Chapter 25 - Enigma
CHAPTER 25 - ENIGMA
When I spotted Eric on the bleachers, just as I entered the gym, I battled with myself to go talk to him, but then I considered that, one, in school we still, for some reason, act like we don't even know each other, two, well ... I don't think he'd really want to talk about that kiss and really I wouldn't know what to say.
Yet ... when he looked up at me, I warily waved at him, cracking a small smile, but he didn't respond, actually, he ignored me. It was obvious that I couldn't expect anything from that kiss, and really I didn't, but I just thought ... I just thought that maybe after all this time we might be taking a step closer to being at least acquainted if not friends, but I guess I was just wrong. Better said, my first belief was true: after the project and everything, Eric and I would be back to strangers.
It felt disappointing, yes. Especially because, when I think about it, I know that even if it was just a simple peck on the lips, it left me something I still can't decipher and I felt strange, like something was changing and I didn't know what.
Oh, well, I guess I can go back to normal now. Me being invisible. Because, believe me, having the hottest boys in school alternatively approach me by my locker did cause some eyes to set on me. Both Kyle and Eric are pretty well known in our school, actually, there's not a soul that doesn't know who Kyle Romano and Eric Rivers are. Even freshmen arrive with some knowledge and if not, they find out in the first days.
Me, I don't really fit with any of them. I mean, Eric is on the bad side and I'm seen as a little saint. Kyle ... he's popular, everybody loves him, especially because he's captain of the soccer team and the one that only guides them to victory. Me ... oh, well, welcome back anonymity.
Just as I thought that, I felt somebody brushing my arm.
"Hi." A tall, dark-haired boy I didn't know greeted. Looking up at him, I saw he was not too bad, I mean, cute, with bright blue eyes, kind of similar to Eric but a bit darker, and in any case Eric's blues are more beautiful, I mean ... it's a matter of fact, not just me, those eyes hold a very intense look and they are able to convey so many emotions when he lets them.
Normally, they're icy and it appears like he has no heart and no feelings at all, but ... ok, don't take it bad, but ... lately, when he looks at me, even more when he smiles at me, truly smiles, in those eyes I see a gentleness, a sensitiveness I've never thought he could be capable of, because in those little moments he comes off as ... a normal teenage boy that's smiling, a very, very cute normal teenage boy that's smiling and ... and I like it.
Beware, I said I like his smile and his eyes, not ... him, ok? Because I don't like Eric in that sense. I like being around him when he's not scary, but I don't like him in that sense, ok? Case closed.
Jamie dug a hole in my head with her babbling about how that isn't true, because I look at him in this different way she didn't want to explain but she says she's never seen me look at a boy like that, not even Kyle. She says my eyes twinkle when they settle on Eric, which is absurd if you ask me, but then I talked about that to Aisha too and she confirmed, saying that I don't even realize it, but, one, I unconsciously smile when I gaze at Eric, even in the distance, two, there is something that lights up in my eyes, something she hasn't seen in my gaze when I look at Kyle instead. I think they're both crazy.
I can only imagine how will they squeal and torment me when I tell them about that little peck on the lips Eric gave me just yesterday.
"H-hi ..." I awkwardly responded to the guy beside me.
He smiled. "I'm Nathan." He told me, extending his hand to me.
"Natalie." I replied, shaking his hand, still confused because ... well, the boy was cute even and he was talking to me. Of all the girls in that gym, he was talking to me! I know it's pathetic, but normally boys really don't even see me. Well, in these weeks I've had male eyes on me as well, but it was only when either Kyle or Eric would approach me. I guess it's like sheep following the shepherd ...
Nathan smiled at me sweetly and asked me how was I doing so we engaged in a small talk. I did my best not to let it stall and it felt ... well, nice. I guess I'm not as socially awkward as I've always thought I was.
The conversation was fluent ... till I flinched, feeling his hand on the small of my back ...
"Tell me, Natalie ... are you and Rivers ... well acquainted?" Nathan asked lowly, almost whispering in my ear.
