I was getting really, really sick of this.
For weeks now, I had been trying to find a place where I could study in peace. It only took a few days for me to realise that the house, between my parents and my two younger siblings, was off-limits. The public library wasn’t much better – although in theory it was meant to be quiet, in practice it didn’t seem any more peaceful than the living room at home. Lately, I had started doing the bulk of my schoolwork at the computer downstairs when the rest of the family had gone to sleep. Not ideal working conditions – and my grades had begun to suffer as a result.
So it was that I had resorted instead to staying behind after school to do my homework in the playground before heading to work. The area was completely deserted outside school hours, which meant no loud noises and no interruptions to bother me. Sure, there was no computer, which could be a problem sometimes, but as things were I had decided this was about as good as I was going to get.
That is, until the evening when my treasured, private homework time was rudely interrupted by someone who had no business being there in the first place.
“Mind if I join you?” a male voice asked. I frowned, and looked up in time to see a pair of legs step from the top rung of the ladder to the platform of the climbing frame where I was seated, trying to complete a report for chemistry class the next day.
“Yes, I do mind,” I snapped, and turned back to focus on my work. The owner of the voice gave a low chuckle, but otherwise ignored my statement as he seated himself down in the opposite corner. I scowled, and forced myself to concentrate on my report. When added to the beaker, the magnesium chloride-
“What are you doing?”
I felt a flash of annoyance at his question, and determinedly ignored it as if he hadn’t spoken, hoping that he would get the hint and leave me alone.
“Hey, can you hear me?”
Again, I ignored him, though the constant nagging was causing me to lose my train of thought. I scanned the sentence I had just written. When added to the beaker, the magnesium-
“You know, it’s rude to ignore people when they’re talking to you.” The hint of amusement in his voice only served to irritate me further. When added to the beaker… I forced myself to ignore it, though it was proving harder with every second to control my anger and concentrate on the report in my lap. The magnesium chloride… the magnesium… added to the… magnesium…
… magnesium chloride…
“GAHH!” The yell of frustration ripped from my lungs as I snapped my head up to glare at the boy with all the fury I could muster. He stared calmly back, a small smile playing on his lips. “For God’s sake, leave me alone!” I cried angrily. “Can’t you see I’m trying to work?! Take a hint, moron!”
He didn’t laugh, but neither did he show any inclination to move from his current position. He just looked at me, confused… or calculating? It was hard to tell with someone I didn’t know.
Even in my angry state of mind, I couldn’t help but notice that this guy had to be one of the cutest I had ever laid eyes on. Lean, tanned… narrow jaw, high cheekbones… dark brown hair swept carelessly to the side and grey-green eyes that shone like a cat’s even in the dim light.
“You’re always trying to work,” he said at last. “You never do anything else, otherwise I would have come talk to you when you were less busy.”
“What…” His remark caught me off-guard. “Have you been spying on me or something?!”
That made him laugh. “I guess you could say that,” he chuckled, and shrugged. “I was here first, though. I normally hang around here after school, and it’s always deserted, but then I noticed that someone else had started coming down here as well… to do schoolwork, of all things. I have to admit, I was curious.”
“What’s wrong with doing schoolwork?” I snapped defensively. I was used to being lightly made fun of for my solid work ethic and lack of interest in anything that might be considered ‘normal’ for a teen, but this guy in particular was pissing me off, and I wanted to call him out for it.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it,” he replied calmly. “Let’s just say it’s a far cry from the kinds of activities the regular crowd around here would typically engage in.”
Somehow, I didn’t want to ask exactly what it was he was referring to. I may have been a ‘good girl’, but I wasn’t naive, and I could make a good enough guess on my own. Instead, I chose to focus on something else he had alluded to.
“You go to this school?” I was suspicious. True, I doubted the two of us would normally hang in the same social circles, but I was nevertheless pretty certain I would have remembered seeing a guy like this around.
He shrugged again. “Officially, yes. In practice, not very much. I won’t mention my grades,” he added with a wink. “I wouldn’t want to give you a heart attack, Miss Genius.”
I scowled. I knew he was only teasing me, but I wouldn’t admit even to myself that the words had stung a little. “Please,” I mumbled as I got up. “You haven’t met my sister.” I slid to the ground via the fireman’s pole in the centre of the climbing tower and started to walk away.
“Hey, don’t be like that,” he called, sliding down the pole after me. “You know I wasn’t being serious.”
I sighed. “I have to go. It’s time for my shift to start.”
The boy laughed again, shaking his head. “Of course you have a part-time job.”
