As soon as the bell rings, like the past two days in human biology, I can’t get out of the room fast enough. Whenever he can in this class, Mike continues making jokes that make me blush - every darn time!
As an example, when Mrs. Jackson discussed how it can be awkward for us students to go over the reproductive system - Mike asked me if I wanted to be his study partner. Which didn’t seem all that bad, but then he added, ’I’m a kinesthetic learner.’ He learns best by doing...
Ugh! Talk about uncomfortable blushing. I know he was just tugging my rope, but if he doesn’t stop, I’ll get tangled.
At my locker, I switch out notebooks and head to English Literature. To my astonishment, I’m able to do all of this without Mike hovering.
I stroll into English Lit and see Declan. As he notices me, he smiles and waves. The classroom has three horseshoe-shaped rows of tables and chairs. The smaller row in front - direct view of the podium, with the biggest row at the back, I make my way to the familiar second row. Padding over to him, I take a
seat between him and another boy who has yet to acknowledge my presence. I’ve tried introducing myself before, but he only looks at me without expression then turns back to the book he’s been reading.
“Hey, how are you settling in?” Declan smiles.
“Pretty well, I guess, thanks,” I tell him.
“What do you think of Georgia so far?”
Hmm. So far, it’s interesting. Mike sure keeps me on my toes, and no matter how much I try to avoid him, he’s always somewhere nearby.
After my first day, I talked with Dad about the issue, and he dismissed it with his hand and told me, “Mike’s just neighborly. It’s how people are in the south. People like to involve themselves in your life, etcetera. It’s refreshingly... annoying.”
Gulping down the drama that’s found its way into my life, I say, “Fine. The warm weather is a nice change.”
“I bet.” He straightens his spine a bit. “How do you like this class?”
“Not sure. Mr. Sullivan seems adequate,” I say as I inhale the scent of ocean breeze coming from somewhere in the room.
Two days isn’t enough time to decide on whether or not I’ll enjoy the class, but so far, the approval rating is a six out of ten.
“Hey, what’s up with the guy that keeps following you around and brings you to school, is he like your boyfriend or brother or something?” His voice is quiet as not to gain attention from anyone.
“No, no, he’s neither, and I don’t have a boyfriend.” I nod my head; why did I say the latter? “He’s my neighbor, actually,” I finish.
“Oh... that’s weird,” he states.
I nod my head again. “Yep,” I say, popping the ‘p.’
“Well, hey, if he isn’t your boyfriend, would it be okay if I asked you out sometime?” He squeezes his hands together on the desk while leaning into me slightly.
I can feel my cheeks turning pink. I have never been asked out before. So, this is what it’s like. My heart is racing, palms are sweaty, and my mind is trying to tell my mouth to say something, anything. “Yes!” I finally blurt out. Was that too desperate? “I mean, yeah, that would be fine.”
I smile at him, and he grins triumphantly back at me. It’s a beautiful moment until I hear a deep clearing of someone’s throat. My eyes dart around to figure out where the noise came from. I can swear that Declan glares at someone behind me for a
second then smiles back at me before attending the book in his hands. My chair jolts forward from a force, so I turn around to glare at the person behind me for being rude in kicking my chair only to find Mike. He’s sitting at the desk directly behind me. When did he show up? I’m sure I would have noticed when he’d walk into the room. He has a scolding stare at the back of Declan’s head... again.
“Will you chill out?” I whisper with annoyance as chatter erupts in the room as we wait for the teacher to arrive. His eyes dart to me, and they soften.
Mike leans over his desk and speaks low. “You’re not seriously going to go out with him, are you?” He doesn’t sound happy. I am thankful that the rest of the class has drowned our conversation with their own voices, so Declan can’t hear.
“Maybe. Not that it concerns you.” I whip myself back around to face the front of the class. As if on cue, the teacher stands in front of us all, cutting off whatever comment Mike was about to make.
“Hello, class, let’s dive right into it, shall we?” We start to discuss Lord of the Flies.
At the end of class, this time, Mike gets up and leaves right away. I decide to take my time with Declan. Why would my neighbor even care so much if I wanted to spend time with Declan or not? It’s not like Mike will ask me out anytime soon.
I can’t believe I got asked out in my first couple of days here...
Why do I have to be Mike’s only friend? It’s a good thing he’s crazy attractive; his attitude needs an adjustment, though. Knowing myself, guilt will settle in if I blow him off - all because my dad wants me to be kind to him.
I might be too nice to someone who is practically a stranger, but it’s my nature to find the good in people. I trust him because Dad does...
