Motion (Page 32)
No wonder I was frazzled and confused. Since starting undergrad, I’d never taken such a long break from academic pursuits or my research interests. I’d traded order for chaos, knowns for unknowns, equations for unsolvable conundrums.
This wasn’t my world. I didn’t belong here. Here was Lisa’s reality, not mine. Here were decisions based on desires, not facts and risk/benefit ratios.
Also here, footsteps approaching.
My eyes flew open just as Abram rounded the corner. Acting on some crazed instinct, I shoved Moby Dick between my legs (ha! . . . that’s what she said) and picked up my mug, holding it over my lap to obscure the book from view.
My ruckusy and flustered movements immediately drew his attention, his handsome face turning toward me, his eyes scanning over my form as his thumbs hooked into his pockets.
“Hey,” he said, sounding and looking totally normal, where normal for us was now apparently defined as friendly and interested. “There you are.”
“Yes. Here I am.” I was attempting to hold the mug just so, which made my elbows feel awkward.
His eyes dropped to my lap. “Is that a book? What are you reading?”
I clenched my thighs around the novel, my voice higher pitched than I would have liked as I said, “Nothing.”
“Come on.” A faint smile on his lips, a delightful little crooking of his eyebrow, he wandered closer, making no attempt to hide his blatant inspection of my lap. “What’s the title?”
His voice dropped a half-octave. It had a flustering effect on me. Why must he be this way? Where are his flaws?!
“Hair removal for dummies,” I sputtered stupidly, moving the tea to the side so as not to spill it on me and Moby.
But before I could manage settling the tea on the seat, he reached between my knees and withdrew the book. CURSES!
Instinct told me to launch myself at him, like I’d done this morning, and take it back by force.
I didn’t. I balled my hands into fists, threw my legs over the side of the bench seat, and crossed my arms to keep from reaching for him or the book. Another tussle with Abram would lead nowhere good—depending on one’s definition of the word good—and there’d definitely be no interruption just in the nick of time.
Tossing me a triumphant side-eye and a smirk, he lifted the book and read the title. And then his head shifted back on his neck and the smirk disappeared. He blinked. He frowned. He squinted.
I cleared my throat, searching for a plausible lie. “After our discussion about whales, it looked interesting.” As I said this, I stared at my feet, but then I peeked at him to see if he bought my untruth.
He gave his head a subtle shake. “You’re lying.”
Lifting my chin, I kept my mouth shut. See? Lying was at the bottom of my failure pile, along with matching my socks and telling the difference between Taylor Swift and Katy Perry and Lorde; they all looked identical to me, but then I’d never been good with faces.
“You’re lying,” he said again, like this discovery was fascinating rather than worrying. “You didn’t pick this book up because of our discussion about whales. You’ve read this book before.”
“Fine. Yes. Guilty.” I glared at his chin and the ever-present potential for a wizard beard. I hope he never buys a new razor.
Abram laughed like I was strange, coming to stand directly in front of me and holding out the book. “Why would you lie about reading Moby Dick?”
I accepted it, careful not to touch his fingers, and asked a question instead of answering his, “Have you read it?”
“No,” he said softly, tilting his head to the side as though to ensure I didn’t break eye contact.
“Really? And after all your whale facts, I’m a little disappointed.” Goodness, he had pretty eyes. So pretty. So very pretty . . . I bet he uses those eyes on all the girls.
Once again internal monologue, STFU.
It was a struggle to keep my face free of revealing expression, but I managed it. Not that I thought he was, but what did I care if Abram was a goodtime guy? It wasn’t my business. And if it was true—which my subconscious seemed to be pondering—good for him.
To the point: Abram’s goodtime-guy status was irrelevant to me.
Okay. Good. That’s settled. Now all I had to do was leave. Time to go. Get up, get up, get up!
I didn’t get up. I couldn’t seem to make myself move. What I needed was an exit strategy. Brain-tussling with Abram about my favorite book was likely to be just as dangerous as body-tussling with him over a donut.
“I only know that stuff about whales because of my sister’s friend, Janie. She knows a ton of random facts.”
