Chapter 13 - Is he really that bad?
A/N: just a little heads up...I wrote this chapter with my brain fried by long hours of classes and a devastating episode of Person of Interest (which,in case you hadn't noticed,I LOVE),so...sorry if it looks a little confused or odd..
p.s. like always,please,leave a feedback :)
CHAPTER 13 - IS HE REALLY THAT BAD?
I'm an idiot, aren't I? Well, I am for many reasons, but right now, specifically for this one.
I was in front of her place, on her lawn, about to knock. What was stopping me? Freaking fear, that's what. Fear of not being able to conceal and dissimulate. Fear of not being able to play my role as I should. Because we'll be alone. Completely alone.
You know, via a freshman kid, yesterday I sent her my number. For a simple reason: I was expecting her, almost wanted her to just call off everything, so I sent her my number, this way she had a less intimidating way of ditching me, but she didn't ... not sure if it's good or not. She could have texted me, making up whatever excuse not to have this meeting, but she didn't. And I've been mulling over it, like the idiot I am.
I know, I know, it's just a study afternoon, just a damn fairy tale to work on. But it's the closest we've ever been. And right now, despite being a big boy, despite being Washington High's nightmare, despite being the demon everybody sees me as, I'm nearly freaking out. No, no nearly. I am freaking out. Because we'll be alone. And I'm not too sure I can hold myself back.
Since yesterday, I've been wondering if I should drop my mask for once and be gentle with her or just keep on being peevish, so that she'll be scared off. In the end I decided I'd see right then, now ... now I'm freaking out. Because I know I can act only to certain extents with her. Because I know that if I'm kind, she'll freak out, because she's expecting this wicked bad boy all school fears, not ... me. Well, not whatever is left of the real me, the one I used to be once. Till everything crumbled down.
Honestly, I can't even remember when was the last time I felt normal or even ... peaceful. No, wait, there is a time. It dates back to ten years ago, but it's a memory I'll be preserving with all my might. Till the end. At least that.
I took a deep breath and knocked. I almost hoped she wasn't be home. I almost hoped she'd bale on me. I shouldn't be so afraid of remaining all alone with her, actually, I should be glad. Yet ...
Ok, I've been nervous all yesterday and this morning, I did sleep, but something in the pit of my stomach kept giving me an odd churn. Fears were always there, but not quite ... strong. Maybe because I've been thinking and rethinking ... he cannot be that bad as they say he is.
I'm not saying we could be friends or something, but I've come to the conclusion that maybe ... just, maybe ... he won't tear me apart at the first chance he gets. A chance I'm offering him on a silver plate, since we'll be alone the whole afternoon ...
Mom is at work, like always and ... accidentally, she might not ... know that I have a guest today ... I didn't tell her because I knew she wouldn't agree. Besides, Eric and will be done before she even comes home, I'm sure, so it's not really a huge problem ... I think.
My heart skipped a beat when I heard knocking on my door. I'd been purposefully sitting in the kitchen so that I couldn't hear the car pulling over my driveway and therefore not freak out at every vehicle I heard outside. I've worked this morning, just to keep my mind free.
Sophie did ask why did I need the afternoon off, well more like inquired if I was seeing my boyfriend, which had me blushing and trying to explain that I was seeing a boy, but that he wasn't my boyfriend, neither my friend, for what it matters. I don't think she believed me, but whatever.
You know, sometimes I regret not being brave enough to approach that little boy ten years ago. Maybe by now we'd be friends and I wouldn't freak out at the simple thought of spending an afternoon alone with him.
In the end I did tell Aisha about it, and she burst my eardrums by squealing, saying she'd gladly take my place, which would have been maybe better for me. I would have expected her to ask if she could join, but she didn't, and only because she thought I needed this time alone with Eric.
Like ... from this simple afternoon, the nonexistent relationship, be it only friendship, we have, could benefit. How can something that doesn't even exist benefit from some other thing that neither of us is willing to experience, I have no idea, but she was sure. She even said maybe she'd drop by, just in case. I asked of what, but she wouldn't tell me, so in the end I just shrugged it off.
Taking a deep breath, I slowly went to open the door.
The door opened and I caught my breaths in my throat, trying to be ... normal, or as normal as I should be. Although the point is, what's normal for me? It might be the wicked wolf huffing and puffing, it has been since years, but ... there's always a but ... I can't be that with her. Not for too long anyway.
"H-hi ..." She greeted once she opened the door, trying hard to smile, but Gee, she was already stammering and I could clearly see she was more than nervous. Great. Guess I know what's normal for me. Or, better, what kind of normal she expects from me. Then so be it.
Eric gave me a blank look, like he was already annoyed to see me, so I just inhaled deeply and gestured for him to come in, since I wasn't able to talk without stammering, I was sure.
He silently trailed behind me and settled at the living room table without wasting any time.
