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The fallen star (fallen.., p.10
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       The Fallen Star (Fallen Star Series, Book 1), p.10

           Jessica Sorensen
 
I had this feeling that maybe school was going to be different. Okay, so perhaps I was being a little overly hopeful, but I was still crossing my fingers that the tension between Alex and me would lessen now that we had our semi-bonding moment.

  Of course, I hadn’t forgotten the crazy story he told me about the fallen star. Last night, I even dreamt about it. In the dream, I was the star falling fiercely from the sky. When I woke up, I still felt like I was falling.

  Honestly, I didn’t mind the dream, and the break it had given me from my repetitious nightmare—it was nice to take a break from dying. And since the little parking lot incident, I hadn’t seen any sign of the glowing yellow eyes roaming around in the real world, so that was an added bonus. I also decided to push Sophia’s harsh and hurtful comments out of my mind. I was going to have a good day today; a good, worry-free day.

  At least I hoped.

  My morning went by pretty okay. Nothing too traumatic happened. I did have a bit of a concentration problem, but no one seemed to notice, and when astronomy class rolled around I felt myself getting excited. The feeling was new to me and kind of a fun one.

  I took a seat at my table, feeling restless for Alex to show up so I could see how he was going to treat me. But when the bell rang, Alex and Aislin were still not there. My heart sank. Their empty chairs were a painful reminder of the old days when I sat all by myself.

  “Alright, everyone.” Mr. Sterling walked up behind his podium, balancing a stack of papers and folders in his hands. “Open your books to page fifty-eight while I take roll.”

  I sighed and opened my book.

  “Worried I wasn’t going to show?”

  My heart just about leapt out of my throat, and my body did this weird excited spasm thing, causing my elbow to knock my pen onto the floor. I scooped it up as Alex took a seat, pulling the hood of his jacket off his head.

  “No worried,” I said. Great. Not only was I socially incompetent, but now my speech was becoming impaired. Deciding it might be best to keep my mouth shut, I fixed my eyes on my book.

  He laughed to himself as he flipped through the pages of his book. “That sounded convincing.”

  I tried again. “I wasn’t worried.” The pitch of my voice was a little high, but at least I got all the words out this time.

  He laughed again and gently tousled his fingers through his hair. “Okay, if you say so.”

  I opened my mouth to argue that he was wrong, but Mr. Sterling cut me off by starting his discussion.

  After Mr. Sterling finished talking, he took the class to the library for some project time. However, this time he stuck around to keep an eye on everyone. I guess yesterday he busted a few of the people that had cut out early. Fortunately, Alex and I weren’t one of them.

  Alex and I picked out a table near the back corner. During our walk over, he informed me that Aislin was still sick so it was just going to be him and me.

  “So, what should we work on first?” he asked, dropping his bag onto the table. “The map or the report?”

  “Um…since we don’t have any of the supplies for the map,” I slid my messenger off my shoulder and hung it on the back of a chair, “I don’t think there’s anything else we can do except work on the report.”

  “Do we even know what we’re doing it on?”

  “No, but looking through some books might help us come up with something.”

  He held back a smile. “Well, that and the internet.”

  I glanced over at the computer station, which was crammed with people. “How about you go over to the computers, and I’ll go pick out some books?”

  “Sounds good to me.” He headed off for the computer station.

  I turned for the bookshelves. As I passed by the new release section, I couldn’t help but stop and skim over what was there. Nothing was too catchy, except for one with a dark purple star on the cover. It made me think of the fallen star story Alex had told me yesterday. Out of sheer curiosity, I decided to read the back to see what it was about.

  Halfway through, electricity shock-waved up my spine and I just about dropped the book.

  “That doesn’t look like it would be very helpful for our project.” Alex came up to the side of me and leaned against the shelf.

  I held up the book, showing him the cover “It has a star on the cover.”

  He laughed. “So it does.”

  “I thought you were going to look stuff up on the internet?” I asked him.

  “Yeah, I was until I realized there really isn’t any point of us splitting up since we haven’t chosen our topic yet.”

