Then You Look At Me

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Strides & Bike Rides

~But I promise you this, I’ll always look out for you~Coldplay

Chapter Theme Song: 'Sparks' by Coldplay

°°

Rainey

The cool evening sun casts shadows on the ground as we walk down the street in the direction of Crossview Close. The wind is cool and brisk, but the orange glow of the setting sun gives the atmosphere warmth.

I glance over at Ansel, who has his hands tucked inside his pockets while we walk. The wind rustles through his bouncy hair, and his focus seems elsewhere. It feels awkward for us to walk in silence, so I break the ice.

“So uh, I didn’t know you worked. I thought you were the ‘spoon-fed’ son.”

His face lights up with a smile, while he turns his head to meet my curious face. “Don’t listen to a word Alex says. He thinks with his joint.”

I shrug. “I kind of felt that way though. I can’t say I didn’t believe him.”

He arches a perfect brow. A curious expression etched on his face as he maintains eye-contact. “Why?”

“I don’t know. You seem different from him...”

His focus returns ahead. “What if I’m not?”

I tilt my head to the side. His question flows my thoughts back to the day I saw him at the town’s Police Station. I am yet to discover why he was there ushering that injured boy to the car. There were also three other boys there as well, one looking exactly like him.

Is he apart of a gang or something?

The sudden sound of a honking horn pulls my attention to a car racing in our direction.

I didn’t realize I was this close to the road, and Ansel grips my arm and pulls me over to his side. My chest bumps into his, as the speeding car scrapes the sidewalk during its passing.

“Be careful.” He mutters.

I bring my eyes up to look at him. His height is an obvious contrast to my short stature. His palms are on my shoulders and our faces are less than an inch away. His gaze is fixed on the disappearing car before he brings his focus down to look at me.

As soon as our gazes meet, my cheeks flush. I blink my eyes as I pull away, averting my gaze elsewhere.

“You okay?” Ansel asks. Concernment is laced in his tone as he attempts to catch sight of my crimson face.

I nod, but I can’t bring myself to look at him. Not until my cheeks return to their normal shade.

A car comes to a stop at our feet luckily, diverting Ansel’s focus to the winding window.

“Hey, beautiful people!” Alex grins at us from behind the wheels, splaying an arm over the passenger’s seat while he peers out at us.

“Alex? What are you doing here?” Ansel looks confused at his brother’s sudden appearance.

He literally came out the middle of nowhere.

“I stopped by the café to drop your bicycle off. You didn’t take it this morning and it’s kind of a long walk from the café to home.” His eyes drift to me, his lips stretching in a smile. “Hey, Rain.”

“Hey.” I wave at him.

“Oh thanks, but we don’t mind walking. We are almost there anyway. I am going by Rainey’s to get a project done.”

Alex raises a brow, a cheeky expression on his face. “A project? I see.”

What’s with everyone and their smut?

“But at least just take the bike, I am going by Drake’s and I have some stuff I’m gonna need the trunk for.”

Ansel narrows his eyes. “You’re going by Drake? You better be careful, Alex.”

I watch how his face hardens at his brother and my curiosity piques once again. What’s so ‘dangerous’ about this ‘Drake’?

“Yeah, yeah I will be Ansel.” Alex rolls his eyes, as his brother moves around to the back and pulls the trunk up.

“So, Rainey, where’s Riley?” Alex smirks.

“At home or school, I should suppose.” I offer a small smile.

Well, he sure likes her. Who wouldn’t? Riley is crazy fun.

Ansel closes the trunk, then comes around to set his bike on the cemented sidewalk.

“You need to stop driving Alaric’s car without his permission too,” Ansel warns.

So, the car isn’t Alex’s?

“He isn’t home now, he’s on some ‘mission’ with Aiden. Not every day I get the chance to ride this Chevrolet Chevelle. Let a brother live, brother.”

Ansel shakes his head while Alex shifts in his seat and adjusts the handbrake.

“I’ll see you guys. Enjoy your little ‘project’" He waggles his brows before stepping on his gas and speeding away.

“So, I guess we can get to your place a lot faster now.”

Ansel smiles at me while rolling up the sleeves of his dress shirt. He squats down to adjust his bicycle’s pedals while I take in the sight of him.

I can honestly say that I am learning a lot about Ansel today. He has a part-time job; he makes awesome coffee and he can ride a bike. Not much information but I am grateful regardless.

His tattoo peeks up from the bunch of his sleeve and I squint my eyes in efforts of identifying what is drawn there. He stands up, dusting his palms together and his sleeve pulls down over the inked art, interrupting my speculation.

“Do you know how to ride one of these?”

I shake my head. “Not at all.”

When all the other kids grew up riding bicycles, I grew up sitting in the backseat of an expensive car. I have always wanted to know what it feels like to ride one.

“Really?” He feigns shock. “I thought you were the type to get around riding and stuff.”

“Well, aren’t you being stereotypical,” I smile softly.

“Says the girl who thought I was ‘spoon-fed’.” He smirks while getting on the ride. He puts his feet on the pedals while he gazes over at me.

