Then You Look At Me

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Close To You

~So many people, all of the ones surrounding me. And if you’d ask them, they would describe me differently. So many reasons, so many different sides of me. And I can’t decide who I want to be. ’Cause some people make me bitter, smile and then squeeze a lime in my cut. And some people make me sweeter. ’Cause they make me feel like I am enough~ Astrid S

Chapter Theme Song: 'Favorite Part of Me' by Astrid S

°°

Rainey

“That’s my house right there,” I announce.

Alex pulls up at the gates of my house, bending his head to peer up at the lilac grey walls.

“Woah. That’s a very big house you got there.”

“Thanks for the lift.”

“And thanks for the smoke.” Riley smiles at him. He returns one, a spark igniting his sapphire eyes while he stares at her.

I look between the two people who are locking eyes for longer than necessary. Ansel glances at them over his shoulders, and I clear my throat.

“Ehem, if you both are done with your alien-eye-coded-conversation, I’d like to head to bed. I have school in the morning.” I interrupt, unlocking the door and sliding out.

Riley breaks eye-contact. “Right, I have a train to catch in the morning. Goodnight Alex, bye Ansel.”

Ansel nods at her, and I stand there wondering if I should tell him a farewell as well. It feels weird for some silly reason, so I decide against it and just make my way toward my house.

“That was a fun ride,” Riley comments while we walk toward my doorsteps.

Alex’s car speeds away behind us while I glance over at her smiling face, waggling my brows. “Sure was, wasn’t it? And how about the smoke? Mm? You liked that too?”

She squints her eyes. “What are you trying to say, Rain?”

I chuckle, shaking my head. “Nothing at all, you just blatantly stared him in the eyes for almost a minute.”

She slumps her shoulders, staring at me straight-faced. “I know what you’re thinking; it’s not like that. What about you, mmm? You didn’t tell Ansel goodbye because you just couldn’t bear looking him in the eyes.”

How could she be so accurate?

I look away. “That’s not it.”

She laughs. “Ha. It sure is!”

“At least we didn’t eye-make out.” I stick my tongue out, and she play-punch me in the rib as I enclose my hand around the knob to check if the door’s open.

It is and I am not surprised, My Mom and Jeff go to bed late most nights.

I push the door open and they are on the couch watching TV. Jeff’s hand is thrown over her shoulders while they chuckle at whatever boring TV series they like so much.

My Mom finally looks over at the closing of the door and her smile fades.

“And where are you coming from, young lady?”

“As if Jeffrey hasn’t already reported to you like the snitch he is,” I mutter, my mood crashing instantly.

Riley senses the thickening tension and clears her throat.

“Hi, Ms. Jones. Uh, I’ll be upstairs, Rainey.” She quickly leaves the scene, not wanting to be apart of the family feud that’s building up.

My Mom gets up from her spot on the couch to begin her half-hearted lecture. She knows she doesn’t care; she’s just trying to save face and she is not doing a pretty good job at it either.

“It is almost midnight, and you didn’t even take one of the cars.”

“I don’t like driving those things. Goodnight.” I proceed past her and she sighs. That’s all she ever does, sigh. She lacks the energy to argue with me most times because she genuinely couldn’t care less if I die on the streets.

Passing by Jeffrey, I catch his eyes staring at my legs and my brows furrow.

“Keep your eyes to your fucking self.”

“Jeezus, Rainey!” My Mom grips her forehead. “He’s older than you for Christ’s sake, how can you talk like that?”

“Exactly, I think he constantly forgets that he’s thirty-one and I am seventeen! He should respect me.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“You’re delusional, kid.” Jeff uncoils his legs and gets up from the couch, moving toward the kitchen.

“Oh really? Am I?” My face tints red in fury. “You don’t want me to start talking. You don’t want me to remind you of what you did when-”

“Rain, go to your room!”

“But Mom-”

“Go!”

I sigh. “Gladly.”

I whirl around to leave, and she continues to speak.

