I stared at Oli. He gazed back. Some unseen force was pulling me towards him as if he was a magnet and I was so surprised that I cast a quick mental check around everyone in the basement. Most of the older men and boys had been drinking for a while and were buzzing with content because of the lazy Saturday evening. It was impossible for us to get drunk so there were no drunken louts in my vicinity, thank goodness. Kane had found a few of the many people around the room kept looking up from their drinks or their conversations to stare at him. The people closest to him all felt a similar weird connection to him that made them subconsciously lean towards him.
After a few awkward seconds, I did the awkward turtle and said, “Do you want to get some fresh air?” I was starting to feel warm in this crowded room.
He shuffled from foot to foot and then spoke up at last, “Yeah sure.”
As Oli climbed out of the basement ahead of me, I caught a whiff of his scent wafting back at me. I breathed deeply. His scent reminded me of a warm summer evening, the smell of pines in dense woodlands and lemon grass, yet compared to the others...
...He was unmistakably human.
Emerging out into the small corridor for employees, I could smell the first of the beer orders being poured and the smell of middle aged men drinking them. They had musky scents and a couple of them smelled like years worth of cigarettes. Yuk. But underneath all the unhealthy perfumes, they were all very human. Compared to them, Oli was less human.
The moon was hiding behind a thin lining of clouds above us so the cark park was covered in a feeble amount of light which turned Oli’s dark hair a blue-grey colour. He shuffled from foot to foot, looking down, so I couldn’t see his eyes. I stood stock still. I couldn’t help staring at him at an angle because the unseen force was still acting on me. I tried to listen to his thoughts and realised after a few seconds that, although I could smell his humanness, I’d thought he was like me and Kane. My eyes widened and I turned to face forward.
“So what do you do here?”
Being so quiet in general, his normal voice came as a shock to me because I had never expected him to speak. Also, the one time I’d heard him speak normally to anyone was when he spoke to a boy at school who was bugging him whom I suppose didn’t count for much. I felt rather privileged.
“Oh, I just hang out with friends from around the Chilterns.” At least it was part of the truth.
“No,” he said with a frown, looking at the ground as if it had the answer. “They all acted differently when you entered the room. Most of them look like sixth formers and many seem older. The rest are either our age or year sevens yet...” He paused and looked at the ground, still frowning. “...yet they all respect you in the same way.”
I tried to look as blank as I could at him. This was so weird; on his first day here, he was drawn to the secret basement, caught the attention of my friends downstairs and now he starts to guess who we are. We were a very discrete bunch of people so, unless he was guessing, he had be very observant.
“That’s a pretty wild thing to say! I don’t even earn the respect of the year 6s at ‘Bierton’.” It was thought that, when you’re in primary school, anyone older than you deserves respect but I don’t seem to fall in that category. “What makes you say that?” I felt some random ‘déjà vu’ but ignored it.
I realised I shouldn’t have let him down so quickly because he turned away and didn’t say another word.
Starting to feel a bit awkward, I tapped into the thoughts of the people beneath my feet. I quickly noticed how many of the older men were trying not to think about my outfit. I looked down at myself and thought, probably, that I was asking for it. I wasn't particularly skinny but this gave me curves that some of the girls downstairs would die for. I had pinned the sides of my blonde hair back and my side fringe away from my face for a change which, apparently, the boys liked the look of. Not that I was interested in any of them.
A few minutes later, the two of the men I smelled a while ago came out the front of the pub and lit their cigarettes. Being careful not to breathe in too much, I turned around to go back inside to find Oli staring at me. His dark eyes were gentle yet curious and I wondered what he was thinking; a lifetime of knowing what my friends were thinking had made led me to expect a flood of thoughts to come from him at any moment. They didn’t come.
“Shall we go back inside?” I asked grimacing as I had to take in a breath to speak.
“Yeah, sure...” He sounded as distant as Kane had been earlier that night as he tore his eyes away from mine to turn towards the employee door.
Rushing in with him, I closed the door behind him to keep out the cigarette smoke.