Nathan POV:

Today. Was. Crap.

                There was no other way to explain it. I had tossed and turned in bed all night, unable to sleep, to think, to even process what had happened with Katie. I didn’t know what to think – because I didn’t know if she had been telling the truth, or she had been lying, or she had had second thoughts about the message she’d sent me, and blamed a non-existent brother for the mishap.

                The crapness continued when I walked into art, slipped because of the rain, and saw the paint flying at me before I could either duck out of the way or raise my hands to protect the shirt I was wearing. I had been smeared with turquoise paint from heart-height to my navel, and though it would have looked cool if it had been either dry or intentional, I was wet, and blue, and fucking annoyed.

                So guess who I had to run into in the corridors?

“I’ll be fine.” I heard her voice down the crowded corridor and half jumped out of my skin, trying not to crane my neck to see her. The boy she’d been with a couple of days ago released her and she stepped away from him. I lost her in the crowd as I strode down the corridor, trying to be confident, trying to be strong. Fury coursed through my, I wasn’t interested in anything but getting away right now.

                As I got to the door to the physics classroom, somebody in the line gripped my arm. Though I was surprised, I wasn’t going to turn around and acknowledge them. I still hadn’t gotten over last night, the confusion that I was feeling, the annoyance of this morning, the headache that was happily banging in my brain...

“I have chemistry.”  I muttered, then, when they didn’t let go, “Dude, I’m gonna be la-” I was speechless as she stood there, holding my wrist tightly, her hair in plaits again. I wanted to say something, ask her to let me go... to tell her to let me go, to do something, but I just swallowed and looked down at my feet, anger replaced with sudden humiliation. Her eyes were wide, her smile tentative, the corners slightly shaking the longer I kept my mouth closed. “What do you want?” It came out a lot harsher than I thought it could.

                It was only then that I saw she was smaller than me. Not by a lot, but if she ever let me close enough to hug her, she would be able to hear my heartbeat.

“Listen to me, for two minutes. Please?”

                She would explain? I swallowed again to try and make my mouth work, hope lighting my day.

“Why should I?” I knew my face had to be impassive, and I fought the smile creeping onto my lips, but it didn’t happen. The hope in my chest made me smile slightly. Just for a second. Then it was gone.

 “Please, Nathan.” She had been crying. I didn’t’ want her to cry... “Listen to me. I don’t care if you believe me, but Ewan posted message. My brother did it, and I chewed him out for it. I’ll kill him, if you really want, but I’d rather it didn’t come to that... after the third body, there really wasn’t much space under the garage.” I fought a laugh, smiling slightly at her joke.

She raised her hand to my cheek. She didn’t touch me, but her sudden proximity made me flinch. I had been slapped before. After a few seconds, she took a deep breath, a long, solid breath and she pressed her hand against my cheek. She was warm. Her fingers radiated warmth as they rested against my cheek and shifted to curve against my skin, finding the ends of my hair as they did so. The feeling was incredible, so gentle and intimate, but silence invaded our conversation. There was a smile on my face I couldn’t explain. She made me feel like this.

“You didn’t?” I hesitated to believe her – she was nearly bipolar in her decisions, and I wondered if she had simply regretted it, regretted being so rude and hurtful to me, blaming her brother because it was convenient.

“I’m giving you...” She breathed in, shutting her eyes like a china doll, “Nate, please, listen to me. If I intended to hurt you, there are a million more interesting and painful ways I could do it. Public humiliation would have been my choice, not this. Trust me.”

                She said it. Nate. It sounded just like I thought it would, with a little twist in the middle and a sweet smile as she pulled her hand away from my cheek and studied my face for a long time.

“Please?” She offered hesitantly, looking down at her feet then back up at me.

“I guess so.” I nodded lightly, her solid, terrified facade breaking into a huge smile. Within a second she had thrown her arms around me and pulled me up against her. I was almost floored, though the half-step I had taken to balance myself succeeded and kept me upright. I awkwardly returned the hug and felt her lips curve into a smile where she had buried her face into my neck. She was warm, very warm.

                For the first time since I’d joined the school, I felt comfortable.

                Then I realised I was holding her off the ground, and dropped her almost immediately. She stumbled and I caught her hand again, holding it tightly.

“I’m sorry,” I murmured as I crouched slightly to hug her, “I’m gonna be late.” She inclined her head slightly, smiling and nodding.

“I’ll see you later.” She smiled again, and I felt my hand leave hers. The warmth was gone and I wanted it back, now. I turned away, more reluctantly than I had ever done before, and swallowed, a deep breath escaping my throat as I did so.

                I wanted to... I had to-

                I pushed the door to my chemistry classroom, stepped past the skinny guy who smashed the test tubes last lesson and settled myself at the back of the room, pulling out my folder but keeping my head down, pressing my forehead against the desk and groaning a lot.

                I really wasn’t in the mood for chemistry today.

The End

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