Jensen pressed her back against the hunter green lockers and peeked around the corner. Her eyes met only closed doors, all except for the last classroom near the fire extinguisher. A choral rendition of “The Dog Days Are Over” filled the air, letting her know the glee club was practicing there. And since they were taking it from the top, she doubted anyone would be leaving the room anytime soon.
Satisfied, she eased forward, snagging her navy tank on the ragged hinge of a locker, ripping a tiny hole at the seam near her waist. She bunched the soft fabric in one hand, tore the thread away with the other, and allowed the tangled string to drift down to the cream and gray speckled tile.
After smoothing the tank back down, she tugged at the hem to inspect the damage. Tan skin peeked through the now thumb-size hole. “Great, just great.” She took a deep breath and released the air in a huff, deciding to focus on getting Shelby’s scrapbook.
Jensen strolled up to the locker and grabbed the single-dial padlock as if it were her own. She had never picked one before, but it couldn’t be that difficult.
She pulled the hairpin from her bangs and tucked the overgrown black and violet strands behind her ear.
After shaping the pin into an L, she swirled the dial of the lock clockwise twice and shoved the flat side of the hairpin into the tiny hole, sliding the pin around.
She tugged on the clasp. Still locked. A soft sigh escaped her lips as she grew more frustrated with each passing second. What could I be doing wrong? she wondered.
There was no way she’d be able to stay in the hall much longer. Someone would come out eventually, then the dog days would truly be over.
She closed her eyes and laid her head against the locker, allowing the coolness of the metal to seep into her skin. She imagined her revenge. The black hairpin becoming a skinny bronze skeleton key, the four leaf clover bow cool between her fingers as she slid it into the newly formed keyhole.
A flame sparked in the pit of her stomach, the prickling heat spreading throughout her limbs.
She twisted the key.
Clink. Barely audible, but nonetheless, a clink. Her eyes flew open at the sound, her shock dragging her back to reality and causing the hairpin to slip from her fingers. The clasp had popped free, spinning away from the lock.
“Call me Ms. Lucky,” she mumbled, reaching for the hairpin. As soon as her skin touched the metal, she yanked her finger back, shoving it into her mouth. The metal was hot.
Jensen thought it was weird, but pushed those thoughts away and opened the locker.
A wave of dizziness crashed down on her and she found herself leaning into the very source of her sour stomach. Her head throbbed like each lobe of her brain had entered a fist pumping contest.
She reared back and slammed the locker shut, backing away with her hand braced against the wall of metal for balance. She blinked and everything became more pronounced—the green of the lockers extra bright, the classroom doors an almost blinking white, like the world had suddenly gone HD and her eyes couldn’t catch up.
Something was wrong with her, but she couldn’t ponder that something for long. The sound of feet shuffling had her heart back-flipping in her chest. Unnerved, she turned to run, or more honestly, hobble to class, and slammed into a brick wall.
Liam. Except—not. The boy in front of her had pale pearlescent skin that shimmered underneath the overhead lights, his eyes no longer the cerulean she had come to adore, but a deeper, more vibrant blue that reminded her of giant sapphires. Tension lines bracketed his mouth, and his gaze darted up and down the hall as if he expected someone to show up.
Jensen found her eyes riveted to his face. She tried to count the number of hairs that made up his golden stubble, looking for something, anything to avoid dealing with the two things that had caused her breaths to come way too fast, and her palms to feel like she had dipped them in the ocean.
“What are you doing out here?” he asked, voice just as strained as the cords bunching in his neck.
She shut her eyes. They weren’t working anyway. But the darkness that followed only made her pulse speed up more, her heartbeat pounding in her ears. When she peeled her lids apart, she knew her sight wasn’t the problem because they were still there, still peeking over his shoulders at her. Still fluttering. Wings. Liam had wings.
He cocked his head to the side. “Did you hear me?”
Her brain felt like mashed potatoes and her thoughts reflected the mush. “Sorry, what?”
“I asked what you’re doing out here?”
Hallucinating. “I had to get something from my locker.”
He looked behind her and frowned. “That’s not your locker.”
“How would you know?”
“Because I know. It’s wrong to steal Jensen.”
It’s also wrong to be a vapid soul stealing whore, but nobody’s chastising Shelby about that, are they? “That’s not an answer.”
“But it’s the only answer you’re getting. Why do you care anyway?”
Jensen crossed her arms and rolled her eyes, hoping the movements made her the picture of nonchalance. “I don’t.”
He laughed, but the sound lacked in the humor department.
“What’s so funny?” she asked.
“Everything and nothing.”
“Well good luck figuring it out.”
“I doubt that’ll happen with you around.”
Jensen’s eyebrows shot up. She never said she wanted to be around anyway. “And why is that?”
“Because looking at you is like falling into a black hole—stupid, confusing, and probably detrimental to my existence.”
“Well, why don’t you just hit the ground and fly?” Her eyes widened and her hand flew to her mouth, tapping the stupid lips that had allowed the word to escape. “I mean, die already,” she finished.
Liam’s gaze widened and he closed the distance between them, his minty breath warm against her face.
Caught off guard, she stumbled backwards, slamming into the locker behind her.
Liam’s hand pressed into her stomach, holding her in place while he gazed into her eyes, as if looking for answers to questions he hadn’t voiced. Then suddenly, his hand dropped away, fisting at his sides. He closed his eyes and shook his head like he was trying to knock his thoughts through his ears. “Stupid,” he muttered, the sound soft, but the meaning all the same.
“Oh, so now I’m stupid?”
He opened his eyes and reached up, bracing one hand on the locker beside her head, then offered her the most famous break up line of all time. “Not you. Me.”
Something about his expression had changed. He smiled, just a sad twitch of his lips, but it almost seemed like he’d resigned himself to accept some miserable fate. He cupped her chin and leaned forward, his nose nearly touching hers.
Her breath hitched in her throat and she knew she wanted it. She would’ve given in, would’ve leaned into his lips—did in fact lean forward, but the sight of his right wing twitching above his shoulder had her hand flying to his mouth, and her body flattening against the locker behind her. “I need to get to class.”
Without waiting for him to respond, she dipped below his outstretched arm and ran away, not looking back even once for fear his wing might twitch again.