I, feeling still awkward, because his hand was still on the small of my back and I didn't have the guts to tell him to get it off me, glanced at him, confused. "Eric? No, we ... we've just ... worked on a project together these weeks. That's all." Which is the absolute truth,well...omitting the part about him helping me with Math and driving me insane with his odd behavior first,then that kiss and everything he is or appears as, which is confusing me and...ahh! I wanna scream. I'm too confused. He confuses me. My mind is a huge mess and all because Mr. Bad Boy there,decided to kiss me and so play with it,messing with my thoughts,then ignore me like I never even existed. It's insane. In-sa-ne.
Nathan smirked. The boy might be charming,but there's something in his expression that makes me doubt,I don't know why...or maybe I'm just paranoid. Yet,only the paranoid survives, says Finch*... "Nothing else?" The boy asked.
"Nope." I replied, propping the p as I glanced around,wondering when would the teacher arrive.
"Then why does he look like he wants to stab me?" I arched an eyebrow at Nathan, marveled, as he said that.
"He what?" I asked,completely dumbfounded.
Nathan slyly hinted at the bleachers, so I turned around and ... he dissimulated immediately, but Eric really looked like he'd been staring at me and Nathan talking and his expression was all but glad.
Well, why would it bother him? That peck on my lips he gave me yesterday meant nothing to him, I know that now, so why would he care if I talk to another boy? Duh, he probably was just curious or was looking behind us, not precisely at me and Nathan. That's the only explanation.
"Judging from his murderous look, I think I'm gonna need to watch my back ..." Nathan suggested from beside me, leaning in so much that I could feel his hot breath against my ear.
I spun around, facing him while backing up a little, not really liking such closeness because I don't know him at all. "Did you wrong him in some way?" I asked, confused.
Nathan grinned. "I've just approached his girl. That's practically signed my death sentence."
I frowned, tilting my head to the side, as he said that. "I'm not his girl." I stated, arms crossed, which is true, I am not his girl. We aren't even friends. We're just somewhat acquainted. Well, ok, you don't just come up and kiss an acquaintance but ... I'm gonna stall on the belief that he didn't really mean to kiss me.
After all it was just a peck and he disappeared immediately, clear sign he didn't want to give me explanations or anything, so ... it was nothing. Something done out of instinct that he really didn't mean to do, henceforth ... nothing. That it caused in me so many different emotions I still can't pinpoint and that had me, both Aisha and mom said, all giggly all day (I blamed it on the A+ in Math), doesn't mean it was something. Sure, it was my first, but it wasn't truly a kiss. Just a peck. Only a peck ... you can easily guess that's what I've been telling myself since yesterday...
"Eric and I have only worked on a project together these weeks and as you can see, he keeps away from me, so there's really nothing between us." I continued, although probably more to myself than to Nathan, who grinned.
"You sure? Because right now he really looks like he wants to murder me."
I rolled my eyes just as coach Nichols blew his whistle, so I took the chance to walk away, reaching my other peers in line in front of him. I was startled to feel a tall and quite aggravated presence looming over me, though ... turning around, I noticed Eric standing right there.
"How do you know Nathan?" He asked me as coach Nichols babbled something about rules or whatever, I mean, his usual speech about having to respect each other and everything, but I didn't really bother. I only noticed that Eric's voice was hoarse and ... well, cute in its own way. But that's just a matter of fact, not me, okay?
"What?" I questioned, arching an eyebrow at him, who rolled his eyes.
"Nathan. How do you know him?" HIs voice sounded serious and inquiring. Why does he even bother? Technically,he's even in a realtionship,a secret one maybe,but still...
"Uh ... I ... don't. He just ... introduced himself to me ... why?"
Eric simply nodded, clenching his jaw, eyes ahead of him.
"Eric?" He didn't reply. "Why ..." Too late. Coach Nichols blew his whistle and we had to start running. Duh, I hate running ...
"Hey, there ... Natalie, right?" I heard someone calling as I was taking my books from my locker, ready to head to my last class. All lunch break I spent it tuning out Kyle and Aisha chatting as I could only keep on mulling over Eric's odd behavior. Enigmatic is the term, I think, but he's more than that.