“It is not my fault things didn’t work out with your father and you acting this way is spoilt and immature. Grow up. That is why what happened at Freetown, happened because you don’t know when to just chill out.”

I bring narrowed eyes to her, and she just glares at me. I am not surprised. My Mom would take everyone’s side instead of mine.

I say nothing to her; I just make my way upstairs to my room.

Riley sits on my bed. Her solicitous expression confirms that she heard everything.

“Is everything okay?”

I nod. “Yeah, gonna take a shower...” I move toward the bathroom to cool off the steam. I won’t be coming out for a while.

°°

The hot scorching sun against my face signals that morning has come. Riley and I get up to get ourselves ready for school. She borrows one of my tops since she didn’t bring along any extra clothes. I avoid eating breakfast with Jeff and my Mom and step out of the house without offering a farewell. Her tight expression already notified me that she was still upset about our confrontation last night.

Riley studies my expression while I close the gates to my house. “I’ll be back for the weekend. Don’t look so sad.”

“Yeah.” I shrug. “It’s just that when you are back at Freetown, it’s just me here. Around a bunch of people who don’t care about me.”

Her expression softens and it reminds me how much I hate pity.

“Okay stop, don’t look at me like that. Later, I am walking this way.” I turn away.

“Wait, Rain.”

I look at her, secretly hoping she decides to run away from home and live here forever.

She smiles. “Do you want to do something fun before we head to school then?”

I tilt my head to the side. Riley’s ‘fun’ is normally dangerous things.

I pretend to ponder with a finger on my chin. “Does this involve me suffering severe pain?”

She laughs. “Maybe.”

A small smile tugs at my lips. “Sounds fun.”

She grins. “Awesome, let’s go.” She pulls me along with her.

°°

“Does it hurt?” Riley peers at the needle that’s engraving the infinity symbol on my inner arm. She’s way too close that the tattoo artist glances at her every five seconds.

“Riley, I can’t decide whether you’re the one drawing the tattoo or not.” I giggle.

“I need to see if he’s cutting your veins. I don’t want to be responsible for your death.”

“Well, he didn’t cut your veins so I would like to think that God would be on my side as well. We’re both sinful creatures.”

She laughs, lifting her arm and gazing at the infinity symbol she got engraved on hers as well.

Riley suggested we get a ‘friendship tattoo’. She chose the infinity symbol because it symbolizes ‘friends forever’ according to her. I must say, it’s a great idea.

“You’re the only girl who comes here and not cry her eyes out.” The artist comments, referring to my dry eyes that are just gazing up at the tattoo designs hanging in his shop.

“Hey, I didn’t cry either.” Riley childishly defends.

“No, you did Riley.” I burst her bubble with a chuckle, and the man agrees.

“Yeah, you flinched, and I almost ended up turning the symbol into a sloppy numeral eight.”

I laugh, and she pouts her lips. A smile resurfaces her face in short order as she slouches over on the chair to continue watching.

°°

“I like it.” I smile at the small tattoo on my arm, while the artist gathers his equipment.

Riley grins. “Yeah, it’s nice.”

“Thank you.” The man smiles.

My eyes catch a cool design on a page of his scrapbook. It is of the numeral five with a snake coiled around it. I have never seen anything like it. It seems to have a particular meaning.

I point at it, squinting my eyes. “What’s that?”

“Oh no, that’s not for the giving. It was specially designed by someone.”

I stare at the art in bewitchment. “Oh.”

“Anyways, bye!” Riley waves at the man before we step out of the tattoo parlor.

We leave the mall and head down the street to the town’s bus stop.

I sigh, turning to face her. “Well, I have Gym class in an hour, considering I am almost two hours late for school, I have a fence to jump.”

Riley chuckles. “Same here. God bless your soul with that skirt you’re wearing. You’re going to flash the poor security guard. Uniform rules suck.”

I laugh, then my eyes drift to where a bus is parked. “There’s your ride. You sure you don’t want to take one of the cars my Mom has?”

