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Learning Anew: Excerpt V

Aniya stared at her lap for two more seconds before she raised her head tentatively. She peered into Susan’s bright blue eyes trying to find the correct words to utter to her supervisor, and mentor. She doesn’t want to appear ungrateful but the confused mess of turmoil building up inside her made her sift through every word screaming at her.

Aniya finally broke her silence.

“Ahem. Susan…Susan I…I really appreciate everything you’ve taught me. Everything that I get to do here…” Aniya sucked in a thick breath. “But…was it…was it because of your relationship to the…”

Susan couldn’t allow her to go any further. She took a gigantic step forward and met Aniya at the edge of her simple but elegant office desk. Using the desk to prop her up at the rear, Susan leaned down toward Aniya and offered her firm but kind words.

“Aniya, every move you’ve made forward, since starting here, has been on your own merit. Entirely.” Susan slipped the tip of her fore finger under Aniya’s chin and raised it gently. “Don’t go getting any strange thoughts in that pretty head of yours about your promotion. You earned it. Earned it all on your own.”

Susan tilted her head to the side studying Aniya to determine whether her words had registered. “Got it, Aniya?”

Aniya vacated her own blank stare and returned to the present. “I get it.” Her voice was cold-without emotion. Without enthusiasm. She turned to look out the large wall of windows. “I think.” She muttered softly.

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Learning Anew: An Excerpt IV

A belly laugh tumbled out of her stomach. For some reason Johan’s words amused Aniya to the point of causing her to fold over at her stomach-laughing. It took her all of two minutes before she could compose herself.

“I’m sorry.” Sarcasm oozed out of her veins. “Um, because you’re the head honcho you think that it’s okay that you lied to me?” If the daggers shooting out of her eyes were real Johan would already been dead. He took a tentative step toward her. Aniya stepped backward. Johan remained put.

“Aniya, I’m sorry. It wasn’t my intention to lie…” Resembling a traffic cop, Aniya raised her hand up to stop him.

“I really don’t want to…I can’t.” She pressed her lips tightly together. “I have to get back to work. If that’s alright with you?” The sarcasm was back in all its glory. Johan’s eyes were half filled with regret and half filled with fear. Fear of losing Aniya forever.

“Aniya please. Please let me explain. It’s all on me. It’s all on me if you’re late getting back to work.” Johan kept his voice low, and his tone even. Aniya however, was poised to rush past him like a NFL offense player.

“I have work to do. Unlike you I don’t have the luxury of playing games.” She began her stampede forward. Johan planted himself in her path, attempting to block her. Aniya stopped dead in her tracks. Seemingly in slow motion, she raised her head and glared into Johan’s forest green eyes then allowed herself to gaze further up at the strands of dark brown hair framing his forehead. Suddenly she shook her head, vigorously. Those images had to be expelled immediately. He had to remain the ogre she only saw him as now. “Mr. Steinberg, seriously, I really need to get back to work.”

Johan hadn’t heard a word Aniya said. Not really anyway. He was lost in her russet brown almond eyes and the strand of unruly curly hair hanging over her right ear, that had gotten loose from her high puff-ponytail. “Mr. Steinberg!” Johan snapped to attention.

“Huh?” He swallowed hard to hide his embarrassment. “You know, Johan works just fine.”

Aniya sucked in an enormous breath through her nose and let it out forcibly as though she inhaled fire instead of air. She moved quickly. She maneuvered around Johan. Who knew she was so agile. So much more I have to learn about her. Johan swiveled around and tried to reach Aniya before she crossed the office door’s threshold. “Aniya…” He called out but she was already through the door interweaving among the people-traffic on the floor.

Johan sheepishly looked at the passerbys and shrinked back into his office.  He shut the door and leaned aginast it. “Okay…okay, so she’s quick. I’ve got to find a way…a way to make her hear me.”

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Life Passages XXIII – Truth Outspoken

“Devon this important!” Devon circled Samantha, each arm loaded up with boxes containing paraphernalia to re-stock the shelves at his Grandpa Solomon’s eclectic book and comic store. “Devon. Did you hear me? ”

Devon allowed one box to slip to the floor then laid the others down. He began unloading them but he still had not given Samantha any eye contact, though very aware of her presence. “Sam, I hear you. Really.” A soft chuckle levitated from his gut to his lips. “You do see that I am busy here, right?” Devon emptied his other arm and stood straight, facing Samantha with a playful grin. “What’s so urgent sista?”