"Uh ... would you ... would you like something to drink?" I offered as he sat down, but he shook his head, so I sat across him, trying to calm down my heart, repeating to myself that, as he stated, he doesn't hurt girls, not physically at least, and I can't see him as the type of boy who'd ... you know, take advantage of the situation.
We started working once I'd resumed what I'd done with Kyle yesterday and gave him his notebook back. Although, at first he seemed focused on my handwriting more than on my words.
By mid-afternoon, we took a break, mostly because the doorbell rang and I had to go open, only to find the courier with a package for my mom. When I went back to the living room, Eric was still sitting, his hands clasped together in front of him, looking quite pensive.
I gulped down my cowardice and asked: "Everything alright?" He looked up at me, his eyes showing an odd glint I couldn't really decipher, and nodded, without replying, so I inhaled and walked into the kitchen.
I could feel his gaze on me. His eyes might be emotionless, but, Gee, are they able to pierce through you so deeply! I felt almost naked as he scrutinized me when I came back, like he has all the afternoon. I mean, I've done most of the talking, he's come up with ideas, yes, but mostly it was me, and I could feel his gaze on me so often and so intensely ... like he was studying me, who knows for what reason.
Sitting down, I offered him a pack of chips, saying it was about time we ate something after working so hard and I could have sworn I saw him crack a little, very, very little smile.
I was trying to come up with something to say as we ate chips, but Eric prevented me: "Why do you like Kyle?" Well, that was a very odd question and I blushed, my eyes widening as I nearly choked on my chips.
"I-I ..." I stammered, trying to think if it was better to play dumb or just say the truth, but considering he knows about my crush already ...
"I'm not gonna tell him." Eric assured me as he ate some more chips. "Romano and I barely talk to each other, so I'm not gonna be a telltale. I just want to know."
"W-why?" He shrugged. I bit down on my lower lip but quit when I noticed that ... an odd flame was burning in his eyes as they were fixed on that exact spot ... nah, I was hallucinating, he couldn't be staring at my lips ... right? I mean, if he was, it's not for the reason any girl would think of, it can only be because I was biting my lip real hard, so much that in a while it'd bleed.
"I-I just do." I replied, trying to sound secure. Eric scrutinized me some more, like trying to tell if I was lying or not, then, in the end, he nodded, leaning back.
"He likes a particular type of girl, you know." Eric told me and I frowned, confused. For starters, how does he know what kind of girls Kyle likes? And why does he even care? And why is he telling me? "I mean, normally, he goes for the cheerleader type."
"I've seen him date non-cheerleaders." I just couldn't hold it back. The words escaped my lips before I could stop them. Eric smirked, or sneered or ... whatever, I'm not quite sure how to describe the light twitching of his lips as he nodded.
"I didn't mean cheerleaders themselves." He pointed out. "I meant ... pretty girls that try hard to catch him. Pretty girls who swoon for him. Girlfriends for him are like an extension of his ego."
I frowned, crossing my arms. "Kyle isn't that egocentric." I defended, actually stunned at my ability to talk without stammering and with a certain sureness in my voice even. Eric snorted.
"Please ... the Great Wall of China wouldn't be enough to contain all of his ego." He scoffed and I pouted.
"Look who's talking ..." It escaped my lips before I could keep it and when I realized I'd said it, my eyes widened. I expected him to glare or incinerate me with a single look, but ... he just pressed his lips, clearly trying hard not to laugh.
"I'm egocentric?" He questioned, an odd sparkle lighting up in his blue eyes, I'd dare say a sign of ... positive amusement, like he was actually enjoying our little banter.
I bit my lips not to reply and he leaned in, so much that if I hadn't been sitting across from him, I would have had his face real close ... real, real close ...
"I won't be offended, Natalie." He assured me. My name rolling off his tongue sounded so sexy ... I inhaled deeply before replying: "Yes ... maybe. I-I mean, you ... you're always on your own."
"That's not being egocentric." He argued.
"No, but you ... you don't care about people around you, you just ... do what you want and ... and if people happen to be hurt, then who cares, because you're Eric Rivers and you can do whatever you want without a care in the world." I blurted it out in one breath and once I finished, I was sure I'd just signed my death sentence, also seeing as Eric's eyes were boring into me, like wanting to really tear me apart, but ... in the end, his lips quirked up into a very small smile as he grabbed the pen again.
"I do care, Natalie. More than you'll ever imagine."
I was speechless, wanted to elaborate on that, but he just restarted talking about the fairy tale, like it was the most normal thing in the world and he hadn't just ... practically, even if only partially, opened up to me.
Well, not truly, it was just a snippet, but ... it was enough to let me perceive something I'm sure nobody ever has of him. What if we're all reading it wrong? What if he's not the Devil he pretends to be? What if all this time he's only been acting? What if ... behind the bad boy mask, there seriously still is, pretty hidden, that lovely boy that ten years ago smiled at me?
"At this rate, I guess we'll have finished it pretty soon."
