Comfortably Numb

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Chapter 7

First period flew by. I spent most of it doodling pictures of flowers and horribly shaped trees. By the time the bell rang, I had an entire garden scrawled across my notebook, rather than any notes. I slowly gathered my stuff as the bell rang, letting the rest of the class file out before I headed that way.

Ryker and Rowan left together- without acknowledging me at all, although Rowan sent a teasing smirk at Arrow. I sighed and sauntered out the classroom door.
Arrow was quiet as we walked towards my next class. She seemed lost in thought. I said nothing until we got to my classroom door.

"Row?" She jumped, and glanced down at me. She smiled sheepishly.
"Sorry..." "A-are you ok?" She rolled her eyes.
"Yeah. It's stupid." I raised my eyebrow at her and said nothing. She sighed. "It's just something I overheard in the hallway... people can be awful."

"W-what do you m-mean?" She sighed and slumped against the doorframe of my classroom.

"There were just a bunch of girls playing fuck, marry, kill with real students and I happened to overhear as they were comparing my brother, Rowan and their friend Darren. 'They were all like ' oh that's a tough one because you just know Rowan would be insane in the sack but Ryker has all that power and it's almost too intimidating... Like who do you pick when they're all sexy, but different types of sexy...' They're so stupid talking about the guys like that, and THE DETAIL they were making up that I KNOW they were making up because there is no way any of those guys have done ANYTHING with even one of those girls but still.... It's dumb I shouldn't care but... It just seems like a stuid game to play with real people, and at school no less?" I nodded at her. I agreed it was a cruel game to play, especially where someone might hear you.

"I mean, how do they think that it's OK to talk about people like that? And they must know that he'll hear about it! I mean, those boys have this school wired! They know everything. And the things they were saying about Rowan....I can't believe that! I'm so mad I just want to.. to... to... I don't know what I want to do but I want to do something!" She ran her hands over her face and sucked in a deep breath. When she lowered her hands, I gave her a brief smile. She looked confused. If I didn't know better it would sound like she was so upset because she liked Rowan.... But I wouldn't say that to her.

"What?" I rolled my eyes.

"Let it g-go. They'll get w-what's coming t-to them" She sighed, nodded, and then turned around to head towards her next class.

I turned and waltzed into mine, settling into my work station at the very back of the class and pulling out my notebook. I started going over my notes from the last class, ignoring everybody as they entered the classroom. As the bell rang, Mr. Daemente called the class to order.
"OK guys, today we're talking about—" The classroom door swung open, cutting him off. There was a collective sigh from the female population, and I immediately knew who it was. I dropped my head into my hand, letting my eyes drift shut as Ryker strutted into the classroom.

I am so exhausted...This is so exhausting.....He is so exhausting.

I heard low murmuring from the front of the class, and then silence as Ryker walked towards wherever he was supposed to be sitting.

It wasn't until I heard the chair to my left screeching against the ground that I realized the only open seat left was the one beside me. I froze and my breathing got strangely harder. The class was set up so that each table had two chairs, and the two people that sat there were lab partners. I was the only one without a lab partner... That meant Ryker was supposed to be my lab partner. Oh God...

"Miss Romans, if you could be so kind as to pay attention to my lesson..." Mr. Daemente cut into my thoughts. I sat up straight, and brushed my hair from my eyes. He grinned at me and jumped back into his lecture. I wasn't paying him any attention. I was too aware of the man sitting next to me. He invaded far too much of my personal space, but he wasn't anywhere near me. It seemed to me, when I glanced out of the corner of my eye, that he was sitting on the edge of his chair as far away from me as possible. He had his arms crossed across his chest, and a look of utter confusion splashed across his gorgeous face. It occurred to me that he didn't know where we were in class.

Quietly I yanked the sheet I had planned on using for notes on today's lecture out of my binder, and then slid it over to his side of the table. I glanced at him from the corner of my eye, and saw that he was staring at my neatly written notes. He flipped back a few pages, then turned to look at me. I dropped my gaze to the table.

"Thanks" He rumbled quietly. I nodded, and forced myself to focus on Mr. Daemente once more. My pen flew across the page writing down everything he said but I absorbed absolutely none of it. I was too focused on the thrumming energy between me and the man to my left- Energy I couldn't understand, because while it felt nervous, it wasn't the same anxiety I normally felt from other people.

When the bell finally rang, I slowly gathered my things. I froze when I noticed that Ryker was standing beside me. I risked a glance up to see that he was inhaling slowly, seeming to brace himself for something. I looked back down at my backpack. After a moment my binder slid into my view, connected to two massive tan hands. I took it carefully, making sure we didn't touch. The second I had it back he strolled away. I threw the binder into my bag, and headed out to meet Arrow for lunch.

Arrow and I usually sat together in the front of the cafeteria. Nobody else ever sat with us, which I was grateful for. Today, I arrived before she did, so I slumped into my normal seat and pulled out my lunch. I had just bit into my apple when Arrow ran up, red in the face and smiling like a maniac. I gave her a weird look as she crashed into the chair opposite me.

