. I don’t know if he’ll like it or not, but at least it’s worth a try. And also I was just dying to talk to him.

“Hey,” I said, as I watched Alex pack his things into a black bag. He looked up at me curiously. There was something else there in his eyes, but I couldn’t tell what it was. “I just wanted to tell you that I had an idea on what you can do for the talent show. But it will involve you’re art work.”

“I’m listening.”

“Well, I was thinking maybe you could show off a lot of your drawings. You know, instead of treating it like it’s a talent show, why don’t you act like you’re presenting your art work for show-and-tell.”

Alex eyed me skeptically as we made our way to the door. “I don’t know, Spencer. Nobody probably wants to look at my drawings, much less hear about them.”

“Well, I do. And I think it’s a good idea. Just grab a couple of your favorite drawings and tell the class what made you draw this. Explain to them why it’s so special to you. I mean, it’s better than getting a bad grade for this class and having to repeat it next year.”

“You have a point.” Alex grimaced.

“And I’m just dying to see some of your drawings. I’ll bet you’re really good.”

He ignored that last part. “What are you doing for your talent?” he asked. We were walking down the hall together and I could feel people’s eyes on us as we walked by them.

Just like with Jordan, I smiled at him. “You’ll see.”

He turned to smirk at me, his blue eyes full of humor. “Not even a hint?”

I just shook my head.

“Damn,” he said, looking forward again. “That’s going to keep me up at night.”

“Are you saying you’re going to stay up all night, wondering what my talent might be?” I laughed. “That’s sad.”

“Tell me about it. I have no life.”

“I could have told you that.” He nudged me playfully, causing me to knock into a group of third year girls. They all gave me dirty looks, but I ignored them. I giggled. “What was that for?”

He just shrugged. We both walked into our Algebra class, quite aware that half the class was staring at us. I spotted Scarlett in our usual spot. She seemed distracted by her nails as she examined them, her face scrunched up in concentration.

Alex looked in her direction. “That’s some friend you have there.”

“Yeah. She’s great. She and Morgan don’t always get along, but I like her. She can be a real sweetheart.”

He raised an eyebrow. “We are talking about the same Scarlett, right? The same Scarlett that shoots fire balls at people for fun!”

“Yes.” I answered.

“Well,” Alex said, trying and failing to hide his smile. “You guys have fun.” He started retreating to the back of the class, when by some impulse; I reached out and grabbed his wrist, causing him to come to a halt. Alex stared at me in puzzlement.

“You don’t want to sit with Scarlett and me.” I said, gesturing where we usually sat. She looked up then, I guess by the sound of her name being said. She smiled and waved.

Alex seemed uncertain. “I don’t know if that is such a good idea.”

“Why not?”

“I just don’t want to ruin…” he seemed to be struggling with what to say. He sighed. “You’re sweet. And I just don’t want to jeopardize the relationships that you have – especially with your friends.”

“W-why would hanging out with you jeopardize my relationship with my friends?”

Alex laughed without humor. “Princess,” he was trying to avoid my gaze. He also looked like he didn’t want to answer my question. I grabbed his face then, trying to make him look at me.

I repeated the question, my eyes never leaving his. “Why would hanging out with you jeopardize my relationship with my friends?” Though I already knew the answer, I wanted to hear him say it out loud. He looked apprehensive.

Finally Alex said, “Because I am my father’s son.” He said the words as if they were bitter in his mouth.

“That’s all?” He just nodded. I let go of his face and crossed my arms, my heart beating loudly in my chest. I wonder if he can hear it. “Alex, I don’t care who your father is. I mean, you must have guessed that by now.”

“Yeah, I know. That’s what makes it so…scary.”

I didn’t know what to say to that. I was completely befuddled. Why would that be scary? Shouldn’t he be more relieved? It was then that Mr. Sullen entered the classroom, demanding that Alex and I find our seats. Alex and I looked around simultaneously and noticed that everybody was in their seats. Some like Abigail and her group were eyeing us wryly and giggling amongst each other. I blushed at everybody’s inquiring gazes and bustled to my seat. Alex seemed phlegmatic, not seeming to care about the classes sardonic smiles and the innuendo’s thrown at him. I wouldn’t be surprised if our hanging out together was going to be next top news around the school. Yeah, that definitely makes things uncomplicated between Alexander and me.

