“Oh, shit,” I gasp, and immediately run towards the collision scene. By the time I get there, Shane’s already waved the cyclist off with the ‘I’m fine’ signal.
I heave a sigh of relief. Thank God, I thought he’d be badly injured or something.
“Shane! Are you okay?” I reach out a hand to help him up, but he brushes past me.
“I’m fine.” He mutters, and lifts the little boy off the pavement. “You okay, kid?”
The boy nods, mutely. Poor kid, he’s probably frightened out of his wits. Feeling sorry for him, I bend down so that I’m eye level with him.
He’s a really cute kid, to be honest. He’s got the curly black hair and bright blue eyes, and he’s got to be around four years old.
I smile brightly at him. “What’s your name, little guy?”
“Andy? That’s a nice name. I’m Beverly, and this guy,” I gesture to Shane, who’s standing next to me, watching us in silence. “He’s Shane.”
The corners of Andy’s mouth lifts up into a shy smile, but before he can say anything, someone comes running up.
“Andy!” A tall, dark-haired guy lifts Andy into his arms. “Damn it, where the hell did you go? Shit, you’ve got me so worried, kiddo.”
When the guy turns around, I realise that he’s not much older than I am. I immediately notice the similarities between Andy and the guy. They’ve both got black hair, although the guy’s hair is straight and rumpled in a very messy, sexy manner.
It’s a good thing Tamara or Dani aren’t here with me. They’d probably swoon at the sight of this guy. He’s that gorgeous.
“Thanks for looking after him,” The guy smiles tiredly at us, his arms wrapped tightly around Andy.
I smile and shake my head. “That’s okay. Kids these days, they tend to be a little more hyper-active. Andy’s your kid?” I can’t help but add. I mean, seriously, this guy’s probably in college right now.
He nods. “Yeah, he’s mine, alright. This little monkey runs everywhere and I can never keep tabs on him. I turn my back on him at the bakery for one second and he next second, he’s completely vanished.”
“That’s great parenting.” Shane remarks, dryly, from beside me.
“What?” The guy raises an eyebrow.
“You’re just not a good parent, that’s all,” Shane says, wryly. “You should just admit it, instead of giving some crappy reasons about how your son runs all around the place. Next thing, you’ll be saying that he’s got Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility.”
“Shane!” I hiss, glaring at him. How can he say such a thing?! He’s obviously still pissed at his own father, and now he’s taking it out on some random teenage Dad.
I turn back to the guy. “I’m so, so sorry. Shane doesn’t mean what he said. He’s just in a bad mood today, that’s all.”
“No, it’s fine,” The guy laughs genially. “I’m not a good parent. It’s true. But,” He stares hard at Shane, “At least I’m trying.”
Andy starts fidgeting about, and the guy turns to leave. But he looks back at Shane at the last minute. “And that’s what really matters, isn’t it? I’m trying to be a good Dad to my boy.”
In silence, Shane and I watch the two of them leave.
And then, I turn to look at Shane. “Your Dad’s trying too, Shane. I don’t necessarily agree with the way he’s doing it, and I certainly don’t think he should get custody of you and Sierra. But in his own fumbling, stupid way, he’s trying to give you a better life. That’s what Dad’s do.”
When Shane doesn’t say anything, I sigh. Damn it, he’s so freaking stubborn sometimes. I turn to leave, but Shane catches me by my wrist.
I turn around.
“I’m sorry for blowing up.” He says quietly. “I just…I don’t know. I hate him so much, but…”
“It’s fine,” I smile softly, and reach up the give him a tight hug. He smells amazing, as usual, and, as his arms encircle my waist tightly, my heart speeds up, and I can literally feel myself falling for this guy. Hard.
Not now, Bev, I remind myself once again, not now. In fact, not ever.
Tamara’s banging on the front door at twelve noon on Sunday – yes, she’s one of those girls who’s always punctual – and demands to know what the hell happened to Shane that was so important that I had to ditch her for him.
“And,” She adds, narrowing her eyes at me, “I want details. Details.”
“Okay.” I can’t possibly tell her about Shane’s problems with his Dad. So I settle for the next best thing. “I met a hottie.”
Her eyes immediately brighten. Bingo. “A hottie? Who? What’s his name? Where does he live? How old is he? Does he have a girlfriend?”
“Tamara, if I knew the answers to all these questions, I’d be labelled a stalker.”
“So what? That’s…” She glares at me. “…not the point, Bev! You’re digressing and you’re doing it on purpose. Now, I want to know what happened between you and Shane yesterday. Did he confess his undying love to you and present you with a shrivelled rose that bloomed the instant your lips met?”
