Shielding Lily(8)

By: Alexa Riley

“Don’t you two look cozy.”

I look over and watch Brent take a seat across from us. He tries to pull one of my trays over to him, but I reach out and grab it, pulling it back. He gives me a what’s your problem? look, but then he’s distracted by who’s beside me. His eyes roam over Lily, and the sneer he gives her infuriates me. I want to hide her and teach this guy some respect. I want to punch my quarterback in the eyes because he doesn’t deserve to look at her.

Lily tenses next to me, and I need to get her out of here before I do something Brent will regret.



I drop my gaze back down to the cafeteria table, fidgeting nervously. I swallow the bite of brownie still in my mouth, but the arrival of the new guy makes it turn to ash. He showed up and popped the little bubble that Ren had made around me. I’d actually forgotten for a moment where we were.

“Fuck off, Brent,” Ren says, and I tense up even more. Ren moves in closer like he’s trying to shield me from the guy. He laughs at Ren’s words, but something about it lets me know that he doesn’t think it’s funny at all.

“Coach wants to see you,” he says to Ren, trying to dismiss his attitude.

“Busy,” Ren fires back in a hard voice. I wonder if they’re friends. The way Brent sat down made it seem like they were at first, but Ren seems mad about him being here. Not that I care, because I don’t want him here either. Not with the look he gave me when he sat down. It was like I was some kind of bug he wanted to study. Like I don’t belong here and he wants to figure out why I think I do.

“You done?” Ren asks next to my ear. I nod, and I watch as he wraps up the rest of the brownie, then picks up my backpack and puts it in the front pocket. He’s saving it for later for me.

Feeling awkward and unsure if these two are about to have a fight or something, I look for an exit. I don’t want to be in the middle of it if it happens, and I want to see the quickest way out of here.

“Like Coach gives a shit you’re out here trying to get laid. You better—”

Ren slams his hand down hard on the cafeteria table, making me jump at the loud bang. It echoes through the room, and the whole cafeteria falls silent. I cringe knowing everyone is looking at us. God, I wish I could disappear. This is not good.

“I think you forget the season’s over, Brent. I don’t care if you take a hit anymore.” His tone is low but deadly and sends a streak of fear through me. My father can do that. Switch from nice to not so nice, but normally there’s alcohol involved.

I grab my bag from Ren’s hand and stand up, almost tripping over my own feet. Ren catches me from falling on my ass, and I hear a few laughs, adding to my already sky-high level of embarrassment. This keeps getting worse.

“Easy, sweetheart,” Ren says, righting me, the hard edge to his voice gone.

“I have to go.” I push the words out, turning to leave the cafeteria as fast as I can. I pull my schedule out as I make my way down the hallway looking for my next class. When I reach the door, I see that Ren has followed me but is hanging back a few steps. We make eye contact and he stops moving.

“Wait for me after class,” he tells me, but I don’t respond as I slip into the classroom and take my seat. As more students trickle into the room, I take a few breaths and relax, trying to calm down from the lunchroom drama.

After a moment, I pull out my drawing pad and start sketching as I wait for class to start. I remember Ren saying we had the same schedule, but as the class starts he’s nowhere to be seen. I wait all through class hoping to see him, but he never shows. Maybe I misunderstood him earlier.

After the bell rings, I slip out of the room, blending in with the other students. I don’t see him anywhere, and my mind whirls as I remember what happened in the cafeteria at lunch. I think about how different Ren became at the flip of a switch. How different he’d been with me. Maybe he and Brent have issues. I should worry that Ren would be like that with me. He seemed so nice and perfect and made me feel special. He made me feel at ease in a new place, and I’d never had that happen before.

Knowing last period is a study hall, I decide to leave. I can turn in the application I grabbed from the gas station I stopped at this morning. I’m not sure the hours will work, but I’m going to see if I can make it happen.

“Lily, wait up!” a female voice yells. I turn to see Kristen running towards me, her high ponytail bouncing behind her.

I stop, manners getting the best of me.

“Hey,” she says breathlessly. “I saw what happened in the cafeteria.”

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