I'm pretty sure life hates me. That's just the way things work. If someone drops an ice cube in the cafeteria, I'll be the one to slip on it. If someone's computer commits suicide, it'll be mine. But more than anything if a demon asks if he tempts me, I'll ultimately say yes.
Today was no different luck-wise. Two weeks into the school year I was running late to English and, having read the wrong section of the book, was hurrying to read what had been assigned. I smacked into an open locker about halfway down the hall. Though it was bright blue and should have caught my attention, I had obliviously charged at it. Rubbing my forehead, I rushed toward the English room.
"You're late, Miss Cloving." I heard the role-taker, Mrs. Anderly, say from behind me as I slid into my seat. Fuck. I winced and turned to look at her. She peered disapprovingly over her glasses at me, "That's an hour's detention this afternoon." I lowered my gaze to my bag, and realized that the zipper had ripped. From the corner of my eye I saw her shake her head and turn toward the door again. "And that's the same for you, Mr. Hollins. One hour." I looked up from my abused backpack to see Liam step through the door, his face flushed as always. His brown hair was windswept, falling in front of his eyes in a fringe and his metal tribal-design necklace was caught on the strap of his bag. He caught my eye, grinned and slid into the desk next to mine. A blast of warm numbness shot through my skull.
Liam was the ultimate metalhead in appearance. Well built and reasonably tall, he had a strange air of charisma about him that I didn't sense with any other guys in our grade. I inhaled as he shifted next to me. He wore cologne, but it smelled good on him. It left me wanting to bury my face in his jacket instead of shy away from the scent. His eyes were a chocolaty brown color and they almost seemed to glow when he was happy. Although I'd never admit it out loud, I was a bit obsessed with him. I only hoped it didn't show.
The English lesson droned on with the occasional interruption as Mr. Elbern flew off on a tangent the majority of the class didn't follow. Halfway through silently analyzing the factor of visibility in the previous chapter of our book, I felt a piece of paper crunch against my elbow. I looked up and Liam raised his eyebrows at me impishly. His handwriting was messy, scrawling over the paper as if the letters didn't know which way to go:
"How's it going? You look kinda pained. And is that Enter Sandman I hear coming from your backpack? Nice taste in music ;P"
I felt a blush creep over my cheeks. Damn. I looked down, seeing my earbuds hanging precariously out of my backpack. The beat of the music was just audible over Mr. Elbern's latest exclamation. I reached down and turned off my iPod quickly and then wrote back:
"Meh, the lecture isn't too exciting. I was analyzing this stuff last class. As for the pain, I ran headlong into a locker on my way over here. You like Metallica??"
I pushed the paper back onto his desk and looked up at Mr. Elbern, who was now nodding excitedly along with whatever Jamie Golch was saying on the other side of the room. I glanced over at Liam, who winked at me and pushed the piece of paper back into my hand. I spread it out on the desk under cover of my text book:
"Elbern seems to find it exciting enough… I'm expecting a nosebleed any time now. Poor Marin, you should watch what your pretty head is crashing into. Of course I like Metallica, my dear. You heard of Avenged Sevenfold?"
I'd thought I was blushing before? I thought the plastic of my desk would melt from the heat my face was giving off. The bell rang as I began a reply. "We'll pick this up later," he said and swung his bag back over his shoulder. "In the meantime, have lunch with me?" he continued.
"Sure," I said. I had nothing better to do. Nothing more enjoyable, anyway.
"C'mon," he said and held the door for me.
I scrunched up the scrap of paper we'd been writing on and stuffed it into my jeans pocket before following him out. We walked out into the hall and through the double doors in the direction of the cafeteria. The sun beat down on my head and I lifted my face up toward it, closing my eyes.
"I love the sun." I said. It wasn't even intentional. It didn't have to be. Warmth was my heaven. I opened my eyes to see his brown ones staring back at me. He had a smile on his face that caused my heartbeat to start thumping around in my ears.
"I've noticed," He said, "I always see you sitting outside in the sun after school. It suits you." I switched my gaze to a tree to my right.
"Thanks," I said awkwardly, at a loss for a more intelligent reply. I began walking up the path to the cafeteria and he walked beside me, matching my stride.
"I never took you for a metal kind of girl," he said. "Punk, maybe, but not metal." I shook my head, smiling. Finally, a topic I could talk about without wanting to bury my head in the ground.
"Nah, I like metal. Not too much screamo though. Stuff like Metallica, Dope, Bullet For My Valentine. Some softer, some not." I looked over at him.
He pointed a finger at me, "I'm burning you some music." I grinned, "Sounds good."
"It will," He promised.
We arrived at the cafeteria doors, which were wide open. I squeezed past the long line of students through the doors and returned a moment later. "Pizza," I told Liam. "Explains the line," he said. My stomach sank down into my toes. So much for having lunch with him.
"You wanna go somewhere else to get a bite?" He asked.
"I don't have a car," I responded dumbly. "No," he said, "but I do."
