Soundtrack: Illusion, Zedd (feat. Echosmith)
My mystery biker, whom I’d officially started considering mine by Monday morning, had been on my mind all weekend. The only thing on my mind. Eli. Who was he? I definitely didn’t know anyone named Eli, but I was bound and determined to find him. So determined, in fact, that I left for school a good twenty minutes early so I could start my search first thing.
Student parking was practically empty when I pulled into the lot, so I took the closest spot to the quad I could find. With any luck, maybe Eli would be hanging out there. That’s where all the rockers, and most of the chopper guys, hung out together. And judging from the way he’d been dressed at my party, they were probably his crowd. Would I even recognize him when I saw him? I had no idea what he looked like.
The quad was already bustling with activity. I passed the skaters first, trading tips and tricks while lounging on the low wall bordering the courtyard area. A couple of the boys looked my way as I passed, and one girl lightly smacked one of the boys across the shoulder in a semi-playful way. He immediately dropped his gaze and mouthed, “Sorry,” to the girl who was presumably his girlfriend. Definitely not my Eli. He wouldn’t have been so friendly with me if he already had a girlfriend, for sure. I scanned the rest of the group on my way by, but quickly dismissed them. There was a lot of black in their attire, but no leather, and no one with the innate appeal I had sensed from Eli.
It was the same with every group of loitering students. No one gave off what I was quickly coming to think of as Eli vibes. Finally, I reached the rockers and bike guys at the far end of the quad. The scent of cigarette smoke and something thicker, earthier surrounded them, but no one was visibly smoking. As soon as I entered their immediate circle, all conversation stopped. And all eyes were on me.
I suddenly felt out of place in my Schouler floral dress, and my Wang heeled sandals. I’d spent hundreds on the shoes alone, and at least an hour picking out my ensemble this morning, but I suddenly felt terribly underdressed for the party in front of me. What I wouldn’t have given to be able to slip into Eli’s worn leather jacket and maybe lend myself some credibility with the kids currently eyeballing me like I was a lost tourist.
The urge to turn tail and flee was strong, but I’d come this far. Might as well jump in with both feet. “Hey, do you guys know Eli?” I address no one in particular.
A series of blank looks spread around the group. Some kids shrugged; one shook his head. Finally, a large boy with the beginnings of an adorable mustache asked, “What grade’s he in?”
Good question. “I uhm… not sure.”
“Sorry,” Stache said and returned his attention to the petite girl with dyed black hair sitting next to him on the grass. With that, everyone else in the group went back to whatever they were doing before I walked up. I’d been dismissed.
Well that could have gone worse. For now, I would have to let it go, go back to square one, and think of a new plan to find Eli. But I was determined to find him.
Getting to school early was becoming my new routine—if two mornings in a row could be considered routine. Just like yesterday, I made a circuit around the quad looking for Eli before giving up and heading for chemistry. The room was empty when I got there, and I took a minute to enjoy the novelty of being the first student in the classroom. It was the first time in four years of high school. Knowing me, it would probably be the last as well.
Not long after I took my seat, other students started trickling in. Roman arrived a full five minutes before class was due to start, and he acted like it was his standard arrival time. What must that be like--to be studious and conscientious and actually early to class every day? I couldn’t wrap my brain around it, but I knew just looking at Roman that I was sorely unprepared for whatever would follow senior year. He was probably all set, probably had his ideal colleges all picked out and all of his applications filled out and ready to go. Heck, he probably even had his college schedule all picked out for next fall. I could barely think about college without feeling like I was going to break out in nervous hives from the pressure. Nope, better to think about it later, much later, when I actually had to.
“You’re here early,” Roman greeted as he sat down in the chair next to mine.
“Yeah, I was uh…looking for someone.” Did I want to tell him about Eli? It wasn’t like Roman would be able to help me find the guy. I highly doubted they ran in the same circles; where Roman was all clean cut lines and freshly pressed clothes, Eli had been all casual hotness and dangerous allure. They probably didn’t even have common friends of friends.
Roman raised an eyebrow in question, but didn’t ask whatever it was he was wondering. But something in his soft honey-brown eyes held me captive, almost daring me to spill my guts to him.
The warning bell rang, breaking whatever spell Roman had cast over me in that moment, and I looked around the room, now almost full of students. The teacher was still out in the hallway, though, guarding the door like a sentry ushering in the last of the prisoners before the prison gates closed. I looked past Mr. Carson, out into the hallway, and my eyes landed on black leather. A boy I didn’t know was walking past the open classroom door, and he was wearing the same kind of jacket Eli had been wearing at my party. I leaned forward in my seat, trying to get a better look at him, but he was out of sight before I could take in anything other than that jacket, dark jeans, and heavy black motorcycle books. Just like the one Eli had left on my front steps.
At that realization, I was out of my seat like a shot and heading straight for the hall.
“Where do you think you’re going, Ms. Lennox?” Mr. Carson’s voice stopped me in my tracks just over the threshold.
I needed to think of something quick, before I lost any chance of catching up with maybe-Eli. “I’m sorry, sir. I’m not feeling well at all. I think I need to use the bathroom.”
He eyed me suspiciously, but didn’t call me on my excuse. I took his silence as acquiescence and made a beeline in the direction the boy had headed a moment ago. And there he was, turning the corner toward the math wing. A few seconds later, I skidded around the corner just in time to see him disappearing into a classroom two doors down.
And then the late bell rang.
“Late again, Katie?” Mrs. Harper, my guidance counselor, and the one administrator who always caught me late to class was standing barely a few feet away, arms crossed over her chest, eyeballing me like a disobedient child.
“I’m so sorry, Mrs. Harper. I was actually in class already, but I needed to go get something. I thought I had enough time before the bell rang.” I tried to look apologetic and sincere. After all, it was the truth. “Could you maybe just write me a pass back to class?
“Sorry, Katie. You know the rules. I can’t let you slide anymore. You’re going to have to go to ISS.”
Crap. Not only did I miss maybe-Eli, but now I was going to have to spend all of first period sitting in In School Suspension and miss Chemistry. And all my stuff was still in the classroom. Clearly this was not my day.