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Chapter Eighteen

[TRAVIS]

“You have to be kidding me,” I groaned as the Paul kid finally got the story out between whispers and stammering.

“So he sent you? Who does that?!” I groaned, sliding into the seat opposite him. I watched as he muttered under his breath, shifting awkwardly in his seat.

“You c-can leave if y-you want,” he muttered, playing with the small tray of free sweets. I let myself watch him calmly, wondering why on earth Alex would send him. What in the world was Alex playing at?

“No, I won’t leave. Get up, we’ll watch the movie and get it over with,” I said standing up. If Alex wants to play around in circles, I’ll play too.

“But—”

“Get up, and follow me. Damn it!” I cursed before heading for the door. Paul caught up with me outside the smoothie parlor soon after. I gave him a side look, wondering why on earth Alex didn’t just say no.

I started walking and he followed. Well, at least he had imitative.

We got to the cinema in a few minutes. Paul looked slightly lost, staying close to me as we walked to the ticket stand.

“What do you want to watch?” I asked passing him the flier. He shook his head softly, indicating that he wasn’t sure.

“What about that?” I asked showing him the movie set for two forty-five, a few minutes from now.

“Sure,” he slurred, looking from me to the flier. I clicked my tongue buying the tickets before heading over to get some snacks. Paul followed awkwardly behind me the whole time, giving me softly spoken suggestions as I decided on what to get.

“What drink do you want?” I finally asked, turning towards him. He looked down at the floor, muttering what I decided was ‘sprite.’

“It’s starting in five.” I pointed out as I handed him a bag of popcorn and a canned drink. He nodded looking away. I was quite aware I was taking out my frustration out on him, which wasn’t exactly fair.

We headed for the theater, taking seats at the back. I heard Paul shift uncomfortably, but I ignored it. I sighed in frustration as the adverts played on screen before the actual movie started.

We watched the movie in silence but halfway through Paul laughed. I frowned, wondering what the hell was funny about the black and white community of ‘The Giver’ I turned to find someone else seating beside him, whispering something into his ear.

I frowned, turning away. I shouldn’t be bothered if he happened to bump into someone he knew.

I closed my eyes at the sound of Paul and his friend chuckling. They’d been at it for the past half hour, and it was really getting on my nerves. Heck, I doubt there was anyone as grateful as me when the movie finally ended.

“Let’s go,” I simply stated, getting up as the theater began to clear out.

“I’ll meet you outside,” Paul said waving me off, not taking his eyes off his phone. I corked my brows. That’s the first time he’s completed an audible sentence without stammering.

I didn’t want to be insistent so I left without a word and waited outside. I soon spotted Paul bidding his friend farewell in the driveway before turning the head back towards me.

“Sorry for keeping you. We can leave now,” he said as he got to me. His fingers were busy typing on his phone, his eyes were squinted to see the phone graphics under the harsh sunlight.

“Who was he?” I asked, not able to get the tanned dark haired of my mind. I felt weird about it — jealous.

“Oh, that was Ethan. He schools in Atlas,” Paul said, shrugging as we walked towards the smoothie joint from before.

“Atlas, as in that overpriced school?” I asked, referring to the over-elaborate school a few blocks from ours.

“It’s not overpriced...” Paul trailed, looking away from his phone for the first time since we left the theater. He didn’t seem to notice that he was staring directly at me. He blinked, muttering something under his breath before turning away.

I rolled my eyes, sighing as we got to the joint. The sun’s rays seemed to be deliberately punishing me for wearing a jacket today.

“So, I guess that’s it...” Paul trailed, running a hand through his now messed up hair. I gave him an inspecting look, still trying to decode why on earth Alex had sent him instead of appearing here in person.

“No, it’s not. Besides, you didn’t go on a date with me; you went on a date with that Ethan guy,” I said, deciding that if this was some sort of sick test from Alex, I wasn’t going to fail it.

“I—”

“You can protest later. Let’s go somewhere else, maybe take a cab to a nearby bowling alley. What about that?” I asked, smiling slightly. He gapped at me be before nodding.

