Then Connelly looked at me suddenly, but before I could react he turned back around to Alister. Then, Connelly must have said something to him, because Alister gave him a look more severe than the one he’d given Ivan. Next, Aubrey raised a hand out and put it on the table, saying something that must’ve sent Alister over the edge because he stood up and stormed out. Connelly and the others followed swiftly after him.
I looked after them, wondering what had been said when something hit my foot, knocking me out of my head. I looked over at Louis, who was peering at me curiously. “What are you looking at?” he asked, looking behind him to where Ivan’s back had previously been.
“Where’d they go?” he asked, looking at me.
“Out the back. I think they were having a fight.” I said after a minute, my throat still being tight from Alister’s stare. Louis looked like he was about to ask something else, but the bell rang.
Saved by the bell. I thought gratefully.
We all stood, emptied our trays, and then went our own ways. I was still a little shaken from Alister’s stare and felt vulnerable walking down the hall. It felt like he could just pop up anywhere and attack me.
I made sure to hurry after that thought and was soon in English Lit. Connelly and Ivan were in their same spots and when I walked in, they smiled apologetically, like they were embarrassed by Alister’s actions. I smiled back, relieved that they were there and showed that I wasn’t upset with them. Connelly and I kept eye contact a second longer until I sat down and went out of his sight behind another student.
I pulled out my notebook, smiling at how much it seemed Connelly put in to making sure I wasn’t mad. He must really care about what I think. Maybe that means he’s interested. I thought hopefully.
After the bell rang, I ran quickly next door to Math where Mira still, surprisingly, ignored me. That was very unexpected, but I didn’t get to think about it long, because the teacher slapped a huge pile of homework on my desk to keep me occupied. Mira was first out the door at the end of the class with me on her heels.
I met Louis at our lockers and felt a little safer with him. We didn’t say much to each other, a little “hey” and “see you later” and then we both turned and left.
As I started towards gym, Connelly fell in step beside me. He didn’t say anything for a while, either not knowing what to say or still too embarrassed to say anything.
But soon I got tired of our silence, since there rarely was any when we were together, and said, “I’m not mad.”
He looked at me for a minute, and then returned his gaze to the floor in front of us. “Are you okay? I’m sorry he scared you, I almost beat him for it.” he said, looking at me again.
“How do you know if he scared me?” I asked, a little offended that he thought me a wimp. Even though it had scared me.
“I could see it in your eyes.” he said, “I’m sorry.” He looked so upset with himself, like it was his fault somehow that Alister had done that.
“It’s okay. It wasn’t your fault — You couldn’t know he was going to do that. Besides, I’m fine. He didn’t hurt me.” I said, trying to cheer him up.
He looked up at me and smiled a small smile, knowing what I was trying to do. “I’m grateful for that.” he said and his smile grew a little as I blushed and smiled shyly back.
“So,” he said, trying to keep the conversation going, “You didn’t answer me earlier when I asked you what that blush meant.” He looked at me and waited for my answer.
“Uh…” I said. I was silent and sped up towards the gym.
“Aren’t you going to answer me?” he asked, easily keeping pace with me. He smiled underneath the shadow of his hat.
“I’m thinking about it.” I said, which was true because I was trying to figure out a way to tell him without him possibly getting mad. I had no idea why he would be mad, but I still worried about it.
Thankfully at that precise moment, Coach Bailey opened the gym doors and said, “Hey hurry up. Did you two bring your sign sheets?”
“Yeah, here it is.” I pulled it out of my purse and handed it to him. Connelly took his out of his pocket and handed it to the coach without looking his way. He was still looking at me and I suddenly felt self conscious.
“Get on the bleachers please.” said Coach Bailey. We separated there; me going over to Sue and Connelly going to Ivan and Mira.
“Okay, listen up.” Coach Bailey said loudly so his voice cut over the buzz of voices. “Starting tomorrow, those of you who will be in the competition will be staying after school for an hour so we can practice the dances. Now before we go to the competition in Italy, there will be two smaller competitions. The first will be here and you’ll compete against each other. The ones that make it will go on to the regional in California. Then the ones that get through that will win two hundred dollars per pair and go to Italy.” Coach Bailey’s eyes were sparkling as he said all this. Everyone was quiet for minute as this all sunk in.
“Do we have to pay anything?” I asked.
“No, the school takes care of everything.” The coach smiled.
“When do we start?” I heard Connelly ask.
Coach Bailey seemed ecstatic as he said, “Right now.”
Connelly was grinning in front of me before I could get off the bleachers. “Let’s try this again.” he said.
“May I have the pleasure of this dance?” he held out his hand to me. He seemed to grow a little tense, like he was readying himself for when I took his hand. It was a little odd to me, but all I could think of was that he could just be nervous. I mean, after all the things we’d been through so far, I’d be nervous too.
“Yes, I will.” I said and took his hand. He grew even tenser as I reached out towards him and when our hands touched, his was as hard and as cold as stone. Man, he must be really nervous. I thought as we walked onto the floor.