“What am I going to do?” Jordan demanded during our training time. We peeked over at Mr. Grey, who was at his desk, grading last minute book work from his other classes. Occasionally he would look up to make sure we were still training and not goofing off. When he saw that were behaving ourselves, he gave us a delighted grin before getting back to his own work. Jordan and I shifted into some stretching exercises, both of us bending down to touch our toes. “I mean, it’s not like I can juggle bowling balls, or do a hip-hop routine. All I can do is write and I don’t even know if I can do that. Not to mention, it would seem kind of lame going up there and reciting one of my sappy, romantic poems on stage, which I wrote for Alicia by the way.”

“Yeah, you don’t want to scare her off with your bad writing skills.”

“Haha,” Jordan said. When we were done with our stretching routines, we sprawled out on the blue mat, waiting for Mr. Grey to get done so he could tell us what to do next. That and we were lazy. We really didn’t feel like beating each other up today. “I wonder if Mrs. York would mind if Morgan and I did something together.”

“I wouldn’t see why not,” I said. “I heard in Biology that Abigail and her little group are doing a dance number together.”
“Oh, boy.” He said. I giggled at his sarcasm.

We heard a loud clap and looked in Mr. Grey’s direction. We scrambled to our feet, our teasing and talk of talent shows forgotten.

“Sorry that took so long.” Mr. Grey said. “I’ve been a little behind these last couple of weeks. What with this whole issue on him and whatnot.”

Jordan and I exchanged uneasy glances at the mention of Azazel. “Have you heard anything back from the Board of Education?” Jordan asked wearily.

Mr. Ash stared at us, his face deadpan. I gulped. “No.” The word seemed ominous to me. “I’m afraid I got some bad news.”

Before he could deliver this “bad news,” Jordan said, “They’re not going to help us are they.” It wasn’t a question, more a like a fact. “They don’t believe our story and therefore aren’t going set up wards around the school.”

“What?” I was angry and little upset. A student, despite if it was Azazel or not, was feeling threatened and they weren’t going to do anything about it! “But that can’t be! Please, tell me that’s not true, Mr. Grey!”

I could tell he wanted to look away as he eyed me ruefully. “I’m sorry. They don’t want to believe that he is still out there, roaming the streets at night. The way the Board was talking, they feel they need to see more evidence on the issue.”

“Translation: They need to see Azazel for themselves instead of taking the word from an insolent little girl.” I put my face in my hands. “God, what am I going to do?”

I felt Jordan wrap a comforting arm around my shoulder, burying his face in my hair. In my mind I could hear him say, It’s going to be okay, Spence.

But it wasn’t. As much as I wanted to believe him I knew it wasn’t going to be okay. Azazel, or whoever was doing this, wasn’t going to stop until they had me killed.

I forgot about wards and Azazel as the weekend progressed. All weekend student’s (first years) from Mrs. York’s class prepared themselves for Tuesday and Thursday’s talent show. I had to admit I was a little excited. I never done a talent show before, but always secretly wanted to do one. I knew it was going to be scary, but I also knew I would have Jordan, Morgan, and Scarlett to cheer me on, and vice versa. I didn’t know what Jordan and Morgan’s ideas were for the talent show and didn’t ask. They seemed to be having a hard enough time figuring out what to do together as it was. I was just hoping they figured something out before Tuesday. As for Scarlett, her talent was going to be dancing. She wasn’t the only one. Everywhere I went, I noticed a lot of students practicing their dance moves. Most of them inappropriate, but I kept that thought to myself.

My talent still remained a secret. And it was going to stay that way until I got on the big stage to perform it. The thought of standing in front of my peers still had me breaking in hives, but as Mrs. York said, I’m pretty sure it will be worth it in the end.

