Love Is

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Books and Paint

The cool air of the library welcomed me in like an old friend as Maddox holds the door open for me. Thanking him, I gesture for him to follow me to the librarian’s desk.

The library is a round room, with a maze-like design. Curved black bookshelves made finding a book, the librarian, or even the elevator a challenge for a new student. In between the shelves were beanbags and cushy recliners that were handy for sitting and reading right where you are. In the very middle of the maze was the librarian’s desk, and I head straight for it. “Wow, they really put some work into this, huh Dove?“Maddox whispers into my ear, and I shiver as his warm breath hits it. Flustered, I just nod and hope he doesn’t see my burning cheeks. Thankfully, we reached the desk without any more......incidents.

Mr. Petrie looks up once, twice then smiles at me, his round glasses sliding down his small nose. “Heyyyy babe, you coming to return that book you borrowed yesterday?”

I nod smiling back.

“Ooh, and who’s this handsome young man? Finally bringing your boyfriend around?“. Mr. Petrie gives me a sly look, and I see Maddox flinch.

“We aren’t together Ben. ” I say, placing my book on the desk. “This is my new friend, Maddox. He just arrived this morning, so don’t go scaring him off. I don’t want both of my friends avoiding the library because of you.”

He smirks, flipping his hair and resting his finger on his glasses, pushing them up anime-style. “It’s not my fault I’m so spectacularly gay that they can’t handle me. My power is unbeatable!”

I laugh, and Maddox shifts beside me, still uncomfortable.

“What grade are you in, Maddox?” Ben asks as he picks up the book to place it in the return box.

“Junior,” Maddox grunts, glancing towards me. I reassure him with a smile, and he takes a deep breath before continuing. ” I’m 18 because I was held back in 6th grade. I don’t live on campus.”

With that out of the way, Maddox walks around the desk to the nearest bookshelf. The age and grade on his schedule had worried me a little, but the fact that he was held back as a child worries me aa bit more.

“He’s so hot! ” Ben leans over the bright yellow desk to whisper.

The desk was his idea. He calls it the “Sun in Space” because the rest of the room is decorated in black, blues, and grays.

I nod, and Ben gives me a sly look. I hurriedly whisper “Wait, no we’re just friends, don’t get the wrong idea”, but he’s already wiggling his eyebrows up and down at me, smiling suggestively.

“Girl, you know you want a piece of that hunk over there,”

I lean around Ben to make sure he can’t hear us, and to my relief, he seems to be absorbed in the books, ten feet away.

“I don’t like him, okay? Sure, he’s hot, but he’s not for me.”

Ben stops wiggling his eyebrows and shrugs his shoulders. “Well, he sure has taken a fancy to you,”

“No, he hasn’t. It just looks like that because he hasn’t seen the other girls yet. Besides we’ve barely known each other for two hours. I’m just walking him to our class.” I pause and remember something.

Something very important.

“Shoot! Class!” I yelp and grab my backpack. I speed walk past Maddox, who follows without a word, and we wind in and out of the bookshelves again, stopping in front of the elevator.

The old rattletrap has been here for far longer than it needed to be, and it’s easily the oldest thing on campus. I press the yellowed button next to the plaque explaining the elevator’s history.

“This elevator has been here for over sixty years?” Maddox mutters next to me, scanning the plaque. “Does it work well?”

I give him a shrug. “Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t” I push the button again. “This is one of the times it doesn’t.”

“Babe! The elevator isn’t working today. Everyone took the stairs up there. Sorry, I forgot to tell you.” I hear Ben yell, echoing through the deathly quiet library.

“Gee, thanks, Ben, you’re so helpful. And you’re not supposed to yell through the library idiot! You’re the librarian, do your job.” I retort sarcastically.

“Sorry babe, I make the rules, so I can break them.”

“He calls you babe?” Maddox asks, tilting his head.

