Chapter 9 - Paper

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I smiled as a piece of paper fell from my locker a day later.

I threw away a thing of pretzels. We are having drug dogs come in, they’ll smell them and you’ll get shouted at for keeping food in your locker. I thought I should tell you.

I shook my head. You are so odd. You write me notes but won’t look at me or talk to me at lunch? You should stop rummaging through my locker. There isn’t anything special about it.

I hung the note up and started to first hour. I had a seat at my lab bench, and he came in. He was wearing a very low cut V neck that looked comfortable and broken in. I hadn’t realized he had a tattoo across his chest; it was in big black font. I couldn’t make out what it read. He had a seat next to me, rubbing his messy hair with one hand. He scanned the lab instructions.

‘S-So, we’re not going to t-talk about how we’re wr-writing n-n-notes?” I said quietly, still so shy. I was screaming at myself internally. I never stuttered this bad, it was only when I was so nervous around people that it’d really pop up.

“Nope, hand me that box?” I slid it over to him, and he took out the tools for this lab. We were creating physical chemical equations, by linking chemical particles out of wooden pegs, attaching them to color coded balls. It was to help kids who couldn’t really do black and white, they needed visuals. He started making water, I was doing carbon.

“Everyone,” Mr. Walker called. “You have a research paper to do. I want it on an innovation in the chemistry world. You are assigned to work with your lab partners, you won’t have class time.”

I sighed, watching Harry frown. “I can write it.”

“It’s a g-group assignment.” I stated. “I’d r-rather not… give you c-control of my grade.”

He stared. Part of me expected him to call me out on my stuttering like Taylor, and make me feel bad about it. “What do you suggest?” I was pleasantly surprised.

“We can ty-type it after school at m-my h-house, or y-yours, or t-the library.” He sighed. “You r-really don’t like b-being around me, d-do you?” I fiddled with my fingers.

“No,” his voice was rather strong. I looked up at him. “I don’t like being around people.”

“So n-nothing personal?” I rolled my eyes. He smiled. “What?”

“You switch gears. You go from being soft and quiet, stuttering, can’t make a sentence or eye contact to someone who is rather outspoken, kind of.” I shrugged, at a loss. “I will meet you by your locker afterschool.”

“D-Do you know w-where my l-locker is?” I said with a smirk.

“No idea, it’ll take me some serious time to find it.”

We both smiled and went back to the project, getting it checked by our teacher. Once the bell rang I went to my other classes. It was odd to see Rachel, and Taylor, but no one said a word to me. I was thankful. I grabbed my lunch, seeing a slip of paper flutter to the floor.

I told you this morning, I don’t like being around people. Why would I talk to you at lunch? You have nothing to say, neither do I. We’d stare awkwardly at one another. I don’t rummage. You’re right. I’m starting to see there isn’t anything special about it.

Did you think there was something special about it in the first place?

I hung up my note and started to the courtyard. I had a seat under the tree, and started eating and reading my books. I heard the door shut, and saw Harry wearing a beanie, resting against the wall. He only glanced at me. I think I made him nervous, he worried I’d tell on him about going through my locker, I’m sure of it.

“G-Go ahead, take a l-look,’ I said once he appeared by my locker afterschool. He glared. “What? N-Not feeling like r-rummaging?”

“Shut up Finley,” I think it was the first time he ever said my name, it gave me chills. “Let’s go work on this project.” I nodded, and we started to my car. “I’m driving,” he stated, walking to his truck.

“W-Why can’t I d-drive?” I said in a soft voice. People were staring as I got into his passenger seat.

“I don’t let other people drive me.”

“That’s o-odd.”

“Your name is Finley, and you’re calling me odd?”

“That h-habit is o-odd, well, y-you are a-as a wh-whole but I didn’t ch-choose my name.”

He turned on the truck and sped away. I gave him directions, he arrived with ease. We got out quietly. My parents weren’t back from the college yet since they were in the middle of mid terms. I went to my kitchen and washed up a bit. I liked how he walked with his hands in his pockets, I felt like it was… his own nervous habit?

“My l-laptop is upstairs,” I was going to say I’d get it. But he started up to my room. I was a bit nervous, but followed him. I walked in; he was looking at the photos on my wall.

“You don’t have any with you and kids your own age.”

“That was ba-back home in A-Antarctica. I wa-was the youngest person there, my p-parents were the only married couple, the r-rest were all older research sc-scientists.”

“Ah, that’s why you have no social skills.”

“Wh-What’s your excuse?” I threw back. He turned, and smiled at me. “S-Sorry,” I mumbled.

“It’s perfectly fine,” I sat at my desk and turned on my computer. He sat at the foot of my bed, looking around at the blank navy walls. “You’ve literally, never had a friend?”

“My p-parents are my friends, those adults were my friends.”

“You had friends, why aren’t you sitting with them, just because of Taylor? You can have friends with the other kids without him.”

“T-There is more t-to it than that.”

“Like what?”

“C-Complicated stuff. T-The world isn’t e-easy.”

“No,” he breathed out, eyes on mine. “It’s not.”

I wanted to change the topic. I typed into the search engine. “You t-take notes.”

He nodded and I handed him paper and a pen. We started jotting down ideas. I felt strange having him in my space, but not threatened. He didn’t make me feel uncomfortable like Taylor, not by any means. It was very odd, but I truly did want to get to know him.

A/N: Thank you again for reading this story! Let me know what you think!

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