“Gabe? Dude, are you even listening to me?” I blinked and shook my head.
“Plans for the party,” sighed Kev. “You know, I thought you'd pay more interest. This is technically your party.”
“Yeah, sorry,” I muttered, glancing round at the new girl once more before focusing my full attention on Kev. “So, what do we have sorted so far?”
“Ah. Well, what needs sorting?”
“Food, drinks, music, a place...” said Kev. “So not much really.” I rolled my eyes and pulled my notebook out of my bag, flicking through the pages until I found a small blank patch.
“I can sort out the food,” offered Derren through a mouthful of cheeseburger. “We just want nibbles and such, right?”
“Yeah, anything for people with the munchies,” I replied, grinning.
“And we can get drink off everyone, but we'll each get a couple of bottles to start,” suggested Kev. I got a pen out of my pocket and in tiny cramped writing wrote 'Derren – munch, everyone – drink'.
“What about the music?” I asked.
“Jas can do it,” replied Rory. “But she'll need someone to help her unload her kit, wherever we're throwing this thing.”
“Why don't you ask your new girlfriend?” said Derren, wiggling his eyebrows at me.
“Who?” I asked. I couldn't help glancing at Aislinn again as I said it.
“Her,” replied Derren, nodding in her direction. “She lives up on the hill at Greenfeld's place.”
“She's his granddaughter.”
“Huh. Fancy that.”
“So, you gonna ask her?”
“What? Oh, no,” I replied. “Don't want anyone getting weirded out by the big creepy house on the hill.” What I didn't say was that I didn't want to scare her off by assuming things too soon.
“Ugh,” I muttered, gritting my teeth and turning to face Jen. “What do you want?”
“Just to know when you're picking me up tonight,” she replied, running a finger down my arm.
“You know, last week we arranged to go out for dinner tonight,” she said, her tone hardening slightly. “You do remember that, don't you?”
“Yeah, I remember, but that was before I found out you were fucking Chase behind my back.”
“Oh baby, I was only joking,” she said. Then she leaned forwards and whispered in my ear: “I'll make tonight worth your while.” Over her shoulder I saw Aislinn look over at me, then quickly grab her stuff and rush out of the room, Nate and Dexter following behind her. I pushed Jen away from me and stood up, crossing my arms.
“Stay the hell away from me, alright?” Before I could shove my notebook into my bag Jen grabbed it off the table and started leafing casually through it. My hands clenched into fists.
“Jen, just back off alright?” said Kev. He knew that my notebooks were my most private and intimate possessions, and not even he had read them. For Jen to just look through it so casually was one of the most disrespectful things she could have possibly done to me.
“I don't see what the fuss is about with these notebooks, Gabe. There's nothing private in there, just a bunch of doodles and random words and phrases. They're not even that interesting. There's nothing about me in there.” And with that she dropped the notebook into the bin and walked away to join Kayla and Hannah, her two little sidekicks, who were waiting by the door.
I carefully fished my notebook out of the bin and shook it to remove any crumbs, then put it back into my bag and swung it onto my shoulder.
“Where are you going?” asked Kev, starting to stand up.
“Just to the library to catch up on something, I'll find you later,” I said, already halfway towards the door.
When I got to the library I found it relatively empty, but even so I threaded my way through the shelves and study areas until I got to the little chair and desk in a quiet corner of the library where I was spending more and more of my time recently. To my surprise the chair already had an occupant.
“Aislinn?” I asked cautiously. She was slumped forwards with her head on her arms on the desk, but I recognised her by her fiery hair and the backpack that had been dumped on the floor. She lifted her head slightly, then sat bolt upright, her eyes instantly suspicious.
“What?” she asked, equally cautiously.
“Are you okay? What are you doing here on your own?”
“With your head on the table?” I raised my eyebrows.
“Why do you care anyway?” Fuck, she had me stumped. I mean, what was I supposed to say? I really like you even though we've only had one conversation, Aislinn? Or maybe I think I'm starting to have feelings for you even though we only met today, Aislinn?
“So what are you studying?” I asked.
“Why are you here?”
“I normally come and sit here when I don't want to talk to people,” I replied.
“Think maybe I was trying to do the same thing?”
“Oh, right, sorry.” Idiot, idiot, idiot. Of course she doesn't want you here. “Do you want me to leave?” Of course she wants you to leave! Just go!
“No, no, if this is your spot I'll leave,” she said, grabbing her bag and disappearing into the maze of shelves.
“Hey, wait!” I said, jogging after her. I caught her arm and spun her around to face me. She glared at me with her beautiful eyes and I quickly dropped her wrist. There was power in those eyes.
“Look, I didn't mean to piss you off, I just wanted to know what was up,” I told her.
“It's nothing, alright. Just leave it.”
“Are you gonna talk to anyone about it?”
“Why don't you tell me about it?” She raised her eyebrows. “No, honestly, I'm a good listener, and I won't judge you, and I promise I won't tell anyone.” Please, just let me help you. I'd try and fix anything for you.
“You wouldn't understand,” she said, and then she turned and walked away. She muttered something else that I couldn't quite catch, but I swear it sounded something like, “You're only Mortal.”