“It’s Mads…I mean Madeleine…I don’t know. She doesn’t seem to care for me…We were shopping…she stomped off…” Samantha rattled on, pulling from her memory rapidly while trying to paint Devon an accurate picture. Devon’s eyes darted back and forth, and up and down trying to keep track with-what he interrupted as Samantha’s gibberish-and her energetic gestures. “Whoa! Slow down already. What the heck are you talking about?”

Samantha dropped to the wooden floor of the antiquated shop and crossed her legs. Devon’s eyes dropped down with her and began to fill with concern. Soon Devon was on the floor facing Samantha and sitting crossed legged like she was. “Okay Sam. Take a good deep breath and try again.” Samantha nodded at Devon then sat as straight as a needle to suck in a long hollow breath.

Samantha released it slowly. “Okay. So I asked Madeleine to go shopping with me today. I thought it would be good for her…” Devon spitted out a raucous laugh. “Good for her, or for you Sam? You d0 have a weakness you know.” Samantha was not amused by the comment.

“Not now Devon. Seriously.” Samantha’s eyes burrowed into Devon, almost burning right through his own. His shoulders tensed then straightened. Lighthearted Samantha was clearly burdened with her message. He leaned in again and dug his elbows into his crossed thighs. “Okay Sam. I’m all ears. What happened?”

A light puff of air slowly emitted from her nose and Samantha allowed herself to smile. Just a little. “Okay. So. I really thought Madeleine needed a friend…” Devon’s eyes grew to the size of tennis balls. Well almost. Samantha couldn’t hide the giggle that launched from her body. “Don’t be like that Devon.” Samantha pressed her lips together, puckered them out, then cocked her head to one side. “You don’t get to have absolute claim on  Madeleine you know. Especially when…” Samantha leaned back and contemplated her next words. Devon stared at her, anticipating the content of the thoughts churning in her head.

“Especially when what Sam? Just say it.” Devon leaned into Samantha’s personal space anxious to know her thoughts. She leaned away from him even further. “Okay. Okay. Chill a second. I’m not sure you’re ready to hear this.” Devon’s arms flew half-way into the air. “What? What does that mean? Isn’t this about Mads?”

Samantha fidgeted, adjusting her seating on the book store floor. She needed to be absolutely comfortable to deliver her next line. “Um…ahem…Devon…Devon I think you need to be very careful with Madeleine. She’s had enough happen to her. She doesn’t need you confusing her.”

Devon’s wide eyes matched his gapped mouth. “Wha…Serious…Samantha, are you for real? Confusing Mads? Me? How?” Samantha gave Devon the head tilt, puckered lips, complemented with piercing eyes this time. She looked at him. Staring. Bearing into his soul until she was satisfied that his heart was suitably prepared for her next round of candid deductions. “Devon, you’ve done a good thing. You’ve befriended someone who…who it looks like had given up on people. But you’ve got to be careful. Don’t ‘dine and dash’…”

Devon raised one hand and put his palm up near Samantha’s face. “Wait. Stop. Stop the madness. ‘dine and dash’? When have I done that?” Devon shook his head violently trying to make Samantha’s words make sense.

She reached over and gently placed her hand on Devon’s arm. “Calm down. All I’m saying is, be a friend. We’ve been just that for years. But if you’re thinking of being anything else…” Samantha  paused and took in a sharp breath. “…Madeleine can’t handle anymore disappointments, at the very least. Please be careful.”

Devon sat back, firmly on his tail bone. He crossed his arms and looked down at the polished wooden floor his grandfather waxed twice a week. His eyes traced every crease and crevice. Samantha sat patiently across from her friend, allowing him to mull over her words. Eventually Devon inhaled deeply then spoke. “Thanks Sam. I hear ya. I haven’t really thought about it to be honest, but I could tell…Well, I could tell she has a story.” Samantha nodded in agreement but doesn’t interject.

