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?”
“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 that 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, 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.