Chapter 7

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"So you really don't mind going to the cinema with your mom?"
Aria rolled her eyes. Ella must have been asking that question for at least the tenth time in five minutes. She liked that she didn't want to embarrass her, but let alone the fact that it was Aria who asked her to come, should probably be enough assurance.
"No I don't."
"Oh well... then I'm relieved."
For the next thirty seconds before you start asking again? Aria thought. They had walked from the car and had now arrived in front of the cinema. They still had about twenty minutes before the movie started, so they would probably be the first ones to enter and had free seat choice.
"Aria? I just noticed I forgot my purse in the car. Are you okay waiting here?"
"Sure."
Luckily it was a sunny day, so she was comfortable just staying outside, enjoying the sun. It was warm, even for September. She had been waiting roughly two minutes, studying the info box, or whatever it was called, when she heard a voice.
"Aria."
She turned around and saw Mr. Fitz standing across from her. What is he doing here?, was her first thought, directly followed by so you're not ignoring me anymore? Or were you just surprised to see me?
"Erm... Mr. Fitz."
Well, that came across eloquent.
"Hi."
What am I supposed to say? She was on the edge of panicking, when she heard footsteps approaching behind her. She quickly turned her head to confirm it was her mother, then faced her English teacher again.
"Er... this is my mom, Ella."
Right. Not awkward at all.
"Oh, Mr. Fitz. The new English teacher."
Oh no! Aria heard from the edge in Ella's voice this could only become worse. Why didn't she just say nothing about him? What was it about him, that she couldn't keep her mouth shut?
"Yes. It's a pleasure to meet you Mrs. Montgomery."
At least it seemed like Aria wasn't the only one being uncomfortable in this situation.
"Oh please, call me Ella", her mom chirped. "We're a very informal family."
Could anyone just make her disappear? Please?
"Are you going to see the movie?" Okay. Aria had learned her lesson. Never go anywhere public with one (or both) of your parents.
"Yes I am. It's one of my favorites." "Oh, Aria's too. She's told us a lot about you."
This situation could not possibly get any worse. Why did her mom have to say that?! Ella turned her head to address her daughter.
"Although she forgot to mention the 'you're very young' part."
She had been wrong. It just got worse. There was no way in hell she would let this go on even further.
"We should get going", she said. "The movie is starting."
Now she just hoped Ella wouldn't insist on Mr. Fitz joining them.
"We'll see you inside."
Puh. Seemed like her prayers did get heard once in a while. She wouldn't mind it being more often though. Aria and her mother entered the theatre, Mr. Fitz stayed outside. Maybe he was waiting for someone. Or he wanted to get away from this conversation as well. Whichever way, Aria didn't mind the outcome. She was about to start breathing normally again, when Ella made a comment to destroy it all. "And you forgot to mention the 'really cute' part."
Wait. Does my mom have a crush on him?! Okay that settled it. She wouldn't go anywhere with her parents/family ever again. Aria cleared her thoroat.
"Can we just go in?"
"Fine", her mother answered. "But don't believe I have forgotten about this."
She shouldn't have gotten her hopes up. Maybe Spencer was right after all. Oh, who was she kidding? Of course Spencer was right. She was always right. Like Aria had already suspected, the movie theater was empty. Not many people liked to spend their Friday afternoon watching a replay of a black and white movie in the cinema. Which was exactly why it was even more curious that Mr. Fitz of all people had been there. On the other hand, he probably didn't expect to run into anyone either. Especially not a sixteen-year-old girl that just so happened to be his student accompanied by her mother. And that was not adding the unusual circumstances of their whatever you wanted to call it.
"Okay." Like there was anything else she could say. "So, where do you want to sit?"
They chose some seats in the back so they wouldn't have to look up so much and sat down. For about ten seconds, before Ella stood up again to buy popcorn. Well, as long as she didn't have another encounter with Mr. -I'm-ignoring-you-but-I'm-not-when-we're-not-at-school Fitz while she was gone, fine. Luck seemed to be on her side -- finally for once -- and Aria's mom made her way back with only a bucket of butter popcorn in her presence. The movie started playing some time later, maybe about three minutes, when Mr. Fitz entered. He went for a single seat, moving quietly, not wanting to disturb the others. At least that was what Ella thought. Aria suspected it had more to to with not wanting to direct her mother's attention to him. But as fate would have it, there was no escaping Ella Montgomery.
"Mr. Fitz", she said. "Why don't you come sit with us?"
Aria just wanted to be anywhere but where she was now. She looked up at her English teacher and felt some weird kind of relief when she noticed he seemed to feel the same way. "Um... yeah...", he said uncomfortably. "Yeah, okay. Excuse me."
He made his way through the row and sat down next to Aria. When their arms touched, they both flinched. Ella leaned over to offer him some of her popcorn. Not helping. At all.
