Ben walked off and Kayla was left alone with Roger. The latter guy looked utterly confused.
“I don’t get it. Am I missing something?”
“Ben is very immature,” Kayla told him. “I’m sorry he acted like that.”
“But ... I don’t understand what there was to be immature about.”
Kayla looked at her plate, her blush deepening.
“When you said talents. He thought of... well. You know.” She drank some of her water.
“Oh,” Roger said, sounding embarrassed. “And did you? ... Think of that?”
“Not till Ben snorted.”
“I’m sorry,” Roger said. “I didn’t mean to... Wow, this is going terribly.”
Kayla looked up at him.
“I know, right? I don’t have the first clue what to say to you, and Ben has just left us feeling awkward-er than an awkward turtle.”
Roger hesitated. Then: “Yeah,” he said. “He has.”
Kayla sighed, looking down again.
“I’m really happy I’m your soulmate. A little bit nervous but...”
“Don’t be nervous,” Roger suddenly interrupted.
Kayla looked up, startled.
Roger was gazing at her seriously, as if what he was about to say was very important.
“I don’t want you to feel nervous. No one expects anything of you - you can totally be yourself - and I’m not going to judge you. I’m your soulmate, not your parents or the pack ... or anything to be scared of.”
Kayla sat there, astonished.
“I ...” She faltered. “That’s not why I was nervous,” she said eventually.
Roger looked surprised.
“It’s not? But my mum said...”
“I mean, I am worried about being the soulmate of the future Alpha,” Kayla told him, “but no, I was more nervous because I didn’t know how this was going to be. Are we going to get along? Are you going to hate me?”
“Oh, no, I’d never hate you,” Roger assured her. “You’ve never struck me as a person who did anything to make someone hate them.”
Kayla was touched. It wasn’t the most moving or obvious compliment in the world, but it was appreciable because it told her that Roger thought she was kind - which meant a lot to her because he was her soulmate.
“Thank you,” she said to him. “For the compliment. I’ve always thought you werequite decent too.”
Roger looked down, frowning slightly.
“Well, everyone has their off days.”
“Well, of course. That’s what makes us human. The imperfection to make us strive to be better.” Kayla blushed at the depth of that comment. She didn’t usually say things like that - though she thought them occasionally, when not engaged in something like her hair and clothes or watching episodes of the type of television series generally watched by teenagers.
Roger looked up at her, seeming struck by her words.
“That’s very profound.”
“Thanks,” she mumbled awkwardly.
“So what d’you like outside of school?” he asked.
“Um... various things. Dancing, shopping, reading, hanging out with my friends... What about you?”
“Well, I like reading too,” Roger told her, smiling. “And I also like bird-watching, walking and board games.”
“Bird-watching,” Kayla repeated absently. “So you’re into nature?”
“I like animals,” she told him. “When I’m 18, I want to volunteer at a Wood Green Animal Shelter. I once considered doing zoology after school but I’m no good at Biology.”
“Volunteering’s very fulfilling,” Roger commented. “I like how there are so many charities out there. Sometimes people can seem so cruel and heartless, but then when you look at the great things that other people have done it seems there is hope for humanity. There might always be evil, but goodness will always persist.”
“That’s a good philosophy.”
“Thanks. I’ve never much been one for pessimism.”
“Me neither,” Kayla said eagerly. “Life’s too short. I mean, at this age, a lot of people seem to be complacent, but none of us are immortal.”
“No,” Roger agreed. “You can’t mess about with it. You have to ... respect it.”
Kayla felt happy. She was having a proper conversation with Roger and he seemed to be enjoying it as much as she was. She found herself looking into his eyes and wondered what he was thinking.
“I think I’m really going to enjoy getting to know you,” Roger said quietly, gazing back into her eyes unwaveringly. “I hope I can be the sort of soulmate you’d like me to be. And I hope you’ll never doubt that I care about you, or think that me being in a position of leadership - when I’m Alpha - matters more to me than the relationship I have with you. I hope I never give you reason to.”
“I’m sure you won’t,” Kayla murmured. “I hope I never disappoint you either.”
Roger reached out and rested his hand over hers on the table.
“I think this can work.”
Kayla felt faint from ecstasy.
“I hope it does.”
“So how’d it go?” Ben asked impatiently as Kayla arrived outside their next lesson, Chemistry.
“I think it went really well,” she told him honestly. “We talked a bit about humanity, which I enjoyed. He’s obviously someone who thinks - which is what I need. Sure I like letting my hair down and having fun, but I need the relationship to have an intellectual aspect too.”
Ben rolled his eyes.
“If that’s what you think. Did you kiss?”
Now Kayla rolled her eyes.
“Don’t be silly, Ben - it was the first time we’d talked to each other as soulmates. He touched my hand - and that was really nice.”
“I’d have kissed him,” he said grumpily. “Checked to see if he was a good kisser.”
“But you’re not me, are you, Ben? And besides, I know that’s not all you really care about.”
Ben made no comment - because he knew it was true, Kayla thought. When he wasn’t being immature or pretending to be obsessed with sex, Ben was a bit of a softie - a romantic at heart. He had talked to her about candlelit dinners and picnics and lying together under a full moon if his boyfriend or soulmate should turn out to be a werewolf.
“Have you done the Chemistry homework?” he asked, changing the subject.
“Yep. Have you?”
“Yeah - did it in the library,” he said, grinning.
“And I thought you were just making that up,” Kayla said.
“Oh, Kayla. You think too well of me.”