Shielding Lily(6)By: Alexa Riley
When the bell finally rings, I stand and put everything away in my bag, wondering what to do next. I know I need to find the library. Looking over, I see Ren does the same, but he reaches down and grabs my coat.
“Lunch?” he asks. I reach to take my coat from his hands, but he shakes his head, then takes my backpack from me, too.
“No, I’m not going to lunch,” I protest, wanting to go to the library instead. I don’t like to waste my money on food if I don’t have to. Lunch is a meal I can skip. I need to see about finding some kind of job or something. I try to take my coat from him, giving a little tug. It only makes him smile even more at me. His dark brown eyes are filled with humor, and I can tell what he’s thinking. No way I’m getting this thing from him unless he wants to hand it over.
I stare up at him, still not a lick of unease within me, even with him dwarfing me.
“You have to eat. You’re tiny.”
My cheeks warm, feeling a little embarrassed at being criticized. It’s something I should be used to by now, but it still hurts.
“I don’t mean it like that. I just mean you’re small and you can’t get any smaller.” He fumbles over his words. “Shit. I didn’t mean it like that either.”
I crack a smile at how flustered he becomes. I shrug and try to explain. “I’m sure you eat in one meal what I probably eat in a whole week,” I tease him, knowing he wasn’t trying to be rude with his comment. I want him to know it’s fine. I don’t think he’s used to being uncomfortable. Uncomfortable is the story of my life. I always feel that way.
“Come on.” He grabs my hand, wrapping his fingers with mine and pulling me from the class. He walks a little too fast for me to keep up, so I have to double-step so I don’t trip.
“Where’s your locker?” he asks as I try to keep pace with him. He looks back and down at me, slowing his speed and mumbling an apology. He doesn’t letting go of my hand though. In fact, he tightens his hold. I have to spread my fingers wide to fit his between them.
“They’re getting me one.” He stops suddenly, and I almost run into him, but catch myself at the last second.
“Sorry. I have to be more careful with you.” He says it like he thinks he might break me or something. “This is my locker. Our locker.” He lets go of my hand, ripping some football decorations off the front of the locker before rolling them into a ball and throwing it into a trash can across the hall.
“Twelve, thirty-four, seventeen,” he says to me as he turns the dial, then opens the locker door. He puts my coat inside and looks at me. “Anything else you want to put in here? Make your backpack lighter? Never mind. I’ll just carry it. You remember the number?” He looks down at me and I stare at him. He’s all-consuming, and it’s different having someone look after me. Or at least that’s what it feels like he’s doing. Looking out for me on my first day at a new school “Forget it. I’ll be with you. You don’t need to remember the combination.”
“Twelve, thirty-four, seventeen,” I repeat them back to him. “Do you always answer your own questions?”
My words surprise him. “No.” He cocks his head to the side like he’s thinking. Then he grabs my hand again, pulling me with him. “Your hands are warm now?” His thumb grazes along my hand like he’s testing the temperature for himself.
“You shouldn't be walking to school. A good wind would blow you over.”
“How do you know I…” I trail off when I realize we’re now in the lunchroom. Students turn to look at us. People whisper, and a knot forms in the bottom of my stomach. I don’t like when people stare. I feel my breathing pick up, and I try to pull my hand from Ren’s, but his hold is unbreakable.
He leads me to a table. “Sit here, I’ll go get our food.” There is no question in his words. He drops both our bags on the ground next to me and turns to leave. I glance around the room, seeing everyone is still looking, the whispers growing louder. I reach up and smooth my hair on the side that is covering up my scar, making sure no one can see it. I debate grabbing my bag and making a run for it.
I keep a watch on her out of the corner of my eye as I go to the line and grab two trays. I can see her indecision from here, and I know if I don’t hurry she’s going to ditch me. Luckily the ladies here know me and load me up. I’m quiet, but they know I can put away food, so two trays isn’t unusual for me. Lily fidgets and then moves her hand to her bag. She looks over to me, and I stare her down, telling her with a look not to move. I can’t protect her if she runs from me, and God knows where she would end up if she got lost. Our high school is huge, and I hate the thought of her being lost and alone. I nod to her, letting her know I’m almost finished, and she takes her hand off her bag and places it in her lap.