seventeen ~ nine-one-one
**Dedicated to _fiction_books_ for leaving such a lovely, touching comment on the previous chapter.**
I sat perched on the edge of the table, listening to the rain hammer down on the roof of the wooden hut. Brent was in the opposite corner, not too far away considering the small nature of the room. There was an element of claustrophobia, but I knew it wasn't a genuine fear-it was a concern of being so close to Brent, for so long.
"Are you sure we're safe in here?" I asked him. "I mean, what if lightning hits the roof? Won't the wood go up in flames?"
"We're safe," he stated. "Do you know how many times I've taken shelter in here?"
Obviously I didn't, but during my seven weeks here I'd already witnessed quite a few thunderstorms; Brent would therefore have sat through many more than that. I wasn't usually afraid of thunder, but watching a storm from inside a large house was much more comforting than watching from inside a tiny, wooden hut that seemed especially perceptible to fire. As if he was reading my mind-or maybe just my body language-Brent asked me about this.
"Are you afraid of storms?"
I shook my head and slowly pushed myself up onto the table to settle myself down. It wobbled slightly under my weight and I made a mental note not to move around too much.
"No," I told him. "Not really."
"Do you know what kills more people than thunderstorms?" he then asked me.
I stayed silent because I was pretty sure there were plenty of things that killed more people than thunderstorms. As well as that, I wasn't entirely sure whether Brent was attempting to make awkward conversation or whether he was attempting to calm my nerves. Either way, he seemed to be waiting for a response.
"No," I sighed. "I do not know what kills more people than thunderstorms. Please enlighten me."
Even though it wasn't funny, a small laugh escaped me. Brent showed a glimmer of a smile, too. Maybe he really was trying to calm my nerves. Or maybe this was his twisted way of making me uncomfortable by drawing another potential hazard to my attention.
"It's true," he assured me. "Technically, you're safer in here than out there."
"Hilarious," I said dryly.
No sooner had the word left my mouth, a bright flash of light was immediately accompanied by a loud rumble of thunder. The walls of the hut trembled, the rickety windows rattling viciously. I involuntarily shied away from the wall beside me, before realising that the small size of the room meant that I was effectively just moving closer to the opposite one...and Brent.
"In fact," Brent continued, lowering his voice. "Given your track record, you're probably safer in here regardless of what the statistics suggest."
I rolled my eyes. "You know, by the end of this summer, you'll have probably succeeded in classically conditioning me to have a fear of water."
"It can't be a bad thing," he said with a shrug. "Although the idea that anyone's able to classically condition you is laughable."
I didn't respond, although that was partly because he'd caught me off guard again; I hadn't expected him to be familiar with Ivan Pavlov's work, but maybe I just didn't give him enough credit.
"Got any more tests for me?" he asked, and when I spared a glance at him, he raised a challenging eyebrow that felt inexplicably intimate.
For some reason, my stomach did a little flip; knowing I was trapped in here with him was making me anxious anyway, especially since we were currently at a stage in our relationship that was neither hostile nor friendly. It was like a narrow, rickety bridge between antagonism and amiability that swung in the wind with the constant threat of snapping and breaking, sending us hurtling back to square one, at the slightest provocation.