"And we're here!" Haylie grins so wide I'm surprised her face doesn't fall off as she plucks the key from the ignition. "See? I told you I could get us here before second period started!"
"Remind me to...never ask you that again..." I gasp, "Oh, goodness, I think I'm going to be sick...next time I'll just walk."
She rolls her eyes at me, still smiling. "Come on, get it together, Callie! We've got a badboy to flaunt you off to!" She unlocks the doors to her mustang, hopping out with a bounce. I'm practically yanked from the passenger's side and dragged out to the sidewalk. "Let's get going! Oh, we so have to find Dante first! He's going to drool!"
I blush at her enthusiasm. "Um...I-I've got a project to turn in, so maybe you could just..."
"No, we are going to go find that loner and make him gaze upon your face!" She pops on her sunglasses, tossing her cardigan back. "Let's go, Callie."
That's when I learned that, yes, with a friend like Haylie, it is possible to die from embarrassment. In the middle of a hallway, no less. As we enter the Main Hall, she meets everyone's gawking stare, smirking, blowing kisses, even tapping a girls jaw to remind her to close it. I swallow hard, but resolve to not bow my head. Just don't make eye contact, that's all...just don't make--
"So the nerd has a sense of style after all,"
I would know that voice anywhere. My face burns, but I don't turn. I won't give him that.
"Hey you little geek!"
I tense for a run. Fashionable clothes or no, I'm not letting him hit me again. Luckily, Haylie chooses this moment to turn, grabbing my arm and pulling me to Professor York's history class. "Hurry, before we lose him!" She explains at my confused expression. "Professor York! Are you in?" She stops at the desk in the front of the room, glancing around, her hand still on my forearm.
An older man ducks around the office door, then emerges from the back room, clad in a dress shirt and black slacks, suspenders tucked in around his waist. "Ah, Haylie. I'll assume you're not here for your work, are you?"
She makes a face, "Good heavens, no. Was Dante here today?"
The brunette teacher nods, scratching at his beard. "Dante...yes, he was, as a matter of fact. He looked like a lost puppy, actually... Oh, who is this?" Light brown eyes slide over to me, Haylie's hand on my arm, and wrinkle with laughter. "Haylie, if you were looking to rub your latest conquest in his face, I don't think today's a good day. He did seem to be in a...restless mood."
I flush, not for the first time today. "Uhm, I'm not--"
"Oh, please, Dante's in a mood all the time. Do you know what class he has now, then?" She plants her other hand on the desk, managing to look impatient and excited at the same time. "It's very important."
Professor York gives her a dubious stare, then shakes his head. "No, sorry. He slept in class and bolted when the bell rang. I believe he may have gone home early. A rest before going to work, perhaps." He picks up a clipboard from the desk, nodding to us. "I've got a pop quiz to prepare for the next class. Have a good day, Haylie, and her boyfriend."
I twitch. "I'm not her--" But he's gone. People have a bad habit of doing that to me.
Haylie turns, leaning against the wood of the desk. "Now what? He might've gone home, and there's not one soul in this college who would be able to tell us for certain." She chews on a finger, blue eyes listless.
"Well, I've got--"
"Let's go ask Professor Vesci! He should be here!" She snaps her fingers suddenly, dragging me off again. "Come on, Caleb! Keep up!"
"Dante?" Leonzio asks, brows raised. "Oh, yes, he stopped by here not too long ago. Left for home, if I am not mistaken. At least, that is what I think the lupo said. He spoke very quietly. Almost as if he didn't want to speak. I may have ran him off, I am afraid." He rubs the back of his head sheepishly, a blush touching his cheeks.
"Ran him off?" I ask, twirling around in his leather desk chair. "How?"
"Well, he came to me seeming very dispirited, so I offered some words of deep thought. He always is alone, caro mio, as you well know. I told him it would be best if he allowed himself some friends, a girlfriend, even." He grins at me, "Non so se mi spiego." If you know what I mean.
I cover my face with my hands. "Leonzio!"
"Non, non, I did not shamelessly offer your hand in marriage, do not worry." He chuckles, petting me on the head, "I merely suggested he be more lenient with himself. He is so bitter, you see, so alone. He left in a hurry. I suppose that means he will be thinking about my words."
"Do you remember where he said he was going?" Haylie questions, stroking her jaw as if she has Professor York's scruffy beard.
Professor Vesci thinks for a moment, chewing on his bottom lip. "Hm...penso...he had said something about a repair shop. I believe it may be the one out here, just behind the back road. The one that is...ehrm. Not well off, si?" He winces at his own words.
Haylie narrows her eyes thoughtfully at the ground, then snaps up. "Ah! Yes, yes, I know which one you mean! The little one with the broken sign and the patched roof? I forgot what it's called...Caleb, let's go! We can wait for him there!" She turns to me, beaming. "That way we can snatch him when he gets off!"
I look from Haylie to Leonzio, and back.
What have I gotten myself into...?