It was awhile before I saw Grace again, I didn't share any classes with her as far as I was aware of and she hadn't shown up at the roof again. I took some time to look for her in the badminton courts every day but never once did I see her; though she'd been wearing the team uniform and carrying that badminton racket it seemed as though she did not exist. It had been a gruelling day; I began my day with a half hour jog through the wooded trail that ran behind and around the school along with the cross-country team, then I had gone through a math test on graphing trigonometric functions first thing in the morning.
Right after that came physics and chemistry and though I had no particular hatred of these science courses in general the teachers responsible for both classes, Ms. Lenderson and Mr. Ferdinand respectively, were mind numbingly boring teachers who could make even the most interesting of experiments seem like the dullest thing in the universe. How they had even managed to get a teaching job in the first place with their disinteresting teaching styles and uninspired methods was beyond me.
My final class in architecture was the only respite I had all day; we were studying gothic arches and Mr. Hal showed a power point presentation which I slept through. He handed out worksheets later and I used the work as an excuse to duck behind my binder and sleep again; I think he caught me but if he did he ignored it and let me continue, he always was my favourite teacher at the school.
By the time the fifth bell rang signalling the beginning of my lunch period I was ready to just rush home right then and there; I lived a fair distant away but if I started walking now then I would arrive perhaps fifteen minutes before fifth period normally would have ended, just in time to stop my parents from driving out in the old van to pick me up. I walked over to my locker and carefully packed away my science textbooks and pulled out the heavy math textbook; though the sciences came to me easily I usually took at least two hours to struggle through my math homework every day and my mark in the course was still only mediocre at best. I stuffed the textbook into my bag alongside my binder with all my notes and walked towards the main entrance to make to leave.
That was when I saw her, it was the way the even strides conveyed such confidence that gave it away. The average height and thin build was not uncommon amongst the girls of my school, )the general region around the school included a whole bunch of athletes) and the green and white sports team uniform was not at all distinctive but it was the way in which she uncommonly slung the badminton racket over her shoulder and that air of calm that she seemed to project that really made her stand out to me amongst all the other students flooding through the hallway. That was what gave it away and really confirmed my suspicion that is was indeed Grace.
I almost considered trying to call out to her for a moment, but I caught myself and thought better of it. It was unlikely that she would hear me over all the ambient noise and bustling crowd, better to follow along before stopping her to speak when the rest of the students thinned out. I knew she was heading out to the badminton court, but the question was which path she would take; I couldn't see her all that clearly and she was difficult to track, I didn't quite have the same ability of locking onto a target at ground level than I did following a person's progress from above, as I had done tens of dozens of times already over the course of my lunches.
I managed to track her to almost the end of the lengthy main hallway before I lost her; just as the crowd began thinning out she seemingly disappeared from sight into thin air. Where had she gone? I could have sworn that she had been right there not twenty meters in front of me. I quickly stepped up to the spot where I'd seen her last and rounded the corner and grimaced as I realized that the doors in front of me opened into one of the side stairwells that lead down to the lower floor. My hesitation and confusion when I lost sight of her had cost me too much time, she would be long gone by now.
I sighed in defeat, well there was always tomorrow. At least now I knew approximately where to find her, she'd been close to the science wing when I spotted her so her fourth period class was likely around there so now I had a place to start looking when I tried again tomorrow. Hopefully, it would go more smoothly than things had today. It had been an odd sort of rush, tracking Grace through the crowded hallways.
It was odd, I suppose, and perhaps a tad creepy if I really sat down to think about it; almost like stalking if we weren't...well I don't know what we were really, we'd only met and spoken once if you really thought about it. Though I'd really only just met her, she intrigued me for reasons which I couldn't quite explain; perhaps it was because she was the first person since Roy to approach me on their own, usually my invisibility and quiet self had meant that most people had left me to my own devices, I had had to approach people myself if I wanted to speak to them.
Well, there wasn't much point in sticking around then if I'd lost her, so I decided that I may as well head home. I could head back up to the roof to see if I could spot her, but I wasn't really feeling up to it today; besides, seeing her wasn't the same as speaking to her, and I'd already reaffirmed her existence to my doubting conscience by spotting her today in the hallway, no, I would head home rather than head back up to the roof.
