The Angel,The Devil,The Nerd

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Chapter 8 - Know your enemy


"Nat!" I heard someone calling me as I was walking towards the cafeteria. I turned around and instantly smiled at the sight of Kyle running towards me. Running. Like … he really wanted to talk to me! A girl’s heart can melt just at that, you know.

"Hey …" I greeted, kind of warily, while he grinned, showing me his pearly white teeth. His hair was, like always, a complete mess, like Eric’s too is, but since Kyle’s is longer, he … wait, why do I even compare him to Eric? Gee, that boy’s getting under my skin so easily.

There was a time when I barely acknowledged him once arrived at school or in class, busy as I was in daydreaming about my lovely Kyle, and now … now the bad boy is invading my thoughts. Well, I think this time can be easily explained by what he told me just a few minutes ago, I mean … it’s creepy that he knows this much about me, and yet more than freaked out, which partly I am, I’m curious, as to how and why does he know.

Does he seriously watch me? That’d be so... so stalkish (I know, the word doesn’t exist), but I can’t really believe he doesn’t have better to do with his time than stalk me. Besides, he said he doesn’t. He just knows. Duh … it’s useless to think about it.

I looked up at Kyle and his lovely grin always there. It’s so much better to focus my attention on this particular boy here. I wonder … would I be so easy to read if I just so happened to inquire on his tastes about girls? I mean … so that I can … have a strategy. Oh, I wish Jamie was here! She promised to help from afar, yes, but it’s not the same. Times like this, it sucks to be a loner, you know.

"How’s it going?" Kyle asked me. I shrugged. "Normal. You?" I replied with a small smile.

Didn’t really want to tell him his archenemy just freaked me out by confessing he knows me almost better than my own best friend.

Either he’s a good observer or he stalks me, but I’ll go for the first one, because Eric doesn’t look like the type of guy who’d be stalking someone … if anything, he’d have one of his pals following me around, but I think I would have noticed, wouldn’t I? Especially because both Floyd and Dominic are pretty easy to see, being as they are quite … well-built, well, Floyd is, Dominic is more on the normal side, but neither of them is really … a genius, so, being Reese’s secret daughter as I am, I think I would have noticed.

Floyd and Dominic are those kids I always see with Eric beneath the stairs every morning, I guess you could call them his friends, but they’re more like minions that follow him around when he agrees to it.

For all I know, Mr. Bad Boy is a loner too, and those kids that follow him around are like puppies either attracted by his bad fame or scared to be on the wrong side of the fence. Or maybe they just think that being “friends” with Eric Rivers will gain them some popularity. Although, maybe I’m not fair, because Floyd’s younger brother, Ethan, is a new addition, and being a freshman as he is, he’s been boasting around a little about this sort of friendship he has with Mr. Dark King of the school, while Floyd and Dominic are with Eric since freshman year.

Duh, maybe I am as creepy as him for knowing these things. But the thing is, it’s easy to know, because while being invisible, I do have ears, and while I’m often in lala land, when I am not, I do hear kids gossiping. I could easily be a great journalist, mom sometimes says, because I’m discreet enough not to be noticed and therefore catch the yummiest scoop.

But … again, I really shouldn’t think of Eric so much. The boy’s messing with my mind, damn him. I bet he knew I’d be overthinking about his words, I bet he’s there laughing to himself as he thinks of that silly nerd who’s now fussing about his words. Duh, like he even thinks of me … oomph, why do I even think of him instead? Focus on the angel, Natalie. On the angel.

Kyle nodded, giving me a lovely smile that had the butterflies in my stomach do the cha-cha-cha. And here I recall why do I like him so much. Opposite to someone, Kyle makes you feel at ease, makes you want to smile … not cower back in fear. Dang it, Natalie, stop thinking about the bad boy! He’s messing with your mind! Do not allow him!

"Fine. Listen, were you heading to lunch?" Kyle asked me. Instinctively, I turned around, eyes on the cafeteria that was just a few steps from us, then turned to him again and nodded, to which he grinned. "Great. How about I join you?"

I blinked my eyes, confused. As far as I know, he’s got his own clique he normally eats with, like … his teammates, cheerleaders, football jocks and all the popular circle. But then again, am I so stupid to reject my adorable crush when he wants to spend time with me? Of course not. So I tried to give him my best smile as I agreed and we headed to the cafeteria together.

Several eyes were on us as we joined the queue, even more when we sat down at the same table … alone. Among those eyes, there were some I expected, and some others I didn’t: for instance, I highly expected for Dana to dig a hole in my head when she saw me with her friend, I expected her minions to follow her in that, I expected the funny looks from other kids, but … what I didn’t expect, was the glare Eric sent Kyle as soon as his eyes landed on us. He didn’t even spare me a glance, but sent a glare, a deadly, blood-freezing glare to Kyle, who seemed unfazed, even if he did notice it.

"How comes you’re not afraid of him?" I couldn’t help but ask, just as Eric angrily threw his food in the dustbin and stormed out of the cafeteria. Talk about moody periods here … this guy’s so easy to rile up …

Kyle grinned at me as he attacked his stuffed pasta with his fork. "Why should I fear him? He’s just a jerk." I blinked my eyes at that, quite confused. "Well, all school is …"

"All school is just blinded by his reputation."

