Awake, page 2
"Yes, we can," Bobby said. "I ain't watchin' nothin' lovey, so we're going for the Slasher."
Imogen rolled her eyes. "Fine! Whatever."
"Slasher is cool with me," I said. "Noah?"
He raised his eyebrow as if to say 'or romance, really?'
Bobby clapped his hands together. "Settled then. It's showin' in half an hour so should we go to the arcade first?"
With previews, it'd be an hour before the film started.
Without answering Bobby's question, we set off towards the arcade, opposite the cinema. Imogen stormed ahead. Since they broke up last year, Imogen had been cold with Bobby - because he broke up with her. She didn't like that. Imogen Forest wasn't supposed to be dumped.
"I think I'm going kick your arse at air hockey," Noah said, nudging me with his elbow.
"Probably. I'm rubbish."
Chris gave me a disapproving look. He knew I didn't suck. I was actually champ of our group, but that didn't mean I could beat Noah. I had no idea how he played so I didn't want him to know I was good.
"Yep, Scar-Scar couldn't hit it straight if her life were on the line."
When I first arrived at school, Chris was the one to show me around, and he took me into his group of friends - which I quickly adopted as mine, too.
We got in the arcade, and the guys went to change some money. Chris grabbed my arm and led me to the sidewall. "What's going on with you and the new boy?"
Trying not to grin like a moron, I shrugged. "Not much."
"Not much? You two are all flirty, flirty, gonna suck each other's faces off any minute. He's watching us right now, trying to work out if there's anything going on. Should I kiss you?" His face lit up with mischief.
I whacked his arm. "Don't you dare, Christopher!"
"Fine, Miss Boring. Has he not tried anything yet?"
"I've known him two minutes."
Imogen slotted beside us and raised her perfectly plucked eyebrows. "Maybe he's gay."
"So what if he is," I replied, secretly hoping he wasn't.
Chris rolled his eyes. "He's not gay! He clearly knows you're not easy."
He was having a dig at Imogen because Im wasn't playing along with the best friend thing. If she weren't attracted to Noah, she would be as supportive as Chris.
We all looked over to Noah, who was watching me, talking to someone on his phone and frowning. He looked away as I made eye contact.
"What's that about?" Chris said.
Imogen smirked and shrugged. "Probably his girlfriend."
"Shut up, Im," I said.
"Sorry," she muttered, holding her hands up.
Noah hung up, slipped the phone in his pocket and jogged back to us.
"Everything okay?" I asked. Please don't have a girlfriend! It would be pretty crappy of him if he had, we'd been flirting and texting constantly.
"Everything is fine," he said, casually throwing his arm over my shoulder. It was a friendly move, but it made my insides turn to mush. Imogen rolled her eyes and turned away. I didn't care what she, thought.
We walked to the air hockey table with Noah's arm around me and Chris winking over my shoulder. I wasn't complaining.
I SAT THROUGH another un-insightful English Literature lesson, bored out of my mind. We had yet to leave the classroom in my two weeks in mainstream school. Learning wasn't just about reading from textbooks.
Scarlett sat beside me. I'd made sure to sit next to her enough that now her friends leave a space open for me if I don't make it to class first. She didn't seem to have any issue with it.
Unsurprisingly, we were reading Shakespeare. What I didn't understand was once we'd finished Romeo and Juliet we'd be watching the film. It was as if the teachers had given up.
Imogen turned around and said, "Movies and arcade tonight?"
"I do hope your interruption to the lesson has something to do with the Montague's and Capulet's, Miss Forest," Mr Stevenson said.
Imogen turned back, scowling and muttered, "Sorry, sir."
"You want to come tonight, too?" Scarlett whispered when Mr Stevenson went back to whatever he was doing at his desk.
"I thought that maybe we could do something together instead."
She blinked three times before replying, "We went together last time."
"I know, but everyone was there, too."
Scarlett was awful at concealing how she felt. Her eyes widened a fraction, and her posture lifted. "What do you want to do?"
"I'd like to take you on a walk."
"Yes," I replied smiling. So far we'd not spent time alone, her friends were always with us. I needed to get her alone. "I promise you'll enjoy it."
She turned her nose up. "Doubt it but I'll go."
Of course she would. "Great, I'll pick you up at four to give you time to change after school."
Nodding her head, she went back to reading. It was obvious that she didn't want to walk, but she did want to spend time with me. I needed to be able to get her to do things.
The bell rang, signalling lunchtime. I closed the book, which I'd already read when I was nine and put it in my bag. "You hungry?" I asked Scarlett as we left the classroom.
"Starving. I'm getting chips today for sure."
"You know they're cooked in a lot of oil don't you?"
"Yep," she replied.
That was another thing I didn't understand. Far too many people didn't care about what they put inside their body. They ate things they knew were bad for them.
"What're you having? Another salad?"
"Probably," I replied. It was about the only thing I knew wasn't crawling with chemicals and additives. "It's nice, you should try it."
She halted. "You think I need to swap chips for a salad?"
"What the hell, Noah?" Imogen snapped. "How dare you call her fat!"
