On Monday Anita’s message was still echoing at the back of Richard’s head as he dismissed his seniors at the end of class asking, “Miss Summers, please stay behind for a moment.”
She’d been unusually…meek all lesson, not giving anyone the evil eye and her answers had been less quick than usual. She seemed tired as she shoved her book into her bag and made her way down the aisle between desks to come to a halt in front of him. If she was in any way angry with him for Friday, she didn’t let it show.
“Yes, Mister Zeeman?” She asked neutrally.
Richard leaned against his own desk, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans. It was a habit he had picked up since getting infected. It gave him an additional split second to calm himself down if his beast was provoked before he strangled someone.
“I wanted to ask you something.”
She smiled wryly but didn’t comment.
“The first time we talked, you said you were only playing the rebel. Why?”
“So you wouldn’t yell at me for smoking?” She was intentionally misunderstanding his question. Still, Richard realized suddenly, he hadn’t seen her smoke since then. Come to think of it, he’d only ever seen her with a cigarette once or twice. Maybe Anita’s hunch was right and the blonde was truly only playing at the rebel. But she seemed so good at it…
“You know what I mean, Summers.”
She hefted her pack farther up her shoulder with a nonchalant shrug. She did a lot of those. “Since day one it seemed to be what everyone expected to me. I find that if you fulfil people’s lowest expectations of you, they don’t demand much else.”
It was a bitter world view, the werewolf decided, and much older than any teenager should be. And yet, as he looked at her, he couldn’t find defeat in her stance. She really didn’t need pity. She was…she seemed so strange. She admitted to having been failed but at the same time seemed alright with it. As if she expected nothing else. He just didn’t understand her. She acted like the bad seed, played with the monsters, as Anita would put it, was smarter than most of her peers and at the same time, managed to seem older than him on the rare occasion she actually talked.
She was a walking contradiction. Nothing about her fit. Her insides didn’t match her outsides, her brain didn’t match her looks, the company she kept didn’t fit with her social status as school as a loner. She seemed like two people at once and yet strangely…not.
Tiredly, Richard rubbed the bridge of his nose with two fingers. The full moon was coming up tomorrow and he was feeling thrice his age and exhausted to boot. “You’re giving me a headache, Summers.”
It was out before he could stop it. She snorted very unladylike, a surprised look on her face, but didn’t move from her position in front of him. He’d expected her to storm off like she had on Friday. “I wouldn’t if you’d just stop trying to figure me out.”
It was his turn to look surprised. But, he figured, while he was already at it, he might as well try again. In for a penny and all that. So, “Why are you on your own?”
He gave her a look, slipping back to sit on the edge of his desk. “You were on your own before.”
“You read my file.”
“I was trying to figure you out.” Jean-Claude and Anita both kept telling him to watch what he gave away while negotiating. She already knew what he was trying to do. No harm in admitting it anymore.
She cocked her head, analyzing him through impossibly green eyes, as if trying to decide whether or not to tell him the truth. Then, “There is no-one but me.”
Truth then. But again, there was that tone of voice, that something under her words. She didn’t expect it to be any other way.
Suddenly she lifted her left arm, tapping her bare wrist with an index finger and quipping, “Look at the time, I’m late for history class.”
She was almost out of the door when Richard asked his last question, hoping to draw out of her what the three shifters she spent time with wanted from her. “What do people demand from you?”
She stopped in the doorway, one hand on the door knob and answered without turning, “Too much.”
Then she was gone.