"Well, you’ll admit there’s nothing encouraging in the rumors about him …" Kyle chuckled and, inevitably, my heart skipped a beat, so I tried to conceal it by taking a bite of my pasta.

"You’re right, there isn’t. But, truth be told, a good half of those aren’t real." I arched an eyebrow at him and he grinned. "Believe me, Nat, if I could, I’d wrong Eric Rivers in all the ways possible, but I gotta be honest, all of that talking about his being a jailbird and nonsense like that, it’s all bullshit."

"So … he didn’t rob a bank on his 18th birthday and got away with it because his dad is rich?" Kyle laughed wholeheartedly, barely being able not to spill his coke as he was holding the glass in his left hand. I’ll admit I was glad I could make him laugh, but also quite confused at his reaction.

"Yeah, I’ve heard of that one. It’s a huge lie. Eric doesn’t even celebrate his birthdays. Normally he disappears that day, going God knows where, but certainly not robbing banks." I blinked my eyes. One, how does Kyle know about Eric’s habits? Two, is everything said about Mr. Bad Boy a lie?

I’ve always thought those rumors were exaggerated, but then I spotted him in the hall, so frightening, and could only think that, while being possibly engorged, those couldn’t be total lies. And yet …

"He doesn’t do drugs, not for what I know, drinks, yes, even being underage, but we all do, smokes … absolutely no, actually, I know for a fact he can’t stand the cigarette’s smell, which is why his pals that do smoke, accurately avoid doing it before meeting him or in his presence." Kyle assured me, apparently absorbed in his lunch, but looking like he’d just read my mind, knowing I was curious about all those rumors.

"He’s been in a reformatory, yes, but just for a summer, for stealing his own father’s car." I frowned as he said that. "Wait, his own father sent him to a reformatory?" Kyle shrugged. "They’re not in the best terms, you know. Eric stole the car just to piss him off. The man didn’t even blink when he called police and had his son arrested. Had Eric been a major, he would have gone to jail, but since he was 15, the judge let him off the hook, giving him just three months in the reformatory. Although, made him promise not to act as stupid as that again."

Well, that explains why in the summer between freshman and sophomore year Eric was nowhere to be seen. Not that I normally look for him in the streets, but, I mean, while Kyle spends half of his summers away (I know because I never see him), I know for a fact that Eric remains in town. Me and him are two of the few kids that remain, that’s why I know.

Besides, normally during summer I go reading in the park and along the years I have seen him hanging around there all alone in summer. I’ll admit that, at times, I’ve been tempted to flee as soon as I spotted him, but there always were other people in that park and I soon got engorged in my book, so forgot about him and everyone else.

"As so the fact that he carries a gun …" Kyle continued, catching my complete attention, even if in the wrong way. I mean, he does have my complete attention, but this time it was because I was seriously curious to know more about this unreadable boy that Eric Rivers seems to be.

After all, if he knows that much about me, why shouldn’t I inquire about him? It’d be only fair, wouldn’t it? Knowing your enemy is the first step into winning, Sun Tzu says. Well, ok, I’m just quoting Mr. Reese quoting The Art of War, but whatever.

"… that’s totally invented." Kyle explained. "Sure, he might know his way round a rifle, but simply because his father’s taken him hunting since he was a child." I grimaced at that, the thought of poor innocent animals being killed just for sport. That’s cruel, to say the least. Horrible. How could they do that?

Kyle grinned as his eyes landed on me. "Is there a reason why you’re interested in Eric Rivers all of a sudden, Nat?" He questioned and my heart suddenly jumped to my throat. His expression was … kind of malicious, and I bet he thought I was crushing on the bad boy, which is as far from truth as I am from perfection.

I could never like Eric Rivers in that sense. Never ever. First because he scares the hell out of me every time, then because I’m not at all into the bad boy type. I’m more intrigued by all of this mystery halo that surrounds him, considering so much of what is said about him is, as Kyle says, a lie.

I pursed my lips, trying to sound nonchalant as I replied: "N-No reason … I was just … curious." Luckily, he believed me, so nodded. "Many girls are. Many girls are attracted to him just because of this tough look he has. But really I didn’t figure you as the kind of girl who would go after such type …"

"I don’t!" I nearly shouted, feeling my cheeks beet red right after, especially as Kyle chuckled. "No need to be offended, Nat. I would understand if you liked him … many girls do."

"I don’t!" Kyle threw his hands in the air, but still chuckling, while my heart was racing and my cheeks were crimson.

How could he think I like Eric? We’re so opposites, so … so different! Gee, he already implied that Eric might like me in that sense, and that’s absurd, because I know for a fact he doesn’t, because, I mean, he doesn’t even stand my presence, now implying that I might like him! That’s nonsense. Yes, I find him hot, but that doesn’t mean I like him!

Besides, I know for a fact that Kyle normally knows when a girl likes him, so, even if we’ve been really talking just since barely a week, is he so clueless not to see that I like him? How can he assume I like Eric while not even seeing that instead I like him? Do I dissimulate that well?

I sighed as he lowered his hands, picking up his fork again, still grinning. "Sorry, Nat. I just wanted to be sure." I frowned at that. "Of what?"

He shrugged, but without replying. I kept gazing at him with a questioning look, but in the end he smiled and … well, every other thought went out of the window. Those concerning Eric Rivers included.


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