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Chapter Seven: Project

 

          I’d managed to sulk my way through Monday and Tuesday, with Wednesday being early closing.  I was sitting in an early Art class in my usual seat, with Skylar and Alex sitting around my table.  The entire class was discussing ‘Café at Night’, but I really had lost all interest after the discussion passed composition and lighting.

          My pen twirled between my fingers as I pretended to listen.  Sara and her ‘crew’ were fairly animated in the conversation, which was surprising, but she kept glancing over at our table.  It bothered me.

          Michael had managed to stop talking to me for almost forty-eight hours, and as far as I knew, he was out with her last night.  I hadn’t expected the fire to emerge in my throat so darkly day after day, but it was there.  It was plainly hatred for the red-haired vixen, but I wasn’t about to stand up and alarm Michael.  If he wanted her, I would just have to back off.

          Skylar’s elbow connected with my upper arm and I turned to look at her.  She was almost laughing, but I didn’t know why.  She had a finger pointed at the door, so I turned to find a freshman standing in the room.  He was a little emo boy, but he looked like a girl and it took a minute for me to realize why Skylar was laughing.  His pants, plainly too tight, were a bright shade of pink and possibly his sister’s.

          “How hideous.”  I heard Sara snort.

          I think it’s endearing.

          And as if he’d heard me, the boy looked in my direction and smiled with a nod.

          “Do you know him?”  Alex asked, not looking at anything in particular.

          “Nope.  Just another freshie.”

          “Hm.”  Alex seemed to lapse back into a heavy thought process and then the bell went.

          I gathered up my things and marched down the hall.  I hadn’t the urge to participate in the Lacrosse unit in P.E., so I was on my way to the library.  Skylar had abandoned me to match pace with A.J. on the way to her Physics class.  I squeezed through a group of kids waiting outside the Biology lab and dashed into the library.

          It was quiet, only a few people were still here from the last period, but it would fill up quickly with classes doing research.  I dumped my bag on a table by the windows and sat in the cold, plastic chair. Wuthering Heights was immediately in my hands and I flipped to my dog-eared page.

          The chair across from me slid out over the carpet.  I didn’t look up, but I should have.  Eyes burned on my face, another set sizing me up, or just trying to read my emotion, but it wouldn’t work.

          “Ollie?”

          Michael?  My eyes shot up to meet his.  A smile bit at my lips, but I forced it away.  “Yes Michael?”

          “Are you talking to me?”

          “Are you talking to me?”  I glared and placed my book on the table.

          “I’d like to.”  He nodded, his eyes apologetic.

          “Good.”  I giggled.  “What’s on your mind?”

          “You.”  It was stale, but his eyes flickered away for a moment.

          My lips formed into an “O” shape, and my right brow shot up on my forehead.  I had nothing to say.

          “And, Monday.  I feel kind of crappy about what happened and a little embarrassed.  I was stupid to be so hurt.  I’m sorry.”  He smiled innocently.

          “Sorry?  Michael, you’ve got nothing to apologize for, well besides ignoring me for two days, but other than that…”

          “But Ollie.  I guess when she told me that you told her to ask me I was appalled.”

          “I didn’t tell her to ask you.”  I said dryly.

          “Huh?”

          “She asked me if we were going to the dance together.  I told her that you probably had to work.  But whatever, it’s cool.  I mean, you had friends and a love life before I showed up.  I don’t want to stop you now.”  I blushed.

          “Ya.  I still hang out with my other friends.  Carman and Jake have been really busy though, with the baby coming and everything.”  Michael rolled his eyes.

          “What about Shana and David?  You rarely talk to them anymore.”  I frowned.  I only knew a few of his friends from the odd meetings we had with them, basically their names all stuck from that first night I had met them at Corn and Apple once Michael and I had rejoined them after almost puking up cotton candy on the Sizzler.  It was just odd to be fighting about seeing them, when I knew that most of his friends didn’t like me for taking him away so suddenly.

          “David was just over at my house last night watching Pirates.”  Michael teased.

          “Whatever.  Sara was there too, right?”

          “Ya.”  He blushed.  “But that’s different.”

          “How so?”
          “Well, I sort of, umm…” He trailed, rubbing the back of his neck shyly.

          “You didn’t!”  I gaped.

          “Maybe.”

          “Michael!”  The flames rose in my throat fiercely, searing all my good intentions into ashes, my lips felt that of molten lava and my eyes sizzled.

