I was a total lost cause when it came to having the common sense needed to ignore my body’s demands. It helped that the sun was out, which might have helped to make the cold bearable. Normally, I would run to the library whenever I needed to hide from Keiran, but my secret hiding place wasn’t much of a secret any longer.
I looked around for a place to sit. The ground was my only option after the school administration decided to have the benches removed when students made it apparent they would rather hang around and sit on the benches than at desks in the classrooms during class.
I eyed the only tree on school grounds and made my way over to it. It wasn’t until I reached the tree that I had noticed it was currently occupied.
A head full of red curls snapped up, and when his bright blue eyes landed on mine, his eyes widened in surprise as if he couldn’t believe someone would actually speak to him. He looked ready to bolt. I’d never before talked to him. Unlike me, he was better at blending in with the shadows despite his overly bright features. He was known as the bug boy because of his fascination with bugs.
“Can I sit?”
I tried to appear as non-threatening as possible. He was perched under the only tree on school grounds with a thin book in his lap. It didn’t look like our standard textbooks so I figured it must have been something he checked out from the library.
“Sure. Um… if you want.”
I smiled and sat down with my lunch tray. The ground was softer than I had thought, and when I leaned against the tree, I found myself relaxing. After Keiran and my latest fallout, I was officially dubbing this my new place to eat. I could effectively avoid the cafeteria and ignore the demands of my clueless vagina.
“What are you reading?”
“The History of the Ctenocephalides canis.”
I didn’t have the slightest clue what that meant. “What’s that?”
“Oh… is it any good?” I was surprised when he actually blushed and wondered why my question made him react that way.
“It’s okay.” He ducked his head back into the book and I decided to leave him alone. For the rest of lunch, I picked at my food until the bell rang. Collin didn’t waste any time dropping in for his books and hurrying away without a word or backward glance.
“Lake! You are one hard person to find.” Willow flounced up to the tree, and when she was close enough I held up my hand for a boost.
“Sorry. I forgot to text you.” I brushed the seat of my pants off before grabbing my bag.
“So did you manage to avoid detection?”
“You can’t hide forever, Lake.”
“I know. That’s exactly why I’m planning to do something about it.”
* * *
It had been two weeks since Keiran, once again, pulled us in a direction of no return. We haven’t spoken since our argument in the gym. The days had been filled with long hours of school and tension each time I passed him in the hallways, met his eyes across the expanse of the cafeteria, or felt his presence in class.
Each time I’d see him, he looked tense and distracted. The weirdness kicked in when I realized that sometimes he wouldn’t notice I was even around. The anxiety I felt whenever he overlooked me frustrated me the most. When would I ever kick the spell he had over me?
“Lake? Lake!” My aunt’s raised voice snapped me out of my thoughts.
“Huh?” Oh, right… My aunt had been talking to me for the past five minutes.
“I asked if you submitted your applications for early admission? The deadline was a few weeks ago, wasn’t it?”
Aunt Carissa made it a mission to remind me of college every day. She also made sure to review every application I filled out and pushed me to fill out as many as possible. She was also pushing for me to stay close to home.
I had the feeling my aunt was going to have a harder time letting go than I was. How could I tell her it was my plan and every wish to get as far away from Six Forks as possible?
This place had taken ten years from me, and I wasn’t about to let it have more. Deep down, I knew it wasn’t the city I grew up in, but rather who the city kept within that I needed to run far and fast from.
“Oh… Yes, I submitted them all before the deadline.”
“Well, where did you go just now? You looked distracted. Is there anything you need to talk to me about?”
Damn. She was fishing.
Ever since she introduced me to Jackson, she’s watched my every move with a critical eye. I knew it wasn’t out of mistrust because, though I haven’t been honest these last few months, I hadn’t given her a reason not to trust me. She was worried.
“Aunt Carissa, I’m fine. School is fine,” I offered, beating her to the punch before she could ask.
“If you’re sure…”
“I’m sure, Aunt Carissa. How’s the investigation going?” I asked to distract her.
Her face fell, but she quickly recovered. “It’s going, Lake. Jackson is actually coming over tonight while you’re gone. He thinks he’s found something.”
I didn’t want to fall into the emotional trap that was my parents, so I kissed her cheek, grabbed my bag, and rushed out the door. I had a dinner date with Jesse that I had been anticipating for two weeks. It was the first time he could get away, and I needed answers.