“What’s wrong with that?” I challenged.
“Nothing, Genius.” He winked again. “Have fun. See you around, maybe.” I gave no indication that I had heard him as I turned and jogged away in the opposite direction. I hadn’t been lying about the time.
To my increasing annoyance, I found myself unable to stop myself from thinking about the strange boy I had met in the schoolyard for the rest of the week. Though I kept an eye out at all times, I never saw him in school, and by the weekend I was beginning to think that our chance meeting that one evening was never to be repeated. Once I had realised that possibility, I managed to succeed (for the most part) in driving him from my mind and returning my concentration to my ever-growing workload, where it rightly belonged.
I returned home from work one evening to find Emily in the entrance hall, chattering excitedly on her mobile phone to one of her many ‘friends’ – what I preferred to call her ‘partners in crime’.
“Yeah, definitely come over! My parents are out of town for the weekend, so my place would be perfect. What? Oh yeah, bring whoever you want, I don’t mind.”
She laughed excitedly, and a sense of foreboding stole over me. The moment she ended the call, I snatched the phone from her hands to get her attention. “Hey!”
“Hey, yourself,” I countered. “What are you planning now, Em?”
“Calm yourself, sister, it’s just a party.” She rolled her eyes. “Nothing illegal, I promise.”
“And I’m guessing you didn’t get Mum and Dad’s permission for this before they went away?”
Emily winked at me. “You guess correctly.” Then, in response to my glare of disapproval, “Oh, give it up, Di. We both know nothing you say is going to change my mind. I promise we won’t trash the house or anything, it’s just a good time.”
“Whatever,” I sighed in defeat. “Just make sure you let them know I had nothing to do with it when you inevitably land yourself in trouble.” With that, I retreated to my room, with hopes of taking advantage of an emptier house to get some studying done.
I should have known not to be so optimistic.
Barely two hours had gone by when my concentration was broken by the muffled sounds of shouting and laughter coming from downstairs. I could hear music blaring from the radio, and the unmistakable clinking of glasses against each other. With a sigh, I slid from my chair and made my way downstairs. In spite of my misgivings, it was clear that Emily was not going to be responsible at all tonight – and someone had to be.
The ground floor was deserted, but I could hear the music getting louder as I descended the stairs to the basement. When we first moved into the house, we had transformed the part of the basement that wasn’t used for Emily’s painting and Dad’s science experiments into a party-rec room… which my little sister appeared to be putting to good use.
I paused at the bottom of the stairs and scanned the lit dance floor for a familiar silhouette. I spotted her soon enough, surrounded by a crowd of teenagers, most of whom I was sure I had never met before, dancing enthusiastically to the rock song blaring from the speakers a few feet away.
I felt no desire nor necessity to join in, and everything that was going on at the moment seemed pretty harmless, so I sank onto one of the couches at the side of the room and pulled out a book I was supposed to be reading for my economics class.
I was trying so hard to concentrate and block out everything around me that I didn’t notice at first when one of the partygoers walked over and seated themselves on the couch beside me.
“Working again?” he asked me. I jumped in surprise, almost dropping my book, and turned to see the same boy from the other day, his eyes fixed on the dancers while the corners of his lips quirked up in a teasing smile.
I rolled my eyes as I put my book away. “Not that it’s any of your business,” I snapped, “but yes, I was working.”
He sighed, and leaned back in his seat. “You know, it wouldn’t kill you to be nice to people.”
His comment caught me off guard, and I hesitated before replying. “I… I just don’t like to be interrupted, that’s all.”
“I might believe you,” he retorted lazily, “if you didn’t get so defensive every time I mention your schoolwork. Like you think I’m going to judge you for it or something. Why would you think that? Just because I don’t take school seriously… in fact, it’s precisely because of that that I have so much respect for people who do. Perseverance is a virtue I happen not to possess.”
I would have made some sort of snappy retort, but what he had just said… surprised me, to say the least. For the first time since we had met, I looked at him – really looked at him – with interest rather than disdain. In spite of how much he pissed me off, I could sense that there was something about this guy that was different.
“What’s your name?” I asked him.
He laughed. “That’s a surprise. I honestly thought we’d never get to this point.” He held out his hand for me to shake. “Pleased to meet you. I’m Luc.”
“Luc,” he corrected me, in a flawless French accent. “With a c.”
“Oh.” I refrained from commenting on the uniqueness of the name, knowing that he’d probably heard it a few hundred times before. “I’m Diana,” I added simply.