“Come on, I’ll show you what riding on a bike feels like.”

I glance down at the plaid skirt I am wearing, a skeptical expression on my face. My attire isn’t any at all suitable for riding a bike.

Uniform rules suck.

Ansel tracks my point of focus, realization dawning on his features. “Oh right, you’re wearing a skirt.” He tugs at his ear while he ponders.

“You know, you can just hold on to it. It’ll be okay.” He finally asserts.

I hesitate, shifting from one foot to the next, and it makes him laugh.

“I won’t look at your legs, Rainey.”

I shake my head, my face flushed. “That’s not it...”

I am not the nervous type. I don’t get why Ansel makes me feel this way.

I move over to him and he tries to hide a smile, his palms resting on his thighs while he waits for me to get on. The issue is, I have no idea where to sit. I have never saddled with someone on a bicycle before, so this is all new to me.

“Um, where do I sit?”

He points to the top tube. “You can sit here, then you’d be between my arms and have a lesser chance of falling off.” His lips form a smile.

I grip the hem of my skirt before sitting on top of the top tube, so my feet hang over sideways. He splays his knees to give me room.

“You okay?”

I nod. “Yeah.”

He leans forward, his chest in close distance to my face as he grips his handlebars. His intoxicating scent invades my sense of smell.

He could be bottled up for sale in an expensive perfume store.

“Hold on tight.”

My mind is too focused on our proximity and how warm being close to his torso feels to heed his warning. So, when the bike suddenly moves off, it catches me off-guard and my palms reflexively comes up to grip the sides of his shirt.

He chuckles lightly, and my face tinges pink while I pull my arms back in embarrassment.

“Sorry...”

“It’s okay...put your hands back there.” He says. “If it makes you feel better.”

I decide against it, shifting so I am able to place my hands beside his on the handlebar instead.

Hopefully this way, my cheeks will stop firing up.

The cool evening air slaps my face as he paddles down the street. Something about the setting sun and being close to Ansel offers this comforting feeling. Secretly, I don’t want it to end.

The ride is so cozy that I have no idea when he pulled up at the entrance to my gates.

It marvels me how he recalls my address by just coming here once. He sure has a good memory.

I get off the bike, pulling my skirt down.

“Not so bad, huh?” He asks, while he gets up behind me.

“It was fun actually. I had never quite experienced anything like that,” I answer truthfully.

He smiles and we stand staring at each other weirdly for a few seconds.

I clear my throat and look away. “We should get to work.”

“Yeah…right.”

I open the gates to my house, and he follows me up the pathway to my doorsteps, taking in the sight of my spacious yard and the surrounding areas.

“Your neighborhood is quiet,” he comments.

I sigh. “And very boring.”

“What about your friend? Riley. Does she live around here?”

“No.” I shake my head as I push the door open. “She lives a few miles away from here.”

Ansel nods. “Oh.” His eyes watch me as we enter the house.

“Maybe we can use your living room,” he suggests. “There is enough room.”

I shake my head. “Trust me you don’t want to be down here when a certain someone comes home. We won’t have privacy.”

“Oh.” Ansel nods in understanding.

“My room is fine,” I assert. “I don’t mind...”

“Okay well, as long as you don’t.”

He follows me up the long wooden stairs. I use my room key to open the door to my room, and he strolls in behind me. The room is way too spacious for one person. This should have just been another living room or something. I am not sure what my Mom expects me to do with this much space.

“Here we are,” I announce, throwing my bag on my bed while I loosen the suffocating plaid tie.

“Oh, your room is quite...pink.” He smiles a little.

“I’m not a ‘pink’ girl.” I clarify. “My Mom is the one who designed this room.”

Everything in my room is pink. Literally. Except for the ‘Coldplay’ poster I have pasted on the wall above my bed. My Mother thinks turning me into that girl from the kid’s show ‘Lazy Town’ would stop me from drinking and being so careless. Her ‘saving-face’ gets tiring sometimes.

Ansel’s eyes are fixed on something and I trail his focus to see a pair of black lace panties lying on my bed. I have severe OCD and it takes me five minutes every morning to choose which color undergarment I should wear; hence why I always end up leaving the house with my abandoned pair lying around somewhere.

I grab the garment off the bed quickly while Ansel looks away awkwardly.

“So, I don’t have the Math Textbook for the term, the bookstore in town didn’t have it,” I say, shoving the garment in my drawer. “Did you take yours?”

“Yeah.” He swings his bag around, “I did actually.”

He pulls out the textbook, then scopes the room to find the perfect spot to sit in.

“You can sit on my bed.”

“Thanks.” He sits down and begins to skip through his book. “I think most of the worksheet consists of algebraic expressions.”

I sit across from him. “Yeah, I had a look at it.”

“Do you rather us working on them individually or together?”

“Uh, ‘together’ would be fine.”

“Okay.” He pulls his notebook from his bag.

“Would you like something to drink?”

“Yeah, water would be fine. Thanks. Did you take down the written instructions today?”

“Yeah, check my Math notebook inside my bag.” I hop up from the bed and leave the room while Ansel reaches for my knapsack.

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