I watched disgustedly as the couple on the bench me started necking. There was something familiar about them, I mused to myself...
Suddenly, someone slung their arm around my shoulder. I glanced up to see Alex grinning down at me. I slipped away and asked, "What's up, Xander?"
Alex looked at me, smiling. "Etta, remember your friend from third grade? That kid you had a huge crush on?"
I paused. "Zachary? How do you know about Zack?"
He grinned and stepped aside to reveal a lean, wiry boy with pale blue eyes and shocking white hair. I gaped at him for a minute, and then my memory kicked in. I stepped forward and touched his cheek. Trailing my fingers down his cheek until I touched his chin, I breathed in delight, "Zack!" Suddenly, it struck me who he was and how long it had been. I launched myself at him and flung my arms around his neck. "Zachary!"
He smiled at me. "Hey there, Netta Leah."
I laughed and pulled away. I turned to Alex. "Xander, how?"
My heart constricted to see Netta so pleased to see Zachary Yeats. If I had known she would do that... "You told me about him, and I figured you would miss your old life, so I got him down here."
"Xander!" she squealed and hugged me hard.
Zachary cocked his head. "Zanner?" he asked.
I shook my head. "Xander. It's an old nickname."
Suddenly a deep voice growled, "Let go of my Netta!"
I looked up in time to see the male part of the kissing couple on the bench detach himself from his companion and storm over. "What are you doing?!" he rumbled.
Ah. Timothy, I saw at last. "Tim, this is Alex." Alex looked at me, expression carefully blank. I turned to Zack. "And this is my old friend, Zack," I finished.
Tim grasped me by the shoulders. "What are you doing, girl?"
I pulled free and snapped, "I'm at the mall for an afternoon with my friends. What are you doing?"
He stopped short and looked at the girl uneasily. She stood up and smoothed her dark hair. Suddenly, I gasped in shock. "Carly!"
She smirked at me. "Am I stepping on your toes, little girl?"
Alex put his arm around my shoulders. "Carly..." he said warningly.
She pouted. "Oh, Timmy, let's ditch my little brother and his friends and go do something fun."
Tim glanced at me. I glared at him. "We'll talk, Timothy. We'll talk."
I'm afraid I gaped at Netta and her...well, her boyfriend, I guess. I stepped back. This scene was getting way too tense for me...people were staring...I had one very big, very jealous man looking tempted to put his fist through my face. It didn't help matters much when a guy about a year older than me stomped over to the boyfriend and demanded, "What the hell are you--"
Netta reached over and pressed her fingers into a sensitive spot in his neck, paralyzing him. He sank to the ground. "Now, boys, if you're going to argue, I am not going to tolerate any swearing." She turned abruptly to the bigger of the two. "Timothy, you're going to finish your business with Carlene and then go home and wait by the phone. She turned to the other one, who was slowly regaining control of his arms and legs. "And, Ezra, honey, I don't need to be defended."
I winced. I could imagine. Alex noticed me and smile tightly. As he did, another boy hurried over. He stopped short at the scene and brushed his mousy-brown hair out of his eyes. He sighed and went to lift Ezra to his feet. Brusquely, he dragged him over to a bench, and dropped him onto it. Turning, he demanded wearily, "Now, what's going on?"
Netta stared at him, bug-eyed. "Um...Well,Ryan..."
He sighed and said firmly, "Now, Netta, if those two are going to fight, couldn't you make them take it elsewhere? To be perfectly honest, I was up late last night, and I'm tired and my head is aching. I have enough to deal with without having to wait on those two."
I couldn't believe I said that! It was all true, but I'm shy, sweet, gentle, and so on. So not the type to tell off anyone. I noticed this kid with white hair sort of cowering when I said that. I wondered why he was scared. He didn't strike me as the kind of person who had guts. At all.
Miriam rushed over, an immediately began fretting. "Ryan, are you okay? Are you sick? WHAT'S WRONG?"
I looked at her. "Why do you ask?"
Her face went red. It was interesting watching the blush creep all over her. "Well, you're usually so shy..."
I noticed the crowd of people. Quickly I herded my friends out of the mall. After a minute, the blond kid followed. Timothy Angus shot me an angry look and I noticed the tall, willowy girl he was already making out with again. I rolled my eyes. So maybe he didn't like Nettie as much as I had thought. As soon as we were all outside, I collapsed onto a bench.
Miriam brushed her fingers lightly against my cheek. "Ry, are you okay?" she asked, nibbling her lip.
I peered up at her. "I'm perfectly fine. I'm just in a bad mood."
"Obviously!" Netta said with grin. It lit up her face and her eyes sparkled.
I smiled back. "Sorry. I shouldn't have interfered, but your 'friend' doesn't strike me as a peson who know when he's done enough," I said.
Netta frowned. "He isn't."
I looked at Alex and gestured for him to follow me. He glared at RYan and stormed over to me. As soon as we were out of earshot, he exploded, "I should never have brought that Zachary!"
I glanced at him. "You brought him?" I asked sharply.
He shrugged. "Yes, and I regret it. Etta doesn't even notice that Ryan has a crush on her!"
I froze. "Wait! He what?" I demanded.
"He liked her," Alex fumed. "And she has no idea. Actually, so does Zachary."
Was he talking about my Netta?