“Pleasure to meet you, Diana.” We sat in silence for a few moments, casually observing the spectacle in front of us, before it occurred to me to ask him what in the hell he was doing in my house.
“What are you doing here?” I said, a little louder than I had meant to. “Forgive me, but this doesn’t really seem like your kind of thing.”
Luc looked at me in surprise. “How would you know what my kind of thing is? You’ve barely taken the trouble to get to know me.”
He had me there. I shrugged. “I guess I just… assumed.”
“Well, you’re right. This isn’t really my scene. I don’t really know why I’m here… I just came because I felt like it.”
I couldn’t stop the snort of laughter that escaped me. “Do you usually do things ‘just because you feel like it’?”
He flashed a grin. “Pretty much, yeah.” Then he grew serious again. “And what about you? If this isn’t my thing, then it sure as hell isn’t yours.”
I chuckled in spite of myself. “I live here.”
His eyes grew wide. “Really? So that’s…”
“My sister, yeah.” I nodded towards where he was pointing, at Emily twirling her hips in the dance floor.
Luc looked at my expression and chuckled again. “I get the impression the two of you don’t get along.”
I sighed, and tried to relax my face into less of a grimace. “Let’s just say we don’t often see eye-to-eye.”
“I get that,” he nodded.
I was surprised. “You have siblings too?”
“Nah…” he leaned back in his seat. “I just know what it’s like to have beef with the people you’re forced to live with. You can’t choose your family, after all.”
“More’s the pity…” I mumbled, and he laughed.
“Hey, it can’t be that bad. You’re still sharing a house, that’s better than I’m doing. I live alone,” he added, confirming my unasked question. “No parents… just a cat.”
I smiled at him. “You have a cat?”
Luc nodded. “A kitten, really. I only got her a few months ago.”
“Sounds cute,” I smiled. Not as cute as you, though, said a voice in my head. I mentally slapped myself, and turned my attention back to the party so he wouldn’t see me blushing.
I wasn’t ordinarily one to keep up with popular music, but the song pounding through the speakers at that moment sounded oddly familiar. “I like this song,” I murmured, smiling as I listened. Luc turned to me with a grin.
“Want to dance to it, then?”
That was the last thing I was expecting. I looked up at him in surprise, not sure whether or not he was being serious. Raising my eyebrows, I received an encouraging nod and a smile in return.
“Fine,” I said, rolling my eyes as I stood up, but unable to completely suppress a small smile. “Just for this song.”
Luc followed me to the other side of the dance floor, closest to the speakers, and started dancing. I did my best to follow along, but I couldn’t help feeling more than a little awkward with so many other people around me… people who were actually used to doing this sort of thing.
Luc, apparently, guessed what I was thinking. “You need to relax!” he called to me over the pounding music. “Stop worrying so much!”
I nodded, and tried to pretend I was alone, to forget about all the people surrounding me and just focus on the song. By the second chorus, I found that I was actually starting to enjoy myself.
“Bravo!” Luc laughed, clapping his hands together as the song ended and I collapsed into a fit of breathless laughter.
“That was fun,” I admitted. “But don’t think I’m going to-” I stopped talking suddenly, listening hard. The relative silence in the break between songs had been just quiet enough for me to make out the sound of a car engine, doors slamming… as though someone had just pulled up outside our house.
Luc grabbed at my arm as I turned to race back upstairs. “Where are you going?” he asked, looking concerned.
“Our parents are home,” I told him. “I have to get out of here.”
It took him only a moment to understand what was going on… before I knew it, my hand was in his and I was being pulled up the stairs as fast as I could go.
“W-What are you doing?” I gasped.
“What does it look like?” he retorted, glancing back at me with raised eyebrows. “I’m getting you out of here.” I just gripped his hand more tightly, and nodded.
Knowing that my parents were sure to walk through the door at any moment, I was glad that Luc at least had the good sense to run around the back of the house instead of through it to avoid being seen. We ran around the edge of the property, vaulted over the hedge and dashed another hundred metres or so down the street before finally coming to a stop on the cliff overlooking the beach.
“Oh my gosh…” I gasped, bending over as I tried to catch my breath. “That was…”
“…Not bad for your first getaway.” He winked at me, and I couldn’t help but laugh. As I stood there, staring at the sidewalk, I felt something cold drip onto my head. A moment later, droplets began to fall on the concrete before my eyes, and within a few moments the raindrops were falling steadily.
“It’s raining…” I observed quietly, glancing up at the sky with interest. And for the first time, I wasn’t worried about it at all.