Devon slapped his thigh and laughed. “I can bet on you being brutally honest with me.” His smile fell off and a pensive expression took its place. “I am certainly going to pray about all of it.”

Samantha grinned and jumped to her feet. “Good! Cause there’s a real, live, breakable heart at stake here.” Devon was right behind her and on his feet too. His lips formed a warm smile. “Got it Sam!” Samantha smiled back and turned her attention to the boxes near Devon’s feet. “Need help?”  she asked. “Girl, do I? Come on.” Laughter exploded between them and they got to work.

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Life Passages XXI – The Inevitable

“Um, thanks Mads…ah,thanks for agreeing to move the conversation outside the coffe shop. You know with Sam dropping in like that and all.” Devon displayed a wide, but nervous grin as he looked across at Madeleine sitting next to him on the bench at their familiar spot in the park. “This way, no more distractions, right?” His smile managed the impossible and widened even more.He nodded, expecting a response but Madeleine looked straight ahead. She didn’t smile. She couldn’t. Her stomach was a ball of knots. She knew the impending dialogue was inevitable but that didn’t make it any easier.

“O-kay-ay Mads. This can’t be good. You don’t want your face to get stuck like that do you?” Devon was partly joking and partly concerned. Madeleine finally broke free from her worrisome bubble. She turned to face Devon. “Huh…what? I missed something didn’t I? What?” Laughter came bubbling out of Devon. “You are one of the funniest…and ah…by that I mean one of the most interesting people I know Mads.” Devon pressed on his stomach with one hand and folded, almost all the way, over laughing. A puzzled look formed over Madeleine’s face. “I don’t get what’s so funny.” Madeleine watched Devon’s body energetically rock and shake for a moment. “Nope. Still don’t get it.”

Devon straightened up and worked to control his outburst. “Okay, okay. I guess I’ll just keep it to myself.” He sat still long enough to look into Madeleine’s eyes, searching them for some inkling of what was stirring in her mind. “Okay, so let’s talk. Really talk Mads.” Madeleine turned toward Devon and her eyes locked on to his. She sucked in a long, deep breath then released it slowly. “Okay Devon, let’s talk.” Devon nodded, not taking his eyes off of Madeleine.

“Ahem. Okay, let’s see. Where do I start?” Madeleine fidgeted with her clothes and sat up straight like a pin. ” You asked why I cut you off…or was avoiding you.” Madeleine fidgeted once more. “Ahem. Well, you see…um, the thing is…” Madeleine shook her head vigorously attempting to reset her thought pattern. “Breathe Mads. Breathe.” Devon leaned toward her. Madeleine looked up at the lean but muscularly built young man who sat slightly higher than she did. “I’m breathing. Really, I am.” She forced a smile. “You see the thing is, meeting you in our school library was a…well a blessing. I see that now. You were a lot nicer to me than the other kids I met when I started that school.” She looked down at her legs briefly and crossed them in an “X”. “Then all of a sudden I hang out with you, Samantha and your friends and I begin to feel all kinds of…ah, strange.”

Devon’s forehead wrinkled and his eyes drew closer together. “Strange? There’s that word again. Strange how?” Madeleine cleared her throat elaborately, delaying the rest of the talk. “Ahem, ahem, ahem. Well…well, I began to think that…that just maybe I was jealous of Sam…” Devon sat straight up. “Jealous? What ever the heck for? Samantha likes you…” Madeleine turned her entire body toward Devon and leaned slightly toward him. “I know! That’s the thing, she’s great! Friendly. And I can tell genuine. All your friends were  really.” Devon’s arms flap around as he becomes very animated. “So why are you jealous Mads?” Madeleine didn’t respond right away. She settled back into her side of the bench and looked straight ahead in silence for what seemed like an eternity. Devon stared at her from his end the entire time. Eventually he broke the silence. “Mads? The truth will set you free, you know.” He tried to joke.

