During English class there was always a constant murmur in the background, and this time Steph's talking partner was Joanne, who was demanding details about her date with Mark. I, on the other hand, didn't really mind being left out. Not being included in their talk spared me the effort of having to constantly look for answers to their questions. And so my thoughts went back to the images burned in fire on my memory. I still couldn't believe I'd been able to have what seemed like a normal talk with Michael.
We were halfway through class when Steph turned to me.
"Mari? Where's your cousin?" I looked at her unable to understand. My thoughts were floating somewehere so far away that it was hard to come back to reality. But, as soon as I did, everything else came tumbling back as well, leaving a heavy acid pain in my stomach.
"I don't know," I replied, thinking I didn't want to know, and Steph turned to Joanne.
"Strange. He told us he also had this class, right?" Joanne nodded. "He said he chose the same classes as you, Mari," Steph added and I couldn't feel surprised by that. "He told us that since he really doesn't have any specific interests that he'd rather go to the same classes as you. At least he's together with someone he knows."
I sighed. She really believed all that crap.
"Your cousin is super nice," Joanne stated with enthusiasm. "Not to mention he's kind of a hunk!" I couldn't help gape at her appalled.
"Well, he's definitely something worth feasting your eyes upon," Steph agreed with a malicious smile. "Did you see all the girls staring at him at lunch time?"
"Yeah! First Joe didn't even like him all that much. But now I think he's decided to make good use of the new chick magnet," Joanne said jokingly and I started to see a new problem arising.
"You guys ..." I started and they both looked at me, leaving me unsure. "You shouldn't get too close to him. He is not what he seems."
They were both silent for a moment, looking surprised at hearing me say something like that, and Steph ended up smiling, ruining the seriousness of the moment.
"Come on, Mari. We're just saying he's kind of cute. Besides, I'm sure he can't be all that bad. You sound like me when I talk about my brother," Steph added with a light laughter. I was left without an argument that wouldn't make me sound half paranoid.
The murmur that filled the classroom suddenly grew louder and heads began turning towards the windows. Someone even stood up to see what was going on, but when I looked outside, all I could see was that it had started to rain. Our teacher, on the other hand, went on with her explanation about the irregularities of the English grammar, ignoring the commotion all around her.
"It's him, isn't it?" I heard someone whisper.
"It's the new guy," another one said. Steph, Joanne and I immediately stood up and ran towards the closest window, standing between two other girls already glued against the glass
"What's he doing down there?"
"Who cares! He's gorgeous!" answered another girl and I trembled in anger.
"Isn't he your cousin, Mari?" asked the girl sitting by the window where we were all now perched, and I clenched my teeth, grumbling as I returned to my seat to grab my umbrella.
"Teacher, I'm going to the bathroom. Be right back," I announced and left without even waiting for an answer, certain that it would never come.
That idiot! What was he thinking?
I ran down the corridor and down the stairs, furious with the attention he was attracting, which would inevitably fall over me as well. Once on the ground floor I pushed the heavy glass door and opened my umbrella, hiding from the cold rain. I took a deep breath and climbed down the stairs where I'd fallen a few days ago, my boots splashing on the sopping grass.
I stopped a few steps away from him, unable to moving forward another step, knowing that if I walked any closer the fear imposed by his presence would take over me, threatening to overrun my thoughts. And I just stood there, watching him for a moment, making sure to keep firm control over my breathing.
Gabriel was standing in the rain, his face turned upwards towards the gray sky filled with heavy clouds, his eyes closed, a stone statue once again. His expression was surprisingly soft, his black hair trickling water all over his face, his soaking wet shirt completely glued to his chest. He might as well have just climbed out of a swimming pool.
"What the hell ... What the hell are you doing?" I demanded, making sure my voice was heard. Even from where I stood I was well aware of the strength of his presence, but also of the number of eyes watching us from above, feeding my anger.
"Feeling," he simply replied, moving only his lips that seemed to be kissing drops of rain instead of uttering words.
"What?!" I insisted, unable to understand.
"The rain," he explained, lowering his head to face me and when his eyes opened I couldn't help step back. They were violet again. I looked away, trying to escape that mesmerizing trap, and squeezed the umbrella's handle.
"You're drawing too much attention," I muttered as my courage quickly abandoned me. "Everyone's talking about you ... upstairs."
He laughed in a short muffled laughter, and looked up towards the bright windows as if he could actually see the faces of those looking down on him.
"Humans. So easily impressed," he stated with a slight tone of scorn, and his wet steps towards me left me pinned to where I stood. He stopped right beside me and the light tap he gave on my umbrella made me jump and almost drop it. "This thing. We can only understand how precious things are after we've lost them," he said in a deep voice and, to my relief, walked away. Even then I only dared move when I heard the sound of the glass door closing.