“I wish I’d seen the signs,” my sister once said. “I wish I’d seen them for what they were before he died, rather than recognise them once he was dead.” Now, as I watched Alex stuff books into his rucksack, to the point of it bursting, something clicked in my mind. Another bloke, someone I didn’t know, walked right into him, sending Alex crashing into the locker. The arsehole didn’t say sorry or even acknowledge Alex at all. Alex closed his eyes for a few seconds, then he bent to heft that heavy rucksack on his back and lift the rest of his books. He clutched them to his chest. He closed his locker —but he put the padlock in his pocket. The locker is empty. He’s bringing all his books home with him. Warning bells went off in my mind.
I hurried after him. Once he was outside and down the stairs, another bloke walked right into him. Alex dropped his books. The guy glared at Alex as if it had been his fault. “Oi, watch where you’re going!” My gut boiled with the unfairness of it all, but my heart beat a mile a minute. The warning bells had left me in a panic.
Alex didn’t say anything, only bent down to pick up his books.
Now’s my shot. I hurried over, bent to pick up the one closest to me, then grabbed another one before he could. He didn’t so much as look at me and I frowned briefly.
“Here.” I crouched down so I could hand the two books to him.
Now he looked up. His eyes were wet, a brilliant blue framed by black eyelashes. His eyelashes were as black as his curly hair. It was long enough to run my hands through, feel those locks curl around my fingers. I bet his hair was soft—it didn’t look at all as thick and coarse as mine.
“Don’t feel bad.” Though why shouldn’t he? Two different lads had just walked into him. On purpose. “Arseholes like him aren’t worth it.” Arseholes like them was what I should’ve said, considering. Alex couldn’t know I’d seen what had happened inside though.
Alex lowered his gaze to the books I still held out to him. As he took them, our fingers brushed. His skin was warm and soft, his fingers long and slender. He folded his arms over his load of books, clutching them tight.
Time to lighten the mood. “Wow, are you spending your entire weekend studying?” I didn’t believe that for a second, but I couldn’t call him out on what I actually thought he planned on doing.
He almost lost his balance as he rose—not so surprising considering the weight he was carrying—but he managed to stay on his feet. I would’ve caught him if he hadn’t. Or tried to anyway.
I’d stood too, hadn’t wanted to sit in a crouch when there was no need for it. He glanced up at me, eyes slightly narrowed, before he quickly bowed his head again.
“Do you want to walk with me?” I nodded towards the road. It was the only one leading out of the school area, so there was no doubt he had to head that way. “Or are you taking the bus?” That would make this more difficult. I was playing it by ear. I had no idea what I was actually doing.
“No, I-I’m walking.” He nodded.
“So you want to walk with me?” I headed towards the pavement. For a moment I was sure he wouldn’t follow— but he did. “I’m Andreas.” Best to get the introduction out of the way. “Andreas Lister.”
“Alex Eknes,” he muttered. I knew his first name, but I hadn’t know his last. Pretty name. Though not half as gorgeous as he was.