“What the hell is up with your cousin today, Lala?” Hannah hummed as she glared over at Eric, who was further up the corridor at his locker.
“God knows, probably on his man period.” Mahala shrugged carelessly, paying no mind as she continued to sort her things out.
“He’s not bugged Hallie or anyone for that fact. He’s looking kind of pale too.”
I turned my head to look over at him as Hannah spoke, I couldn’t deny, there was certainly something different. His stance wasn’t as strong or tall as usual, there was a sense of defeat and sluggishness as his body was blighted and his movements lagging.
“He’s not hanging with his buddies, and he’s barely looked up from the floor all day.” Hannah continued.
As soon as he saw me looking, he instantly turned away and started walking away, although his next class was in the opposite direction. He’d been doing that all day, refusing to look at me and turning tail if I glanced at him.
“He looks like of like something’s spooked him.” Hannah finished with a heavy sigh.
“Seemed fine last night when he nearly scared the life out of me last night. He hid in a bush and jumped out at me! Although I was kind of mean.” My lips screwed in both concern and annoyance as I watch him stalk off. I began wondering if I’d been too mean to him.
“Oh, trust me, that wouldn’t be what’s bothering him.” Mahala reassured me, “Eh, let him have his swing. I’m sure come tomorrow at the dance he’ll be back to himself. Let’s get to class.”
I turned back to Mahala and nodded, “Let’s go.”
“Eric?” I sank against the lockers as he was throwing books into his bag. Since Hannah pointed it out, I’d been a little concerned about him; it was weird not seeing him how he usually was.
“Go away, Hallie.”
His sharp tone and the fact he called me Hallie caused me to wince a little. “Since when did you call me by my actual name?”
“Nevermind, just go away, please.” He sighed as he slammed his locker door shut.
“What the hell is your problem?”
“Why the hell do you care? You hate me, so why give a shit? Like you said before, I could pull up a chair and wait for you to give a fuck.” His words came out harsh, like sharp blades as they came out through gritted teeth.
“Eric, if this is about what I said-”
“It’s got nothing to do with what you said or anything you’ve said. Just, please, leave me alone. Don’t talk to me, don’t come up to me, don’t even say hello.”
“What the-” Eric didn’t give me a chance to say anything more before he pushed past me and rushed off.
I watched him march off, feeling completely confused and confounded.
For two months, he’s acted nothing less than an arrogant jerk. For two months, we’ve bantered back and forth, and now he was giving me the cold shoulder.
I couldn’t deny it hurt a little, as much as he was insufferable, I grew accustomed to our playful banter, and it was just weird seeing him act like a different person.
I sighed as my phone rang, pulling it from my pocket, a text from Masato telling me he’d be a little late because of the closing of some roads. I pulled my rucksack over my shoulder and went to wait for him outside the gate.
As I stood outside waiting for Masato, that cold shiver that was now becoming all too familiar took over me as I felt the air grow tight.
“It’s Hallie, right?” A male voice spoke as a tall, skinny guy with glasses appeared next to me, causing me to startle.
“Jesus! Sorry, you made me jump, I’m Hallie, yeah?”
“James, we’re in English lit together.”
“Oh, right. Sorry, in a world of my own.” He was one of the kids who were deemed loners in the school. Kept to himself, didn’t talk to anyone, and a prime target for Eric and his buddies.
“Sorry, I just saw you were standing here alone. I’m waiting for my dad and you looked like you could use some company.”
“That’s sweet. Masato’s stuck in traffic.”
James chuckled, “Same. Although, for my dad, you’d think he’d know by now. They always close off some roads to prepare for the dance.”
“Yeah, I think we missed the memo.”
“So, where you move from anyway, you’re fairly new, right?”
“Japan. My dad is an absolute tech nut, moved out there when I was seven. Then he got offered a big job here, so, yeah.”
“That’s cool. I overheard you throwing some insults at Eric in Japanese, that was pretty funny. So, you like it here?”
I shrugged softly, “It’s all right, but we’re moving in just over a week. Dad’s company said his skills are wasted in that office, so they promoted him. We’re off to Canada!”
“Ah, the land where everyone is polite, loves Tim Horton’s and hockey. My grandparents live in Edmonton.”
“Ah, we’re going to Ontario.”
“Oh, I think you’ll like it over there, it’s a nice place. So, you’re the Paxton’s kid?”
“Adopted, but yeah, they’re my parents. Blood or not, I love them all the same.”
“My aunt works with your Mom. She loves Alicia; she helped her get a whole new wardrobe. You should have seen my dad’s face when she came home; all dressed up. Do you know in the cartoons where their jaw literally drops to the floor? It was like that.”
I couldn’t help but laugh, “Sounds just like my Mom. She worked in fashion over in Japan.”
Just then, Masato pulled up, unwinding his window. “Sorry, baby got detoured due to the road closures then ended up taking a damn wrong turn. The SatNav kept wanting to take me the way the roads were closed. So, yeah, I found a part of town we haven’t seen yet.”
“Your sense of direction is shocking.” I laughed amused. He had many talents, but a sense of direction wasn’t one of them. “That’s me, hope your dad shows up soon. See you, James.”
“Bye, Hallie.” He waved awkwardly as I stepped into the car.
“New friend?” Masato chuckled.
“He’s in English lit. He just saw me standing alone talking to you and kept me company. He’s sweet enough. So, something weird happened today, though.”
I took a breath before I told Masato about how Eric had been today and what he’d said.
“Mahala wondered if you’d collared him after I told you about what he did last night. But I told her you were with me all night, and you’re not like that.”
Masato burst out laughing, clearly entertained, “Oh wow, I’m wondering what your friends think of me with that comment. But no, as much as I’d love to slap him a little, you know I wouldn’t.”
“I know. It was just weird, that’s all, curiosity killed the cat. Or in that case, the curiosity almost left me an icicle with the coldness.”
“Hallie baby, I wish I could give you an insight into the inner working of the male mind. However, the guy’s like Eric? I’ve never been able to understand. Anyway, I wouldn’t worry, just under two weeks, and we’re out of here.”
“Yeah, we can get back to normal.” I nodded with a smile.
Willow Lake was great and all as it was, it was a lovely town, but for me, it just wasn’t a place I called home. I was looking forward to being able to put the past two months behind me and go about how we were before we came here. I just had to hold on for ten more days.