“I’m fine. I’m just waiting for Ricky. You should go
back inside before you get cold.”
Ivy appreciated his loyalty to his friend, if not his
dismissal of her. Deciding no one ever got anywhere by being reserved, she kept
her smile and sat down casually beside him.
“No way. I couldn’t possibly leave you out here alone,”
Ivy insisted. That did seem to get his attention, and he finally paused with
his writing, turning his intense gaze on her. Her mouth dried up and she
swallowed dust. He stared for a long moment before reaching out, running his
fingers through her hair. Ivy was so surprised, it didn’t occur to her to pull
“Why are you the only blond person in your family?” he
asked. Her face flooded with embarrassment as all of her old concerns again
came bubbling to the surface. “I’m sorry, that was rude,” he corrected himself,
his hand falling away.
“No, it’s okay. I often wonder the same thing,” she
admitted, patting her hair where he had just brushed it. He stared at her for
another moment before turning his attention back to his school work. “Why do
you study so much?” she asked, trying to turn his attention back to her again.
“I don’t have much likelihood of getting into college.
I know it will be too expensive. But sometimes I hope that if I put the work
in, I’ll have a chance,” he explained with a shrug. Ivy was surprised at his
admission, having always assumed he and Ricky would either just drop out or
give up school once they made it through their senior year. It had never
occurred to her that he would want to continue to educate himself like most
other high school kids.
“Of course,” she replied lamely. His attention wasn’t
on her, and she felt slightly dismissed. Instead of letting him be, she
examined his profile and found herself softening towards him. Perhaps it was
just the afternoon sun, but that evening he seemed less intimidating and more
like a normal boy, just trying to find his way.
“What do you want to go to school for?” she asked
quietly. She was attracted to him, but she knew nothing about him. He looked up
again, as if surprised. He examined her closely, as if unable to trust that she
was interested in him.
“Architecture,” he said after a moment.
“Really?” Ivy asked in surprise. He nodded, gesturing
to his notebook.
“Our school looks particularly good on an application
for college, and I’m hoping it will be enough to get me a scholarship,” he
Ivy nodded in understanding. She too needed to keep
her grades high to get into a good school and receive a scholarship. “Have you
figured out your senior project yet?” Ivy asked, knowing she was secretly
fishing for an idea for her own project.
“I’m going to submit a new design for the front of the
school. I know they won’t actually remodel, but designing something will be
good practice anyway. I’m also completing an internship at an architecture firm
downtown. My supervisor will inspect my design and either approve it or give me
suggestions for how to improve it.” Leon held up the notebook that he’d been
writing in. The page was covered with measurements, numbers, and small drawings.
It looked like organized chaos. Ivy was very impressed.
“Wow, I had no idea,” she admitted.
Leon dropped the notebook back into his lap and
shrugged. “Why should you care? It’s not like we’ve ever really spoken before
this year. We aren’t exactly friends, Ivy. If it weren’t for my best friend’s
attraction to your sister, you wouldn’t even know I exist,” he pointed out.
Ivy swelled with righteous indignation, preparing to
defend herself. Except Leon was back to his notebook again, and she had been
dismissed. He wasn’t hurt or angry at her. He simply accepted their
relationship. It was clear he hadn’t spent any time dwelling on it. She thought
about her behavior towards him over the last years. Leon had always been polite
and enjoyable company. But she had dismissed him, over and over again, in her
pursuit of popularity. He wasn’t cool to hang out with, so she had done her
best not to associate with him.
“You’re right Leon,” she finally said, staring at the
ground. “I have been rude to you. Maybe even mean. Ironically, whenever I have
spent time with you in class, either for a project or anything else, I enjoyed
myself. But you aren’t cool, and you’ve never tried to be. You don’t fit in
with my friends, so I snubbed you. I’m sorry.”
Leon didn’t say anything for a long while, and Ivy
finally looked up from the ground she had been staring at so intently. His eyes
were a clear blue, but she couldn’t read what he was feeling.
“But now that your friends are rejecting you, you need
someone else to pay attention to you,” Leon decided. Ivy gasped.
“No!” she insisted. “Look, I won’t pretend I was the
nicest person in the past, and I’m sorry for that. I’m not being nice now
because I’m bored though. Look, I don’t know what Ricky’s deal with Rose is,
but I do appreciate that he seems to be looking out for her. He didn’t have to
come by today, but he did. His involvement with her has forced me to hang out
with you a little more, and I’m glad that has happened. Leon, you’re a really
nice guy. I’m happy to spend time with you.”
Leon didn’t look convinced and Ivy didn’t blame him.
Would she be so open to talking to him if her friends were around? Maybe not,
but it was becoming clear to her that it was her loss, not his.
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