A few minutes later we were signed out and in his Nissan Xterra. I leaned back against the seat, trying to absorb the warmth of the sun right out of the cushions. I avoided his gaze, staring out the window in silence. And now we come face-to-face with the reason I don't have a boyfriend, I thought. He started the car and turned his iPod on to a song I didn't recognize.
"You heard this before?" he asked. I shook my head.
"You like it?" he glanced at me. "Yeah," I said, looking down at my beat up sneakers. "What is it?"
"The Tide Began To Rise by Demon Hunter." His mouth quirked into a crooked half smile as he said the name. He seemed to be enjoying a private joke, and I was loath to interrupt his amusement. I did anyway, something of which I was almost proud. "Album?" I asked.
"The Triptych," he responded, "I'll burn it for you."
I smiled, "Thanks." I wanted to beat my head against the dashboard for being so shy.
We stopped at a small pizzeria named Mirelli's and ordered a supreme and two sodas. I was thankful once again for 90-minute lunch breaks. My stomach felt like a black hole, heavy and ravenous. We sat at the bar and ate. He divided the pizza into six slices each and I looked at him incredulously and laughed.
"How is it you think I'll be able to eat that much?" I asked. He looked back at me, amused. I felt a faint blush rise to my cheeks again, despite the air conditioning.
"I dare you to," he said, and winked at me.
We talked about art, personalities and opinions, always reverting to music-speak. My face turned as red as a stop sign so many times I lost count. In the end I ate five and a half slices. I groaned and took a small sip of soda.
"Bad dare," I accused him. "That's the last time I let you try to murder me with pizza." He laughed and picked up my remaining half-slice. I watched him as he finished it off with a smirk. I couldn't help thinking that his mouth was touching the same place on the pizza that mine had. He got up and held his hand out to me. I took it and hopped off my barstool. I groaned again.
"The pizza god is seeking vengeance," I told him, sending a playful death-glare in his direction.
"Aw, poor Marin. Shall I carry you to the car?" he hugged me gently as he spoke. His scent hit me, wave after wave as I breathed, and my legs suddenly felt insubstantial.
He released me slowly, leaving me in a daze, and said in a low voice, "I'm paying by the way." He was suddenly up at the counter. He grinned as I glared guiltily at him. I walked up to stand next to him as he paid.
"C'mon," he said, smiling down at me, "you'll live. I'll even carry you to the car like I said I would." He pocketed his wallet and swept me up as if I weighed nothing.
"It's okay," I laughed, my stomach churning not from overeating but from the jolt of electricity that shot through me when he picked me up. "I can walk. It's pizza, not an overdue baby." He set me down on the hood of his car and poked me in the side.
"It better not be," he said, leaning over me as I squirmed. He unlocked the doors and I climbed in. The music came on seconds after he started the car.
"Nightwish?" I asked him.
He smiled, "Yeah. While Your Lips Are Still Red."
"Nice," I said. He looked over at me, "We've got half an hour. Any last wishes before your lethal pizza finishes its work?"
I laughed, realizing my stomach wasn't as full as I'd thought. "Hmm," I said, "Ice cream? It's on me." He grinned at me, surprised.
"Impressive. I'd like to see you try to put away dessert in your present state of pizza-pregnancy," He replied. I blushed, but grinned at him in what I hoped was a devilish way.
He let me direct him to a rather large shop in the middle of a ghost-road. Its sign read: "Gillam's Electronics". The walls were a yellowish grey color, and I could see why Liam was shooting me confused glances. I led him around the side of the store to where a newer, bright orange sign read "The Bronze Apple". It was a strange name for a dessert shop, but I loved it all the same. Few people knew of its existence, and fewer still were best friends with the owner's daughter, the homeschooled waitress Emily. Today, the only person behind the counter was Emily's mom, Rebecca. She smiled and waved when she saw me through the glass door.
"Marin! Bringing your boyfriend around to try our lemon pie?" She asked, hugging me. I must've flushed maroon, because she giggled.
I started stammering, "He's not my boyfriend. We're just pies… friends! We're just friends."
Liam was watching me with an expression of bizarre amusement. He shook his head at me as I looked to him desperately for support. A thrill went through me as I realized he hadn't objected to being called my boyfriend. I pressed my hand against the corner of the glass display case, hoping the cold would bring me to my senses.
"We wanted ice cream," I said uncomfortably.
Rebecca winked at me, "I'll be right back with that."
"I'm sorry about that," I began, but Liam's laughter stopped me.
He just shook his head again, "Don't worry about it."
I heard Rebecca's footsteps as she reemerged from the back room. She walked in, a smile on her face and a medium-sized Styrofoam tub of ice cream in her hands.
"You kids enjoy. It's on the house." She winked at me and hurried off to the back room again, ignoring my protests about payment. I hadn't paid for lunch, and now I couldn't truly redeem myself through the ice cream. Damnit. I'd have to work up a scheme to pay them both back somehow.