"What? I never called her fat." I turned to Scarlett. "You know that's not what I meant." She frowned, and I panicked. Touching her arm, I smiled. "Come on, you don't think that's what I was saying. There's not one part of you that needs to change. I was just talking on a health level, not weight loss."
"Scarlett, come with me," Imogen said, glaring at me.
"Why does she need to take you away? I've explained the misunderstanding," I said, stroking Scarlett's forearm with my thumb.
"It's fine, Im, I know what he meant."
"Seriously? I know you're not used to a lot of attention from a boy, but this is ridiculous."
Scarlett shrank and bit the inside of her lip. I wanted bite back and tell Imogen exactly what I thought of her, but that probably wouldn't do me many favours with Scarlett.
"I think maybe you should go and find Bobby and Chris before you hurt your best friend's feelings even more," I said.
"This is a joke. Why are you letting him walk all over you?" Imogen said.
"I'm not walking all over her, Imogen, you are."
She held her hands up. "Whatever."
I waited until she left to say, "Are you alright?"
"I'm fine," she replied. "Think she'll talk to me again anytime soon?"
"Honestly, I think she's the one that should be worrying about that. She had no right to talk to you that way."
Scarlett shrugged. "She gets like that sometimes."
I gritted my teeth and let go of her arm. Why didn't she stand up for herself more?
"Well, I'm sorry for my part in it," I said, sidestepping so I was in front of her.
She gazed up and bit her lip. Her dark blue eyes shone. She really was incredibly beautiful. The longer I stared at her, the harder my heart beat. "It wasn't your fault," she whispered, her eyes flicking to my lips and then back up.
Heat flooded through my body. I wanted to kiss her, too. She was so alluring, so sweet and pure. I couldn't kiss her. Not yet. I had to remember what I was doing here.
I exhaled hard. "Let's get you those chips."
Grinning she repl
Laughing, I put my hand on her back and led her into the canteen towards the salad bar. "They definitely don't suck."
After school, I went home to change into some warmer clothes and my walking boots and left to get Scarlett.
She opened her front door and pouted. "Is this appropriate walking wear?"
"Yes, you look great." She had on a fleece zip up jacket, slim jeans and boots.
"Okay, let's go walking then."
"Are your parents in? Shouldn't I talk to them about where we're going first?"
Giggling, she shook her head. "They're both at work still. I've told Jeremy, though."
"Alright, let's go."
"Where exactly are we going?"
"You have a great countryside here, so we're going to explore it a little. I promise to have you back before dark."
As we walked along the path, I took her hand. She was warm and inviting and so unable to hide her smile that it almost made me laugh. I liked the feel of her hand in mine far too much.
"Okay. I've not really explored where I live before."
"Well, we moved around a lot growing up. We've been here about three years now, and it's the longest we've stayed in the same place."
"Really? Why do you move so often?"
"Oh," I replied, looking away. I wondered if they would ever give her the true reason. "Do you think you'll move again?"
"Not sure. They seem settled so hopefully not. I have friends now."
"You didn't before?"
"No, there was no point. We'd move on and lose contact, so I stopped trying to get to know people."
That sounded so painfully lonely. If she had never been taken she wouldn't have ever had to know what loneliness felt like.
"The people I'm friends with back home I've known since I was little. We're a close community. I can't imagine what it was like to grow up with just your brother."
She lazily lifted a shoulder in a shrug. "I didn't know any different, so it was fine."
"You may have. Did you move a lot before the fire?"
"I...I don't think so, but I'm not sure. We could have."
"Do you not know much about that time?"
"I remember nothing," she said.
"But your parents must have told you all about it."
Why doesn't she want to remember? I wanted her to, needed her to.
"Perhaps you'll get those memories back one day."
She would. I was determined to push gently and often to get her to try to remember.
We took a public footpath and followed it through fields and past forests. The familiarity of it settled something inside. I missed my community so much but when I was outside I felt a connection to them through nature and being among elements.
Soon Scarlett would understand how that felt, too.
I HAD NEVER been excited to see a girl before. Scarlett made me feel things I didn't think I'd experience until I was a lot older. I wasn't supposed to feel anything for her. That shouldn't be possible.
The doorbell rang, and I wiped my hands on my jeans. That was her. My parents were sitting reading on the sofa opposite. They looked up and smiled.
"Are you ready, Noah?" Dad asked.
I nodded once and stood. "I'm always ready."
There was a lot riding on my ability to win over Scarlett. I had to make this work. Taking a look in the mirror in the hallway, I took a deep breath and gave myself a silent pep talk. Thinking of home gave me strength. There was a lot of distance between me and my people but knowing they were all behind me spurred me on.
I opened the door, and she was standing holding a carrier bag and grinning as much as I probably was. Being around her was euphoric.
April had rolled around quickly. I loved spring; everything was coming to life again, and the air was considerably warmer.
"Ready for our movie night? I can't believe you've not had a movie night in with friends before."
I shrugged and moved to let her inside. "I prefer to be outside."
"Well, you've been missing out on something great."
"Hello, Scarlett," Mum said, conveniently walking out of the living room as Scarlett came in. They were going to have to stop popping up everywhere, or it was going to look weird.
"Hi, Mrs York."