To say Tamara is dramatic would be an understatement.
“None of the above. Shane just had…some…problems.” I shrug. “No biggie.”
“Problems?” Her ears perk up at the word. “What? Is he having problems with his sexuality or something? I knew it! I knew he was always gay. Either gay, or in love with you, because he never ever has a girlfriend despite being so freaking hot!”
“Would you please shut up for a second?” I beg – yes, beg – her, and throw my pillow at her. “Shane just has some…family problems, okay?”
Tamara immediately subsides at my serious tone. She knows that Shane’s family problems are a touchy subject with him as well as with me, and she’s not going to press it.
“Fine.” She sighs, but then, her eyes brighten again. “Ooh, I forgot to tell you something, Bev!”
“Do you know what I heard during cheer practise the other day?”
I roll my eyes, and reach for the dark blue bottle of nail-polish on my dresser. “Of course I don’t know. You haven’t even told me yet.”
Tamara automatically takes the bottle from me, and starts painting my toenails. “Well, us cheerleaders were having practise on the field that day, and it so happened that the soccer dudes were practising on the other half of the field.”
“So, I was talking to Jill about some random thing, but I overhead the soccer guys ragging Shane. They were asking him who ‘that girl was’.”
My head immediately snaps up. “What girl?”
“Apparently, Shane’s got a girl he plans to ask to prom. But he hasn’t gotten down to asking her yet. Can you imagine? The most popular guy in school doesn’t have the guts to ask some random girl! The other guys were teasing Shane about it, and he was just laughing along with them.”
“I’ve heard of that girl.” I say, quietly, my focus on my toenails.
Tamara glances up sharply. “You have?”
“Yeah. Shane told me about her. He hasn’t asked her yet, because he thinks she doesn’t like him that much.”
“Which seems pretty impossible, if you ask me. I mean, what girl would be able to completely resist Shane?”
“Well, if you ask me, it seems pretty possible,” When I glance up, Tamara’s got a wicked gleam in her eyes. “What girl would be able to completely resist Shane? Duh, that’s easy.”
“Well, you, of course.”
“I’ve got it all figured out.” Shane says to me, the following Monday.
After Chemistry lesson, he asks me if I’d like to join him for ice-cream. Of course I say yes. Why should I say no to a guy whom I’m falling hard for?
I take a large bite out of my fudge-flavoured ice-cream. “You’ve got what figured out?”
“The problem with my Dad.”
I eye him a little warily. The last time, he had some serious vendetta against his Dad. What’s he going to suggest this time?
“Don’t look so worried.” He smiles lightly, and reaches across the table to take my hand. “I called Dad yesterday. I told him that I’d like to live with Mom. I think I’m old enough to make that decision for myself, Sierra too.”
I grin. “That’s great, Corelli. What’d he say?”
“He sounded disappointed, I guess. But he knew I wasn’t going to change my mind anytime soon. He told me he’d keep in touch.”
“That’s great. Good for you, Corelli.” Spooning some ice-cream into my mouth, I lean across the table to steal some of his brownie-batter ice-cream.
“Come on, Bevvy,” He chuckles. “Just admit that you’re way happier than you pretend you are. You were so afraid I was going to leave you for LA, weren’t you?”
I glare. “Have I told you I hate you recently?”
“Have I told you I love you recently?”
I ignore his comment. My conversation with Tamara comes to mind, and on impulse, I ask, “So, who’s that girl your soccer friends were ragging you about?”
“Girl?” He looks apprehensive. “What girl?”
“Don’t give me that, Corelli. That girl you were hoping to ask to the dance. News travels fast in this school.”
He looks away from me, looks out of the window. “Uhm…I haven’t exactly asked her yet.”
“What?” I ask, surprised, even though I feel so, so crushed on the inside. I hurt really badly inside, and I wish I could just curl up and die. There’s a girl Shane likes, and I’m practically invisible to him. “You should totally ask her. Now. Or it’ll be too late.”
“Why?” He looks startled.
“Well, because for you to like her, she must be pretty. And that means tons of guys would want to ask her out too.”
“Okay,” He says, simply. After a moment of silence, he turns to look at me. “Are you going to the dance with anyone?”
“Me? I won’t be going to the dance, Corelli. No one’s asked me, and I doubt anyone will. Besides, it’s all just some stupid dress-up party.” I turn to glance out of the window, so I wouldn’t have to look at him.
But of course I don’t mean that. I don’t mean anything I’ve said. What I mean to say is, no one has asked me yet. No one will ask me.
Because I’m invisible. Always was, always have been, always will be.