“I don’t want your T-shirt,” Wade grumbled, going over to the sink.
“You need something to wear. Won’t something happen if you don’t?”
Wade ignored her and started to wring his jacket into the sink.
“You can’t wear a toilet-water-soaked jacket home. That’s unsanitary.”
Wade dropped his coat in the sink. “Look, if I take your damn shirt, will you leave me alone?”
“I suppose.” She handed it over to him.
Wade didn’t say anything and slipped on her Hamilton High cheerleading T-shirt.
She let out a little laugh. The sleeves landed about three-fourths the way down his arms.
“What?” Wade asked.
“It looks good on you.” She wasn’t totally lying, either. His lean muscular frame was usually hidden under all his layers but was now on display because the shirt hugged tight around his chest, showing off his pectorals, with the ropey muscles of his forearms exposed.
He furrowed his brow. “Shut up.”
“Again, sorry about everything,” she said.
“Look, you can leave now. You don’t have to be nice to me because your brother is an asshole.”
“Somebody needs to be nice to you, and it’s not just because he’s my brother.”
“Well, don’t. Go back to your cheerleading practice,” he said, practically seething.
“Fine.” She crossed her arms and huffed. Most people liked Heather. She was friendly to all, so Wade and his not-so-sunshiny reaction to her was something she didn’t encounter all that often. “I’ll meet you by your locker tomorrow morning to get my shirt back.”
“I’ll just give it to you now.” He grabbed the bottom hem and began to pull it up.
“Nope, you need it. Where’s your locker?”
He sighed. “Next to room 104.”
Heather nodded and grabbed the paper towels from the sink.
“Here, bend down a bit.” She motioned toward herself with her hand.
He snarled his lip up at her.
She pointed at his forehead. “You need some help.”
“Oh, um, no, don’t worry.” He vigorously shook his head.
“C’mon.” She squirted some soap on the towels and stood on her tiptoes. Placing a hand on his cheek, she started scrubbing his forehead. A tingle ran up her arm from where the tip of her fingers touched his face. She stopped cleaning his forehead for a minute, tipping her head to the side, looking at him.
“What?” he asked, quirking up an eyebrow.
“Nothing,” she said a bit too quickly.
He grabbed her hand, trying to take back the paper towels.
She gasped as she felt the tingle again. “The air in here must be really dry or something.”
“Yeah, okay,” he said.
“You keep shocking me.”
“What?” He scrunched up his nose, staring at her.
“Whenever we touch.” She put her hand on his cheek again, but all she felt was his warm face.
He stared at her with his big blue eyes.
“Nothing,” she whispered.
He shook his head.
She kept her hand on his face, looking into his eyes. She wanted to hug him, help get the sadness out of his eyes, his expression. She now saw that the way he held himself in general exuded melancholy. She mistook it for anger before, but now saw it was something else.
“Hey.” He peeled her hand from his face and squeezed her fingers. “I have to get going.”
“Yeah, sure.” They stood, staring at each other, a warmth filling her the longer he held on.
“But thanks,” he said softly.
She smiled. “No problem.”
Wade’s face froze, and his eyes fixed on something outside.
“Fuck me,” he said under his breath.
“Excuse me?” She looked out the window and saw two large white men with unpleasant scowls standing on the sidewalk. One was quite large and wore a khaki hunting vest with a white T-shirt underneath. The shirt clung tightly around his well-muscled biceps—a long, jagged scar peered out from under a shirt sleeve. The other guy was leaner but also well-toned and wearing a white T-shirt with a vest, but his vest was a black leather one. They both had closely shaved crew cuts.
Wade scooted off the couch onto the ground. He motioned her down with his head.
“You want me to get on the ground?” she whispered.
“Yes,” he hissed.
She got on the floor, probably not as quick as Wade would’ve liked, because she was pretty damn confused. Wade crawled around the coffee table. She followed, crawling behind him. Officially the weirdest first date she had ever been on.
“Are you something more than just a psychic?” she asked as she crawled behind Wade.
He glanced over his shoulder and crawled in front of another couch. “That’s just one small part of my condition.”
“A paranormal condition?”
“What are you talking about?” Wade asked as they crept past a couple sitting at a table for two. They didn’t see them or just didn’t find it odd that two teens were crawling across the coffee house.
“Are you even human?”
“Shhh, c’mon, I have to get outta here.”
They crawled over a floral rug, past a display of coffee cups and dried fruit, past an assortment of glossy wooden tables and chairs, which sat mostly people on their laptops caught up in their own worlds. Once they reached the front counter, a barista with crayon red hair and a green apron appeared with her arms crossed. The two of them looked up at her.
“Can I help you?” the barista asked.
Heather stood up, making sure to keep her back to the window. “Do you have a back entrance?”
“Not for customers.”
“Okay, please listen,” she whispered. “There are a couple of guys out there that want to kick his ass,” she said, pointing down to Wade. “See, the one is my actual boyfriend, and this is his best friend.”
Wade gave a little wave to the barista.
She pulled in her eyebrows and looked from Wade to Heather.
“Look at him,” she pleaded. “He doesn’t stand a chance.”
Wade opened his mouth but then snapped it back shut.
“Tom,” the barista called over her shoulder. Within seconds a dude in his twenties with large sideburns came out of the back. “Watch the counter for a sec, will ya?”
“Sure,” he said with a nod.
“C’mon, make this quick.” The barista waved them into the back. She guided them through the rear of the coffee house to a metal door that led into the alley.
“Thank you so much,” Heather said, giving her a hug.
“Next time you’re in trouble, stay away from here, okay?”
“Gotcha.” She followed Wade, who already darted out into the night.
The barista closed the door behind them, and Wade looked all around the empty alley, nothing but the back of buildings and dumpsters. It smelled like a wet litter box.
“What if they saw me?” Wade asked himself, throwing his hands up in the air.
“What’s going on, Wade?”
He ignored her question and continued talking to himself. “This is so bad, so bad.”
She walked over to him and grabbed his shoulder. He jumped in the air.
“Wade, seriously, what’s going on?”
His eyes were wide, and his hands shook. If it was possible, he was paler than before. He licked his lips and shook his head. “Let’s just go home.”
“Oh, no, you’re not getting out of it that easy.”
“Out of what?” he snapped.
“Why you’re running from those dudes? And you still owe me answers about what you are.”
“I’m nothing. Forget it. We have to get out of here,” Wade said, through gritted teeth, walking a bit down the alley.
“I need answers first.” Heather crossed her arms over her chest.
Wade huffed, walked over to her, and much to her surprise, picked her up and threw her over his shoulder.
“Put me down,” she yelled, punching his back with both of her fists.
He ignored her protest and started into a sprint down the alley.
“I’m going to start screaming for help if you don’t put me down!”
Wade stopped and dropped her to the ground. She stumbled backward, almost falling on her butt. He caught her by the arm and dragged her to the end of the alley.
“You are the worst date ever.”