Shielding Lily(9)

By: Alexa Riley


I shrug, because what am I supposed to say to that? I’m not sure what happened in there. She probably has more of an idea than I do. I know Brent and Ren are the boys she and the redhead Carrie were talking about this morning.

“I wanted to let you know, girl to girl.” She steps in closer to me like she’s going to tell me a secret. “The football boys have this game they play with new girls.” She shakes her head like she can’t believe they are so immature. “They try to see who can nail the new girl first. I would’ve told you this from the start, but well…” She looks me over with that same look Brent gave me. Like I’m some weird bug. “I didn’t think they’d do it with you. You’re not really their type.”

Ouch. The little bit of hope for Ren I’d been carrying slips away. It burns deep. Deeper than it should for someone I’ve only known for hours. But it’s a loss I should be used to. I lose everyone. I should be accustomed to the feeling, but this is a heavy weight on my heart for some reason. I feel a stinging burn behind my eyes.

“Yeah, thanks for the warning,” I tell her, turning to leave.

“Us girls have to stick together, you know,” she says from behind me, and I keep walking. It isn’t until I’m outside do I remember I don’t have my coat. It’s still in Ren’s locker and there is no way I’m going back there to get it.

I hope tomorrow I don’t have the same classes as him.





8





Ren





I drive slow, creeping around the curve and praying I’m headed in the right direction.

By the time Coach let me out of his office, my class was over and I couldn’t find Lily anywhere. He wanted to talk to me about my scholarship and practices before I left. I think he’s trying to live vicariously through me because he blew out his knee in college. The whole meeting was pointless and irritating, and I couldn’t get out fast enough.

My heart sank when I realized Lily had ditched study hall, and then it plummeted when I got to my locker and saw her coat still in there. I grabbed it and raced out to the parking lot, thinking she couldn’t have had much of a head start on me.

“Thank God,” I say in prayer and throw my Jeep in park. Grabbing her jacket off the passenger seat, I jump out and call over to her. “Lily!”

She’s about to walk into the gas station when she sees me. I wave, but she stays rooted to the spot, and her eyes narrow on me. Something is wrong. I walk over to her and hold out her coat.

“You forgot this. I asked you to wait. Why did you leave?”

She looks down at her feet and then up at me. “You disappeared.”

There’s hurt in her voice, and it breaks me a little inside. I never want her to think that I wouldn’t come for her. “I’m sorry, Lily. I got held up talking to my coach. I should have walked out. I didn’t mean for you to think I ditched you.”

“It’s fine. Thanks for bringing my coat. I can manage on my own.”

She grabs her coat and tries to turn away from me, but I keep a grip on it and don’t let her walk away.

“I’m sorry for the way I behaved at lunch. I saw that it made you nervous and that’s why I kept my distance after. I wanted to give you some space. I don’t know that I’ve ever reacted that way to Brent, or anyone at school, for that matter. I normally go all day and hardly say five words total. But here I am with you and I can’t seem to stop.” I try to explain what happened so she’s not afraid of me. “Brent is an asshole. He doesn’t deserve to be around someone as sweet and beautiful as you. I don’t trust him around you, and I didn’t like the way he was looking at you. I didn’t mean to cause a scene, but I felt like I needed to step in.”

“You talk a lot for someone who says he doesn’t say much.”

I give her a half-smile. “It’s a first for me, too.” I open her coat, and after a second of hesitation she steps into it. “Let me give you a ride home.”

I zip her coat up for her, pulling up the side collars to make sure it's protecting her. She stares up at me, looking surprised by my actions. “No, I’m okay. I’m going to drop off an application in here and then walk. I’m not too far.”

I look up at the gas station and then down the road I saw her walking this morning. She’s at least a mile, if not more.

“Are you looking for a job?” I ask, trying to think on my feet.

“Yeah. I don’t think this one has the right hours, but I’m going to talk to the manager and see what I can work out.”

“My dad is hiring at his hardware store. It’s after school and weekends, depending on how many hours you can work.”

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