I saw her storm out the front door of the school with her backpack slung over one shoulder. She hit the door so hard I heard it bang against the outside wall. Whoa, this girl was feisty. I ran after her. “Hey! Hey wait up. Jeannette. It’s Jeannette right?” She stopped but didn't turn around. One hand was in a tight fist while the other held on to the strap of her backpack. I could see her take a deep breath like she was trying to fight down rage or tears, I couldn't tell which. The breeze blew her brown wavy hair and I could smell her vanilla shampoo. “Hey, I’m sure whatever it is that’s got you so worked up, it’s not worth getting caught skipping class your first week of school.” She slowly turned and looked at me. Anger flashed in her dark brown eyes. She took another deep breath. “Why does it matter to you if I get in trouble or not?” I grinned at her. “It doesn't really. I’m a sucker for a girl who likes a little trouble.” “Uh huh. Well I’m sure that adorable smile and bad boy charm works on all the other girls, but my B.S. limit has been reached for the day. So, I’ll see ya.” She turned and started walking, completely unaware of how her southern accent affected me. “Wait, can I at least walk with you? I've got a free hour and I need to stretch my legs.” She stopped and without turning said, “Whatever.” “So, where’d you move from?” “Texas.” “Nice. How are you adjusting?” Out of the corner of my eye I saw her mouth tighten. After a few seconds I wasn't sure she was going to answer. “Well, considering I didn't know we were moving until two days before it happened, my mom is acting all weird, my step-dad is MIA and my only friend is my little brother, I’d say I’m just peachy. I have no idea why I just told you all of that.” Grinning, I said, “I have that effect on people. And hey, you can count me as a friend.” I looked over at her as she rolled her eyes. “Oh geez. Does that crap really work on the girls around here?” Shaking her head “and y’all question our intelligence.” We had reached the end of school property and she turned toward the wooded area bordering the football field. She glanced over. “Are you just going to follow me like some hall monitor on a power trip?” I chuckled. She reminded me a little of another feisty girl with a sharp tongue. “I’m no hall monitor. I don’t think they’d trust me to enforce the “no running in the halls” rule. I just thought I’d get a little fresh air and see what had you damaging school property.” We came to a small cluster of trees where she chucked her bag to the ground, sat down with her back against a tree. She leaned her head back and closed her eyes. Some of the tension left her body as she took another deep breath. I sat down next to her our knees touching. She opened one eye and looked at me. “You do know what personal space is right? “ “Yes, but the presence of another warm body can often ease a person’s anxiety.” “Seriously, do girls really eat that up? They must since you seem to have a line for everything.” Instead of answering her I leaned back with my hands behind my head and looked up at the sunlight shifting through the leaves. It was one of those days when the weather seemed to make a conscience effort to be enjoyable. I found it interesting that I just wanted to sit there and relax. I usually felt like a lightning bolt was zipping through my veins. Weird. “Are you going to tell me why you stormed out of school?” She sighed. “Algebra and the stupid algebra teacher, whatever his name is. It’s not like I don’t know how to do the problems. We just learned a different way of doing them. I mean who cares what strategies you use as long as you get the right answer.” I could see her fists clench like she was trying to hold on to something. Or hold something inside. “Yah, I guess Landis is a stickler for his way or no way. You know I've forgotten my manners. My name is Sykes.” She turned her head but didn't open her eyes. “Oh I know your name. I've heard it spoken by almost every female in school, faculty included. Your reputation precedes you.” She smirked and turned her head back. “Hey, don’t fault me for being such a friendly guy. Most people would consider that a good thing.” “Well I’m not most people. So if you want to go spread your version of southern hospitality to those who appreciate it, you’re not required to stay.” I looked over at her. The breeze picked up a strand of her hair. I caught it and ran my thumb over the soft wave. Before she opened her eyes I let it go. “How long has your step-dad been gone?” She stiffened. “I don’t know. A couple of months I guess.” Shrugging she said, “It’s not like we were that close. But it hurts my little brother and mom.” I nodded. Then she opened her eyes and looked at me. Her dark eyes standing out against her pale skin sprinkled with freckles. “She won’t give me a straight answer as to why she moved us here or why he HAS to go to THIS school. We've never had secrets. “ I could see the confusion and hurt swirling like a storm inside her. The wind blew a small leaf on to her arm. I brushed it off and as soon as my hand touched her I felt that lightning bolt zap something inside of me. She jumped back, shocked. I breathed out, “What the hell?” She swallowed. “What the heck was that?” I stared at her. What was it about her that calmed me one minute then electroshocked my heart the next? “You’re not all human are you?” She blanched. “What?! We shock each other with static electricity or something and the first thing you jump to is I’m not all human?! Who asks that? I guess you've reached your nice guy limit.” She picked up her backpack and stormed off towards the school. After a few yards she stopped and turned to look at me. Shaking her head she turned back to the school and rounded the corner. I had no idea what had just happened, but for the first time in my life a girl had freaked me out.