          “I like her Olivia.”  Michael sighed.  “She’s annoying, sure.  But she’s more sure of herself and really smart.”

          “Why – How?  Michael…” I faded, all my thought were now nothing but ashes.  My best friend couldn’t trust me enough at the moment to tell me he’d gone out with my worst enemy and possibly made it a little further with her.  I felt awful, raw and exposed.

          “I’m sorry, I was going to tell you.”

          But you didn’t.  Michael!  Gawd.  I hate you right now.  I hate Sara. 

          “I have to go.”  I slid Wuthering Heights into my bag and I tottered over to the sign out desk.  Alex was standing there, his face pallid.

          “Alex…”

          “Hey, I was looking for you.  Are you and Michael done talking?”

          “Um, ya.  Why?”
          “What are you doing on Friday the 27th?”

          “Shooting birds in the park.  Why?”

          “Would you like to go to the dance with me?  Viv got herself a date and now I’m lonely.”

          “Viv?  I thought you two were dating.”

          “NO!  No.  No.  She’s a very close friend.  Trust me, I’d never get close to her that way.”  He laughed.  It was a rough sort of laughter, uneven and nervous.

          “Go to the dance with you?”  I pondered that thought for a minute.  I hated dances, the last one I went to here, half the senior class was smoking pot, and I’d sweated off at least 10 pounds.  “Sure.”

          “It’s a date then.”  He beamed.

          Date?  No.  No. NO!

          He read my expression and rolled his eyes.  “Not that kind of date Olivia.  It’s just a saying.”

          “I know that. I’m just not good with guys.”

          “You seem okay with Mikey over there.”

          Glancing over my shoulder, I saw that Michael was sitting exactly where he had been when I was sitting there.  However, Keith Derksen now occupied my once vacant chair and leaned over the faux wood table to share his ‘love tap’ story.

          “On occasion.”  I sighed, my shoulders dropped.

          Alex watched me, almost in a bodyguard type of way.  He seemed anxious, unsettled.  I couldn’t understand his reactions but I let it go.

          “I’ll meet you at the dance, is that okay?”  He asked, grabbing my attention.

          “Sure.  I’ll see you in History.”

          Right.  When I have to torture myself further.  Maybe Skylar would be willing to sit with me today, even though her and A.J. are always together in their shared classes.  Oh well.  I’ll just have to deal.

          I gave him a fake smile and continued out of the library and down the hall to the grade twelve foyer.  They have a vending machine there and I bought myself some Crispers and went upstairs to the grade eleven foyer and sat with my back to the wall to wall, ceiling to floor, window.  The morning light warmed my back as the sun peeked through the clouds.

          “Olivia?”

          I looked up.  Carman was standing in front of me, three and a half months pregnant, and probably the cutest thing alive.  “Hey Car.  What’s up?”  It was casual enough, but I never spoke to Michael’s friends, they were a veto in our relationship – or at least what was left of it.  But, if it hadn’t been for Carman and Jake and the other couple Michael had been with that Corn and Apple day, I never would have met any of them.  I secretly thought they all hated me for not starting to date him after our romantic first encounter, but I was sure they all got over it quickly enough to accept that I was a good kid and just needed friends.

          “Oh not much.  Just tired.”  Carman laughed.

          She’s got something on her mind.  I think I might puke.

          She sat next to me; her curly black hair fell down her shoulders and back.  Hazel eyes watched me and I felt itchy and squirmed.

          “How’s Mike?”

          “Fine.  He’s dating Sara.”

          “David told me.”  Carman admitted.  “You okay?”

          “Ya, I’m fine.  Why?”

          “I don’t know.  I always figured that you and Michael would start dating.  Especially since you two are so cool together.”

          I guess I was wrong.

          I shot her a pleading glance and then looked away.  “Michael and I are friends.  Best friends.  Like him and Shana used to be.  I just hope that no one ever says that about me and him.”

          “I’ll agree there.  But Sara, whoo, he had a crush on her in grade seven.”

          Interesting.  “I didn’t know that.”

          “No one does, well expect for the four of us.” 
          Us?  Does that mean me too?

          “But Olivia… don’t let her mess up your friendship.  I’d hate to see that happen, especially since I’m making him the baby’s Godfather.”

          “What about Keith or David?”