Declan and I exchange phone numbers before he walks out ahead of me. I can’t help but smile as I step into the hallway–my guard is down and fail to notice Mike, who hides in the shadows. He jumps out at me from behind the classroom door, causing a small shriek to fall out of me. I smack him in the chest for the scare on reflex.
“Don’t do that!” I screech.
He puts his hands up in surrender. “I’m sorry, I couldn’t help it. So, you’re gonna date Derrick, huh?” He sounds bitter. Why is Mike acting like this? Has he been eavesdropping?
I straighten up my shoulders and bring my chin up high. “His name is Declan, and yes, maybe. Whenever he’ll ask me.”
With a couple of long strides, he stands in front of me, causing my body to stumble to a stop before him.
He shakes his head. “I don’t advise that. I don’t trust him.” He is cold about it. The apparent rule-maker stands shoulder-width apart, crossing his arms over his chest to block my exit down the hall.
My eyes bug out. “Excuse me?” Stunned would be the polite term to use. He’s acting like a jealous ex-boyfriend or something. I can’t put my finger on it, but he’s pissing me off, and if I wasn’t so livid, I might be a little frightened. “I don’t care if you don’t trust him, you don’t need to trust him, I need to trust him. So far, he hasn’t given me any reason not to. Besides, it could be days, weeks even until he asks me. I’ll have time to get acquainted with him.”
His jaw clenches as his eyes fix on mine, unflinching as they pierce into my soul. “You should care what I think. I can read people, Elena. I read people damn well enough to learn that he’s trouble. Something about him ain’t right. You’re not going out with him.”
“Well, you’re just paranoid,” I snort, cutting him off while crossing my arms over my chest to mimic him. “Why do you even care so much? We met two days ago,” I challenge.
“I’m your neighbor, Elena. Accept it or not - in a small town like this one - neighbors watch out for each other, two days or not. You shouldn’t date him; you should stop seeing him. I’m trying to look out for you.” His voice sounds irritated at the end.
He has some nerve telling me what I should and should not be doing for only meeting him mere days ago. Suddenly, I realize that I need to get to my next class before the bell rings. The anxiety of being late for Calculus gnaws at me to end this conversation. I’m still not sure I believe him.
For a brief moment, I close my eyes for a second and take a deep breath before opening them again.
“I appreciate your concern, Mike. But I’m a big girl. I can take care of myself. A neighbor or not, it doesn’t give you the right to meddle in my dating life and tell me who I can and cannot date. It’s unacceptable and very immature!” That part may have come out harsh, but I continue. “Besides, you don’t have to worry too much. My dad has taught me a few moves if I need to defend myself. We can talk about this later but I need to get to class–so do you.” He takes a deep sigh; his shoulders slump a bit.
“Fine,” he states with no emotion as he turns to walk away. Rushing to my locker, I switch out my notebooks and go to my next class.
The rest of the day, he keeps his distance. Even at lunch, when Declan keeps me company as he has since my first day, Mike sits two tables away from us instead of the table next to ours - which he’s occupied before. He never takes his glaring eyes off me.
The same couple of girls visit him in heavy efforts to sit at his table, but he declines them every time. Meanwhile, I try not to ignore and pretend to listen to Declan as he comments about the stale cafeteria food.
I’m pleased that Mike declines those pestering girls. They’re dressed in cheerleading uniforms, skirts that are just way too short, but they can wear them because it’s their uniform. Internally, I roll my eyes at how desperate they seem; the girls are rubbing his shoulders and giggling way too loud.
He is in every single one of my classes. I’ve noticed that he has no books with him. At the start of every class, a teacher tries to hand him a book, and he declines them. How is he going to do well in these classes with no books?
Maybe he’s been held back a year or two...
At the end of the day, he takes me home - as usual - without saying a word. It’s awkward holding onto him on the bike while he’s been giving me the silent treatment. I can’t wait to get away from his frigid behavior; even the weather has taken a chilly turn. The sun was out this morning, but now it’s overcast. If it rains, hopefully, it won’t be for too long; I can smell the rain in the air.
When we arrive in his driveway, he turns off the bike. Without saying a word, I ease myself from him and place the helmet on the back seat. He sits there for a minute.
“Are you okay?” The words are hesitant as they leave my lips.
“Yeah. Fine. Just giving you space,” he says with a frosty bite. That isn’t exactly what I wanted. I didn’t want him to give me space necessarily; I just wanted him to lighten up.
As I try to explain, the bike roars to life again; he turns behind him to remove the helmet to put it in the saddlebag. I try to shout over the roaring of his bike, “Where are you going?”
He stabs me with a glare. “None of your concern.” Spinning the wheels, smoke escapes the tire’s rubber, and he disappears into the cloudy mist.