Chapter 1 - Alexia
It was the last week before school started that my “friend” Vanessa invited her BFF Chloe and me to the mall. Why is “friend” between quotation marks? Well, because Vanessa is a bad person. She treats me like a piece of shit.
She has been the most popular girl in school for over five years.
Me? Not so much.
I’m the girl who does Vanessa’s homework. I’m the girl who follows her around because she might need me. I’m the girl that’s too scared to tell her the truth so that I can have a life myself.
Alexia Bates, nice to meet you.
Anyway, it was the last week of summer. The clock next to my bed read 10.48 A.M. I was deciding what to wear, when my phone rang. A bad feeling surged inside me.
Please let it not be her.
I approached the phone on my desk, looked at the screen and sighed.
I picked it up and answered. "Hello, Vanessa."
"Where are you? I’ve been waiting for almost five minutes!" Vanessa screamed at me through the phone.
"Um... where should I be?" I asked with a tiny voice.
"Are you kidding me? AT THE MALL!" She yelled again. "I invited Chloe to the mall and you have to be here!"
"Um... why?" I asked again, waiting for the worst.
"Uh... who do you think is going to hold my purse?" She asked me sarcastically.
Defeated, I said, "I’ll be right there Vanessa."
"You’d better be!" She yelled and then hung up.
I put down the phone and looked at my open closet. I settled for a purple blouse, short cut jeans and a pair of white Adidas. I let my long black hair fall onto my shoulders. I picked out an anchor necklace and some horse-shaped earrings. I took my white bag and checked if everything I needed was in there. My phone, money, a notepad, a pen, my book and some tissues. Great.
As I walked out of my front door, my mother, who was in the kitchen (as usual), asked me where I was going.
"I’m going to meet Vanessa at the mall." I answered.
"Okay, but be careful." She said, then added, "See you later!"
"Bye!" I said as I shut the door.
Fortunately for me, the mall was about 5 minutes from my house. And right there at the entrance was Vanessa talking to Chloe.
"Hi, Vanessa." I said, then turned to her BFF "Chloe."
I’ll give you a brief description of the two.
Vanessa has long blond hair, which she usually ties in a ponytail. Her eyes were bright green, and every time I looked at them, they reminded me of a snake. She always wore too much makeup. She was thin, but weak. She didn’t have any muscles on her. She does go to the gym, but mostly hangs out in the SPA. I should know: I’m the one that makes her reservations. Even if there were almost 90 degrees, she wore long skinny jeans, a white sleeveless shirt and black high heel boots.
Chloe was even worse. She had long red hair that fell onto her shoulders. Her eyes were light brown, but gave away the same message as always: If you don’t want any broken teeth, stay away. Chloe was also skinny, but a little more muscular than Vanessa was. And, surprisingly, she was always very quiet. She wore a long sleeved green striped shirt, long black leggings and dark brown boots.
"Alexia, what took you so long! We’ve been waiting for an hour!" She yelled at me.
"You called me five minutes ago!" I protested.
"I don’t care! You’re late! Hold my purse!" She said as she threw me her brown handbag.
"And be careful! If you brake my phone..."
She let that hang in the air.
"Yes, I’ll be careful. Sorry."
"Good. Now let’s go shopping." Vanessa said.
As it usually happened, while Vanessa and Chloe talked and gossiped, I stayed behind the two with my book in my hands, reading intently.
I had to interrupt my reading a couple of times when Vanessa needed a tissue, or when she blamed me for not telling her to dress light, since it was so hot.
It wasn’t so bad. When she said my name, I would raise my head, say "Sorry" a couple of times and then kept reading.
We were walking down the street, heading towards H&M, and I was reading intently a particular part.
He nudged her chin up with his thumb, and her lips parted with a sharp intake of breath. And then he saw it. The gentle rise and fall of her chest, the soft rose in her cheeks, the skittish look in her eyes, flitting to his lips and then quickly away. Comprehension suddenly oozed through him like heated honey purling through his veins. Could it be? Was it possible that cold, callous Katie O’Connor was beginning to warm up? To him, of all people—Cluny McGee, the leper from her past? The thought sent warm ripples of shock through his body, thinning the air in his lungs. His gaze gentled, taking in the vulnerability in her eyes, the fear in her face, and all he wanted to do was hold her, reassure her.
As if under a spell, his gaze was drawn to her lips, parted and full, and the sound of her shallow breathing filled him with a fierce longing. “Oh, Katie,” he whispered, no power over the pull he was suddenly feeling. In slow motion, he bent toward her, closing his eyes to caress her mouth with his own...
I dropped my book, my purse and...damn it... Vanessa’s bag.
I turned around to see who had knocked me over, and... oh boy.
My heart started beating faster and my tongue got stuck in my throat. All my blood went straight to my face, making me look like a ripe tomato. I was probably blushing a lot, because he asked me, "Are you okay?"
The boy standing in front of me looked like an angel. He had messy jet black hair, which looked so soft I had to fight the urge to stick my hand in it. He had a light complexion, which was great for showing off his bright sea green eyes. They were so comforting I could have looked into them for hours. He was really fit, with muscular arms and legs. He was wearing a blue t-shirt and short jeans.
"Uh...um...yes...yeah. I’m...okay. Thanks." I sputtered.
"I’m sorry. Let me help you pick this up." He said as he crouched down and picked up my things.
As he kneeled down, I said, "No, it was my fault. I wasn’t looking where I was going."
"It’s okay." He answered as he passed me my stuff.
Suddenly, I get pushed to one side.
"Hello! I’m Vanessa! I’m so sorry for Alexia’s behavior. She’s always looking at that...thing." Vanessa said as she gave me a dirty look.
"You mean a book?" The guy said.
"Whatever." She said, then turned to me "DID YOU BRAKE MY PHONE?"
"No, Vanessa. It’s fine." I reassured her.
"I should probably go." The guy said awkwardly. "See you around, Alexia." Then he turned around.
I watched him leave, and I noticed that two other guys were waiting for him, one blonde and tall, the other a bit shorter with curly brown hair.
I was too focused on watching them walk away, that I almost didn’t hear Vanessa yelling in my ear.
"YOU JUST EMBARRASSED ME IN FRONT OF THAT GUY! You’re a worthless piece of crap! You can’t even imagine how embarrassed I am right now! Hold my purse!"
"Whatever." she said, then started walking.