I kept my eyes focused down the hall as Mr. Mills disappeared, putting weight on my good leg as I staggered to lean against the wall. I took a breath and shut my eyes.
I cracked an eye open and watched Aria come toward me.
“Hey, are you okay? Me and Caleb were just joking, you know.” She stood there looking all worried.
“I’m fine,” I said. “Are we going out tonight? I could really use an excuse to unwind.”
She looked at my face, and then her eyes drifted to my leg.
“What happened?” she asked, her eyes wide.
“I tripped,” I mumbled, laughing weakly. “It’s okay, though, because Mr. Mills came and helped me out when I dropped my books. I’m late for class.”
When Aria started walking down the hall, I followed slowly. We were quiet for a few minutes before she finally spoke.
“You know, Caleb doesn’t like him.”
“Who?” I asked. I shouldered my bag and clutched my Math book against my chest.
“The History teacher.”
“His name is Elias,” I murmured.
Aria stopped walking and looked at me, her eyebrow raised. “Tate, you don’t go calling your teacher by his first name.”
“He said he wants to have an informal relationship with his students,” I said, sliding in front of her. “What’s wrong with that?”
“It’s weird,” she said. “Besides the fact that he’s your teacher, people might get the wrong impression if you start referring to him on a first name basis.”
“It’s not that weird,” I replied defensively.
“It is. Caleb says that―”
“Since when do you listen to everything Caleb says? You guys barely get along as it is.”
“That’s not true,” Aria said, glaring at me. “We’re getting along now.”
I shrugged and headed down the hall, but she gripped my arm to stop me. I tried to push her away but ended up dropping everything again.
“Look at what you made me do!” I snapped.
“If you just stopped and listened to me then that wouldn’t have happened.” Her eyes swept over my face as she moved the hair from her eyes.
“You’re just mad because you’re jealous,” I retorted angrily. I picked up my books and bag for a second time and limped away from her.
“You’re being an idiot!” she called after me.
I didn’t hear her over the mental brooding I was doing.
I found Caleb waiting for me outside of my Math class when I was finished. He was leaning on the adjacent wall, head down, hands buried in the pockets of his jeans. He didn’t look at me until I was standing right in front of him.
“Hey,” he said gruffly.
“How was History?” I asked, leaning next to him.
“Boring,” he said. “So, what the hell happened between you and Aria? She’s really upset.”
“Nothing,” I said as I walked down the hall. I kept my schedule in my hand so I could look at it as I went. Caleb followed closely behind me, making little annoying noises under his breath.
“Alright,” I muttered as I turned. “What is your problem?”
“Stop it,” he said. He reached out to tangle his hands in my hair and push my body into the wall. His lips were inches from mine; his breath smelled like peppermint.
“What are you doing?” I hissed.
“I like you,” he said, staring at me. He untangled his hands from my hair and frowned. “I just wish you had noticed so I didn’t have to say anything. Aria’s right, you really aren’t that observant.”
I frowned at him, my heart in my throat. I was so stupid.
“Cal, I’m sorry.”
“No, you’re not.” He looked hurt.
“Don’t feed me that bullshit!” he hissed, his grey eyes narrowed. He didn’t even look like himself. “And don’t bother coming to me if you need me. I won’t be there.”
He was gone before I could react, leaving me with the heels of my palms pressed against my eyes. I felt this horrible urge to cry. Within seconds I felt my whole life come crumbling down around me.
I kept my hands over my eyes as I broke into a run, not bothering to watch where I was going. I didn’t care if I ran into anyone. I just needed to get outside.
I didn’t get very far before I collided into someone. I fell back, and before I could smash into the ground to do any further damage, I felt an arm slip around my waist and pull me up.
“Tate, what’s wrong?”
I didn’t uncover my eyes. I knew who was speaking to me. Instead, I shook my head.
A soft chuckle filled my ears. “When will you students learn that I’m only here to help you?” He grabbed my hands and brought them away from my face. “I’ll help you get cleaned up, if you want.”
I nodded and allowed him to guide me to his classroom.