Stay Close(9)

By: Alexa Riley

She steps out, and though I am reluctant to let go of her hand, I do. I grab her bag and hold it for her as we walk onto the school campus. Large iron fencing marks the perimeter, and a courtyard sits just beyond it.

“Okay, if you come in any farther, it’s going to look like I’ve got a babysitter instead of a friend.” She smiles at me, and there is kindness in her eyes. “I’ll be at that bench for lunch, if you want to join me.”

She points to a space under a maple tree, and I nod.

“No pressure. Some of my guards didn’t wait all day, but some of them did. Either way, I’ll see you right here at three.”

“Have a pleasant day, Penelope,” I say, and she laughs a little. I love the sound and want to hear it again. “Did I not say that right?”

“You did. It was just kind of cute. Your English is really good, it’s just a little bit proper.”

I nod, not wanting to embarrass myself again.

I hold out her bag, and she takes it from me. Our hands brush, and for a moment we stand there, silent. The feel of her delicate skin against my rough, tattooed hand is unlike anything I’ve experienced. She’s innocent and pure, and I’m nothing like that. The thought should make me pull away, but instead I run my index finger along the inside of her wrist and watch as her pupils dilate. The black takes over the deep green and I can see the want in her eyes. I’m affecting her just as her presence is pushing down all of my walls.

Taking a step back, I break the connection and try to do what I know is right. I should keep my distance and then explain to Paige that I can’t do this job anymore. That I’m compromised in some way and can’t be trusted. But the thought of her with someone else this close to her rips my heart in half. She is mine. I feel it deep down in a place I didn’t even know was there.

So even though I know I’m not good enough for her, I can’t allow her to slip from my grasp. I want something good in my life. That could be her. That will be her. I try and reassure myself so I can let her go.

She walks away from me, and the distance that’s growing is maddening. I want to walk after her and have her talk to me more, have her ask me questions and tell me her most precious secrets. Instead of chasing after her I walk back to the car and wait.

Glancing at my watch I see that I have four hours until I can be by her side again. The wait is going to be agonizing, but I will do it. Because even a second in her presence is worth hours alone.

Nothing good can come from my growing obsession. Yet I know I will do nothing to stop it.

Chapter Five


I can’t seem to sit still as I fidget with the book I got from the school library. I’m not paying any attention to what my economics teacher is saying. I want to open the book and look through it, but I know Mrs. Smarten will scold me if I do. She’ll probably make me go to the whiteboard to answer questions she thinks I missed. God, I can’t wait to be out of high school already, though I know what will come next. I push the thoughts of college out of my mind. The large stack of acceptance letters are waiting to be dealt with, but I don’t want to think about it right now. At this moment, school isn’t anywhere on my radar.

I glance over at the clock for the tenth time in the past two minutes. I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited for lunch, and I love food. That’s got to mean something. But I’m not concerned with eating. I only want to see him again. I want to sit next to him and see how he responds to me. He’s so different than anyone I’ve ever met before.

I bite my lip to keep from smiling as I think about his little nickname for me. Then I wonder if it’s a Russian term that everyone uses. Kind of like we use “honey” or “sweetheart” in America. Maybe he uses it with a lot of people. Then again, I can’t see Ivan walking around calling things beautiful. I want the name to be mine and no one else’s.

He broke a piece of my heart when he said he didn’t have any friends. Is it because he’s new to America? I tried to lighten the mood by making a joke, but I actually don’t think that he cared that he didn’t have any. It was as if it was normal for him to be alone. I didn’t ask him if he had family. Or a wife. Crap.

What if he isn’t out there when I go to lunch? He didn’t answer when I told him where I’d be. The thought of him not showing up makes an emptiness take hold inside me. In all the time we’ve had guards on us, I’ve never liked it. Always being watched, always having eyes on me was annoying. I knew it made my parents relax a little and they weren’t so uptight when we had our detail, but I still had moments of rebellion against it.

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