  “Oh yeah, good point.”

  He flicked the book I was holding with his finger. “So, what’s it about?”

  I glanced down at the book, then back at him. “From what I read off the back, I think it has something to do with witches.”

  For some reason, this seemed to entertain him. “Witches, huh? You really do have a thing for the supernatural, don’t you?”

  I put the book back on the shelf. “I guess you could say that…but how do you know that?”

  He shrugged. “Whenever I see you reading, it seems like the book is a science fiction one.”

  I gave him a funny look. “Have you been watching me?”

  I thought I detected a flicker of panic on his face, but it disappeared before I could be absolutely sure.

  “I wouldn’t exactly call it watching you...” He sauntered behind me, tracing the tips of his fingers across the base of my back. It sent an eruption of sparks surging through me. “More like…observing you.”

  It was the first time he touched me on purpose, and it almost seemed like he did it to distract me.

  I tried not to flinch at the sparks firecrackering all over my body, causing my blood to sing and my heart to pound.

  Alex watched me very closely, as if waiting for me to react to his touch. It was like he thought I was going to freak out or something. I very easily could have, too. But I fought hard and managed to keep my cool.

  At least, on the outside anyway.

  A gap of silence passed between us. The sounds of clicking computer keys and soft chatter trailed through the air. Beneath the lights, Alex’s green eyes shined like glass. It was amazing how staring into his eyes could make me feel like I was losing myself.

  If it wouldn’t have been for a guy—whose name I think is Jason—scooting past us, I’m fairly certain we may have stood there forever, just staring at each other.

  But the Jason guy ruined the moment.

  Alex sighed, seeming disappointed, and motioned for me to follow him as he headed back toward the astronomy section.

  We didn’t speak to each other as we searched through the titles of books. I found one on the Milky Way that sounded interesting and sat down on the floor.

  “So, do you want to know what I think is funny?” Alex flopped down on the floor next to me without a book. “That we chose our project based on what would be the quickest and easiest, yet I think out of the entire class, we’ve probably gotten the least accomplished.”

  I skimmed the list of titles in the index. “That might be because we skipped out yesterday.”

  “Yeah…maybe.” He paused. “So what is it?”

  I looked up at him, perplexed. “So what is what?”

  “Your fascination with astronomy.” He leaned against the shelf behind him, creating a domino effect with a row of books. “I mean, you have to have some kind of interest in it since you chose to take this class.”

  “I guess.” I closed the Milky Way book. “Well, what’s your fascination with it?”

  He smiled a smile that lit up his whole face. “An easy A.”

  I rolled my eyes and exchanged the Milky Way book for one that was about planet locations. As I turned back around, I spotted a blond girl bouncing her way up the aisle toward us. It was Kelsey Merritt. Great. I was so not in the mood to deal with her right now.

  She wore a short pleated skirt and a pink sweater. She s
topped just short of us, her gaze wandering between Alex and me, like she was trying to make some kind of connection as to why we would be sitting here alone together.

  I couldn’t really blame her, though. If I saw myself sitting with Alex, I probably would have been trying to make the same connection.

  She shot me a dirty look before flashing a smile at Alex. “Hey, mind if I get back in there?” she asked, pointing her perfectly manicured finger at the row of books between Alex and me. “I need to get a book.”

  “Sure.” Alex scooted closer to me so that we were almost touching. “Go ahead.”

  Of course Kelsey took it upon herself to invade Alex’s personal space, kneeling down so close to him that her arm was practically resting on his leg. He scooted over more and his shoulder pressed into mine. I froze, knowing I should probably slide over and give him some room, but I couldn’t seem to find the motivation to do so. Instead, I sat there, my body humming. Beside me, Alex stiffened, but he didn’t move away. I felt his eyes on me, watching me. I turned my head toward him, and our eyes met. What happened next, I couldn’t tell you. My mind tuned out and didn’t come back into focus until I heard Kelsey’s very loud and obnoxious voice—didn’t she know this was a library?

  “So what do you think?” she asked.

