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Chapter 4

I had a dislocated shoulder but (fortunately) no concussion, as my dad somberly declared once mum had got me to his clinic.

Because of my fresh injury, I was stuck on the bench for at least four more weeks - much to my and dad’s dismay and mum’s obvious delight. She hated me playing soccer, because, and I quote, ”it was too brutal for a girl”. Well, she wasn’t that far off, seeing how our today’s practice had ended.

“So, are you going to tell me what exactly happened?” She asked when we were driving home.

Mum was nice to look at, but besides the steel-gray, deep-set eyes and a pair of boobs, we had nothing in common. She was round and soft, whereas I was lean and athletic. She had jet black, straight hair, which she usually kept in a bun, and I had strawberry blond waves, which I preferred down. Her face was diamond-shaped, mine was a tad square. She had small, full lips, mine were wide... and so on, and so forth.

“I saw Emmie’s mother walking her out of the headmaster’s office, giving your friend a piece of her mind. Neither of them looked too pleased...” Mum continued, curiosity clear in her voice.

I sighed and leaned against the headrest, closing my eyes. The exhaustion was finally kicking in.

“Keeley Anderson fouled me, and Emmie stood up for me... Got herself in trouble...” I briefed her, choosing to omit gory details. I didn’t want to give her another reason to ban me from practicing. Soccer was all my life.

She gave me a side-glance but decided to let it slide.

“She’s a good friend, that Emmie of yours,” Mum admitted after a short while and returned her gaze to the road.

“That she is.” I agreed.

Speaking of whom, I had to call the brunette and check on her. If Mrs. Weston did pick her up, as mum had claimed, shit must’ve reaaally hit the fan. Emmie was one of the most collected people I had met, so I guessed her mother wasn’t used to being called by the office. Heck, I wasn’t used to seeing my friend as a tae kwon do master either.

I got my phone out of the bag and sent her a quick text while mum stopped the car on our drive.

“Who’s that?” She asked suddenly. I looked up from the screen and followed her gaze to a familiar silhouette standing right in front of our front porch.

Oh, God! What was he doing here?

“Um... Just a guy from my school.” I admitted carefully. “You may know his dad, Mr. Bennett? He’s the park ranger...”

“Oh, yes. I know Bennetts. Very nice people...” She mused. And then, because, otherwise, mum wouldn’t be herself, she asked with a twinkle in her steel-grey eyes:

“Is he your boyfriend?”

I choked on the spit.

“God, mum, no! I don’t even know him that much,” I explained through my coughing fit, horrified that she had somehow come to that conclusion.

“Oh...” She said a bit deflated. And, finally noticing me fighting for my dear life, she frowned. “Are you alright there, honey?”

“As right as rain” I forced-smiled.

“Never mind.” She waved me off. “Let’s see what Bennetts’ boy wants...”

She briskly got out of the car and immediately greeted Emmie’s cousin with a bright smile.

This day was surely fast-tracking from bad to worse.

I watched mum having small talk with Bennett from behind the windscreen.

I sincerely hoped the guy would leave without us having to chat. However, after a couple of minutes of idly sitting, it was pretty obvious Bennett was not going anywhere. I sighed. I honestly had no energy for him today.

Clutching my school bag in the right hand, I scrambled out of the car and made a reluctant way to them both just as mum said:

“Thank you once again, Zachary. And do give our regards to your parents.”

“Will do, ma’am.” He answered politely.

Mum gave me not-so-discreet thumbs up, and just like that, she was gone. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to strangle her or die out of embarrassment right then and there.

“Matthews...” Bennett’s smooth baritone pulled me out of my thoughts and forced my heart to skip a beat.

Sometimes I forgot all about the annoying, tingling things Emmie’s exasperating cousin made me feel when he was near.

“Why are you here?” I wanted to cross my arms over my chest, but that wasn’t exactly possible, so I just frowned.

“Don’t get any funny ideas.” He commented bluntly, his hard eyes flickering me over so quickly I thought I imagined it. Gone was all the warmth I heard in his voice when he addressed my mum. Was he bipolar? “I came here because Emmie asked me to return your bike. God only knows why she even bothers...”

Dickhead. I wasn’t going to thank him after that.

“If that’s all you’re here for, you may as well leave. My day is bad enough. I don’t need you adding to it...” I growled through clenched teeth, thoroughly pissed.

I was most definitely done here.

Without further ado, I passed Bennett and headed for the door. Not that he let me. I didn’t even manage to take a step, when he suddenly, firmly but gently, grabbed me by my uninjured arm and stopped me in my tracks.

I felt a pleasant wave of electricity coursing through body and down my spine and saw red.

“Lay off me!” I almost yelled. I caught myself only because I knew mum was spying on us from the kitchen window and didn’t want to cause unnecessary drama.

“Jeez, are you always this unbelievable?” Bennett asked taken aback and I think I saw his eyes flashing a bit. Or was it just a street lamp? Nevertheless, he didn’t wait for me to answer before he mumbled to himself softly, shaking his head. “Of course, you are. You’re bloody Matthews...”

For a second there, he looked jaded. But then, he opened his mouth and that impression was all but gone - he was back to his annoying, old self:

“Just so we’re clear, because of you, Emmie’s been put on the bench. She’s been suspended from the games for two weeks straight. She has also been grounded... And it’s all your damn fault. So, I’m going to say it again, Matthews, and this time I fucking mean it. Stay. The fuck. Away. From Emmie.” He growled, suddenly in my face, his cyan blue eyes swirling with such an intensity that I felt compelled to look away.

So I did, what I always did when clashing with Bennett:

“You’re an ass,” I sneered before I wrenched my arm away and showed myself to the door.

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