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Authors: Danielle Pearl

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BOOK: ReCAP: A NORMAL Novella
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I grab her transfer form
and drop it onto Frank's desk. "New student," I tell him, and then
sit back in my seat. He tells Rory to find a desk, and she finds
the one closest to the back of the room as possible, and I spend
the rest of the period forcing my gaze straight forward. It isn't
easy when all I want to do is prove to myself that I didn't imagine
her. That three rows behind me, there's a strange, tough girl who's
more beautiful than any I've seen before. I feel an unfamiliar tug
in my chest, a pull in my gut, that's vaguely exhilarating, and
somehow I know that this girl is going to change
everything.

****

 

 

You're Mine

 

N
othing has changed. And yet, it has. I roll my eyes at the
fates that assigned me to tutor Rory in calc. I lean back against
the wall and wait for her to show. I consider whether I'm annoyed
that this will make it more difficult to leave her alone - as she
clearly wants - or if I'm grateful to have an opportunity to get to
know her even though she said we couldn't be friends. I wonder if
she'll even let me tutor her.

Last week at Andy's was
pretty telling. I know now that that girl has been through some
shit. I recognized the signs right away, but it took me until then
to place them. Her anxiety, the way she caves in on herself when
there are too many people around, how she reacted to Tucker when he
tried flirting, the way she bugged out when Andy grabbed up on Tina
in the student lot that first day... and of course, her reaction
when I grabbed her arm. My hand inadvertently strokes the cheek she
slapped that night, and I feel that wave of anger that's flooded me
every time I've thought about it.

Not because she hit me, though I really
don't fucking like being hit. But because someone hurt her.

Actually, according to her, everyone did.
And I wonder at her meaning. In fact, I've been wondering at it for
days.

And then she's turning the
corner and I have to concentrate on not checking her out. I watch
her surreptitiously instead, strangely nervous. That second day I
convinced myself that there was no way she was really as hot as I
had made her out to be in my head. That I must have just been bored
as shit staring at the same chicks for the past four years. But
damn if she wasn't even more beautiful that second day.

Rory glances at me, barely, but there's no
acknowledgment. She makes to check the list posted to the classroom
door, but I don't let her get that far.

"You're mine," I tell her.

She freezes and swallows nervously, and I'm
a bit taken aback by her reaction, and, honestly, a little
offended. I've been respecting her boundaries - I haven't so much
as spoken to her since Andy's - and it's not like I'm the one who
assigned the tutors, and something about her being unnerved by me-
it makes my stomach roll.

"Excuse me?" she asks shakily, and I realize
she's actually confused.

"You're my tutoree," I explain.

The tension drains from her body. "Oh."

I smile at her, trying to
put her at ease, but then she tells me she wants to see if someone
will switch partners, and I scowl.

"
Why?"

She shrugs, shifting her weight nervously
from foot to foot. "Um... I don't know, I didn't think you'd want
to, you know, tutor me."

What the fuck?

She won't even meet my eyes. First she
thinks I'm trying to lure her down to the lake to screw her and now
she thinks I want nothing to do with her. This girl makes no sense,
and the only consistency in her assumptions is that she thinks I'm
a colossal asshole.

"And
why
wouldn't I want to tutor you,
Rory?"

"Well, you've been ignoring me, so I just
figured..."

I must be fucking gaping at her, but I can't
help it. "You can't be serious..."

I wait for her to tell me
she was just kidding. Or explain herself. But it doesn't happen.
She really believes I've just been ignoring her. Like I'm the one
who didn't want to be friends with
her
. And it makes no fucking sense
whatsoever.

"Rory, I haven't been ignoring you, I just
backed off because I thought that's what you wanted," I remind
her.

"What I wanted?" She's actually confused,
which confuses the shit out of me.

I remind her that she's the one who told me
we couldn't be friends. That she told Chelsea she didn't even know
me. I tell her that I backed off because I didn't think stalking
her was the best move.

"Oh," she whispers.

"I'm not ignoring you," I say again.

And I see it. Barely there, but there
nonetheless - her shy smile. It's fucking captivating. My chest
expands with irrational pride.

"So can I tutor you? I could really use the
extra credit," I tell her. Of course, I'd get the credit regardless
of who I tutored, but right now I feel like this might be it - my
one chance at getting to know this gorgeous, tough, nervous
creature who just slipped into my world barely a week ago and will
slip right back out when we graduate in a few months. And I'm
determined to take it.

She snorts and it's adorable as all hell.
She tells me she doubts I need the extra credit, and I explain my
and Mr. Frank's disagreement regarding homework.

"And God forbid you were to earn a B," she
teases. It's the first time she's braved some wit, and it hits me
straight in the chest. I smirk at her, because she's right - I
don't do B's.

"God forbid."

 

We end up working in the library for a
couple of hours, and it's almost disconcerting how much I enjoy her
company. She's also a pretty good student, and it quickly becomes
clear that she must have just fallen a little behind with moving
and everything, because the girl's smart. She's got the material
for Monday's quiz down quickly enough, but I'm enjoying our banter,
and looking at her pretty face, so I draw it out a little longer
than necessary.

We walk toward the student lot, still
chatting about nothing - everything - when Rory asks me about my
sister. My guard shoots back up. I tell Rory that she's
homeschooled, and hope she drops it.

"Why?" she asks.

I look over at her. Strangely enough, part
of me wants to tell her all about Bits and all the shit that went
down last summer. But this is the girl that doesn't even want to be
my friend, so confiding in her about something that personal
wouldn't be appropriate, and I tell her so.

She frowns, and stops walking, and I
immediately regret my words. The last thing I want is to offend
her.