I didn’t know how Alex was taking this whole talent show to heart. I’m sure he was still cursing Mrs. York whenever he thought about it. I’m also pretty sure he was just as much of a nervous wreck as I was. Probably worse off than I am, seeing as I was actually looking forward to it and he wasn’t. Regardless, I didn’t really talk to him. I figured he had this whole talent show to worry about and I didn’t want to give him a reason to snap at me, causing us both to start fighting. That will definitely get us nowhere.

When Tuesday finally arrived – it hit me! I was going to stand on stage and perform a talent that I didn’t even know I was good at. Sure, my mom would occasionally tell me how good I did whenever she heard me, but still, she was my mom. She’s obligated to tell me that – no matter if I’m good or not. I just hope she was telling the truth.

As Mrs. York predicted, not everybody got to perform today.

“Ms. Mason,” Mrs. York said, looking down at me from the stage, her smile friendly. “Would you mind starting us off?”

I gulped loudly, feeling everyone’s eyes on me, and nodded. I had a feeling that if I said no she would have made me go up there first, regardless. I heard from farther behind me, Abigail and her friends cackling loudly as I ascended the stage at a slow pace. I took my place in front of the microphone displayed in the middle of the stage and looked where my friends sat. Jordan and Scarlett smiled brightly at me, both giving me two thumbs up, while Morgan sat slumped in his seat, with his arms crossed and his face in pout mode. If I wasn’t so nervous I probably would have laughed. Farther back, away from all the other students, I saw Alex watching me with anticipation, while also smiling at me with encouragement. Alex looking at me like that suddenly gave me the strength and bravery to do this. I took a deep breath and waited for the music to start. It’s one of my favorite songs by Kelly Clarkson and one that I could absolutely say made me think of Alex. When the music started and filled the auditorium with its sweet and slow rhythm, I opened my mouth and let the words spill out.

You say it’s easier alone and undisturbed

You said yes and dance before and got your feelings hurt

You say most days you’re good

It’s not so bad, this room

Why chance the rain today even though it’s clear and sunny and you fight it so hard

How to tell if it’s real or not

Take a breath and listen

Open up, stop wishing

All that you’ve been missing’s standing in front of you

Everything you’re fearing

All the walls you’re building take a chance you’re reason’s standing in front of you

Standing in front of you

You start to sway again, feeling good in your skin

You start to remember when you didn’t have to try

And then the glitter turns to dust the color fades enough to make out pictures of a fire that burns like love you can close your eyes don’t worry

I’ll still be here in the morning

Take a breath and listen

Open up, stop wishing

All that you’ve been missing’s standing in front of you

Everything you’re fearing

All the walls your building take a chance you’re reason’s standing in front of you

Standing in front of you

And they won’t break us

And they can’t get through ‘cause I’m going to be here standing in front of you

Take a breath and listen

Open up, stop wishing

All that you’ve been missing’s standing in front of you

Everything you’re fearing

All the walls your building take a chance you’re reason’s

standing in front of you

Standing in front of you

I took a deep breath as the song came to an end and watched in astonishment as most of my fellow classmates stood up and clapped. I felt my heart leap with gladness. I got a standing ovation! I felt smug when I saw Abigail’s expression as I walked off stage and took my seat beside Jordan. She looked insulted, as if my singing had really offended her.

“Wow,” Jordan said. “T-that was amazing. I had no idea you could sing like that.”

I shrugged, nonchalant. “I’ve been doing it since I was three. It’s no big deal.”

“No big deal!” Scarlett scoffed. “Girl, when you were singing, you sounded like a grown woman, not a thirteen-year-old.”

To my amazement, Morgan nodded agreement. “Yeah, you were pretty good.”

“Well, thanks. And I’m sure you guys will do just as awesome.”

“I don’t know,” Scarlett said, dubiously. “You’re probably going to be the best performer of the day. I mean, have you seen some of our classmates acts?” She shuddered. “Wait till you see Abigail and her followers take the stage.”

