Chapter Nineteen

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                Unsurprisingly, my mother’s attitude to the situation was much less severe than Mr. Everett’s.

            “You should probably call next time you two sneak off somewhere,” she told me in the car on the way home, her voice blending against the quiet tune of the radio. “Luke’s dad’s kind of weird about that type of thing. His work’s important to him.”

            “You know him?” I asked, slightly taken aback.

            “We’ve met,” she said simply, as if unwilling to commit to anything stronger. “He sold me my house, actually. Handled everything. I knew he had a son who went to Franklin, but we don’t know each other well.”

            “Oh,” was all I could manage.

            The conversation went no further than that; whether this was on mine or her part, I couldn’t really tell. Instead, we both seemed content to lose ourselves in our own thoughts about what had happened, the peppy tune from the stereo filling what gap had been left between us.

            By now, of course, I’d resigned myself to the fact my mother and I would never mend our relationship completely, but at times like these I couldn’t help wishing for something more. It would’ve been easier to keep myself feeling detached from Sherwood had she been there to confide in, but our contact was looking set to remain as sterile as ever. We were on a strictly practical basis, not to be complicated by matters as trivial as emotions.

            My mother seemed happy to let that night go, but that didn’t mean the same stood for me. If not the argument I’d witnessed at the door, it was that moment at the fair that stuck around in my head, the one space of time in which Luke’s lips had been brushing against mine.

            It consumed my thoughts for all of the following weekend, leaving little focus for anything else. Even when I ventured down to the gym, my usual peak was way off, and I abandoned the treadmill five minutes earlier than any other day.

            When I got into school on Monday morning, I felt ready to start bouncing off the walls with anticipation. I hadn’t yet worked out where things stood between Luke and I; one kiss in the middle of a fairground surely didn’t make us official. Still, it had to mean we’d moved away from the point of just being friends.

            Something had changed – that much was obvious. The difficult part, however, came in working at whereabouts in the middle ground we now stood.

            We didn’t see each other the entire morning, but this wasn’t anything unusual. We shared none of our morning classes, but I thought I would at least see him in the cafeteria at lunch. As I slipped into my usual seat at Kim’s table, already unfolding the paper bag my mother had packed, I couldn’t stop myself glancing over toward his usual place.

            Claire was nearby, smiling as one of her friends recalled a story over their food, but I couldn’t help wondering if I was imagining the way it didn’t reach her eyes. The surrounding tables were filled in with their usual occupants, as lively as ever, but Luke’s absence put a blank spot in the middle of it all, the empty seat speaking louder than any of his classmates.

            Kim noticed my distraction; after zoning out, I was brought back to reality by her hand waving in front of my face. She and George were both interested in how Luke’s birthday had panned out, but I didn’t want to tell too much until I was clear on where exactly we stood. All I let myself say was that things had gone to plan, trying to keep the smile from my face as my mind replayed the kiss once again.

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