"Call me Bethan, remember?" Mum said.
Scarlett nodded. "Right."
"What do you two have planned for today then?"
Holding up the bag, she replied, "Snacks and movies."
"That sounds fun. Keep your bedroom door open please, Noah."
I frowned. Supposedly, they trusted me but every time I was told to leave my door open or not to rush things, I felt like I was being judged --that my loyalty was in question. I knew the proper way to handle this. I wasn't going to mess it up.
I liked her, yes. I could fool my family, but I couldn't fool myself. That didn't mean I was going to throw everything away over a teenage crush.
"I will," I replied a little harder than I would usually talk to my parents. Trust me. With a curt nod, Mum retreated to the living room. "Come on then, show me how much fun a movie night is."
Smiling, she walked past me, heading up the stairs to my bedroom. I couldn't help watching her. She was petite, but her slim legs and slight frame made her look taller. Her dusty brunette hair cascaded down her back in loose, messy waves.
"Okay," she said, turning to me once we were in my room. "Which one do you want to watch first? Batman Begins or Spider-Man?"
I shrugged. "I haven't seen either, so it's your choice."
"What? You've never seen the Batman or Spider-Man movies?"
"Noah, where have you been living for the last sixteen years!"
I forced out a laugh and took Batman Begins from her outstretched hand. "This one first."
"Well, I know you've at least had popcorn but please tell me you've also had Oreos before."
Grinning, I replied, "I was raised on a pretty remote farm on a tiny island, but I am not that sheltered." I was. Until she held the packet up I had no idea what an Oreo was.
"I don't know, you've not watched much TV, never had movie nights, you don't eat a whole lot of junk and you've never had a girlfriend before."
"Funny how I meet you soon after I've corrected all of that." My heart jumped as I realised what I'd said. I knew I needed the girlfriend/boyfriend title, but that wasn't exactly how I envisioned it happening. She had to feel special. It had to be romantic. And not just because that's what I needed in order for her to put every ounce trust in me.
Unfortunately, Scarlett didn't miss it either. She watched me carefully, silently. "Have you done all of them now?"
"Is that what you want?"
She frowned. "No way, I asked you first!"
Laughing, I put the DVD down on the bed, followed by the bag she was still clutching and bent my head level with hers. "Well, I think it's a pretty good idea."
"We've not known each other long," she replied. Her voice was low, almost a whisper.
"I know, but I like what I've seen so far. I'm not proposing, Scarlett, you're not forced to be with me forever. Look, this is new to me, but I like you, and I'd like to see what happens."
She broke into a heart-stopping smile that did nothing to help me control my feelings for her. "In that case, I'm in," she replied.
We stared at each other like morons as the air thickened. I was supposed to kiss her. I'd never kissed a girl before. She had an ex-boyfriend, so the likelihood of her having kissed someone before was high. I didn't want to look like an inexperienced fool.
Now was the time, though. I'd let things go on for far too long with very little physical contact. She wanted to take things further, had for a while now, but I couldn't rush anything with her and risk it burning out.
I leaned in and my heart went wild as I felt her breath across my lips. This was uncharted territory but being this close to her, having my hands on her and hers on me, felt so natural it scared me. The feelings I had for her were almost so overwhelming I wanted to run and hide from them. I understood love; I felt it for a multitude of people, but this was different. This was confusing, exciting, terrifying and so, so strong already.
I closed the inch between us when I couldn't stand it anymore. Her lips were smooth and soft and melded to mine perfectly. Scarlett was warm and felt like home. It was more than I had ever imagined.
Her hands found their way into my hair, and I pulled her tighter against my body. I grazed her bottom lip with my tongue, and she twisted her fingers through the light strands at the back of my head. My heart hammered every second I kissed her. We pulled away at the same time.
I saw, for the first time, that she was the light.
"So... Batman Returns then?" I asked, clearing my throat and holding onto her. I tried to control my breathing and my erratic heart rate so she wouldn't know just how much she had affected me.
Nodding with a show-stopping smile, she replied, "Good film."
I gave her a chaste kiss and let go. "Get comfortable. I'll put it on."
Scarlett sat closer to me when I got on the bed. Before we left a small gap between us but now her arm was firmly pressed against mine. I wanted her closer and further away at the same time.
"Ready to experience a movie night?" she asked as the film started.
My arm was itching to be around her. I could smell her berry shampoo; it was as confusing as it was comforting.
"I'm ready," I replied, lying. Whatever was going on between us was real, and I was definitely not ready for that.
IT WAS ALMOST Easter, and I found out just how much Scarlett loved the holiday. Her room was full of decorative eggs, chicks and rabbits. Light blue and yellow banners hung twisted around each other on the wall above her bed.
Her enthusiasm was both cute and addictive. Since we got together officially, my parents had kept an eye on us from afar, and hers had been... Well, less far. As much as I wanted to spend time with her completely alone and uninterrupted, I understood why her parents had a door wide-open rule.
She lay against my side as we watched Transformers. Movie days had sort of become our tradition. I grew up without TV, so Scarlett was determined to show me what I had missed out on. I still preferred to be outside but I did love spending time with her - whatever we were doing.
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