"Yeah... um, so I'm real sorry about that,"
she murmurs contritely, that sexy little southern accent peeking
out. "Actually, I think I'm probably sorry about almost everything
I've said to you since we met." She laughs ironically at herself,
and I want to interrupt - to tell her she has nothing to apologize
for, but I love her words, and I can't bring myself to stop them.
"Look, I kinda had a rough year, and I'm still kinda dealin' with
things. It's not easy for me, even just this friends thing." She
waves between the two of us.

I can't help my grin. I
love her honesty. More than that, though - I love that she feels
comfortable enough with me to be so open.

"Well being honest is a pretty good start,"
I tell her. I want to touch her. To comfort her somehow. But I'm
painfully aware that Rory is not up for casual touches. And
honestly, it's not usually my thing either. "You know, that friends
offer is still on the table. Anytime you're ready, okay?"

She smiles, and this time, it's not a shy,
little smile - it's practically a grin. And I feel it again -- that
unfamiliar tug in my chest that speaks of something I know nothing
about, and the one in my gut that speaks of physical attraction,
but it's more potent than ever before. Immediately I know that
there isn't much I wouldn't do to bring that smile to her perfect
face.

"I was homeschooled for a while," she says.
"When we moved here, my dad didn't come with us. My mom needed to
work, so I had to, you know, come here."

I know why she gives me this small
admission. It's because I told her I wouldn't tell her about my
sister being homeschooled because we weren't friends. This is her
way of saying she wants to be friends. I want to latch onto it, but
I don't want to come across too eager, so I start walking again,
and try to sound casual.

"You're from Florida, right?" I know this
because Carl mentioned it to Tucker, and Tucker mentioned it to
me.

"Yeah."

"We're all going down to Miami for spring
break. The seniors go every year, it's kind of tradition." Great,
now I'm making small talk.   

"Not that part of Florida."

But I barely hear her. I'm going back and
forth in my mind, uncertain of what to say and what to keep to
myself. But I always keep everything to myself, and I want to give
her something in return for her admission, and honestly, it's also
selfish, because in some visceral way, I just want her to know
me.

Fuck it
. "Beth, my sister, she went through a bad breakup last year.
She's doing fine now, but for a while...anyway, she just fell
behind a little and it's easier for her to catch up at home with a
private tutor, which is why I'm so ahead in calc."

Okay, it's far from the whole story, but
it's something true - something real.

"Oh," she replies.

Yeah,
oh
.

I ask her if I'll see her later at Andrew's,
and she nods, making me look forward to that party exponentially
more than I had been.

She pauses when we pass the main lobby,
murmuring about going out this way. But I don't understand why.
She's been at the school over a week, has no one told her where to
park?

I explain that this exit
leads to the faculty lot - that the student lot is past the
gymnasium wing, but she nods, saying she already knew that, and
just walks around the building from this exit.

What the fuck?

I don't want her walking around alone in the
dark, and I tell her so. She seems suddenly nervous, as if she's
only just realizing that it's not necessarily the safest idea, but
I watch her bury her anxiety, and take a deep, settling breath.

"So, look, you saw me have that panic attack
my first day..."

I stare at her a moment before I realize
she's waiting for an actual answer, and I nod.

"So I have these triggers. I know it's
weird-"

"It's not weird," I tell
her. Whatever she's been through, whatever she's dealing with, I
suspect she's handling it better than most would, and I have no
doubt that these triggers - which likely have something to do with
her anxiety - are not
weird,
considering the circumstances I know nothing
about. And I won't judge her, and I won't let her judge herself if
I can help it.

"Well, it's not normal," she retorts.

I don't even respond to
that one. What the fuck is
normal
, anyway? Certainly not me.
Certainly not an abusive father and a suicidal sister. Certainly
not "rage issues" at fifteen.

"So, triggers?" I prompt her.

"Um yeah... I just really don't want to walk
past the locker rooms if I don't have to," she admits.

"Okay." No problem. Clearly something about
locker rooms reminds her of whoever hurt her, and if so, I don't
blame her for not wanting to go anywhere near them. "I'll walk
you," I tell her.

But she doesn't move when I do, and I
frown.

"So if we're gonna do this
- this
friends
thing - I need you to understand somethin'."

I nod. Hell yeah I want to
do
this friends thing
. I want to be around her. I want to know more about
her.

"Some of these... triggers... Look, I can't
walk out there with you," she waves toward the doors. "Not alone.
It's not personal, okay? It's got nothin' to do with you. I really
don't wanna offend you, like I've said before, you've been nothing'
but nice to me."

I watch her through her nervous, adorably
accented rant.

I recall our conversation from earlier about
where we would study, and how she wasn't allowed to have me over,
and couldn't come to my house either. I deduce that being alone
with me might be another one of these triggers of hers, but it's
not personal, so that means it's probably the case for any guy. And
I can understand that. A guy hurt her. And though I've no idea who
he is, and I probably never will, I feel a deep contempt deep that
transcends anything I've felt before. I want to beat him bloody, I
want to punish him for whatever he did, whoever he is.

"Okay, Rory. I get it," I say intently.

"You do?" She's astonished.

I nod. "I do," I tell her,
and then I offer her a deal. I tell her that if she's ever
uncomfortable she could just tell me, and promise not to get
offended or judge her. "We can even have a safe word," I offer. I
know it sounds silly, but it would serve the purpose.

She laughs. It's the most adorable laugh
I've ever seen or heard. Her lips twist up into those round cheeks,
her eyes crinkle, and it's sweet and real. "A safe word? What is
this, BDSM?" she jokes, and I chuckle in amusement.

"Hey, if you want me to
restrain you, just tell me, Ror," I joke right back. Though, the
suggestion slams an incredible image into my brain - one of Rory in
my bed, her hands tied to my bedpost.
Shit
. Not helpful.

BOOK: ReCAP: A NORMAL Novella
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