Chapter Fifteen: The Makings of Friendship

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Content Warning:  brief flashback containing child abuse, language, anxiety

When the bell rung, everyone rushed out like always. I gathered my things and stood from my chair, my eyes straying down to Victor who was typing on his phone. As if he sensed my gaze, he peered up at me. His eyes were droopy again and I wondered if he wasn't tired but was just bored.

"Nice meeting you," I said quietly.

"We're going to the same place," Victor said in that striking baritone of his. He sounded amused again.

He twisted his head to look across the classroom. I followed his gaze to find North watching us out of the corner of his eye as he slowly packed his things up, not that he ever did anything during class anyway, I assumed.

"Why don't you walk with me?"

"Ah..." I met the eyes of Mr. Morris who was watching us suspiciously. I pulled my backpack onto my shoulders and looked away from him, nodding my assent at Victor. "Okay."

He smirked and raised his arm to wrap around my shoulders. I was so shocked that I couldn't do anything but gawk at him.

"No good?" he asked, pulling his arm away. "I thought you'd be okay with it since you're good with holding hands. Should we do that instead?"

"Victor," North warned from across the room. "Cut it out."

"It was an honest question." He looked to me, the amber of his eyes swirling with emotion. "I didn't mean anything by it."

I didn't reply to him, instead saying, "We can just walk normally?"

Victor hummed his approval, motioning for me to go through the door first.

When we were outside, he caught up and fell into step beside me. The only sounds were the rumble of talking students way ahead of us, our footsteps, and the footsteps of North as he walked a ways behind. I had no idea what to say to Victor or how to keep a conversation with him going, so silence seemed like the only option.

I wasn't sure where I stood with him. He seemed all right, as demonstrated by his willingness to correct North's assumptions and to chat with me, but he had told me straight to my face that he didn't know why the others were so friendly with me.

How would I change his mind? Was it even possible?

I guessed the only thing I could do was be around him more. Maybe he'd grow to like me over time.

We walked along in silence until I noticed we were entering the courtyard. I looked to Victor with raised eyebrows. "Why didn't we just go through the building?"

"We eat out here." Victor pointed to a set of benches where all five of the other boys were seated on. "See?"

"Oh." So they didn't see me in the cafeteria yesterday? North had said he had, so how was that possible?

It didn't take long for the group to notice our arrival. Luke, Gabriel, and Nathan shot out of their seats and walked our way while Silas and Kota stayed behind, each sending me smiles.

I glanced at Victor beside me. His face was more relaxed than it'd been earlier and there was even a ghost of a smile on his face as he walked toward the benches to sit next to Kota.

The air shifted as North moved around me. His muscles were tensed as he strode forward to the benches. I made sure to pay close attention to his face when he turned. It was a mix of angry and upset. His brows were furrowed, but his lips were only slightly pouted. He plopped down next to Silas and leant forward, resting his elbows on his knees and wringing his hands together.

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