"You'll never guess what just happened! You remember those girls I was talking about before? Of course you do, you're not stupid. While, anyways, you were right! They did get what was coming to them! Just now, I was at my locker and Ryker and Rowan and Darren were standing across the halway, and the dumb girls started strutting past them acting all "hot" and Darren goes, "hey, fmk those three girls?" and the girls stopped and stared at them, and Ryker AND Rowan both looked them up and down and went "eh I'll pass on all of them." AT THE SAME TIME" She cackled. "And the girls visibly shrank and just ran away with their tails tucked between their legs in shame." She squealed. "Gosh it just makes me so happy that they used their own game against them. Seriously those girls were dumb to think that they could say shit and it wouldn't get back to them. Those boys have this entire school wired." I tuned out at that point, my attention being pulled to the back of the cafeteria where the doors had just gone flying open. I lost my breath as a bunch of boys strutted into the cafeteria, Ryker in the lead, Rowan right behind him. I stared as they stalked forwards. They looked like avenging Gods, or ancient warriors.

Arrow seemed to notice my distraction, because she turned around in her seat to see what I was staring at. She started waving enthusiastically, and I felt my eyes widen as the two boys in the front switched their path so they were headed towards us.
"W-w-what are y-you doing?" I hissed but she ignored me and continued bouncing in her seat.

The other guys stopped, thankfully, but Ryker and Rowan kept walking until they had reached our table. I dropped my gaze, shifting uncomfortably in my seat.

"Hey, Air, how's it going?" Rowan lilted.
"Pretty good, I must say. I heard what happened in the hallway." She laughed. I glanced up to see his reaction. He beamed at her, and grabbed a chair. Something shined in his eyes, a warmth that hadn't been there before...

"You mean the ladies I scared off? Don't worry baby I won't let anybody but you fantasize about my sexy body." Arrow's smile melted into a glare.

"You suck the fun out of everything." She growled at him, pushing the food around in her plastic container. Rowan let out a bark of laughter, then turned to look at me. He smiled. I frowned, noticing that the light I'd seen a second ago seemed to have dimmed.

"How you doin'?" I raised my eyebrows at him, then flicked my gaze to Arrow. She was scowling at me.

"Ignore him, Andy. He's a child that likes to push my buttons." Rowan glanced at her.

"Hey! Maybe I actually want to be friends with her!" Arrow rolled her eyes, and then stuffed her food into her mouth, ignoring him. I jumped as the chair to my right was pulled out. I whipped my head around to see who had done it, and my eyes collided with magnetic brown ones. They swirled between dark and light, flecks of gold coming forward the longer I stared at him.

The floor falls out from beneath me. The world stops spinning, and I feel like I am floating in a pool of electricity. I hear someone calling my name, but it sounds like I am under water; I can't find the source of the voice. I feel someone grip my arm, and that touch snaps me back to Earth. My skin crawls where they grip me.

"Andy?" I rip my eyes from Ryker's, force my head to turn towards Arrow, who looks concerned. She is the one holding my arm. I shake her off gently, and she frowns for a second before her smile snaps back.

"Are you OK?" I gulp, and then nod. She bites her lip before glancing at her brother. I glance to my right and gulp again as I see that Ryker is still staring at me. I feel like I have two spotlights trained on my face—it's making me extremely nervous. My body hums with awareness, and I feel myself leaning slightly towards him. I slap myself mentally and pull back so I am sitting properly in my chair.

I force myself to listen past the roaring in my ears. Arrow is telling Rowan off for doing something I hadn't seen. I turn my eyes away from the giant beside me and focus back on my food. I glance up at the two people fighting across from me.

"I mean it Rowan! Cut it out!" She shrills. He smirks at her, then shoots a look at Ryker. A look of confusion cuts across his face. He turns more fully to his best friend, giving him his full attention.

"Ryker?" Beside me, I feel Ryker jump. I look over to see him shaking his head. As he does, the scent of him wafts towards me and hits me square in the chest. He clears his throat, nods at Rowan, and then turns back to look at me. I twist my fork in my hand, nervous.

"Andy..." I feel a shiver dance down my spine as Ryker says my name for the first time. It sounds so perfect rolling carefully from his tongue. Something is telling me to look up, look at him, so I do. And immediately I lose my breath again. Ryker is looking at me like I have the answer to a question he's been asking all his life—like I am the only one that knows the secrets of the universe, and he has been searching for those secrets since birth. He opens his mouth, but at that exact moment the bell rings.

I tear from my chair, sprinting out of the café. I don't stop until I reach the second floor girl's bathroom. I lock myself in a cubicle, and once I realize I am completely alone, I start to bawl. I have no idea why I am crying, I just am, and I can tell that there isn't a chance that the tears are going to stop any time soon.

I don't know how long I sit there alone, bawling my eyes out, but suddenly, I'm not alone anymore.

"Andy?" Arrow is standing on the other side of the cubicle door. I sob into my hands.

"Andy, I know you're in there. What do you need? I can get you some water, or something to eat? Or I can call your brother if you want?" I sob again, and she sits on the floor.