We hailed a cab and rode to the closest bowling alley in town. I paid when we got there, and couldn’t help laughing at Paul’s scrunched up face as she exchanged his toms with one of the many gross overused bowling shoes. He stuck out his tongue, pointing out that the ones handed to me weren’t any better.

I felt my face heat up. Not because of what he pointed out, but because the look of him sticking out his tongue stirred me. Made me uncomfortable.

We set up a game for ourselves, me against him. Paul held his sides with laughter when my turn came and passed with my ball rolling out a quarter way.

“Look,” I started trying to defend myself but no reasonable explanation seemed to follow.

“I’m sorry, I... God, you’re so bad at this,” Paul laughed, wiping at his teary eyes. I groaned, walking up to him.

“Don’t judge my athletic ability from this. My place is on the soccer field, not the damn bowling alley.” I argued taking the seat beside him. He chuckled, giving me a not so convinced look.

“Whatever makes you sleep at night,” he said before getting up.

I watched him take the bowling ball in his hands positioning himself a little before going for it. I raised a brow as the ball glided through the platform effortlessly, recording a strike on the computer.

“Country club,” he said, shrugging as he walked back to me.

I made several more horrid shots and just decided to stop when my pride couldn’t take it anymore.

“There’s no need to be embarrassed. Here, I’ll show you,” Paul said taking my hand in his. I held my breath at the realization that he was pressed up against my back, his head barely looking over my shoulder.

“Bend a little,” he instructed. I did as he asked, feeling his breath hit the back of my neck. I blinked, feeling odd. It felt like I was starting to feel things I wasn’t supposed to.

He adjusted his hold on my hand making me look down. His hand was a lot smaller than mine, just nearly distributed evenly over my hand. I watched over hands as he swung then in union before tossing the ball.

I sighed in confusion as Paul pulled away from me. Only the sound of bowling pins falling reminded me of what we were supposed to be doing.

“Shoot, you missed two pins. I’ll deal with them,” he said, heading to pick up another ball.

“I did what? It’s we, we missed the two pins!” I argued, following him back.

We continued playing until our shirts got soiled with sweat, and we ended up using my red jacket as a face towel. The day — the whole thing, turned out to be a lot more fun than I had anticipated it to be.

Paul was actually a lot of fun to talk to. Well, after he got past his stammering. We went to an ice-cream parlor afterward, taking an unhealthy amount of samples before ordering. We took a cab to his estate after that, walking the rest of the way to his place.

“Thanks — for today...” Paul trailed awkwardly as he turned to unlock the gates of the house.

“It was fun,” I admitted, watching him pry the gate open.

“It meant a lot to me,” Paul said, looking from me to the floor. I raised a brow, asking him to explain.

“I r-really like you...” He trailed. “So it was more than some play. I’m s-sorry, I’ll be g-going,” he stammered trying to close the gates behind him. I held the gate open, going in with him. I watched as his brown eyes widened like saucers when I took his face into my hands. He closed his eyes quickly, as he continued to shake like a leaf.

“I’m not hurting you.” I tried to make clear as I brushed his hair out of his eyes.

“We’re still on a date right?” I asked. He opened his eyes slightly, and I almost fell apart at the sudden sight of his tear glossed eyes staring straight at me. Unlike Alex’s, these brown eyes didn’t look like they wanted to skin me alive. They just looked curious, sweet — Interested in me.

I leaned over him, pressing my lips against his experimentally. He whimpered immediately, making me gasp as I pulled away. I stared down at him with new found interest. He didn’t feel like Alex, he was different; Similar, but different.

He blinked as his lips parted in speech. “I—”

“Shush,” I cooed, covering his lips with mine again. I sighed feeling him kiss me back. It was odd not struggling. Overwhelming that he didn’t fight back just followed. The whole thing was smooth, effortless.

His hands went over my shoulders to grip the fabric of my shirt, reminding me that I did, in fact, forget said jacket at the bowling alley.

I kissed him harder, forgetting all about my jacket, forgetting the fact that Paul was supposed to be Alex.

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