She ignored me. She took three steps to the side to let me pass, holding the door open for the four of us to step through, and she ignored me.
I was smiling at her and everything, and she damn well ignored me. This wasn’t right. This was fucking wrong. She should have been falling at my feet, like every other sodding girl in the room. Well, every girl in my year, at least.
I sat down by the table tennis table, and folded my arms, twisting a headphone into my ears and turning my music up, trying to forget the girl that was about eight feet to my left and currently staring at the ceiling.
“Easy, Katie, you alright there?” His voice made me jump, it was low and mirthful, and she laughed as she sat up. I knew she giggled very easily – I’d been listening to her laugh for the best part of four weeks now, but I was so annoyed that it wasn’t me making her laugh aloud like that.
“Yeah, I’m just plotting.”
“What, or is it too terrifying to ask?” She laughed again and rolled her eyes, shaking her head then glancing over at me. Her smile slipped slightly, she frowned, then smiled at me, nearly went to wave, I think, because her hand twitched by her side and she stuck her hand in her pocket quite quickly.
“Nah, I’m just trying to work out what I’m doing this weekend. I’ve got to do all my essays before Sunday, and I know I’m just going to procrastinate, and avoid it, and-”
“Part of me’s wondering why you don’t start doing it now.” He said softly, throwing himself down beside her as she put her hand up to him, shoving him gently on the cheek, and then nestling down on his shoulder.
“Well, first off, you’re comfortable, and warm, and I’m tired and really can’t be bothered, to be honest with you.” She closed her eyes and drew her knees up so she had her legs stretched out on the chair in front of her.
“Fair dos.” He laughed and she sank lower, resting against him as he put his arm around her. “I’m only here for ten minutes, by the way,” He started about two minutes later, when she looked comfortable and I couldn’t tear my eyes from their interaction. She didn’t open her eyes when she spoke, so I assumed she was nearly completely asleep.
“Find me a frecking replacement, then.”
“Frecking?” He laughed, “Hang on, are you pulling a Shakespeare and inventing words again?” She made a noise in the affirmative and I wanted to laugh, to smile and I wanted a little bit to poke her in the ribs, because she looked too comfortable with him there. They looked like a couple – although I knew she was single.
Well, I had no official confirmation, but... she didn’t look like she had anyone.
“I still want a pillow,” she said a little louder, poking his arm, then his ribs and his chest, “Please, Jason!” She extended the ‘n’ sound into a whine and he burst out laughing.
“You know, if we weren’t best mates, I’d probably attempt a witch burning, or something...” He jabbed her in the ribs and she giggled loudly.
“Well, I’m glad we’re friends then,” He shook his head lightly and got up, rolling his eyes and hugging her before picking up his bag and leaving, the main doors squeaking as they closed and he disappeared out into the September winds.
Within two minutes, another one of her friends had appeared; this one with big grey eyes and long blonde hair. Her name was Mandie, and she was in one of my classes – she had taken up Art as an AS-Level while she took her A2s with her friends. I sat opposite her in the classroom, and she was forever pulling faces and making jokes, I think it was her way of... well, fitting in.
And now I saw my ‘in’.
“Hey, Mand’, erm,” I heard the words coming out of my mouth and was on my feet, stepping towards the pair of them before I could stop it from happening, “You know the coursework we’re starting next week?” Mandie looked up and grinned, waving me over, but Katie nodded at me, didn’t really acknowledge me, so I threw myself down beside her and kicked my feet up beside hers, immediately she dropped her feet from the chair and said that she’d ‘be back in a minute’, then disappeared off towards the girls’ bathrooms.
“You didn’t come over for the coursework, did you?” Mandie was intelligent, I had to admit. She tilted her head slightly and smiled, “She’s single, but she’s not a happy bunny about you staring at her. She told me the other day that you can’t keep your eyes off her, and it’s... well, it’s weird, you know.”
“I-but, I don’t really know what to do about-” She raised an eyebrow at me and sighed. “What?”
“You’re watching the door,” She said, and I realised that I had indeed been staring over her shoulder, watching the door to see when Katie would be returning to us. “She’ll avoid coming in here, you know. She’s not one to hide, but staring unnerves her.”
“Sor-ry.” I huffed it with extra stress on the syllables, feeling utterly ridiculous and thoroughly teenaged. I’d just been sideswiped by a girl I barely knew, she’d called me out on something obvious and quite idiotic, and I thought I had been subtle. I thought I’d actually been pretty good at this subtlety thing, I’d been good at keeping my head down and my eyes trained on her.
“Well,” She looked at me, her gaze almost pitiful, “Not that I’m saying she’s not crush-worthy or anything, but get to know her a bit before you go crazy, yeah?” I nodded, and looked over her shoulder again. “Maybe add her on Facebook or something?”
“Maybe.” I nodded, and rose from the seat I had been sitting in.
“Alright, I’ll see you in Art!” She chimed in a bizarre voice, I nodded and waved, then picked up my bag and walked out through the doors of the building, almost running straight into Katie as she came back in, looking slightly dazed. She stumbled as she looked up, clearly surprised by my presence, and I reached out to stop her from falling, instinct getting the better of embarrassment for those few seconds it took to reach, touch, grip and steady her. She took a deep breath and locked eyes with me for a second.
“Hi,” I managed to blurt out, determined to keep my face as impassive as I possibly could, though thermal imaging equipment on the International Space Station was probably able to detect the heat radiating from my cheeks, “Er, you’re not hurt, or anything, are you?” If I didn’t sound like a moron, it would be a total miracle.
“No, no.” She shook her head violently, “I’m alright, thanks, Nathan, isn’t it?” I nodded and her lips curved into a small smile, “You can let me go, you know... I won’t collapse and fall to the floor-”
“Bet you will,” I grinned, and she rolled her eyes. I dropped her hand after a few more seconds of feeling her warmth in my cooler hands, “Sorry for walking into you.”
“It’s alright,” She nodded, “I’m like this all the time.” She smiled again and stepped to the side to let me pass, I did the same, and she walked past me, her head down and her fingers scraping her hair back into a messy bun as she sat back down.
She hadn’t been rude to me.
She hadn’t walked away. She had smiled, and-
“Ow, crap!” I had walked into the second set of double doors, the smile on my face wiped out by the fact I’d just whacked myself in the face with the large, heavy door, paying absolutely no attention because I was so distracted by her.
I swallowed and pulled the door open, reaching into my pocket at the same time and pulling out my lighter, flicking it twice and watching the flame explode into life as I crossed through the school gate and disappeared down the hill, trying to get back down to the bus stop before I missed the bus home.