“Are you and Samantha like…like a couple Devon?” Madeleine spitted it out then covered her mouth with one hand. Devon’s eyes widened and filled with trepidation. “Is that why you’re jealous? You think Samantha is my girlfriend?” Devon swiveled his upper body to sit straight ahead too. Both Madeleine and Devon sat in silence, staring straight ahead for a few moments. Devon decided to disturb the silence. “Um so…um, what do we do now? I mean…” Madeleine’s neck whipped around and her mouth dropped open. “What do you mean, what do we do now?” Devon turned slowly toward Madeleine again. “You’re jealous, you think Sam’s my girl…” Madeleine leaned in toward Devon and hurled the burning question. “So is she?”

Devon began to laugh so loudly that it’s guaranteed the occupants of all the neighboring homes around the park heard it. A large eyed Madeleine looked at Devon in horror. The more she looked, the more he laughed. Soon she bounced to her feet. “Great! Laugh on but I’m not going to stick around and be embarrased.” Devon’s laughter was immediately cut short. He jumped to his feet and tugged on Madeleine’s wrist, as gently as was possible, to prevent her from walking away. “Mads. Mads, come on. Sam is not my girlfriend. Old friends since almost birth. That’s all.” Madeleine slowly pulled her wrist out through Devon’s grasp and looked down at her beige ballet shoes. “Oh.”

Devon made one step forward but remained a polite distance from Madeleine. He looked down at his new friend who was still staring down at her shoes.” Mads believe me, if I ever have a girlfriend you will be the very first to know. Deal?” Madeleine allowed her head to rise slowly with a smile. “Deal.”

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Life Passages XX – Meeting Of The Minds

The coffee shop door squeaked opened. Sunshine filled the room and ushered Madeleine in. She was adorned in a knee-length blue and white horizontally stripped sun dress. Her hands visibly trembled but she managed a half-smile. Devon jumped to his feet with an enormous grin. Madeleine spoke first with a bashful smile. “Hello”. Devon extended his arms straight into the air. “Hi Mads. You’re here…finally.” He stepped forward and placed his hands on Madeleine’s shoulders. She stiffened.  Devon examined Madeleine’s face closely. “Are you alright?”

Madeleine worked hard to mask her anxiety. “Yeah…oh yeah. I’m good.” She pointed to the table. “Shall we?” Devon’s focus shifted again. “Yeah, yeah.” He sat, leaned forward and propped his face up with the palms of his hands. “So let’s have it. What’s going with you Mads?” Madeleine looked down at her hands resting softly on the edge of the rectangular table. Soon she was interrupted by a noise from the opposite side of the table. “Ahem. Uh-oh hear it comes. I can already tell it’s going to be deep.” Devon taunted. Madeleine tossed him a crooked half-smile. “It really is okay to really smile you know.” Devon continued. She reclined back into her chair and allowed herself to giggle. “Always the joker, huh?”

“What can I say, laughter is like good medicine. I’m trying to stay mighty fine.” Laughter erupted. Madeleine snorted then reached for the napkin holder. Devon leaned his head back and joined her in the merriment. After a long two minutes of belly laughs Devon sat up straight and reached across the table. He took Madeleine’s hands in his own. A surprised Madeleine retreated so far back that her chair audibly scratched the ply wood  floor. Her chest vividly expanded and contracted and she sat wide-eyed staring at Devon. Madeleine’s fingers squeezed the edge of her chair so tightly that her hands turned red. Oh no. Heck, I am so confused.

Devon stared back. The usually jovial young man was lost for words in that moment. God, I think I just blew it. What do I do now? Devon leaned against the table and tried to speak. “Mads, um. Um, are you okay?” Madeleine kept her gaze on Devon a while longer before she spoke. “What did you want to talk about Devon?” Devon swallowed hard. “I want to know why you cut me off?” Madeleine inhaled, held her breath for three seconds then exhaled. “I haven’t cut you off. I have been busy.” Devon immediately rolled his eyes. “That line again? Really? Come on Madeleine. Be straight with me.” Madeleine looked down at the stripes on her dress. Her eyes darted from one end of her lap to the other, as though searching for the words to appear. She felt defeated. Eventually she found some words but didn’t look up at Devon. “Devon, um I don’t know. I didn’t mean to…I haven’t cut you…” She looked up at him. “Devon I feel strange.”

