Fall from India Place Page 9

“Why did you move here?”

Marco was quiet so long I didn’t think he was going to answer. I was feeling an irrational amount of disappointment over that when he suddenly said, “My grandparents sent me to live with my uncle and his wife.”

That one sentence told me a lot without really telling me anything. I guessed that meant his parents weren’t in the picture, and that made me wonder why. The sad possibilities made me feel bad for him. I also wondered why he’d been sent away. Sensing that the first question might upset him more than the second, I went with the latter.

“Did you get into a lot of trouble there?”

He raised an eyebrow at me. “Are you writing my biography?”

Having been surrounded by sarcastic adults my whole life, I was immune to any kind of teasing. I stared him straight in the eye. “So what if I am?”

Marco smirked at my response. “Yeah. I was getting in trouble. They thought it might be better for me here.”

“And is it?”

He shrugged again, a small frown furrowing his brow.

Realizing he didn’t want to talk about it, I changed the subject. “Your name is Marco, right?”

“D’Alessandro. I see my reputation precedes me,” he replied, a wry little smile on his perfect lips.

It occurred to me that Marco didn’t talk like the kind of boys he hung around with at school. And it wasn’t about his accent. I’d overheard them enough to know that they took pride in being rough in speech, sometimes overplaying Scottish slang and swearing so much their mothers’ ears would have bled if they’d ever overheard them. They avoided sounding intelligent, whether deliberately or as a consequence of a collective lack of brain cells.

“Not to sound like a bitch or anything, but I don’t think I’ve heard anyone in the crowd you hang with use a word like ‘precede.’”

He grunted. “One of us needs to know how to read and write. You never know when crime might involve those basic tools of communication.”

Although he was joking, I could hear the edge in his tone and felt stupid. “Sorry. That sounded really judgmental.”

“Maybe. But I guess you’re not wrong.” He slid me a look and it was as if he saw right through me. “Some of us aren’t great at school. I’m not great at school.”

Another question popped into my head; I couldn’t help myself. I’d never been so curious about anyone before. Then again, I’d never gotten butterflies from just being in someone’s presence before. “What are you great at?”

A cloud passed over his features. “I don’t know.”

“You must be good at something,” I insisted. I couldn’t imagine that Marco didn’t have some kind of talent. There was just something so special about him. I didn’t even know what it was, but I knew it. I just knew it.

“Design and tech.”

I stared at his hands, feeling somewhat envious. I’d been rubbish in design and tech. I tried to make a Perspex clock in the shape of a star and it ended up looking like… well… a star that had been in a car crash. My metal coat pegs almost caused me a fatality of the thumb and my wooden pencil case didn’t close correctly. “You must be really good at it to be taking it in fifth year.”

He didn’t say anything, just scowled at a leaf that skittered by on the pavement.

Hmm. “So what do you want to be?”

He shot a quizzical look my way. “What do you want to be?”

“It changes every few months,” I answered in consternation. My friends all knew what they wanted to be when they were older. I still hadn’t made up my mind between a writer, a teacher, a doctor, or a librarian. “I really need to focus.”

“Maybe you should be a reporter.”

I snorted at his teasing. “The twenty questions? Right. Sorry.”

“It doesn’t bother me.” His eyebrows drew together, as if he were surprised by his own confession.

Encouraged, I jumped to my next question. “D’Alessandro? Like the restaurant?” There was an Italian restaurant with that name, only a five-minute walk from my house.

“It’s my uncle’s.”

“Great food,” I said honestly.

Again, he didn’t respond.

I got the feeling he didn’t want to chat about anything related to family. “I heard the pizza in Chicago is the best.”

That received a grin. “You heard right.”

“Do you miss your friends there?”

He was quiet again, so I thought he wasn’t going to answer this one either. I was thinking it was a no-go on any really personal questions, but then… “I didn’t really have friends. Not good ones anyway.”

Our footsteps slowed as we found ourselves on my street. I squinted against the sunlight peeking through a cloud as I looked up at him. “I hope you’ve found good ones here.”

When he looked at me my heart almost puttered to a stop at the warmth in his eyes. “You got a name?” he asked softly.

I shivered, not understanding my body’s reaction to him. “Hannah Nichols.”

He smiled, drawing to a stop to hold out his large hand.

Feeling the butterflies riot in my belly, I determinedly ignored them and placed my small hand in his. I tried to hide my reaction to the tingling that shot up my arm from where we touched. I wanted to tighten my grip and had to mentally stop myself from doing so.

“Nice to meet you, Hannah.”

“You too. Thanks for helping me out with Jenks. And for walking me home.”

“Not a problem.” He let go of my hand and I instantly bemoaned the loss of his touch. He took a step back, preparing to leave, but I grew still at the suddenly stern expression on his face. “Try not to miss the bus again.”

He disappeared down the street before I could say anything, and I stared after his broad back, feeling so many things I’d never felt before.

After walking into my house, only to spend the evening distracted, I came to one conclusion: I had my first crush. On Marco D’Alessandro.

I should have joined the debate team. I shook my head, marching toward the main exit of the school and cursing my shyness to hell. At the beginning of the year my politics teacher had asked me to join the school debate team, and because I was sure I’d never be able to speak up and articulate in person what I was so good at saying on paper, I’d turned the offer down.

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