I stood by the steps leading to the main door, watching over the dynamic world of students arriving for school, meeting friends and gossiping over literally anything while some would just duck and go on their own business, hating to be interrupted or noticed.
I used to be like that; ducking and invisible, I thought, I came back to town with the same intention.
It struck me as unfathomable how few miles of distance and few souls of the right people could change the whole course of a life... And build in a body, a very new person, a brand new soul. Unfathomable. But it happened to me. I was a social inept. I was invisible. But I took a little trip back to the town where my past existed and lo, everything changed.
I met the right people. They saw me and acknowledged me. I met the right person. I met Xavier. I found love. I got love. Now I could even talk to people just like that. I was a much happier person now. I was glad for all that had happened. Now I could even stand on the highest spot of the school yard where people would easily spot me, the steps leading to the main door. Just wow.
I was standing there because I was waiting for Xavier. I wanted to be somewhere he would easily spot me or the other way round; where I could see him drive in. The boys reached home in the morning. They were supposed to reach in the evening but they decided to drive through the night and reach earlier. Part of the reason was me. Part of the reason was Brit. They’d do anything for their friend and girlfriend.
I’d seen Hunt’s truck in the parking lot but not him. Five minutes later, Charlie, gleaming in black under the sun, rolled up in the parking lot. My heart leaped and did a happy dance. A huge smile crept up on my lips. I missed him so much. The car door opened. Xavier came out wearing a navy blue Letterman jacket with the letter A embroidered over his heart in white. I smirked at the pun of his jacket. A big A over his heart.
Did he wear it on purpose?
Three seconds later, Drew’s car pulled up behind Xavier to drop Brittany. He signalled at me with a nod to wait up for a just a little while. I nodded back in understanding. Drew left few seconds after dropping Brit. He went to Spencer’s High and the past few days, he’d been driving Brit to and off from school.
Brit started coming to school one day after the funeral. She wasn’t the type who’d sit and mourn long and deep though she was broken inside. She thought it was better for the students at school to get used to seeing her sooner than stare at her with pity for long. She wanted to get over it real soon. The first two days bugged her like getting immunization in kindergarten.
From where I was standing, I waited patiently as Xavier and Brit greeted each other and fell into a conversation. I reckoned they were talking about her mom and some usual chatter of what had happened within the week. From my left, I saw Hunt walking towards Xavier and Brit. His face looked relief and clear. He must have had some heck of time being away from Brit when her mom died.
Seeing that small smile on Hunt’s face, I couldn’t help but smile either. Relief. Brit’s angel was here. He didn’t have to do much. He’d just have to feed her some crap like he always did and I bet Brit would feel few notch better in no time. He didn’t see me. I didn’t call out either. And Brit and Xavier didn’t see him.
I saw Xavier scratch his neck about three times as he talked. A sign that told he wasn’t handling the situation very well. It could be either he didn’t know what else to say to Brit or either he was embarrassed about something. But since there was nothing to be embarrassed about at the moment, I assumed he was simply lost for words.
Xavier usually handled things well in his own way but I wasn’t that surprised with this one though. Xavier and Brittany were never that close even as friends. The conversation must have been pretty awkward for the both of them.
Everything was as expected until as if the world was suddenly hanging upside down, Brittany ran into Xavier and hugged him tight... The way I would. The only way I was supposed to hold him. I felt a lump the size of an egg form in my throat. I felt hammered on the top of my head. I was beyond shock. The sight of Brittany hugging Xavier was like watching a deer hug a lion.
Xavier, on his part, seemed too staggered to do anything. He was still. He looked like he was just as shocked as I was. He glanced up towards me. I looked away, acting as trivial as I could. I just didn’t want to meet his eyes in that extremely awkward situation. I guess, maybe, I was afraid of what I might see in them.
As I looked away from Xavier, I saw Hunt. He had turned on his heels and was already walking back to where he came from; his broad back unusually firm and rigid.