“No Rainey, I cannot drive to save my life. You don’t want to hear that I’ve died from a car crash, do you?”

“No way. How would I live?”

She giggles. “Anyway, see you. Call me.”

I smile at her before she hurries over to the bus and hops on. She sends me a wave as the transportation pulls away.

Now back to my lonely world.

°°

I hate gym class. It is that period that always had me faking sick just to lay down at the nurse’s office.

Freetown does not care to investigate behind your sudden ‘illness’ but Crosshill seems like the type that would go to the extent of taking you to a hospital themselves.

I haven’t gotten my gears yet because they didn’t have my size, so I took a pair of shorts from my home instead.

I settle down on the gym bench watching kids flood the room. Olivia and Lisa enter the space, laughing and talking.

Great. I couldn’t hate Gym class any more than this.

They spot me in no time, then they whisper something between themselves while they giggle. Not sure what’s so funny. The last time I checked, she was the one who fell face down at that party last night.

Kids fill the benches and Oliva and Lisa sit right behind me. It is quite uncomfortable. They could stick gum in my hair and I wouldn’t know.

My eyes travel to the doors of the gym and Ansel walks in. He’s wearing a grey hoodie with his plaid sports shorts. He looks fresh despite how late we got home last night.

Our eyes collide once again as he approaches the benches. I want to look away, but my head is somehow stuck in his direction and he’s not making it easier for me since he’s blatantly staring back.

“Uh, Excuse me?!”

The gym teacher’s voice pulls my attention. He’s staring me straight in the eyes while gesturing with his hand as if to call me over to him. I look around to see if his actions were truly aimed at me and an immature giggle comes from behind me.

“Yes, it’s you, dummy,” Oliva says.

I conjure up from my seat and plod my way up to him.

Am I getting detention for staring at a boy?

“Yes, Mr...”

“Henry. You do know you’re suppose to be wearing plaid shorts for gym class, right?” He tucks his notepad underneath his arm as he glares at me rebukingly.

“Yeah, I am sorry, I am new here and I haven’t gotten my gears yet. They didn’t have my size.”

“Okay, well, try to get the correct uniform for the next class, I won’t tolerate this next time, okay?”

I nod my head. “Yeah, okay.”

“Now go back to your seat.” I turn away while he talks to the group. “Only plaid shorts are allowed in my class! Anyone disobeys, ten laps around the field! I’ll be right back.” He begins to leave the gym while I make my way up to the benches.

It sucks that I am being ridiculed for a mishap on the school’s part. I am not to be blamed that they didn’t have enough gears.

I sigh and plop down in my spot exhaustedly. A wet sensation greets my bottom and I stand up and look over my shoulders to see a small open packet of ketchup squirted out on the bench.

Laughter echoes throughout the gym at the large red stain in my white shorts.

“Someone didn’t check their menstrual calendar this morning!” Olivia chuckles, and the group laughs along with her.

I sigh and turn my face away, inhaling deeply.

Count to ten, Rainey. Count to ten.

“You can’t just put your ass anywhere, idiot.” she continues.

I’m sorry. I can’t do it. I can’t just not say or do anything.

I am about to turn around when a mild scent of strawberries invades my sense of smell. A presence appears behind me and I stiffen my shoulders when a voice speaks in my ear.

“Don’t react. That won’t be good for you.”

I raise my head and my gaze connects with Ansel’s. His deep blue eyes peer down at me and my lips part to say something, but he speaks first.

“Stay still.”

He brings his arms around me and the room is suddenly quiet as everyone watches the scene unfold.

He begins to tie his hoodie around my waist, so it covers the ketchup stain, his chest pressing into my back as he knots the cotton fabric.

I feel the warmth of his minty breath slapping my neckline while he breathes, and the proximity of his body to mine makes my cheeks erupt like a volcano.

I bring my eyes up again to offer a ‘thanks’, but he speaks first.

“You can keep it.” He simply says before turning away and strolling out of the gym room.

I blink my eyes at the unexpected event that just took place and I can tell the whole gym is equally amazed.

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