I commented with a small smile, trying to make some small talk as Eric packed his things while I pulled out my other homework, since the weekend will be busy and I need all the time I have to smash my head against my Math worksheet. Seriously, I hate functions. I hate numbers and everything related to it.
"Then you'll be relieved, I guess." Eric commented, startling me, not because he'd actually put together more than three words, I mean, during these two hours he's been ... cooperative, even if sometimes his blue eyes piercing through me as he observed me made me pretty anxious, I mean, his eyes were on me pretty often and not like they should be when talking to somebody. But then, he just has this thing, his gaze is always so intense ...
Anyhow, he startled me because now he was back to stern and distant and ... almost scary. Not that he's been different till now, I mean, after that break, he was as cold as always again, but overall ... he wasn't truly his usual scary. Yet now his voice was harsh.
"W-why should I?" I blurted out without thinking as I watched him pull his backpack over his back. He smirked.
"You're afraid of me, Natalie. You think I can't see that?" I gulped as he said that, not because I didn't expect him to perceive my fear, but because I thought I'd been able to dissimulate a little at least. Well, after yesterday in the gym, that is.
"N-no, I ... I-I ..." He smirked fully, even if not smugly, which was odd but not ... bad.
"Don't worry, I'm not offended." He assured me as he moved to exit the living room, so I followed him. "I know the effect I have on people. And you know just my reputation, I guess. Not me."
I nodded, probably looking like a lost puppy that had no idea what was happening, but I couldn't do else. Eric cracked a very small smile as his eyes twinkled a little as they gazed into mine, making my heart skip a beat, mostly because he looked ... well, charming like that.
He inhaled deeply as we walked towards the front door in silence. Well, I was trying to think of something to say, but nothing came. Suddenly, Eric stopped, so that I almost bumped into him.
"I almost forgot ..." He commented, turning to me. I made it just in time to step back before he realized that I was so close. I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have liked it. He pulled out a paper from his backpack and handed it to me.
"Here's your Math homework." I blinked my eyes as I scrutinized the paper. It had the same exercises as mine but these ones were done already and clearly corrected, given the sign beside each of them. I looked up at Eric, who was, once again, staring at me with his deep blue eyes.
"You've got Miss Stern, I guess. She never changes her worksheets." I kept blinking my eyes, which went from the paper to him and Eric half smiled, making my heart, against my will, melt, because it was ... cute, not as cute as years ago, but ... cute.
"You've had this course before?" I managed to ask, internally high-fiving myself for being able to put together a complete sentence that even made sense without even stammering.
Eric pressed his lips, like not to smile, as he glanced around for a moment. In his eyes I could see a quite amused glint that pushed to reach his lips, but, for some reason, he fought it, like he didn't want me to see him really smiling. I guess it's to keep the bad boy mask.
"Well, almost nobody knows, but ... I'm in AP Calculus." I blinked my eyes, confused, as he said that. Well, not that I expected him to be dumb or something, I mean, I know he's not, but ... well, I took for granted that he wouldn't worry about his education too much. Eric smirked, I bet sensing what I was thinking.
"Yeah, I know, bad boys don't care about their future, right?" He wondered, his voice sounding ... relaxed for once and ... amused, positively amused. Actually, it sounded more ... boyish now. Like he was a carefree high school boy for a moment. Just that.
"No, I ..."
"Duh, don't worry. I know how it is. So, just follow the guidelines or copy or whatever ... I don't really care. You can keep it. I don't need it anymore."
"Uh ... thanks, I guess ..." His mouth twitched in a light smile, but ... always controlled. Guess he really doesn't want to smile. Even if he was clearly amused, because that gleeful glint reached his eyes once more and ... he looked ... cute.
Eric moved to get out but I, taking courage I don't know where, stopped him: "Um ... maybe if ... uh ... I mean ..."
He smirked fully as he saw me embarrassed and hesitant. "I don't bite, Natalie. Well, I won't bite you, so ask what you want."
I inhaled deeply, trying not to think too much of his gentle tone and the reasons for it, especially, trying not to think of what Kyle implied yesterday, because that can't be right. Absolutely not.
I cleared my throat as I shifted on my feet and spoke while fidgeting with my hands, which I do when I'm nervous about something: "Well, I was ... I was wondering if ... if maybe I could ..." I cleared my throat once more, eyes stuck on the ground not to look at him. "I mean ... uh, forget it. You probably have better things to do than ..."
"I've got the afternoon free." I looked up at him, in time to see a very light, but unfortunately temporary, smile etched on his lips. Mine erupted involuntarily because I saw him ... carefree, even if just for a tiny moment. Inhaling deeply:
"Ok, uh ... if ... if it's not of too much trouble for you, I ..." I sighed. "I'd really need help with that homework."
Eric ... smiled. Truly smiled. Just for a moment, but he did. Then moved back towards the living room. "Just don't go around saying we're friends."
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