Besides my friends and Alex performances, I was actually looking forward to theirs too. I intend to laugh and “boo” at every opportunity that I can.

The sound of loud clapping had me pulled from my thoughts of hysterical laughter and finger pointing, revealing a very impressed Mrs. York.

“Wonderful singing, my dear. As quiet as you are, I never would have expected that kind of talent from you. Marvelous!” My face burned in embarrassment. To me, receiving compliments is almost humiliating. “So, who wants to go next?” She asked, her voice bubbling with excitement.

I was just looking around for raised hands, when I saw Abigail shoot up from her seat, a look of annoyance still plastered on her face. I bit my lip to keep from smiling.

“We’ll go next.” Madilyn, Sarah, and Panty Less Lacey, didn’t look too thrilled to be going on stage so soon, but kept their mouths shut and followed Abigail to the stage.

“Wonderful.” Mrs. York said.

Abigail and her “friends” took their positions on the stage and waited for the music to begin. I almost busted out laughing when I heard the song. “Dancing Queens” by Abba filled the Auditorium, and I watched in amusement as Abigail and her groupies danced all over the stage, doing moves I think would have been more appropriate for strip clubs. Oh, I wasn’t surprised that they did some other inappropriate dance moves, but it still didn’t keep me and my friends from busting out laughing. Twice, Mrs. York had to scowl us for being loud, but we couldn’t help it. It was so funny! When the song ended and our classmates clapped, (they didn’t get a standing ovation) Abigail and her friends walked off the stage, their faces unreadable as they took their seats. I could feel Abigail’s penetrating gaze as I watched and listened to Mrs. York ask who wanted to go next. No doubt she was giving me the death stare.

When nobody volunteered, Mrs. York tsked disapprovingly. “Am I going to have to choose somebody?” Nobody answered. Mrs. York sighed. “Mr. Torchwood, are you ready?”

Everybody in the auditorium murmured amongst each other as Alex took the stage, his hands completely full of canvases. There was already an easel on the stage, so all Alex had to do was position it to where everybody could see his paintings. Everyone waited in silence as Alex displayed the first painting, which was of woman. She was beautiful with aqua hair and eyes that looked like sapphires – eyes that reminded me of Alex’s. Instantly I knew who the woman in the painting was.

It was Alex’s mother.

The painting itself looked absolutely amazing. His mother looked like she could have clawed her way out of the canvas because she looked so real. Alexander Torchwood – are next Leonardo Da Vinci

As I suggested, Alex presented his painting as if we we’re doing a show-and-tell and not a talent show. I listened as he told us why he drew this painting. He didn’t tell us outright that she was his mother, but it was pretty obvious from the way he looked at her painting and when he told us that this was the last memory he had of her before Azazel came along and took her away from Alexander forever. In the painting she was smiling, a smile that held so much love and adoration that it almost reminded me of how my mother sometimes looked at me. It’s a smile all mothers should have when staring at their children. I could feel my eyes watering and my chest aching for a loss that I couldn’t possibly understand. Alex was no doubt suffering at this very moment. It must have taken a lot of courage for him to get up there and tell us about her. I had a feeling he didn’t do it often. The rest of his paintings were of scenery’s, which were just as beautiful and life-like. Alex is surely the most amazing artist I have ever met. Surely, by the time he hits man-hood, he could probably make a fortune selling some of his paintings. If he can ever bring himself to do so, that is. At one point though, as Alex was telling the story of one painting that was of an ocean, with the sun setting and the sky turning orange with colors like pink and purple mixed in, making it look very beautiful and majestic, I listened as Alex told us the story of when the orphanage took them to the Powerless world to visit California for the summer. He told us that he spent most of his time on the beach, painting and drawing the ocean, over and over again. And even though he was telling not just me, but the whole class this story, I couldn’t help but feel like it was only me and him, all alone in the auditorium. Maybe it was because he never took his eyes off of me.