          “The sex maniac and the pot-head?  C’mon, I’m pregnant, not stupid.”  She smirked.  “And he’ll make a good one, but if he marries a witch like Sara, I’d have to re-consider.”

          “Of course.”  I knew what she was implying, but I brushed it off.

          “I got to pee.  See you around.”

          Only when Michael’s forcing us together.  “Sure.”  I felt horrible and gave up on reading and pulled my knees to my chest and turned to stare out the huge window.  Life suddenly seemed so difficult and my breathing quickened.  No visions today please.  I begged and closed my eyes, it was dark and I laughed silently to myself.  Good.

          The bell made a terrible buzzing sound and pulled me from the daze I was locked in.  I could already tell that it was going to be a long day.  I pulled myself from the bench and walked the short walk to my history class.  The only bad thing about early closing, all my classes fit into a very short schedule.

          Alex was seated there already and I kicked myself mentally for not skipping, but it didn’t matter anyway, I had no way out now.  Plopping down into my chair, I made a mental note to ask Skylar to sit with me tomorrow, not caring about A.J.

          How selfish.

          “Hey.”  Alex gave his standard greeting and I nodded solemnly in reply.

          Mr. Desmond walked in, his arms full of papers and a box.  For some reason he seemed flustered and uninterested in his student’s curious eyes.  He placed his armful down on his desk, then stood behind his podium and took attendance.  After which he instructed us to read for a few short minutes, then he stood before the class waiting for our attention.

          I was suddenly nervous and sat on the edge of my seat, Alex seemed as nonchalant as always.  Looking over my shoulder, Skylar and A.J. were both talking, very quickly without looking at each other.  My stomach knotted uncomfortably and I faced Mr. Desmond as he asked for silence from a front table.

          “Alright.  Look at the person or people beside you.”

          The whole class did as instructed and a few acted as if they’d never met.  It was cute.  Alex gave me a little wave and went back to his book.

          What’s he reading?  I checked over the pages, but there was no indication of the novel’s title or genre.

          Mr. Desmond continued.  “They will be your partner for this group assignment.” 

          My jaw dropped and I was silently wishing that I was invisible.  Alex’s head snapped to my face, a guilty smile lingering in his deep eyes.  I felt only worse now and I cringed, leaning over my textbook and glaring at the black text. 

          Just great!

          “You’ll be researching different categories which I will assign you.  All of which will come from large historical, Canadian, moments.”  With that, he began handing out he papers he’d been carrying earlier.

          At the top of my sheet it explained the job that was ahead of me.  I had to a write a 500-word essay, with graphics, on the topic we were given.   “Immigration – including the Great Potato Famine..” there were more listed below and my heart sunk.  The date was November 13th, which meant a whole month of Alex and I doing research and rough drafts.  On the upside, I would have something to occupy myself with.

          “Well this was unexpected.”  Alex grumbled.

          “I know.”

          “So… how would you like to go about working on this?”

          “Uh?  I don’t know.”  I blushed.  Does he mean after school research?

          “Got a computer?”

          In my room … oh gawd.  “No.”  I lied.  I felt like I was going to melt into my chair. 

          “Too bad.  I guess we’ll just have to work on it here.”

          “You have this class to do research and the rest of the week.  But next week we start on the war of 1812.”

          Okay, two and a half classes for research.  That should be enough. 

          “… Ireland …” I heard Alex mutter just under his breath in a dreamy tone, his eyes were soft and half closed.

          “Alex?”

          “Okay.  We should start with the immigration laws, such as the point system and regulations on air fare.”

          I was taken aback.  “Um, okay.   Let’s get it done.”

          “Great.  I promise I won’t fail you.”

          “Thank-you?”  My grades weren’t that big of a deal.  This class was easy stuff, but I was still stuck on his lost expression over one of the locations scribbled on the list between Iran and China. 

 

 

          Alex had given me a ride home one day after working late at the school, I made the mistake of offering him some supper or at least some other form of food after putting up with me and my typing abilities.  He refused until he caught sight of something in my front window and asked if he could use my bathroom.  Big mistake.  He found my Mother’s office next to the upstairs bathroom and bugged me until I finally gave in and said that we could work on our project here, as long as my Mother didn’t find out about him. 