“Huh? Strange?” Devon hung on to every word. “Strange how?” Just then a burst of light fell on Devon’s face and a familiar voice shot across the room from the door way. “Hey. Devon. Fancy meeting you here.” The tall, athletically built Samantha reached Devon and Madeleine’s table quickly. Her face was lit with a huge grin and she slapped Devon on the arm. He looked up at her and offered an awkward smile. “Ah Sam, what are you doing here?” Samantha watched him curiously. “What do you mean? I always come here. Especially Saturdays. We always used to.” Samantha’s neck swiveled quickly. She turned her attention to Madeleine. “Hi Madeleine. It’s been forever. We miss you at group. What’s been going on?” Madeleine’s  eyes displayed anxiety, even fear, while her lips curled into a smile.

Madeleine sprung to her feet. “Excuse me. I need to go to the Ladies’ Room.” Devon stood too. “Mads…” Madeleine put her hand up toward him. She kept her voice soft and steady. “Devon, it’s just the bathroom. I’ll be back.” Devon chuckled. “I hope so. You’re an escape expert.” Madeleine chuckled too and headed in the direction of the restrooms. Samantha’s eyes followed Madeleine for a fleeting moment then she dropped into her vacant chair. “Why do I get the feeling that I interrupted something here.” Devon pressed his lips together and shot Samantha an accusatory glance. He looked down at his hands resting on the table then back at Samantha. His tone was soft. “That’s because you did Sam. That’s because you did.” An astonished Samantha could barely speak. “Oh!”
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Life Passages XIX – Settlement

Devon spotted Madeleine right away. He broke into a sprightly jog across the school front yard. He was oblivious to the people lounging on the grass. He skipped over them with ease and made a bee line to Madeleine. She didn’t see, nor hear him approaching. Madeleine wore huge pink and white headphones that sat on top of her head with a cord that ran into the side pocket of her contrasting red and black plaid backpack.  Devon reached Madeleine quickly and tapped on the arm nearest him firmly, with enthusiasm.  “Ow!” Madeleine immediately jumped back and instinctively slapped Devon on his arm. “What the…what is wrong with you?” She rubbed her aching arm and grimaced.

“Oh man. Mads I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…Shoot. I was just so excited to see you.” Madeleine glared at Devon. Her expression was frozen in displeasure.

“Is that how you greet someone you’re excited to see? Geez! I’m sure I’m bruised.” Madeleine’s face scrunched up even more from the pain. Devon drew close to her and attempted to examine her arm. “Don’t touch me!” Madeleine hopped backwards, one step away from Devon.  His lips formed a frown and his forehead wrinkled. Devon dropped his hands to his sides in defeat.

“Mads, I’m really sorry. I just…I just…Well, what’s being going on with you? Why have you been avoiding me? A silly grin took shape on Devon’s face. “You know it’s just plain rude to ignore texts and not return phone calls, right?” Madeleine looked into Devon’s face. There she found a sweet smile and immediately became entranced by the soft pool of big bright brown eyes. After a long five seconds Madeleine shaked her head quickly and returned to the here and now.

“I…um…I have…I have been busy.” Madeleine found her voice, straightened her crooked posture and adjusted her headphones to fit firmly on her head again. “Look, I have to go.” Madeleine put one foot forward . She attempted to get away. Devon carefully touched her arm.

“Wait. You’re doing it again. You’re running off…” Devon leaped forward and stood in front of Madeleine, facing her. He searched her face quickly, sighed and dropped his shoulders. “Madeleine, what’s really going on?” Madeleine looked past Devon. She gazed at students going in and out the building.

“Devon, I have to go. I have a meeting with my counselor now.” She forced herself to be free of emotion and appear matter-of-fact but her body trembled a little from the effort. Devon slid over slightly to his left blocking Madeleine’s line of vision. He began to form a stooping position and looked up into her face. Madeleine felt Devon’s breath on her face. He’s so close. She looked down at him. Her face appeared stern but only barely camouflaged a smile, struggling to stay hidden. “I do…I do really have to go.” Her tone was soft and a smile began to peek out from behind her tough exterior.