Even though I thought the story was fascinating, I wasn’t surprised that Abigail didn’t. I wanted to get up and smack her when she started yawning loudly, while also making unnecessary comments like, “No one cares!” Or “This is so boring!” It took all I had, and Jordan practically sitting on me, to keep me from getting up and slapping the fire out of that girl. No pun intended.

I clapped and whooped loudly as Alex finished, gathering his paintings and exiting off the stage, with my eyes never leaving him as he walked briskly back to his seat.

That’s when it happened.

It felt like everything was in slow motion. I gasped when Alex dropped one of the canvases, the one of his mother, and saw as it burst into flames. People screamed and started running around the auditorium, looking like chickens about to get their heads cut off. As if by some instinct, I put the fire out with my water magic, listening as the fire sizzled and dissipated. It was too late, however. The painting was ruined, charred beyond recognition. There was complete and utter silence until everybody started to laugh, with the exception of my friends. I looked at Alex worriedly, but to my surprise, he remained impassive.

“That is enough!” Mrs. York shouted. It was kind of odd seeing her angry. “Who did that?”

No one said anything. It was just the occasional chuckles here and there. Mrs. York eyed the classroom sternly. “Fine. Since no fire user will step up and take the blame for their actions, all fire students, with the exception of Ms. Mason since she did put out the fire, will receive detention until farther notice.”

Some fire users groaned, and tried to argue back, but Mrs. York wouldn’t have it. “Until someone finally comes clean and apologizes to Mr. Torchwood, every fire user will receive detention for the rest of this week.”

There was a bunch of mumbling and pouting as everyone took their seats, while waiting for class to end. Alex, who had gathered up his stuff roughly, stamped out of the auditorium, while slamming the door in the process. Mrs. York didn’t protest. She merely let him go, her kind face eyeing the door wistfully. Even though Mrs. York can be a bit annoying with her happy-going-grin and her constant babbling, she really did care for her students, regardless if they came from a disgraceful family or not. Suddenly her sad eyes swiveled my way.

“Spencer dear, do you mind going after him? I figure if he listens to anyone, it will be you.”

I did a double take at that. Why would Mrs. York think that? Why would she assume he would listen to me?

“Sure.” I replied. I felt Jordan squeeze my hand, his mind filled with reassurance. What it for me or himself? I kind of figured it was the latter.

Good luck, he thought.

I didn’t reply as I got up and rushed out of the auditorium, while feeling everybody’s eyes on me the whole time.

Trying to catch up with Alex was tough. The guy could really powerwalk. Of course when you’re about five feet tall and the guy you’re crushing on is almost six foot it’s going to be hard catching up with him.

”Alex,” I shouted after him. “Please wait!”

“Leave me alone.”

We were both walking through the courtyard, which was desolate, and heading towards the dorms. I scurried after him, trying to reach his side. When I finally caught up with him, I grabbed his wrist, causing him to come to halt.

“What do you want?” Alex snapped.

“Mrs. York wanted me to talk to you – to see if you were alright.”

“Well, I’m not. You happy now.” I thought my heart might shatter when he snatched his hand out of mine. I was genuinely hurt by his hostility towards me.

Seeing my anguished expression must have tipped him off because suddenly he sighed, his blue eyes rueful. “I’m sorry. I’m just upset. I didn’t mean to take it out on you.”

“It’s okay.” I said, timidly. I was trying so hard to fight back the tears that tried to consume me. “I’ll leave you alone now.” Before I could turn around though, he grabbed both my arms gently and pulled me towards him. At first I thought he was going to pull me into a hug but he just held me at arms-length, his face contrite.

“I really am sorry.”

“I know,” I whispered, my eyes on the pavement. I couldn’t bring myself to really look at him, for fear my eyes would start tearing up again. “I just worry about you.” Though God knows I wish I didn’t.

“I know you do,” He murmured. For minute I thought he heard my thoughts until he said, “Thanks, for uh, putting out the fire.”

