Chapter 2 - The Secret Place

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“It really does,” I said, smiling.

“Emily.” She said, holding out her hand.

“Uh, yeah, I know.” I said, shaking it. Her handshake was light and delicate, her hands soft and warm.

There was a silence. “Um, so whats your name then,” she prompted.

“Oh I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m Alec, I’m doing an exchange program, I’m uh, from London.”

“Oh, that’s cool. I like your accent.”

“Um… Thanks.”

There was another awkward silence. 

I’ll never know how I got the courage to do it. I mean, I was never exactly a confident person. And living mostly in all guy boarding schools had never given me a ton of experience around girls. Maybe it was the jetlag, or the fact that I was 5,000 miles away from home. Some how though I was able to say, “So, uh, d’you mind if I hang out with you tonight? Kim was supposed to like, show me around the neighbourhood but then… Well you saw where she went!”

Emily laughed, throwing her head back and my heart went into my mouth. I actually made her laugh! Then of course the paranoia hit, what if she is laughing AT me? Fortunately her laugh wasn’t long enough to prolong the agony.

“Sure. I guess I can show you around. Just give me a sec to go change.” 

I couldn’t see anything wrong with what she was wearing before but she came out with jeans, a pink top and a pair of blue Converse All Stars on her feet. They were obviously new, and squeaked with every step she took. The white parts glowed in the dark.

“New shoes?” I asked.

“Yeah, you know how it is, back to school shopping.”

“Oh when is school going to start?” I asked.

She grinned, “Tomorrow, they didn’t plan this out very well for you did they! Have you got everything you are going to need?”

“Um, yeah I think so, I mean, my shoes may not be as new as yours but they get me around!” I said.

Emily had the most beautiful smile. It seemed to use more teeth than it was possible to fit in her mouth. I smiled back. 

“Those converse are pretty damn old.” She shot back.

We had walked to the bus stop. “So Alec.” Emily said. “How do you feel about going to the Mall?”

“Uh…” I said.

“Because you see, the thing is, there is no way Kim is going to be back before midnight so if you want to continue being her alibi you are also going to have to be out at least ‘til then. And I don’t know about you but walking around here where the most exciting thing is a 7/11 doesn’t thrill me. So therefore, I present the mall as a valid option.” Emily spoke rapidly.

“Wow.” I said.

“Yeah.” She said. “I used to do debating.” There was another pause. “So mall?”

“Sure.” I said in what I hoped was a ‘cool’ voice. 

“Do you have a bike yet?” She asked.

“No.” I said.

“Then I guess we’re going on the bus.”

The bus took about another three minutes to arrive. Apparently they came every ten right up until midnight.

I stepped onto the bus and got out my wallet, before realising that I had no American dollars. I did have several Iraqi dinars from the last time my Dad was posted there but somehow I doubted they would help me here. 

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