          He thought for a moment and then agreed that it would be our best plan of action.  So Thursday afternoon Alex and I were working on our History project, it had been almost two weeks of us fighting over the layout of our oral presentation and which pictures we should have added to our essay that we had to hand in.  I was surprised how well he dealt with my stubbornness but not enough to give in completely.  We were about to get started when his cell phone let out a merry jingle from his back pocket.  He lifted it to his ear without moving even an inch and then waved at me.

          This whole situation with him in my house was weird but so far we’d managed to keep my Mom out of it.  She would have a canary if she found out that it really wasn’t detention I’d spent all my time at for the first week of research and adding everything together.   I plumped down on the leather love seat in the office and waited for him to get off the phone. 

          “Okay.  Okay.  Just ask her to come down nice- Yes I know Viv – would you just relax!”

          I watched him argue with Vivian over his cell and sank deeper into the couch.  His eyes smoldered with frustration and agitation, but he was still so handsome.  I caught myself re-thinking my art show centerpiece every time I caught a glimpse. 

          “I’m doing homework Vivian, I’ll be there in an hour.  Good-bye.”

          I sighed as he finished.

          “Sorry about that, Kat got stuck in a tree.”     

          “Oh.  Was that all?”  I giggled.

          “Mm.  So, let’s get this done.”  Alex rolled back over to the computer.  We were just going over the write up on the Great Potato Famine that we’d left till the end for some strange reason, and it just had to be the least interesting time of immigrants, or so I thought.  Alex seemed so deeply interested and I became curious about his actions. 

          “Alex, where did you move here from?”

          “Kenora.”

          “Where were you born?”  I pressed.  Something in his tone suggested more to his story, and my curiosity was taking over.

          He sighed outwardly and his fingers stopped over the keyboard.  “Ireland.  Dublin actually.”  His whole faced turned towards me, his eyes sad and lost.  “My parents are still there.”

          “Oh?  Who do you live with here then?”

          “Vivian and I live together.  We’ve known each other since we were really little.  She’s my ‘adoptive sister’, if you will.”  He rubbed the soft skin around his eyes and leaned back into the chair and turned towards me, I sat impatiently watching him.

          “What happened to her parents?”   I asked, jumping into nosy territory.

          “They were murdered.  My Father found her and brought her home.”  Alex wasn’t looking at anything in particular anymore.

          “That’s so sad.”

          “Sort of.  At least she is still alive.”  Alex sighed, coming back to reality from whatever memory he was viewing.

          “Your parents, do they- do they know you’re here?”  I stumbled, blushing and staring at my knees.

          “Yes.  They, well actually, Gabriel sent me here-” He froze, his eyes fixed on my face dramatically.

          “Gabriel?”  Questions popped up in single file behind my eyes, it was obvious he’d said too much.

          “Olivia?  Whose car is in the driveway?”

          Dammit!  She’s home earlier then normal.  I can’t let her know about Alex –

          She walked into the office, still holding a briefcase and Sabrine followed obediently to see whom my visitor was.  I squeezed my eyes shut and lowered my head and felt Alex’s whole body tense up in the office chair.  The leather made a hissing sound as his body shrunk in agitation.

          Sabrine’s eyes narrowed at Alex when I looked up and I was astonished that he returned her glare.  My Mother was staring flatly at Alex, his mouth moving but no words coming out.  For that moment, time seemed to move incredibly slow.

          “Mom.  Sabrine.  This is-”

          “Alex.”  Sabrine scoffed.

          My eyes widened and looked over at Alex whose expression mimicked mine.  What the hell!

          “You know each other!”

          “Dammit Sabrine!”  Marley growled.

          But she paid no mind.  “What the hell are you doing in this house?”

          “Homework.  And I see work is going well.”  Alex added smugly.

          “SABRINE!”  Marley elbowed her.

          I felt it just then, the wave crashing over me and the pulsing in my temples. I closed my eyes and I felt my body fall from the corner of the desk where I’d been perched, but this time I felt him catch me, all of them did.  The movie began to play immediately.

         

 

          My Mother was sitting in front of me, her hands on my knees, her face sad and pleading.  The only light that entered the room was the sunset, it was confusing and my mouth tasted like tears, salty –

 

          The images faded and I came back to the office, I found Alex hovering at my side and Marley and Sabrine watching me, disbelief written clearly on their faces.

          “What did you see?”  Alex asked calmly.

          “How did you – What – But … I” I looked at him strongly, trying to keep calm.

          He knows Olivia.  He knows about your freaky ability.

          “Just like her Father.”  Sabrine gasped.

The End

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