Seeing the flash of a blue letterman, I duck behind an open locker. Pressed up against the cold metal, my stomach turns as a raucous hubbub of boys grows louder with each approaching footstep. A small freshman taking out her books gives me a strange side-glance. I ignore her and push myself out of sight. I have zero intention of being seen.
By hitching a lift to early practise with Cricket, I've avoided Finch and James all morning. But each passing moment increases the anxiety of facing one of them. I'm not stupid. I know I see them - they live next door and James is in half of my classes - but I'm putting it off as long as possible. Eking out my last few moments of denial.
As the tinny bell signals third period, a group of lacrosse boys pass. No Finch. Dizzy with relief, I clutch my things in my shaking hands and set off for Mr Zheng's class. I keep my eyes lowered when I enter, and take unnecessary care to line up my books on my desk. Anything to avoid speaking to James. Out of the corner of my eye, I see him watching me.
'Well, I hope you've all been keeping up with your set study, Juniors,' says Mr Zheng, pulling a stack of paper out of his bag. 'As today I'll be giving you a pop test.'
The room erupts in groans and Ana Edílson slumps down on the desk in front of me. I'd normally grumble too, but today the two words bring a smile to my face. Pop test means silence.
When the bell sounds the end of class, I scoop up my books. Speed is of the essence if I am to escape. Now talking is allowed, I know James will pull me into conversation. Sweeping papers into my tote, I rush to my feet. But I'm too slow. He stands first, blocking my exit with his broad frame.
'Are we ok, Betty?' Through his long lashes, his eyes are timid. Wide and full of difficult questions. I nod, trying to keep the lie from my face. 'We need to talk about Saturday.'
'There's nothing to talk about,' I say, the words rushing out.
God, he knows. I grip the edge of my binder and prepare myself for the worst. His expression throws me off. There's none of the anger or disappointment that him finding out about Finch would bring. Just a residual want that both tempts and tortures me.
I open my mouth but find it bone dry.
'Come to Delilah's after school,' he says, voice almost a whisper. 'We need to talk about what is going on between us.'
The memory of Ellie's bright smile strengthens me. I have to cut whatever this is with James. I couldn't live with myself if I hurt Ellie.
'I already told you, nothing is going on. It never has and it never will.'
He tenses at the sharpness in my voice, before swinging his backpack over his shoulder. When he looks back at me, his eyes are steely.
'Well, I'm glad you've cleared that up.' Turning on me, he shuffles off, pulling the hood of his sweatshirt up.
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Under Tennessee SkiesTeen Fiction
When she moves from England to the small town of Hopton Hills, Tennessee, Martha Heysham finds both her dream of Oxford University and her heart at risk from her new neighbours, the Whittingham boys. **** Martha Heysham hates Tennessee. The sticky h...