The feeling that I was being watched started pretty much as soon as I had left the school and had not abandoned me since. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on edge, my skin prickled. I was probably being paranoid; my mind was playing tricks on me but that did not mean I felt any safer. Every time I forced myself to turn around, I was greeted with emptiness. The area was desolate, the wind whistled sharply past my face, cutting across my skin like blades. I tugged my jacket tighter round my shivering body, told myself to relax and trudged forward.
I was practically home now anyway, just down this road and to the right. Stealing a quick glance in the shop mirror to assess what state I was in, I caught sight of a hooded figure darting past me. The scream I had been building caught in my throat, my eyes widened in fear as I whirled round to face my assailant.
‘Nate!’ the breath left my lungs in a long whoosh.
My best friend of four years stood facing me, a smirk on his face which was immersed in the shadows of his hooded jacket. I glared at him, anger and embarrassment flooding through me.
‘Did you see your face Alex?’ he laughed.
‘Can you blame me?’ I spluttered. ‘You stalk around like some psycho stalker intent on killing me, what am I supposed to think?’
‘Sorry I thought it’d be funny. Guess it backfired.’
‘You could say that,’ I frowned, looking over his shoulder. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for exactly but the feeling from earlier still hadn’t disappeared. A sinking feeling of dread and despair weighed down in a tight knot inside my stomach.
‘Are you okay?’
‘Yeah,’ I shook it off. ‘You wanna come over tonight? We’re starting to look like loners just stood here.’
‘Why do you think I stalked you just now?’
‘You could have just texted me,’ I suggested.
‘Not nearly as fun.’
* * *
When we got home, I was instantly confronted by my mother who wanted to know where I had been and who I was with. She seemed to relax slightly when she saw it was just Nate but was still on full mum alert.
‘What time do you call this Alex?’
‘I call it six thirty five.’
‘Don’t be cheeky, where have you been?’
‘I was kept behind,’ I shrugged nonchalantly. ‘They wanted some help with the art cupboard and I figured I had nothing better to do.’
Her eyes narrowed at me, I kept my own perfectly innocent. She looked to Nate for confirmation and he must have been pretty convincing as she backed off. ‘Just let me know in future, okay?’
‘Okay, sorry mum.’
I dumped my coat and shoes beside the front door and jogged upstairs with Nate in close pursuit.
‘Are you gonna tell me why you were so paranoid earlier?’ he confronted me as soon as the door was closed. I was a little surprised that he had actually noticed as he wasn’t exactly what you’d call astute.
‘Nothing,’ I smiled. ‘I was just a little jittery from being by myself at night.’ Wanting more than anything to talk about something else (for reasons I wasn’t fully clear on) I changed the subject: ‘Hey, I heard someone new is coming into our class tomorrow?’
‘First I’ve heard of it…’ he muttered. ‘I hope it’s not going to be another one of those superficial girls who fancies the hell out of themselves and treats everyone else like total shit.’
‘Hey Nate, you got unlucky that time. Not all girls are like that.’ Nevertheless, I felt a pang of sympathy for him. His ex-girlfriend pretty much broke his heart. She was incredibly pretty and she used this to her full advantage. She could wrap anyone round her little finger. Natalie Price her name was. She cheated on Nate again and again and as much as I advised him to ditch her, he physically couldn’t. He was completely in love with her. In the end, she dumped him. It absolutely destroyed him, tore him apart. I got so mad and confronted her in front of everyone, publicly announcing what a slut she was. I guess it was pretty bitchy of me, and looking back now I cringe at my childish behaviour, but she had hurt my best friend and I saw nothing but red at the time. She ended up moving schools as everyone began to see her true colours and she was left with virtually no friends.
Breaking through the silence, my mum popped her head round the door. ‘Alex, your dad and I are just popping out to see your auntie. Did you want to come with us, or stay here?’
‘Urm, as much as I love my Auntie Laura, I think I’ll stay here.’ My auntie was generous with a loving personality and a good heart, but good god she was boring.
‘Okay, we won’t be back until half nine if that’s alright?’
‘Yep. I’ll probably just watch some television and do some homework anyway.’ The latter was a complete and utter lie, but mother didn’t need to know.
I waved my parents off and to no surprise Nate left shortly after seeming distracted. He was obviously thinking about Natalie. I wish I’d never said anything now.
So I was home alone for two and a half hours. Terrific.