Two Days Later:
It had been two days since I last talked to Jeannette. Two days since she looked at me with that disappointment in her eyes. I couldn’t figure out why it bothered me so much. Or why I’ve been avoiding her. And yet I knew where she was every minute of the day. What is wrong with me?! Remy even noticed I was distracted when I almost set the chair on fire while I was playing with a plasma ball. I know she saw me staring at her in the cafeteria. She must think I really am a stalker. There’d be no doubt in her mind if she knew I flashed over to her house last night just to see if her bedroom light was on. Again…what the hell is wrong with me?! I have NEVER noticed a girl’s finger polish before so how is it that I know she painted hers hot pink with some kind of glitter on top. They look like they’re sugar coated and I’d love to see if they’re as sweet too. Holy crap! I have got to get a grip.
“Sykes!” “What dude? Geez, Rem you don’t have to yell at me.”
“I’ve been trying to talk to you for three minutes. I guess I could have shaken the floor under you. I’ll do that instead next time. So what gives? You’ve been zoned out the last couple of days.” Sighing I just shook my head. “It’s that new chick, Jeannette. There’s something about her.” “Whoa, hold up. Did you just say you’re distracted by a girl? A girl who’s name doesn’t start with an L? A HUMAN girl?? I can’t wait to hear this.” “Shut up Remy! I’m serious. I’m not sure she’s entirely human. What else would explain that shock I got when our fingers touched? Or why I can’t stop thinking about her? “Um, well could it be partly because by some miracle she’s immune to your “mojo” as you call it? Look, why don’t you try talking to her again? Maybe it’ll help you figure out why you’re acting like a space cadet too. “ I stared at him for a second. “Yah, I guess you’re right.” “I’m always right, bro. Always.” Rolling my eyes, “I think you’ve mistaken right for cocky.”
The next morning I waited outside by the fence I know she and her brother walk by on their way to school. I could hear them laughing as they rounded the corner. She stopped for a second and arched her eyebrow. He followed her gaze and grinned. It’s like he knows something I don’t. “Hey sis, I’m gonna run on ahead. I’ve got a few questions I want to ask my history teacher. I’ll, uh, see you after school, k?” She glares at him, “Fine, see ya.” He jogs passed me with a smirk. I notice it’s very much like hers. She just stands there watching me. I can see the distrust in her dark eyes. “Ok, what’s the deal? I know you don’t walk to school. So, that means you’re here to talk to me.” “Well, aren’t you full of yourself? It’s entirely possible I’m doing my neighborhood watch shift.” I see her try to fight a small smile. “I doubt anyone would put you on neighborhood watch duty any more than they would make you a hall monitor.” She still hasn’t taken a step toward me. “So, can I walk with you the rest of the way?” She looks at me puzzled. “I promise I’ll keep my B.S. to a minimum.” “Yah, I wouldn’t want you to cause me to reach my limit before school starts.” I sigh with relief. She starts to walk and I fall in step with her. “So, how’re things?” She glances at me and I can feel the tension causing her to hesitate. “About the same I guess. Like my mom says, “Same crap, different day”. I haven’t damaged anymore school property if that’s what you’re worried about.” The fall breeze starts to pick up and I see her shiver. “Here, take my hoodie.” She stops and looks at me. “Why?” The way she says it with that slow drawl full accusation tugs at something inside of me. Something I’ll have to examine later. I ignore the question as I take her back pack from her shoulder and hold the hoodie out for her to take. Much to my surprise she takes it and for some reason it makes me want to fist pump the air. The royal blue color sets off her chocolate hair and creamy skin. My breath catches. After she puts on the hoodie and pushes the too long sleeves up I hand over her back pack and we continue on. I can’t remember the last time I walked this slowly on purpose. “I’m really sorry about the other day. I didn’t mean to be such a jerk. And I really didn’t want to make your day worse.” She keeps walking but I can see her shoulders relax. “Um, thanks. I get the feeling you don’t apologize for much so I’ll let you off the hook…this time.” Chuckling and in my best southern accent I tell her, “Why thank ya, ma’am.” She rolls hers and laughs. There goes that tugging sensation. I notice we’re getting closer to school and I’m still no closer to figuring her out. “Hey, do you want to get pizza with me sometime. Or something else if you don’t like pizza.” She stops suddenly. “A couple of days ago you accused me of not being human and now you want me to go get pizza with you? I’m not sure what you’re up to, but I have my plate full. I don’t need to be the butt of any practical jokes. Or charity social calls for that matter.” I hold my hands up in the universal signs of surrender. “Hey, hey, hey. I promise I’m not up to anything. I just thought it would be nice for you to have a real friend, ok? “ She glares at me as she looks for any sign of insincerity. She must not find any as she starts walking again she says “Ok. I guess I can get pizza with you sometime. Can my brother come?” I can easily sense the test she’s just laid out. “Yah, sure. The more the merrier.” She smirks. I grin at her. “Well, how about Friday night? There’s no football game or school stuff going on.” She looks over at me and smiles. It’s a smile that makes me feel like I’ve just been busted for something. “Ok. I’ll have to check with my mom, but I think it should be fine.” The warning bell rings as we walk up the front steps of the school. “Great! I’ll talk to you later. And hey, keep my hoodie for a while. It looks hot on you.” I take the last few steps in one bound as I laugh at the daggers she shoots at me with her eyes. I have a feeling it’s going to be pretty entertaining figuring out what sassy, Ms. Jeannette is all about. I sure as hell need to get a grip on whatever it is tugging at my insides, too.
What I imagine Sykes looks like. Image from different internet sites. STOP droolin'!!
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