“Yeah, but only when it’s just us, which is most of the time. Nobody can stand his attitude, unless they have to, like at midterms.” I walk to the door a few feet away from the elevator and open it. The brightly lit stairwell rose ahead. “He’s just saying it in a friendly way. Ben’s gay.” Why did I feel the need to explain that to him again?

We ascended the stairs quickly, and head down the narrow hallway directly into the classroom. I stop and take a deep breath before pushing open the door.

Everyone turned to look at us, and I felt my cheeks on fire, even as I realize that they are all really staring at Maddox, who’s giving them a slightly frightening hard stare.

Ignoring the stares, I quickly head to Mrs. Habard’s desk. “Oh, hello dear! I was just about to page the library for you since the elevator wasn’t working this morning.” I open my mouth, but Maddox beats me to it.

“She was showing me around since I’m new.”

Mrs. Habard claps her hands together and smiles. “Oh, you’re Maddox Whitman! Yes, your name showed up on my roll this morning. Welcome, I’m Mrs. Habard and this is the art class. Just follow Ms.Winters and you can have a seat by her in the paint room.”

He looked so scary when he came in, it almost reminded me of when he faced off with Rodney, but on a lesser scale. Now that I think about it, that was sorta kinda hot. He nods at her and turns to me expectantly, and I realize I’m supposed to be moving not daydreaming. “Oh yeah, um follow me.” We make our way to a door to the left of the classroom and enter the empty paint room.

“Where is everyone else?” Maddox arches an eyebrow, looking at me as I go to the back of the room, picking up my unfinished painting from the drying rack and a basket of paint supplies.

“Nobody really likes to paint anymore because Mrs. Habard is hard on painters and sculptors. They don’t really have any interest in it. Most of the class sits with her and sketches for the whole class period.” I check my watch. 8:30. Enough time to paint a bit.

If you want, you can grab a canvas and paint with me. Or you could sketch or something.” I inform him, pulling my tangled earbuds from my pocket. I groan, then fumble for a bit before his big warm hand took them from me and untangled them with just a few pulls. I smile at him and he gave me a small smile back, making fireworks explode in my stomach.

“Sorry, earphones have never behaved for me.” I laugh. “It’s no problem, my little sister is always tangling her earphones and shoestrings, so I’m an expert at untying knots.” he sits in the chair next to me and puts the earphones on the table.

“You have a little sister?” I repeat, making no move to grab them.

“Yeah, her name’s Madison. She just turned 7 a couple of months ago.”

“Aw, does she live with you?” I pick up my paintbrush and dab it in some red paint.

“Yeah, but sometimes she stays with Tevin, the man who adopted us.” He stays quiet for a minute, watching me paint. “What about you, Dove?”

“Oh, well I live here, but I was adopted by a famous couple when I was 13. They don’t really care for me much, but they absolutely adore my adoptive sister.” I laugh a bit and swallow the tears that still prick my eyes. “I’m just grateful to have been adopted as old as I was.”

“Yeah, I know how it is. I was scared to death that I’d be separated from my sister.“He continues to stare as I touch up the bright colors on the little girl’s hands.

“You do know that the paint is going on the canvas right? Not on my face.” I tease, feeling his eyes drill into the side of my face.

“With all due respect, the painting is pretty but your face is beautiful.” he murmurs huskily and I swear I blush red up to my hairline.

“You don’t mean that” I laugh nervously.

What was that supposed to mean?! Is he flirting with me?

“I’m just me.” I insist.

He shrugs, turning his eyes toward the painting. “And I’m just telling the truth as a good friend should. Your future boyfriend is gonna be lucky.” Oh. He meant it as a friendly general compliment. Right.

Somehow, my heart and stomach seem to drop at this realization. And we remain silent until the bell rings.

A/N (8.25.2020)

Sorry I've gone so longgg. I've missed my babies Maddie and Lottie ( thought about adding this nickname but decided against it. Unless....?) So I'm gonna give you guys two chapters today!

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