The next time Sammy saw Ray was in assembly on Monday morning. She found herself sitting beside him at the back of the hall where the sixth formers sat.
“You must be in... Cambridge,” she remarked. Cambridge was one of the four houses that you were put into at year 10, and every year there was a series of competitions in music, sport, extra-curricular activities and academics to see which one was the ‘best’. Sammy herself was in March but she guessed that Ray was in Cambridge because she had never seen Ray at any of her house meetings and where students sat in assembly was a sign of their house: there were three groups of chairs, the middle twice as big as the others, Brampton and Ely sat in the small groups while Cambridge and March shared the middle.
“Yup,” he replied. “And you in March. Which makes us deadly enemies.”
Sammy grinned. “Guess I shouldn’t be talking to you then.”
Ray gave a smile that was mildly unnerving.
“But now you’ve started I can charm you into helping us win.”
“In your dreams.”
A bell rang for silence. Sammy checked her phone was off then faced the front where the headmaster was entering from a door in the wall opposite the assembled.
“Morning, everyone,” he said jovially.
And so he talked. He talked about the success of the Spring Dance and encouraged the pupils to donate yet more money to charity before the deadline of this Friday; he asked several merit-achievers to come up to the front to receive their book vouchers and asked the sports captains for their sports reports (swimming, equestrianism, rugby and netball) so for a few minutes the person speaking at the front was Karen Josh, Hannah Torly, Evan Sarry or Zoë Rennafli; the head concluded with a message about trying hard in everything one found oneself doing and never being afraid to inject passion into a task where one could.
“Goodbye and enjoy your day,” he said, and walked out. All the students stood up to leave.
Next to Sammy Ray stifled a yawn and said, “Want to hang out at break?”
Surprised and secretly a little flattered, Sammy replied, “Sure.”
“See you in the common room then.” Ray smiled and turned to walk left as Sammy turned right - there was an invisible line between Cambridge and March and the former exited with Brampton through a door in the wall to the left which led outside while March left through a door in the back of the hall which took them to the wide English and Humanities corridor, from which branched off the Maths and Languages corridors. Sammy had Chemistry so she left the building entirely and crossed the campus to the science labs.
Two hours later she was heading for the common room, located on the ground floor of Fennington Manor.
The common room was a comfortable room with sofas, a kitchenette and a TV with DVD player. Ray was on one of the sofas with Mike, who appeared to be texting.
Feeling a little shy Sammy walked over and sat on Ray’s other side.
“Oh, hey, Sammy,” he said.
“Hey, Ray,” she replied. “Hi, Mike,” she said to Mike.
Mike looked up and nodded before returning to his texting.
“How’s it going?” Ray asked.
“I’m great thanks,” Sammy answered. “You?”
“I’m alright. Did you have a good weekend?”
“Well, I didn’t really do anything except shop on Sunday - as per usual.”
“Did you buy anything?”
“No,” Sammy confessed. “I just window-shopped. I had some nice coffee in Starbucks, though.”
Ray frowned slightly. “Sounds kinda boring.”
“Yeah, it was a little.”
“What’re your plans for this weekend?”
“Pretty much the same actually. Nothing much.”
“Want to come to a party?”
“A party?” Sammy was amazed. Ray was being so nice. She couldn’t help wondering if something other than friendly inclusion was going on here. She pushed the thought away as Ray responded.
“Yeah. My house. Friday night.”
“What’s it for?”
Ray laughed. Mike chuckled beside him, though didn’t look up from his phone.
“Nothing. It’s a social thing. Do you want to come?”
“Well, ... I’ve not been to anything like that before,” Sammy said. “What time?”
“It’ll start at 7, then you have to be gone by 10 because my parents will get home at that time.”
“Do they know?” Sammy asked, concerned.
Ray grinned. “Trust you to ask that. Yes, they do know.”
“Don’t they want to leave you any supervision?”
Ray continued to smile. “They will. My older brother and my cousin will be there. My parents don’t like to hang out with teenagers.”
Sammy was a little unsure.
“It doesn’t get too wild, does it?”
“Nah, not really. I’ve invited, like, twelve people.”
“Does that work?”
“You’d be surprised. I hang out with them regularly so they’re all comfortable in each other’s company.” Ray’s expression became kind. “But, Sammy, you don’t have to come if you don’t want. I just figured that you didn’t get out much and from Friday night I guessed that you’d like to.”
“That’s true,” Sammy said, surprised by his perceptiveness. “Thanks, Ray.”
Ray smiled in return. “I’ll text you my address. If you need directions, just call me. Do you drive?”
Sammy nodded. “I’ll probably be the one driving.”
“Okay, well, I’ll tell you the directions now and then if you like you can follow me home one evening.”
Sammy smiled. “I’m sure that much won’t be necessary. But thanks anyway.”
So he told her the address and gave her the directions, never ceasing to sound serious about this as he spoke.
‘He’s quite wonderful,” Sammy thought as she looked him in the eye, paid attention to what he was saying and nodded along with the occasional hum of agreement.
Afterwards they had time to chat a little.
“How was your weekend?” Sammy asked, recalling that Ray had asked her earlier and that she hadn’t returned the question.
“Pretty good. I played football with some mates then saw a movie with a friend called Claire.”
“Just a friend?” Sammy teased.
Ray grinned. “I don’t go out with every girl I know, Sammy. Besides, they’re not all attracted to me?”
Sammy mocked shock. “How do you cope?! Do you have to talk about it with someone?”
“No,” Ray said mildly. “I make out with the next woman I like. She’s almost always unsuspecting.” He winked. “So watch out.”
“Like you’d kiss me,” Sammy said, almost snorting in derision.
Not agreeing with her, Ray shrugged.
“Oh, come on.”
Ray’s smile was wry.
The bell rang. Sammy stood up.
“I have to go now but I so don’t believe you. For one thing, I’m not your type. See you around, Ray.” And without giving him a chance to respond or protest, she walked off.
‘Boys,’ she thought. ‘So daft to think we’ll fall for their tricks again and again.’
There was no way that Ray Carin could be attracted to her.