"I'm fine, thank you", Mr. Fitz declined politely. They drew their attention back to the screen, but Aria couldn't concentrate on what was happening in the movie before her. Being that near to her teacher made he incredibly nervous and she had no idea why. Maybe it was because they were outside school, or because he had been ignoring her the past two weeks or something, but that seemed too easy an explanation. She forced herself to relax and enjoy the movie. She knew it by heart and she could watch it at home every day if she wanted to, but she loved this cinema feeling and she would not miss out on this experience because of everything else that has been going on just moments ago. About half an hour into the movie, Aria unconsciously put her arms on the armrests. Ella offered her popcorn once more and this time she accepted. They continued sharing, so Aria passed some of it on to Mr. Fitz. Surprisingly enough, he took it and their hands touched just like the very first time they'd met and Aria had handed in her paper. She thought she saw him smile, so she smiled back. It felt good that he paid attention to her once again. She felt his left arm softly pushing against her right, wanting to share the armrest between them. She made a little space for him, even though she barely had had enough for herself to be comfortable. She didn't know what got into her -- her mother was sitting right next to her for heaven's sake -- but suddenly she felt daring enough to take her teacher's hand into her own. Never leaving his gaze, their fingers intertwined, and out of some miracle, he didn't flinch or turn away, but he just sat there, holding hands with Aria, smiling. Seeing that, her smile grew even wider. For a moment, she looked horrified, having realized what she unconciously had known all along. She was in a movie theater, watching a black and white movie no one except she, her mom and apparently Mr. Fitz were interested in, holding said teacher's hand like they were on a date, smiling like an idiot, whilst her mother, who had embarrassed her today more that she had ever done before, was sitting literally right next to her. She only had to turn her head to witness the inappropriate, not existing distance between teacher and studen. Luckily the odds of that happening were very slim. To make sure, though, Aria quickly turned her head, which first irritated Mr. Fitz, and then, as if he had come to his senses and realized the situation he was currently in, he tensed visibly. Aria didn't know what to do. She knew it was stupid and reckless what they were doing, but that hadn't stopped her before. Even though it probably should have the one time or another. But there was a part of her, a really big part to be precise, that didn't want to let go that was convinced that it was worth every risk to just have this one moment. She knew she would hate herself in just a few hours. She knew her 'relationship' with Mr. Fitz would only get more complicated, she knew she was on the best way of making him hate her. In her head, she knew all this and even more. But her stupid heart still won. With the argument 'It feels good. I want to hold on to it just a little bit longer'. It probably was one of the worst arguments in history, but it still won. And so, instead of releasing his hand and doing what he pretty obviously wanted her to do, she started drawing little circles with her thumb on the back of his hand.
If he didn't want me to hold on, he should have just pulled away, her heart whispered.
He wanted you to be the one to let go. He didn't want to hurt your feelings, so he wanted to get you to do the right thing. He trusted you on this. And you let him down, her brain answered.
I didn't, her heart said.
Yes you did. The fact that you don't see it just helps me make my point, her head argued. All the while the debate in her head went on, she almost hadn't realized that Mr. Fitz had relaxed again. But when she noticed, of course the discussion went on.
See? I did the right thing. And it was not letting go, her heart said emphatically.
It would have been. Now you just made yourself an even larger target, for everyone, but especially for 'A'. You don't seriously believe this won't come out, do you? Aria groaned. This was getting better and better. And her head was right. She just did make herself an even bigger target. Not that she hadn't been one before. The problem was, her life was right now probably more interesting for 'A' than Hanna's, Spencer's and Emily's all together. So, no reason to worry, right? Gosh, she could to a TV- Show all by herself, acting out her thoughts. Startled by the noise she made, her mother and Mr. Fitz looked at her the same time, both with a questioning look in their eyes. Aria tried to act as normal as possible, her insides frozen in shock. It took her about a second to realize she had stopped breathing. Not good.
"Nothing", she whispered quickly, not wanting her mom to look closer and notice their joined hands.
"Okay, if you say so", Ella said and turned back to the screen. Thank God! Not for the first time today, Aria was glad her mother always was very focused when reading or watching tv -- or a movie for that matter -- and turned her attention back to the screen. She needed a distraction. That had been way too close. They were still holding hands and it didn't seem like Mr. Fitz was about to retreat.
So far, so good, Aria thought.
Stop thinking!, she scolded herself. Before her heart could respond again and reopen the earlier discussion, she tried to get back into what was happening. From what she had gathered so far, she had missed quite a bit of it. That was one more advantage if you knew the movie already. You could easily follow up again. She glanced at Mr. Fitz, whose full attention was now directed at the screen as well. But he still was holding her hand. Aria took that as a good sign.

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