When I looked back at Xavier, he had awkwardly hugged Brit back. I wasn’t sad or mad at that. Not at all. But I couldn’t help but feel a little weird and unsettling about it. It somehow struck me as shocking as to why it was making me feel uneasy.
Okay, Alana, I told myself in my mind, don’t over think. It’s just a friendly hug; a friend hugging a friend who recently lost her mom. What’s there to feel uneasy or weird about?!
Then why did Hunt leave?!
Was he also just feeling ridiculously uneasy?
Xavier broke the hug. They nodded at each other as they exchanged few more words. It seemed Brit was crying. I saw her wipe her cheeks. And then Xavier signalled his head towards me. Brittany turned and saw me for the first time that morning and even from this distance of some ten meters, I could get that her expression was that of shock and guilt.
Shock just everywhere this morning.
What, Brit? How have I suddenly become so scary to you?
Brit went the other way without ever meeting my gaze for the second time that morning. Xavier came to me, striding in a fast pace as if he couldn’t wait any longer to be with me. Maybe, I was right. I was feeling the same thing. Why wouldn’t he. We were in love. I couldn’t wait to be in his arms again... To claim my place again. It’s funny how I felt like I’d lost my place for a while there, just some few seconds ago.
I scurried down the stairs. The look on Xavier’s face was a bit nervous. So was the feelings churning in my insides. They didn’t feel that alright. But as we eventually came within each other’s reach, it was hard to think of anything else. Suddenly, it felt as if everything in our minds had disappeared. He grinned at me. I beamed back and ran into him like a little magnet, throwing my arms around his neck. He welcomed me in his arms with all of him, claiming my lips into his at once... deeply, long and sweet. It felt like coming back home.
“I missed you so much, Mongrel,” he said, kissing me.
“I missed you too,” I breathed.
He pulled me into the kiss again; never getting enough.
“Nice jacket,” I grinned up at him when we pulled apart.
He grinned back, “I know. My favorite. It’s got a big A over my heart.”
I laughed. So he knew.
“Just another indication that I’ve got Alana running all over my veins,” he laughed and kissed my forehead.
Hunt and Brit came in together for class. Brit was smiling now as she talked to him. Hunt did it. Somewhere in my casual looking around, our gazes met. Hunt smiled at Xavier and me. Brit avoided my gaze the same instant I met hers. My smiled dropped to the floor all at once. She was not helping.
After Xavier and I met, I’d actually forgotten all about what happened few minutes before. All I could continue to think about was that Xavier was back and that I was thrilled to be with him again. And now it was like she was forcing me to remember it again. Now I felt more weird than I did in the yard. And that just wasn’t the end of it. She continued to avoid me during lunch breaks. Even when our gazes would accidentally meet, she would always look away.
This aching weirdness continued for days. She would either leave the lunch table early or make up some excuses to avoid walking with me to class... Like we always did. Those days Xavier would drop me till my class room door.
Even on the lunch table, she would be unusually quiet. I used to make some effort to talk to her but she would give me one worded answers which were all dead ends to casual conversations.
What the heck, Brit?
The only time she looked almost okay was when she was with Hunt alone. She possibly couldn’t ignore his crappiness. They hadn’t changed a bit. Once I even saw Brit punching him inside class as Hunt laughed away. She was smiling too.
Scott thought she was quiet because her mom died. But deep down in my gut, I knew that was not the case. Of course, she might be still mourning her mom’s dead but she wasn’t this way until that particular morning. She was as cool as ever before that. Okay, maybe not as cool as before but still relatively okay.
So It wasn’t her mom. It was something else I had no idea about. But then, I still didn’t want to press her too much with my benevolence. Maybe, she really needed some space after her mom died.
But then again, sometimes on the lunch table when I used to make attempts to talk to her and when she replied with one worded answers, Xavier’s expression would look almost pissed. It made me question whether if their conversation in the school yard had anything to do with her strange behavior.