I pushed through the double doors of the stairwell to head down to the exit to leave and did a double take as the face of a badminton racket shot up right towards my face; I let out a yelp of surprise and jumped back shielding my face with my hands. The racket slammed to a halt centimeters from my face with a sharp hiss of air.
"What the heck!"
"It's me, you idiot." That voice, I knew that voice.
I slowly unfolded my fingers and peered through the cracks and to my surprise found myself face to face with Grace who had lowered the badminton racket and had a haughty sort of look on her face.
"Grace?...What are you doing here?" I asked, confused for a split second.
"Waiting here for you to stick your thick head around the corner of course, what else. Why are you following me?" she asked; she had a sort of irritated tone to her voice.
I was speechless for a moment, how had she managed to see me so far behind her through all those people? I was sure that there was no way that I hadn't done anything to make myself obvious or grab her attention.
"Well go on now, explain. You do know that tailing people is not normal behaviour right?" she raised an eyebrow, then smiled ever so slightly, "Then again, you watch girls playing badminton from during fifth from the rooftop, that's pretty creepy too." She laughed.
"You're one to talk, disappearing for a whole week. Where have you been?" I shot back, deflecting her comment though inwardly I winced at her observation which I myself had made only moments ago.
"Disappearing? What do you mean by that? I haven't missed a single day of school this entire year."
"I haven't seen you at all the past week, not even down at the courts. If you're on the team then I would think that you'd go at least sometime during the week to practice."
"Why do you care how much I practice, I kick ass regardless of how much I practice."
I snorted, "And yet you complain when you can't beat out your team captain. I see her down at the courts almost every day 'kicking ass' all the while helping other people out. Maybe that's why she's better than you, hmm?" She scowled slightly at that, there, that was a better reaction.
"Doesn't matter, she would be better than me no matter how much I practiced," she said brushing it off pretending that it didn't matter, "And seriously, why were you following me before. You need something from me or something?"
Why had I been following her, it wasn't as though I had needed anything in particular, I had just...decided to I guess, "I just wanted to say hi since I hadn't seen you in awhile." I spat out, the words sounding fake and empty. I didn't have a reason really, so I would just have to make something up and go with it.
She put her hands on her hips, seemingly unconvinced, well what did she want me to say? "Oh common, you didn't push through that crowd all the way here just to say hi, there must have been something else, what is it? Come on, spill it."
I held hands above my head in mock surrender, "That's it, seriously, there's nothing more to it, I haven't seen you in the past while so I thought I'd catch up to you and say hi before you headed off."
"Tshh," she let out a puff of air, "if you were anyone else...all that effort just to stop me to say hi, you don't get enough I'd bet. Don't you have better things to be doing like hanging out with your friends or something?"
"I am hanging out with my friend, right now." Would she go for it?...
She laughed a little, "You are hella lame, you know that Theo?" I slowly let out the breath which I hadn't known I had been holding, there, I'd said it.
I laughed, "Hey, at least I don't stop people by swinging badminton rackets at their faces." I shot back.
"You totally deserved that, following me through the hallway without so much as a greeting. And I don't normally stop people like that, only creeps who act like stalkers."
"I doubt you would've heard me over all the other people."
"Oh I would've, trust me; I have good hearing."
"Fine, next time I'll let you know that I'm going to be following you, in fact I'll yell it out to the world that I'll be stalking you down the length of the hall, alright?" I said sarcastically.
"You be sure to do that, in the meantime I gotta head down to class, Anna's having a training session with mandatory attendance."
"Alright," I nodded, "I'm gonna head home, work hard and be sure to practice." I took a step forwards onto the stairs.
"Yeah yeah, I'll beat Anna yet, you just watch me." Grace finished as she rushed down past me, doubling the steps and exiting my line of sight, I heard the door slam shut seconds later while I was still only halfway down the winding stairs.
Well that was a different sort of conversation, very refreshing, a nice change from the one sided arguments I had with Roy, I thought as I stepped out through the main entrance into the crisp cold fall air, still, I hadn't managed to figure out, just how had she managed to see me, so far down the hallway behind her?
Mysteries, it seemed that Grace Li was just full of them. Interesting.