Perking up at the mention of Marie, I wanted to say, Tell me more!
Instead, I tried to think of something Lisa might say while searching for a way to extract myself from this assuredly captivating conversation. “She sounds boring.”
“She’s not.” A hint of irritation entered his tone. “She’s awesome.”
“Awesome?” I asked before I could catch the question, knowing I sounded interested. Marie had been just the best person ever, of course I was curious about her friends. Specifically, how would one go about being friends with Marie?
One of his reluctant smiles made an appearance, his eyes dancing, like he knew how curious I was. They were so very bright and engaging as they moved between mine. “Yes. Amazing. Brilliant. Surprising. Funny. Fascinating. Beautiful. She reminds me of you, actually. She—”
ALERT! COMPLIMENT ALERT!
I jumped up, bumping into his chest before maneuvering around him. It couldn’t be avoided. He was standing so close and I had to leave. Now.
“Okay. Well. See you later.” I tucked Moby under my arm and darted for the back door, a wave of warm pleasure rushing up my cheeks.
He thinks you’re beautiful and fascinating and surprising and—Wait, why was beauty the first thing I was happy about? Shouldn’t I be focusing on brilliance? And funniness? Beauty was irrelevant, irrelevant I say!
“Wait, where are you going?” He caught my arm.
I spun, my eyes going to where his hand encircled my wrist. He immediately let me go.
“I thought I might practice the violin again,” I said while rubbing my wrist. An arm grab had never felt so good.
His attention flickered to the door behind me. “You’re going to practice outside?”
Bah! My overthinking about his indirect compliments had me all turned around.
“No, uh, obviously not. I’m going upstairs. To my room.” Taking a pivoting step, I aimed in the direction of the back stairs, and said, “Fare thee well.”
And then I grimaced at having said fare thee well while endeavoring to keep my pace unhurried.
He shadowed my steps all the way down the hall and into the kitchen before calling suddenly, “I guess you don’t want to go to Anderson’s with me then.”
If I’d been making tracks, I would have stopped in them. Anderson’s? The bookstore?
But if I go, I’ll be spending time with Abram, which is a bad idea.
I swatted away good intentions and sense and I turned completely around. “Anderson’s? As in the bookstore?” I asked, doing nothing to mask the naked hope of my expression or in my voice.
I couldn’t hide them. No one was that good at lying.
“Yeah.” He sighed, sounding regretful even though his brown eyes were glittering mischievously. His lips remained flat, but that left dimple winked at me, a slight indent in his cheek. No wonder he covers his mouth when he smiles, that dimple is his tell.
But I didn’t care if he thought it was funny to dangle a bookstore visit as a carrot, I didn’t care if he was inwardly laughing at me. I wanted to go. I wanted to go very, very badly.
“I was going to drive over, and then grab some food”—he shrugged—“but if you want to practice violin instead, then—”
Newton’s Third Law of Motion: Symmetry in Forces
Unsurprisingly, Abram insisted on driving to Anderson’s Bookshop.
On the way, we discussed options for a post-shopping meal. What he didn’t know was that I planned to spend as much time at the bookstore as possible, so most of the lunch places he suggested wouldn’t be open by the time we left. I didn’t correct him. Let him believe what he wanted, we wouldn’t be leaving that bookstore until after closing if I could help it.
Upon arriving, I made a beeline for the nearest display, not caring about the genre. I planned to go through every single section, every shelf, every book. When I went back to being Mona, I would never take for granted the ability to go where I wanted, when I wanted, ever again.
Abram and I stuck together most of the time, him pointing out books he thought were interesting, or ones he thought I might like, or asking me what I thought about a title or a cover or a blurb. Eventually, I began doing the same with him.
It was . . . fun. I was having a great time, the comradery, the quiet, the whispers, and the inevitable snickering when we made it to the romance section. (My snickering, not his).
“What are you laughing at?” he whispered, trying to get a good look at the cover of the book I was holding.
I pressed the cover to my chest. “Nothing.” It was the most ridiculous cover—a cross-stitched beard—with the dumbest title I’d ever seen—Grin and Beard It.