What exactly did they talked about?
Why did Brit run into him?
Every single thing became a puzzle for me; the kind that Mr. Da Vinci would have invented. It had been almost a week this way and everyone could feel the tension by now.
What wrong did I do, Brit?
It was just another weird day like those. Brit had left the lunch table. Xavier offered to walk me to my class but I declined.
“It’s okay,” I smiled at him as I stood up from my chair.
He looked concerned nevertheless. He stood up too.
“It’s okay, Xavier,” Kendra chimed in, “I’ll walk with her.”
He didn’t say anything more. He simply nodded and pulled me in for a kiss on my forehead. It was almost like a habit now. Or maybe it was already a habit for him but there was no doubt he meant it. And I kept falling more in love with him whenever he would give me forehead kisses. And this time, when he pulled me in for a kiss, his touch felt exceptionally tender; like he was consoling me. I looked up to meet his eyes. He slowly smiled back.
He knew I was troubled within.
The gentle look in his eyes told everything. In time, I’d slowly learned to read his gestures and the messages his eyes would curtly convey.
“What’s up with Brit?” Kendra asked me as we walked towards the washroom.
“I have no idea. Maybe she just need some space,” I said.
“There’s nothing wrong, right?”
There was absolutely no problem. Not that I knew of. But the incident in the school yard kept bugging my mind. But whatsoever, I didn’t talk to Kendra about it. In fact, I didn’t want to talk to anybody about it. I just wanted to forget it. Even if I did talk to Kendra about it, who knew it meant nothing and I was just thinking too far. It wouldn’t make the situation any better.
I assured Kendra she didn’t have to walk me to my class. Instead, I walked her to hers and then I went to the washroom alone. When I went in, Brit was there. So was Nikki. I stopped for a moment at the door. Nikki’s back was facing me and she was standing in front of Brit.
“What are you going to say when she finds out?” Nikki said tauntingly with a hint of tease.
Brit’s eyes flickered towards me. Nikki looked back at me.
“Wow,” she said and smirked evilly, “Right on time.”
I frowned at her. Brittany shoved pass her and went out without a word to me either.
Nikki came up to me, the sound of her heels clicking on the tiled floor, and said as if she was sharing a clandestine gossip to her best friend, “Watch out for that vixen.”
And then she left, wearing a triumphant smirk. By this time, my mind was too much in a puzzle to be able to comprehend anything. Why was Brit avoiding me? What could have possibly gone wrong? And what exactly did Nikki mean?!
I looked at myself in the mirror for a brief second. I looked distraught. Troubled. Tired. Fatigued, actually. I needed to know what was happening. This couldn’t go on forever. I needed answers. So I strode out of the washroom and followed Brittany.
“Brit!” I called out to her when I spotted her down the hallway.
She looked back at me once but continued walking away.
“Brit!” I called again, picking up pace.
“Brit! Stop!” I said with a tone of command.
She stopped and waited but didn’t look back at me. She was looking down on the floor. By this time, the hallway was clear of any being except the two of us.
“We need to talk,” I said when I reached her.
She still couldn’t meet my eyes. She was still looking down, anywhere but me.
“Brit, what’s wrong? Why are you avoiding me?” I asked.
“I’m not avoiding you,” she answered barely in almost a whisper.
“Really, Brit. I know something’s wrong. Just tell me what it is. Did I do something wrong?”
She scoffed a laugh at the floor and replied, “No. It’s not you. It’s me.”
I took a moment to look at her face but she wasn’t looking up at me. She flicked a sideways glance at the white wall.
“Is there anything I can help with? You don’t have to hide anything from me, you know.”
She let out a low laugh as if I was being ridiculous and she finally looked up.
“Alana, trust me. You don’t wanna know this,” she said, “Or maybe you already know but you just don’t want to admit it’s true,” she met my eyes and for some reason unknown, I felt my pulse race.