I mean, yesterday he just comes up and kisses me. Just a peck, yes, but still ... his lips did come in contact with mine, and I'm not an expert, but that's called kiss, isn't it? So he just kisses me out of the blue, then he disappears, because I haven't heard of him neither seen him since then. He ignores me, like this morning in Gym class, but just as a boy approaches me, he looks like it bothers him. I mean, maybe Nathan exaggerated, but Eric did look all but glad about me chatting with another boy.
Should I seriously think he's jealous? Of me even? That's absolutely impossible, isn't it? I mean, he could be surprised to see a boy approach me, he could be even protective, because, as he says, I matter to him, but being jealous ... nah. He's not the jealous kind, I think, and even if he was, if there's one girl he should be jealous of, that's Dana, his secret girlfriend. Not me, who am barely even a friend to him.
Actually, now that I think about it, why did he kiss me if he's dating Dana? I don't even ever see them together. I get it that they might want to keep it a secret, but I've observed them this morning in class and they don't even look at each other. Better said, I have caught her glancing at him with some sort of longing look in her eyes, but him ... no, Eric seemed completely lost into his own thoughts.
Turning around, I saw Nathan grinning at me. I did my best to smile but I bet it came out awkward. I am not used to boys, especially cute boys, approaching me for no reason and wanting to talk to me. I mean, Kyle and I are becoming friends and he's way more than cute, he's so handsome, but as for others ... nope, none.
I don't mention Eric simply because he's a whole different thing. The guy acts so weird that I can't help but be confused. One moment I think we're friends, or somewhat friends, or on the way to be it, then he blows my mind away with a simple peck on my lips and leaves me all giggly all day, then he ignores me and lets me know that it was seriously nothing, but it bothers him if I talk to other boys and ... Gee, I'm going nuts!
"Hi ..." I greeted, trying to sound normal and not at all stressed by the maze that my mind is becoming because of Mr. Enigmatic.
Nathan nodded, still grinning. "How's it going?" He asked.
"Uh ... fine ..." I replied, but he was distracted, was looking around, like seeking something or somebody specific ... or just scanning the hallway. Actually, now that I recall, I have never even seen him here.
"You're new here, aren't you?" I commented, unable to retain myself.
Nathan turned to me, grinning. "Yeah, just moved in."
I nodded, not really knowing what else to say other than: "Well, I gotta head to class, so ... see you around." I moved, but he grabbed my arm, and that already was odd and for some reason alarmed me. Especially because I was early from lunch break and there was almost nobody in the hall. I have no idea who this kid is and my paranoid superpowers already tell me it might not have been a casual our meeting after all.
"Natalie ... I'd like to talk to you a little, may I?" I blinked my eyes, nonchalantly trying to snatch my arm from him. I didn't like the situation, not one bit. Especially because he looked different from how he'd presented himself as. I mean, he looked ... fake, if that makes any sense.
So I decided I'd act like nothing and invent an excuse: "Uh ... it'd be nice, but ... if I arrive late, the teacher's gonna send me to detention and ..."
"Just a couple of minutes. You're even early." I nodded, not really knowing how to escape, but really, I had a bad feeling about this. Especially when he, still gripping my arm, moved, like to make me follow him.
"Uh ... Nathan, I think we can talk here ..." I argued, trying to literally put my foot down and stall his pace. We were alone in that darn hall, and people were all still in the cafeteria. Sure, if I screamed, maybe someone would come, but it'd be too late. Ok, maybe I watch too many crime shows.
Nathan smirked, though, his countenance showing nothing my malevolence. "Somewhere more private would be better." He suggested.
"But there's nobody here." I argued, maybe stupidly.
He grinned. "Just follow me, ok? I'm not gonna hurt you. Promise."
Forcefully, and with I don't know what courage, I snatched my arm from his grip. "I don't even know you. I'm not following you anywhere." I stated, quite irritated more than scared. I have no idea who the heck this boy is, but how can he think he can just come up and force me to follow him somewhere when no one can see us? I don't even want to think what would he do to me if we happened to be really alone and in a secluded place.
Nathan smirked more, quite ... devilishly, grabbing my arm again before I could back up. "Believe me, you better follow me, unless ..."
"Let her go." A familiar male voice injected and I turned around, kind of relieved when I saw Eric. The words my hero as I gazed at him did spin in my head, yes.