“There it is! I see the Mads I know. I knew my pal was still in there.” Devon flashed a wide grin. Madeleine’s stomach flipped at the sight of it. She advanced forward again. Devon quickly grabbed her wrist, but with the utmost careful dexterity so not to hurt her again. “Can we talk…please. Can we settle this Mads? Whatever it is.” Madeleine sighed loudly as she dropped her head. She knew this day would come, but was she ready for it? Was she ready to confront the person who was responsible for so many frightening and unexplained emotions that were at war within her? She slowly raised her head again.

“Okay Devon. Okay. Let’s settle this.”

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Life Passages XIV – Breaking Ground

Madeleine sits on a wooden bench, under a humungous tree. It has foliage so thick that it provides ample shade for reading. Madeleine has taken her favorite past time-actually obsession, to the park two blocks away from home. She throws herself  into the graphic novel she purchased at Solomon’s bookstore. It is her third go at the book, since she purchased it two days ago.

She looked forward to escaping school, and sitting at the park all day. It has been quite a feat to avoid Devon though. Aside from several text messages, and  a few missed calls, he near followed her around the school halls-besides during classes-today. The evening following Madeliene’s odd departure from his grandfather’s store, the day before yesterday, Devon spent a great deal of time processing what occurred. He eventually gave up working things out on his own, and had a talk with Solomon the next evening.

“I get the impression Madeleine was startled Devon.” Solomon begins to offer his opinion.

“Startled at what Grandpa? I told her I would meet her here after basketball practice. She knew I would show up.” Devon interjects.

“Yes, but did she expect your posse?” Solomon says with a smile.

It’s as though a light comes on in Devon’s 17 year old brian. He pauses. He ponders. “No…no she didn’t.” Devon hangs his head, almost ashamed that he wasn’t more in tune to that. “I forget…Mads likes to get lost in books. She’s not big on crowds.” Devon sums up. He begins to recall how he met Madeleine. It was while he, himself escaped to the school library to parttake in his love of reading, in private. Devon works hard to live in between two worlds-and keep them seperate. He took great lengths to not let his basketball buddies into his “book sphere”, but that infamous day, when they scared Madeleine away, they had pestered him about where he was running off to, where he goes when he suddenly disappears, and some more taunts. He couldn’t shake them.

Devon eventually gave in. He thought, Well it’s only the comic books, and they’re cool, so why not. Still, he forgot that the Madeleine he met, that day in the library, was more like the book nerd side of him. As a matter of fact, while speaking with his grandfather, he realizes that he had not really seen Madeleine hanging out with anyone else at school. “I guess my first thought to keep my ‘two worlds’ separate was the right one.” He concludes. Solomon chuckles.

“Don’t worry too much, son. Give Madeleine a call…straighten everything out. I’m sure she’d understand.” Solomon begun to advise. “But Devon, I sense Madeleine had a reason, bigger than you, for walking out. Be patient.” Devon nodded.

Today, Devon tries his very best to catch up with Madeleine, to explain his side of things to her. She eludes him so well, you would think she’s had expert training in covert ops. Devon doesn’t give up. He’s quite crafty himself. He foregoes one afternoon of practice, and manages to follow Madeleine’s seemingly evasive trail to the park.

“Hey!” Devon says apprehensively to Madeleine, looking down at her sitting on the park bench.

Madeleine lifts her head slowly. “What are you doing here?” She says surprised that Devon was able to catch up with her.

“Um, I…What’s up? You left Grandpa’s store in hurry the other day.” Devon answers, working to regain his confidence.

Madeleine rolls her eyes, and shakes her head. She just wants to be left alone. She hasn’t known Devon that long, and severing whatever friendship they were building now, is for the best, as far as she is concerned.

“Just forget about it, alright?” Madeleine insists.

Devon grows impatient. “What do you mean, forget about it!”

Devon’s tone startles Madeleine. She looks up at him to find a genuinely confused expression on his face. She looks down at her book again. Then makes a second attempt to shake Devon off. “I needed to leave. I had somewhere to be. It’s not a big deal, so don’t make it one, okay?” Madeleine tells him. Then before Devon can utter one other word Madeleine quips, “Besides you had tons of company, so what difference does it make?”

“There it is! I knew it!” Devon stands directly in front of Madeleine now. He is still looking down at her. “You had a problem with my friends.” Devon delivers.