  Alex and I blinked simultaneously like we had woken up from a dream.

  Very reluctantly, he looked over at Kelsey. “Huh?”

  Taken aback by Alex’s irritated tone, Kelsey’s eyes went wide. “About the project,” she said, fumbling to pull a book off the shelf.

  Alex raised his eyebrows at her. “What about it?”

  She looked extremely upset, probably because it was the first time she had been blown off by a guy. “That it’s such a waste of time.”

  Alex shrugged. “It’s not that bad.”

  Kelsey tossed her hair off her shoulder. “Yeah, I guess it’s not that bad. But don’t you think it would be better if we could have chosen the people we wanted to work on it with?” She shot a smirk at me.

  I glared at her.

  “Not really,” Alex said.

  “Oh, well. Yeah, I guess.” She tucked a book beneath her arm, got to her feet, and fixed me with another dirty look.

  I suddenly felt possessed to put her in her place. “What the heck is your problem?”

  I threw her off a little, a beat of silence skipping by before she found something to say back. “You’re my problem,” she said and stormed off, her hair swinging across her back.

  I smiled at myself. Yeah, I know, I am supposed to rise above it and be better than her, blah, blah, blah. But I have been putting up with her crap for way too long.

  “That was a little out of character for you,” Alex commented, sliding away from me.

  The space made me feel empty inside. “I think it was about time though.”

  “Was it?” he mumbled to himself.

  He could be so weird sometimes.

  “So, you never answered my question,” he said, selecting a random book off the shelf.

  “What question?”

  “What’s your fascination with astronomy?”

  “Oh, that.” I wasn’t sure if I felt comfortable sharing the reason with him. It was kind of personal, especially because it was connected so closely to the prickle.

  “Well, I guess it’s because the stars are so peaceful and mysterious and beautiful.” I met his eyes, which made me lose my train of thought and I ended up babbling. “Sometimes I wish I could be up there in the sky with them.”

  His face dropped in horror, and I instantly regretted what I said.

  “What’s wrong?” I asked. “Did I say something…” Weird?

  He shoved the book he had in his hand back on the shelf and stood up. “I think I…I left my phone in my bag.” Then he practically sprinted off toward the table area.

  I swallowed hard. I never should have opened my mouth. I really shouldn’t have.

  I hung out in the astronomy section by myself until the bell rang. Then I went over to the table, carrying a few books I randomly pulled off the shelf. To my surprise, Alex was there. I thought he left, but there he was, his phone pressed to his ear.

  “Yes. Uh huh. I will,” he said. Seeing me, he quickly added, “I have to go.” He hung up and shoved his phone into the pocket of his jeans. “So, how much longer do you think it’s going to take for us to get this assignment finished?”

  I set the books down on the table and shrugged, slightly irked by his brush off attitude. “I don’t know. Like you said, we really haven’t gotten much done.”

  “No, we haven’t.” He slipped on his jacket and zipped it up. “Okay, so here’s what I’m thinking. Maybe I should come over to your house after school so we can try to finish it up.”

  Huh? “You want to come over to my house?” I have never had anyone over at my house. Ever. Especially some gorgeous guy who had the gift of making my mind blank out.

  “Yeah.” He spoke slowly, like I was slow, which he probably thought I was. “Is there something wrong with your house?”

  “No,” I said, which was sort of a lie. There was something wrong with my house. For starters, Sophia was there. “It's just that right now my grandmother and I are going through a…weird phase.” I sounded like an idiot.

  He cocked an eyebrow, seeming amused. “What kind of phase?”

  What kind of phase? What would be the best way to explain it to him? “A yelling one,” I decided. It was too complicated to even try.

  He laughed. “So, is that a yes or a no?”

  I sighed. “I guess it’s a yes.”

  I wrote my address down on a piece of paper and gave it to him. He told me that he would come over around 4:30. Then he left to go to lunch. As I watched him walk out, I felt more alone than I ever had before.

  I took my lunch out of my bag and headed back toward my usual loner spot, desperately wishing that I wasn’t.

  Chapter 9