Nathan smirked. "Rivers, hey ... what's up?" He asked nonchalantly, still gripping me.
"You've got three seconds to get your hands off her before I break them, Rogers." Eric threatened darkly as he got really close. If Nathan's countenance showed malevolence, Eric's showed nothing but fuming anger, like he would more than break Nathan's hands, actually, Eric looked possibly one step away from the evil monster he's seen as, but this time ... in a different way. Like ... I don't know, like the good one becoming evil for the greater good, if that makes any sense. Yes, yes, I seriously watch too many TV shows, I know.
Yet Nathan chuckled. "Come on, you know I'm not gonna harm her. I just need to question her a little ..." He commented but Eric glared at him menacingly.
"She doesn't know anything. Now get your hands off her. That's the last warning."
Nathan smirked. "You can't touch me, you know that." Oh, so that's why he was so self-confident. Is there some reason why Eric wouldn't beat him up? Not that I'd want him to, I'm just curious as to why would this kid feel so confident about such an irascible bad boy not acting on his menaces when right now he looked like the perfect incarnation of the blind rage.
"Wanna bet?" Eric proposed, that evil glint in his eyes he only has only when engaged in a fight, but mixed with something else, something like ... concern maybe? About me or about the situation itself?
Nathan's smirk vanished, a little bit of anxiety now making its way on his handsome face. "If word gets to him that you ..."
"I don't give a fucking shit about what he says. Get your filthy hands off her, Rogers, or I swear, you'll go back to your boss in a blood puddle." I blinked my eyes to conceal the itching of my breath as Eric had sounded dead serious and really scary, the veins on his neck more than pulsing,looking like they were about to pop.
In fact Nathan let go of my arm. I knew better than to rub my injured skin in front of Eric, feeling like he might snap for real if he knew Nathan's grip on me had been that tight.
Although the question is, who is he? And why did Nathan, if, at this point, that's even his real name, want to question me? About what? And who the heck is this he whose only mentioning should have scared Eric?
Nathan threw his hands in the air, grinning as he backed up, probably feeling Eric was very much serious about his menaces. "It's not over, Rivers. If I'm here, that means he wants to know about her." The new boy commented. Again this he. But who is it? And is he so mighty that we should be scared?
Eric gritted his teeth as he glared at Nathan, but didn't reply and in a moment Nathan was out of sight. Once he was, Eric turned to me, his countenance now being swallowed by that hint of concern that had been previously hidden by rage. "You alright?" He asked me, his intense gaze scrutinizing me, so that I instinctively hid the light mark on my arm by nonchalantly playing with the sleeves of my hoodie.
Something told me that just a little mark on my wrist, that I'm sure will go away by tomorrow or even less, might have been enough to make Eric snap and go after Nathan, whatever his real name is, like a hound ready to devour its prey.
"Yeah, I ... what was it all about?" I asked, but he simply walked away. I followed him. Shouldn't have, but I did. I needed to know. "Eric ... tell me, what was all of that about?"
I sighed, taking a boost of courage to grab his arm and stop him, so that we locked gazes. "He said he had to question me ... about what?"
"Nothing you should worry about."
I rolled my eyes. "That boy was to kidnap me, Eric. I want to know."
He sighed, snatching his arm from my grip. "He won't bother you again. Promise."
"But why should he in the first place?"
Eric closed his eyes for a moment and I, unconsciously, brushed his arm, to which he nearly flinched, his eyes snapping open and fixing on my hand that was on his arm. I shouldn't be touching him, I know, but still ... we remained there silent for a long minute, although I would have sworn I could hear my heart racing.
"I can't tell you." Eric eventually stated, pulling away from me,which made me feel a little... odd inside,like I missed the contact with his skin already.
"Just know that you're safe. I'll see to it." Eric promised,serious as ever,as she glint in his eyes remarked.
"But from what? Or should I say who?" I asked,voicing my thoughts.
"From ... bad people. That's all I can tell you."
"Eric ..." Nothing. He just walked away without a word, leaving me there speechless. What was that all about? Who was that boy? And why did he have to question me? And who is this he that should have scared even one like Eric?