He whispered into my hair, “It was worth it.”
THE TEACHER STOOD A FEW FEET AWAY. “I’M not kidding, Shaw. I don’t care whose kid you are, you’re going to Dr. Kahn’s office.”
Noah pulled back slightly and searched my face. “Will you be all right?”
I nodded. Noah’s eyes lingered for a moment longer before he kissed the crown of my head and sauntered off.
After a dumbstruck moment, I collected myself and walked through the gauntlet of eyes alone. I made it to English just before Ms. Leib began the lecture. She was giving us a review of her term paper expectations, but I was the one that had the class’s attention. Furtive glances were shot over shoulders, notes were passed among desks in a chain, and I sunk low in my seat, futilely trying to melt into the hard plastic. I thought of Noah in the principal’s office, answering for his chivalry. His dick-measuring display. Whatever it was, I liked it. Much as I hated to admit.
Noah appeared halfway through English, and a ridiculous smile transformed my face the second I saw him. When class ended, he took my bag and slung it over his shoulder as we walked out the door.
“So what happened in Dr. Kahn’s office?” I asked.
“I just sat there and stared at him for five minutes, and he sat there and stared back for five minutes. Then he told to me to try and learn to play well with others during my two-day suspension, and sent me on my merry way.”
My face fell. “You’re suspended?”
“After exams,” he said, seemingly unconcerned. Then he grinned. “That’s what I get for defending your honor.”
I laughed. “That was not for me. That was you marking your territory,” I said. Noah opened his mouth to say something but I cut him off before he could. “So to speak,” I finished.
Noah grinned. “I neither confirm nor deny your assertion.”
“You didn’t have to do it, you know.”
Noah shrugged lazily and stared straight ahead. “I wanted to.”
“Is it going to screw with your transcripts or anything?”
“With my perfect GPA? Doubtful.”
I turned to him slowly, just as we reached the door to my Algebra class. “Perfect?”
Noah smirked. “And you thought I was just a pretty face.”
Unbelievable. “I don’t understand. You never take notes. You never have your books with you.”
Noah shrugged. “I have a good memory,” he said, as Jamie appeared on his way into Algebra. “Hey,” Noah said to him.
“Hi,” Jamie said, and shot me a look as he slid past us.
If Noah noticed Jamie’s reaction, he didn’t mention it. “I’ll see you after?” he asked me.
The thought warmed me up. “Yeah.” I smiled, and walked into class.
Jamie was already at his desk and I sat next to him, dropping my bag on the floor with a thud.
“Much has changed since you last I saw,” he said, without looking at me.
I decided to make him work for it. “I know,” I said with a dramatic, exasperated sigh. “I cannot even tell you how much I am dreading exams.”
“Not speaking of that, was I.”
“Why are you Yoda-ing me this morning?”
“Why are you avoiding the subject du jour?” Jamie asked, filling out squares on his graph paper to form a really weird picture of a fire-breathing dragon with a human arm.
“I’m not avoiding it, there’s just nothing to say.”
“Nothing to say. The lonely new girl is suddenly kickin’ it with Croyden’s hottest piece of ass, and there’s a sketchbook of Shawporn depicting this unlikely relationship? ‘Nothing to say,’ my tuchus.” Jamie still refused to make eye contact.
I leaned in and whispered to Jamie, “There’s no porn sketchbook. ‘Twas a ruse.”
Jamie finally looked at me and cocked an eyebrow. “It’s all a sham?”
I sucked in my lips, then bit them, then said, “Not exactly.” I wasn’t sure how to explain what had happened between me and Noah yesterday, and wasn’t even sure I wanted to.
Jamie turned back to his graph paper. “Well, at some point, you’re gonna have to break this down for me real slow-like.”
Anna interrupted my train of thought before I could respond to Jamie. “How long do you give it, Aiden?”
Aiden pretended to study me as he spoke to her. “The end of this week, if she gives it up. Otherwise, she might last a couple more.”
“Jealous much?” I asked calmly, though inside I was furious.
“Of what you’re going to go through once Noah’s done with you?” Anna said, her prim little mouth curving into a malicious grin. “Please. But he is an awesome lay,” Anna said to me in a stage whisper. “So enjoy it while you can.”
Anna sat back down, Mr. Walsh walked in the room, and I seethed quietly in my seat as I pressed my pencil down on my notebook very, very hard. My stomach soured at the thought of Anna acquiring that particular piece of information about Noah. Jamie told me they’d dated. But that didn’t have to mean—
I did and didn’t want to know.
When the bell rang, I got up from my seat and another girl in the class, Jessica, elbowed me as she walked by. What was her problem? My arm hurt and I rubbed it before picking up my textbook and notebook from my desk. As I made my way to the door, someone knocked them out of my hands. I whirled around, but no one around me looked particularly guilty.
“What the hell?” I muttered under my breath as I bent down to pick up my things.
Jamie crouched with me. “You’re unraveling the very fabric of Croyden society.”
“What are you talking about?” I shoved my things into my messenger bag with unnecessary force.
“Noah drove you to school.”
“Noah doesn’t drive anyone to school.”
“So what?” I asked, growing frustrated.
“He’s acting like your boyfriend. Which makes the girls he treated like condoms a trifle jealous.”
“Condoms?” I asked, confused.
“Used once and then discarded.”
I ignored that, knowing I’d make zero headway on this particular subject. “So what are you saying? I was invisible, but now I’m a target?”
Jamie tilted his head and laughed. “Oh, you were never invisible.”
Noah was waiting for me when we made it out of the classroom. Jamie wordlessly stepped around us and headed to his next class. Noah didn’t even notice.