The Impossible Vastness Of Us
Bryce snapped something at him. He threw a fry at her with a chuckle and she turned a dark shade so red I thought her head was about to explode with all the blood rushing into it.
As Gabe made his way toward me I braced myself, not sure what kind of greeting to expect from him.
“You made it,” he said, wearing an expression of amusement.
I didn’t detect any meanness in him. “Yup.”
“Well, you look great.”
“Should you be over here complimenting me?”
“Are you talking about Bryce?” He chuckled. “She should know by now that I’m not one of her cliquey bitches. I talk to whoever I want. And Elle hasn’t said you’re off-limits and we all know Elle’s the one really in charge.”
Huh, that was interesting. I would have thought for certain Eloise would have called for me to be ostracized by her friends.
As if he saw the thought in my eyes, Gabe shook his head. “Elle’s a good girl.”
Hmm, I wasn’t sure I believed that.
“So you’re being nice to me?”
He laughed at my suspicious tone. “Believe it or not, yes.”
“Okay.” I shrugged, still not one hundred percent sure of his motives. Although to be fair he was cool to me when we first met, too. “So if you’re really trying to be nice...maybe you could tell me why everyone is looking at me so strangely?”
“Ah.” He suddenly looked sheepish. Guilty even. “Yes, about that.” He stepped toward me, lowering his voice. “Look, when your mom and her dad started dating Eloise didn’t exactly like Hayley. She thought it was strange that as time went on Hayley never once brought you with her or let her dad go visit you. She said she was afraid you might be in rehab or something.” He rubbed the back of his neck, looking embarrassed. “I might have told someone else that you were in rehab and, before I knew it, it was all over the school. But it was weeks ago,” he said defensively. “I thought they would have forgotten it by now.”
My eyes bugged out, my anger simmering beneath the surface. “Everyone thinks I was in rehab?”
“Yeah. I am really sorry.”
I gave a huff of disbelief, trying to gauge his sincerity. He did seem genuinely embarrassed by the rumor he’d spread. “Are you going to tell people it’s a lie?”
“Eloise overheard a few seniors talking about it this morning and she told them it wasn’t true.”
Hmm. Probably didn’t want the rumor to hurt her reputation. “Then why are people still looking at me funny?”
“It’ll take time for it to die down. Sitting with us would help,” Gabe offered.
Was he nuts? I gave him a look that clearly questioned as much and he laughed.
“I’m asking you to.”
“I’m not welcome.”
“Okay, if you say so. You know where I am if you change your mind.” He winked suggestively and backed off.
I shook my head at his flirtation, feeling a teensy bit better knowing there was a student at this school that didn’t hate me, even if he accidentally spread a stupid rumor about me. As I was reaching for my tray of food, I heard Gabe call my name loudly.
I turned and stepped out of line to find him halfway between me and Eloise’s table. Everyone was looking at us.
“You look remarkably good for a recovering drug addict.”
I should have been mortified, but instead I felt a renewed resolve within me to not let these people think they could embarrass me or force me to duck my head and hide from their curiosity and judgment. I grinned at Gabe’s mockery of the student body for believing his stupid lie and called, “Thanks, dipshit.”
His laughter rang out around the room, and I found myself chuckling. I looked beyond him to Eloise and found her watching me uneasily. Gabe was oblivious as he walked back to the table. I moved to find an empty table, and my mood plummeted harshly when I realized I was going to have to sit alone.
I hadn’t eaten lunch alone since I lived with my dad.
Doing what I’d gotten so good at since I’d arrived in Massachusetts, I pretended I wasn’t bothered by my loner status. Instead I pulled out the book I was currently reading and got lost in the words while I ate my pasta salad.
Only a few minutes later my face started to tingle and I felt the little hairs on the back of my neck rise. Not moving my book from covering my face, I discreetly looked up over the top of it, searching for the cause of the tingles.
My eyes locked with Finn Rochester’s.
Those little flutters awoke in my stomach again and I flushed hot.
Finn wrenched his gaze away, frowning down at his plate. No one at his table seemed to notice he’d been looking over at me.
I focused back on the pages of my book, but the words just became blurry blobs.
The truth was Finn unsettled me. I honestly didn’t know why.
I just knew I didn’t like it.
Forcing myself to concentrate on the book, I eventually got back into the story and for a while I forgot I was in hostile territory.
* * *
I wish I could say that the day improved from there but it was pretty much the same as the beginning. Classes were fine, if a lot more challenging than my old school, teachers were overall welcoming and none of my fellow students bothered to introduce themselves to me.
I walked out of school at the end of the day the way I’d walked in.
Gil was waiting with the car and when he saw me he got out to open the door for me. “Good afternoon, miss. I hope you had a good first day.”
I thanked him as I slid into the car.
Once I was settled inside Gil got back in the driver’s seat and started to pull away.
“What about Eloise?”
“Miss Eloise informed me that she will be getting a ride home from Finn later this afternoon.”
I nodded and turned to stare out the window. I’d found myself forgetting throughout the day that Finn and Eloise were a couple. They didn’t act like Bryce and Joshua, who could barely keep their hands off one another. I knew not all couples liked PDA, but there was usually something to let you know that a couple were into one another. They acted like friends, for sure, but I hadn’t seen them kiss or hold hands or cuddle.
But I guess one day wasn’t really long enough to form an opinion about them as a couple.