Madeleine looks up at Devon. She is upset, but refuses to invest any more emotion in to the situation. Well, at least not demonstrate any for Devon’s benefit. She slowly stands to her feet. Still not quite eye to eye with Devon, she looks into his radiant brown eyes. “You’re interrupting me. I’m trying to read. So, I’m going to leave.” Madeleine says nonchalantly, and begins to step away from Devon.

“So that’s it? I’m interrupting your reading? That’s all?” Devon says with a chuckle, then leaps forward toward Madeleine, and begins to walk alongside her. “What’s really going on Mads?” Devon recalls his Grandfather’s intuitive suspicion.

“What’s really going on is that you’re bothering me.” Madeline says firmly. For some reason, Devon thinks Madeleine’s attitude is hilarious.

“Ok. Well, since I am already bothering you…For the record, I couldn’t shake those guys the other day. They were hot on my heels, and all up in my business.” Devon explains.

Desperate to be left alone, Madeline softens her tone. “It’s cool, okay? You have friends. It’s done. See you at school.” Madeline speeds up. However, Devon stops in his tracks bewildered.

“So, wait! That’s it? We’re cool?” Devon shouts after Madeleine. She doesn’t respond, or look back at him. She keeps walking, and fast. As a result, Devon jogs a bit to catch up with her. He doesn’t speak right away. He looks down at Madeleine’s hands clutching her book.

“That book is dope! I’ve read it like five times myself.” Madeleine looks down at her hand, grabbing firmly on to the book. She swallows hard. She remembers that books are what brought her and Devon together in the first place. She stops abruptly, and turns to him. Devon halts, turns toward Madeleine, and smiles. He observes a few strands of her reddish brunette, blunt hair blowing into her greenish brown eyes. He smiles. He assesses that just like her personality, she also possesses a unique appearance. “So do you like it?” He eventually asks about the book.

“Yep!” Madeleine says quickly. “Again, thanks for introducing me to your Grandfather’s book store. I guess I’ll see you whenever you ‘escape’ to the library again.”  Madeline says politely, and resumes walking home. Devon takes a large step, with his long legs and catches up again. “Aw, C’mon! You have to visit Solomon again. He’s going to miss you.” Devon says playfully.

Madeleine can’t help but laugh. For some reason, Devon knows how to make her do just that, even when she doesn’t want to. “It wouldn’t happen again! We can meet there on the days I don’t have practice, and you can go on the days I do, and I wouldn’t come.” Devon says, determined to regain the friendship. Madeleine thinks for a few seconds.

“It’s not a big deal Devon. Really! I’m glad for the reading material, but the library is fine.” Madeleine says thoughtfully. Devon gives Madeleine’s words some thought as well. “What are you so afraid of Mads?” Madeleine stops walking again. She turns to look at the young man, who has now turned around to face her. Her face becomes warm, and noticeably red. “I am not afraid of anything! I just want to be left alone!” Madeleine says, and stomps off. Devon shakes his head. “Here we go again.” He mutters to himself “Well, it’s obvious something’s got you spooked.” He shouts after Madeleine. She doesn’t look back. Madeleine walks on for a few more paces. Suddenly, Madeleine turns around. She is surprised to see Devon still standing there, just looking at her. “What are you doing?” She hurls at him. Devon shrugs his shoulders. He’s convinced now that his grandfather was right. To add to that, he fully understands the life of a loner. The life of an introvert. However, his love for sports is what drew him out of it.

Devon slowly walks toward Madeline. She doesn’t move. When he almost reaches her, about three feet away, he slows, and stops. “I didn’t always have friends at school. My grandfather was my only friend for a long time. Loving sports broke that but…” Madeleine interrupts Devon’s speech. “I don’t need friends. I’m happier alone.” She tells him passionately, and stares at him with wide eyes. “Are you really?” Devon replies, trying to stifle a laugh.

“Yep! Uh-Huh!” Madeleine retorts then continues on her way home.

“I don’t believe that for one-second Madeleine! You’re not going to shake me that easily! See you in the Library tomorrow!” Devon shouts after Madeleine as she exits the park and walks on to the neighborhood streets toward home

To Be Continued…

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