"Please, Andy. I don't know what to do. You need to tell me what to do" she begs. "Do you want to talk about it?" I cry louder for a second. "What can I do for you?" She whispers. I sob again. I think back to the only person who had ever been able to make me feel better when I feel like this, and what they always used to do....

"T-tell me.. *sob* a-a-a j-joke *hic* p-please." She sucks in a puff of air.

"Umm... OK, let me think.... Oh! I know. So a baby seal walks into a club..." I sob again.

"OK, didn't like that one. Hey, did you hear the one about the tortilla chip? When I asked him if we were friends he said, "I'm so nacho friend!" Buh Dum Tss! What did one sea say to the other? Nothing, he just waved... Get it? 'Cause the ocean's full of waves.... What did the pirate say when he turned eighty? Aye Matey! Cause he's eighty? Why can't pirates finish the alphabet? Because they get stuck at C!" She giggles at her own terrible joke before continuing.

"Oh I know! Why do blind people hate skydiving? It scares the hell out of their dogs! Why did the banana go to the doctor? Because he wasn't peeling well! What kind of car did the iPhone buy? A charger!" I roll my eyes at the terrible joke, still sobbing. :So a sea cucumber walks up to a mollusk... well, he didn't really walk, rather he swam, and he said.. well he didn't say it either because he actually couldn't talk.... Oh gosh, now I've got to start over!" I choke out a laugh at her frustration through my tears. She sighs and I reach up to wipe the tears from my face that are still pouring. I suck in a deep breath and it comes out ragged.

"Can you unlock the door now?" Slowly, I stand up and slide the lock out of place. As the door swings open, I see Arrow smiling sadly up at me from the ground. I slide down the wall beside her, careful to not touch her.

"You OK?" I shrug my shoulders, dropping my gaze. She offers me a package of Kleenex which I take gratefully. I blow my nose, and another rough sob cracks out of my chest. I glance up at her through the curtain of my hair.

She looks to be deep in thought... Suddenly she smiles brighter at me. "Why can;t Dracula keep a roommate?" I shrug. "Because he's always coffin!"

I shake my head at her as she wiggles her eyebrows. After a few more minutes of silence she sighs.

"Want to ditch and go watch a movie?" I sniffle and think about it... I really don't want to stay here, and if I were to go home I am pretty sure I'd have an even worse breakdown.... Watching a movie is a good idea. If we choose something sad, maybe people would believe that that is why I am crying.... I nod my head and she smiles.

"Great, just let me call my pop to come get us, seeing as I don't have my car..." Then she whips out her cell phone and has a brief conversation with her father. After a moment she sticks it back in her pocket and stands up.

"He'll be here in a bit. Let's grab our bags and head to the front entrance."

We leave the bathroom. The second that we do, Arrow pulls to a stop in front of me. I am staring at my shoes, so I don't see why we stopped, but my question is answered before I can ask it.

"Everything OK?" Rumbles Ryker. I stare harder at my shoes, determined not to look up. I feel him staring at me though. The air around me seems heavier...My chest clenches painfully and I rub at the spot.

"We're fine. You should get to class." "But—" "But nothing, Ry. Pop's coming to get us. We'll see you later, I'm sure. But right now...." I feel her turn to look at me, before turning back to her brother. "Right now what we need you to do is just go to class." Arrow's tone is firm, and I know that she blames him for making me cry. He didn't really do anything though whispers my conscience. I decide to ignore my inner voice

"I could drive you home, there's no need for him to drive all the way out here..." He sounds desperate, and part of me wants to leap at his offer. But the bigger part of me just wants him to leave me alone; he is dangerous, and worse than that—I am worse.

"Just go to class, please. Pop's already on his way." She is begging him now. I allow myself a brief glance up, and my eyes immediately collide with his. I notice he's tugged his hair into a knot at the top of his head again- something about that makes my fingers itch to pull it down.

We stare at each other for the briefest of seconds, and then he nods and I drop my eyes to my feet again. Another fat tear rolls down my cheek, and the pain in my chest ratchets up.

"Ok."He whispers. I feel him staring at me but refuse to look up again. "I'll see you guys later. Just.. just be careful ok?" Arrow nods and then he walks away, heading to the class we are all supposed to be in right now.

Arrow watches him go and then turns to me. She shoots me a careful smile, then we start towards the front doors. We stop briefly at our lockers to grab the few things we need. Arrow had thrown my bag in her locker when she'd chased after me. I am grateful that she'd done that because I am not up for going back to the cafeteria right now. We then head out and sit on the benches in front of the school until Mr. Cardinal pulls up.

We hop into the cab of his sedan. I am thankful that he ignores the tears that are still streaming down my face. He smiles gently at me and then takes off, proving himself to be a much better driver then his daughter.

We ride in silence, and halfway through the drive I feel myself start sobbing again. I try to get a hold of myself, but the more that I try the harder I cry. Thankfully neither Arrow nor her father say anything, and just let me cry as much as I need. I hold my chest, as the pain I'd felt in the school shifts to a deep ache I can't name. It begins burning hotter with every street we pass. I pray for the tears to stop by the time we reach the house.
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