I smiled a small smile before finally looking back up at him. “It was no problem. I just wish I could have stopped whoever ruined you’re painting—“

“Yeah,” he said bitterly, causing my heart to contract painfully. Then I realized that his bitterness wasn’t towards me, but the person who destroyed his painting. “I know who destroyed it. It was Cameron and his N’Sync, Jamie.”

I didn’t know that Cameron and Jamie were N’Sync’s, but I wasn’t surprised. I was, however, surprised that he knew who destroyed his painting.

“Why didn’t you say anything to Mrs. York? If you had told her—“

“Yeah, and be known as a snitch. No way!”

I did a double take at his words. They were almost the exact same words I said to my mother when Katie Hoe and her friends had destroyed my book on the first day of school.

I don’t mean to make things hard. I really do try to control them. It’s just when Katie picks on me…

I know. Maybe if you told someone—

And be known as a snitch! No way!

Alex and I were more alike than I once thought.

I sighed, feeling utterly tired. “You can’t let Cameron and Jamie get away with this. They destroyed the painting of your mother!”

He seemed taken aback. “How did you—“

“It doesn’t take a genius to figure it out, Alex. It was obvious from the way you looked at her. Not to mention the blue eyes. That was a dead giveaway.”

His lips twitched into a small smile. The smile was incandescent and beautiful. “It’s weird. I never had someone understand me the way you do. It’s kind of nice.”

I shrugged, smiling hugely at him. “Isn’t that what friends do?”

He didn’t say anything for the longest time. His uncanny blue eyes were staring at me with what I think was captivation. “I wouldn’t know.”

I didn’t know what to say so I just shrugged again.

Alex ran a hand through his hair, causing it to stick up in places. “Are you going back to class?”

“Probably. I don’t want to miss my friends on stage.” Jordan would probably never forgive me if I missed him and Morgan’s act. I don’t know if Scarlett would care. That girl can be enigmatic at times.

“Right,” he mumbled. “I almost forgot. Well, I hope you enjoy the rest of the show.”

“You’re not going back to class.” It wasn’t a question. And I kind of figured that he wouldn’t, but I was still kind of hopeful.

He shook his head. “I’m not ready to show my face. I’m already embarrassed as it is.”

“I’m sorry.” It was probably the last thing he wanted to hear, but I couldn’t help it. I felt bad.

“It’s okay.” Alex said. He looked away then and started playing with his tie. I could tell instantly that it was a nervous habit of his. “I’ve been meaning to ask you something.”

My body went rigid. “What is it?”

He continued playing with his tie, knotting and twisting it, and just looking more anxious than usual. “Well, I was wondering if you weren’t busy that…maybe you could…come to the roof later and keep me company.”

I think it was then that my heart stopped beating. I was completely unable to speak. It felt like my heart was in my throat. Alex looked up then, his expression weary. He untwisted his tie then.

“If you don’t want too I completely understand—“

“It’s not that.” I said hastily, feeling utterly guilty. “It’s just I have Latin homework that needs finishing before tomorrow.”

“Oh.” Was all he said. I could tell that he was trying to feign indifference, but I could see right through him. I hurt his feelings. I wanted to smack myself. Why hadn’t I done that homework yesterday? I mean, God only knows how hard it must have been for him to ask me to join him and I totally blew it. I’m such an idiot! Then an idea hit me.

“Are you good at Latin?” Please say yes. Please say yes.

“I made a B on the last test we took so I guess.” He seemed confused by the question. “Why?”

“Maybe you could help me with it. I’m having a little trouble with the material anyway. What do you say?”

“Sounds like a plan.”

“Okay.” I said. “I’ll meet you up there after dinner tonight.” I got a date!

“I’ll see you then.” He was just about to turn away when he stopped, his lips curving into tentative smile. “By the way, you got a good voice. I liked the song you picked.” And then, with that said, Alex turned and walked away, heading towards the dormitory building. He liked my voice! Could this day get any better? I waited until he went inside to start dancing and jumping. My stomach felt like it was full of butterflies as I repeated his words in my head, over and over again.

I’ll see you then.

Those four words were enough to make my heart grow wings and fly away.

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