Fall from India Place Page 14

Marco grimaced comically. “Like I read.”

“You’ve at least read something, right?”

He laughed and deflected the question. “What’s your favorite book?”

“To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Something I didn’t understand glittered in the back of his eyes. “Nice choice.”

“Aha, you’ve read it!”

Marco smiled and shrugged.

“I don’t know if shrugging constitutes an answer where you come from, Chicago Boy, but here it doesn’t qualify.”

“Them be a whole lot of big words, smart girl. Ma small brain ain’t be knowing what yer talkin’ about.”

I burst out into surprised laughter. Marco was often sarcastic and he enjoyed the ironic, but this side of him, this joking side of him, was rare to see. “Stop avoiding the question.”

I waited for him to stop grinning. As the smile slipped from his face, there was something new and intense in his expression. Our eyes held and the air thickened between us. “To Kill a Mockingbird,” he told me softly.

His confession seared me to my very soul. It might not seem like something to anyone else that we shared the same favorite book but right then, in the growing dark, it felt like everything.

“If you could go on the perfect date, where would it be?” What I really wanted to ask was who it would be with.

I knew the question would cause him some unease, but I think that’s what I was pushing for. Pushing for answers about what was between us.

His brows drew together as he looked down at me. “I told you I don’t date,” he replied quietly.

The answer was unsurprising, but still I felt a pang of disappointment.

“You?” Marco did surprise me by asking.

I gave him a small smile. Perfect date. With him. Where? “It sounds really cheesy, but I remember reading this teen romance Ellie gave me and it was about this girl who meets a real-life prince and it’s completely fantastical and utterly stupid really.” I laughed nervously. “There’s so many obstacles between them, but there’s this scene where he takes her to this tiny cottage on his land, away from everything and everyone. They sit in front of a roaring fire, drinking and eating, sometimes talking, sometimes not. It was like there was no one else in the world but them and I don’t know…” I trailed off, feeling my cheeks flush with embarrassment.

The heavy silence fell between us again.

“Why did you really ask me to meet you tonight, Marco?” I whispered, breaking it.

For once he didn’t avoid the question. “Because,” he whispered back, “when I’m with you it feels like everything’s going to be okay. I can’t explain it.”

My pulse throbbed at his overwhelming confession and somehow my voice came out steady and soft. “You don’t have to.”

“That film was so rubbish,” Sadie complained as we walked out of the theater and into the lobby of the cinema. “Such a boy movie.”

“You were the one that voted with the guys on what film to go see,” I reminded her.

“Yeah, because I want them to like me,” she said in a “duh” voice, as though it should be obvious to me to change who I was in order to suit a boy. Ugh. Please.

If this was what being popular was all about, you could stick it.

Fifth year at high school was turning out a lot different than my last few years. My old friends had become scarce as I’d opened up and grown more confident, and my new friends were outgoing – they participated in a lot of extracurricular activities at school, but mostly they were utterly, completely, and totally boy crazy.

I was only crazy for one boy, but he’d graduated.

“Eh, Hannah?” Kieran, one of the guys in our group, walked over to me, looking a little nervous. “Can I talk to you?” He nodded toward a corner where we’d have a little privacy.

Sadie grinned mischievously. My stomach dropped a little when I realized where this was going.

Reluctantly, I followed Kieran over to the corner.

He stuffed his hands in his pockets, looked back at our friends, and then turned to me with a shaky smile. “So… I was, eh… I was wondering if you wanted to go out with me sometime?”

Crap. I hated this. I hated rejecting anybody. “Oh, Kieran, I’m really flattered.” I smiled with a shrug. “But I think we should just be friends.”

He frowned. “That’s it?”

I nodded, wondering what else I was supposed to say.

He made this snorting, huffy sound and turned on his heel, striding angrily back to the guys. Whatever he said had them looking over at me in puzzlement.

I gritted my teeth, two seconds from deciding to walk away from every single one of them, when Sadie came hurrying over. She looked pissed off.

“What is your problem?” she asked, arms crossed over her chest. “Three of the guys have asked you out in the last two months, Hannah, and you’ve said no to every single one of them. They think you’re a lesbian.”

I rolled my eyes. “Of course they do. It’s easier to believe that than the fact that I don’t fancy any of them.”

“Kieran is hot.” Sadie pouted. “Do you think you’re too good for him?”

Why were we friends again? “No. I just… I think I like older boys.” It was mostly true and I was hoping it would get her off my back.

Thankfully, this was the right move. It was something Sadie could understand. Her expression cleared and she was just about to open her mouth to say something when a tall, familiar figure caught my attention.

My heart immediately started pounding.

Standing by the window, near the escalators, was Marco. My eyes followed the broad planes of his shoulders, then moved upward to his profile. My heart raced harder, a sharp ache piercing my chest as I realized he had a girl pinned against the railing near the window. The pain intensified as he bent his head to kiss the girl.

Really, really kiss her.

I think my heart shattered into a million pieces.

I looked at the floor, attempting to unsee things while I tried to catch my breath.

Marco and I had kept in touch since he’d graduated and moved on to Edinburgh College. He was working part-time at his apprenticeship while he did the carpentry and joinery course. I knew this because we still hung out. We talked on Facebook, texted each other, and every now and then he’d call me and I’d go meet him somewhere, like I’d done that night at Douglas Gardens. Nothing romantic ever happened, and he never said anything as sweet to me again as he had that night, but I had been beginning to hope the sexual tension I felt between us was mutual. I was sixteen now. Guys told me I was pretty and I knew I looked older than a lot of the girls my age because of my height and my figure. I was hoping Marco would see me differently. But nothing had changed.

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