Then You Look At Me - Book cover

Then You Look At Me


Mind Your Own Business


I slam my locker and immediately jolt when I discover Tate leaning against the opposite one with a wide grin on his face.

I swallow, blinking my eyes like a broken light bulb while I gawk at him. His black hair is wind-tossed, and his golden-brown eyes sparkle with lust while he pulls his lower lip between his teeth.

I can’t help but notice how his plaid tie is loose around the neck and his dress shirt isn’t tucked into his pants as per the uniform rules. The kids here sure seem to do whatever they feel like.

“Hi.” He smirks. “I have been waiting to exchange words with you all day, Riney.”

I sigh, shifting to face him with an unenthusiastic expression on my features. “It’s Rainey.

“Right.” He clicks his tongue while gun-pointing his finger. “I knew that.”

I shake my head and begin to move past him, and he whirls around to jog up beside me.

“So, I am having this party at my house later. Free drinks, food, and tons of fun games you can take part in. You know, the clichés…truth or dare, seven minutes in heaven.

“And you might even get a chance to lock lips with a total hottie like me. You should come.”

“Wow, the thought sure is thrilling.” I fake a smile, and he buys it, grinning widely while scratching his neck.

“I’ll pass, Tod…or whatever your name is. I don’t do parties. I mean school parties. It’s not my thing. Plus, I don’t know you people, so…”

“Tate. My name is Tate. And it’d be a great opportunity for you to get to know me, then. I’m cool.”

“Mmm. Cool people don’t normally tell people that they’re cool. That’s just something that kind of speaks for itself. And thanks,” I wrinkle my nose, “but I’m good.”

He nibbles on his lower lip, his eyes raking me all over. “I can see that.”

I roll my eyes. “Excuse me.”

He slides in my path, his arms outstretched. “Wait. Well, at least take the flier, in case you change your mind.”

I shift my weight impatiently. “I won’t, but would it make you go away?”

He giggles. “Maybe.”

I hesitate, crossing my arms while I glare at him straight-faced.

He sighs. “Okay, yeah. It would.”

I accept it unwillingly, and he beams in satisfaction. “See you around then, Rainey.” He winks cornily before strutting away.

My eyes glaze over the paper. Don’t get me wrong, I go to parties, clubs, and stuff like that, but I refuse to mingle with the stuck-up population of Crosshill High.

I stuff the paper into my bag before heading toward the exit of the school.

A familiar black BMW is parked at the entrance of the large gates, and from the tinted glass I see Jeff’s ugly head bobbing to the music he is blazing on the school’s premises.

I roll my eyes for the billionth time today. My mom claimed she’d be back to pick me up, but as usual she’s “busy,” so instead she sends Jeff, her annoying pervert of a common-law husband.

After she divorced my dad, she started going out with Jeffrey, who somehow influenced her to start smoking pot and drinking alcohol.

I am not judging her, but now it feels like she pays more attention to a joint than she does me.

I keep my eyes away from the vehicle as I continue my journey, pretending that he isn’t there. I refuse to take a ride with the pedophile.

The horn honks crazily loud, but it’s not enough for me to acknowledge his unwanted presence.

“Rainey!” So he yells my name like a vulgar hound while honking the horn repeatedly. “Rainey!!” Kids shift inquisitive eyes between the noisy car and me, and I blow my cheeks out in utter annoyance.

He has no idea how much I hate him.

He gets out of the car and lurches over to me while I keep my feet moving. “I am here to pick you up,” he announces, pulling his shades off with a wide grin.

“I am walking home,” I grumble while my speed increases.

He grabs on to me to halt my steps, and I yank my arm from his grasp incredulously. “Fuck off, Jeffrey!”

“Whoa. Relax, Rainey. I just want to give you a ride home, that’s all.” He opens his palms and raises his brows while he scrutinizes the many staring faces around us.

He sighs, “Let’s not make a scene.”

“I’m walking home, and that’s final. Goodbye.”

His eyes narrow malevolently as he watches me walk away from him. Then he hisses while retrieving a cigarette from his back pocket.

He fires up the stick with his lighter, takes a long draw, and emits a thick fog of unhealthy smoke through his mouth and nose.

“Fucking disrespectful,” he grunts.


I’d rather have the long walk from Crosshill to my home than take a ride with that man. I get a chance to admire the mesmerizing beauty of nature and its elements.

I count the squares on the cemented sidewalk while I trod down the quiet street. The sun is setting, dispatching a golden pillow of sunlight, and the evening’s gushing wind flurries my hair around.

I grab hold of the hem of my skirt so it doesn’t go flying over my head like a flasher’s.

A familiar build draws my attention as I pass by the neighborhood’s police station. Ansel prowls through the transparent doors, but he isn’t alone.

A boy is holding his arm, a pained expression on his face, while Ansel and another guy who looks like an older version of him carry the injured guy toward a black car by the parking lot.

By now my strides have stopped, and I am taking in the scene inquisitively. Two other boys are hurrying behind them, and one opens the door to the car while Ansel helps the guy to get in.

The boys then all jump in with haste. Except for Ansel, who pauses. His eyes drift in my direction. I freeze in my stance, and heat rises to my cheeks when our gazes collide.

He doesn’t seem surprised. He just looks away from me and gets in. The car races away from the premises, and I watch it as it disappears down the street.

Okay, mind your own business, Rainey.


I open the gates to my house, and the sight of my best friend, Riley, pulls my puffy lips into a genuine smile.

Her hands are tucked inside her sweater, and she has a lollipop in her mouth as she gazes up at my three-story house.

I softly push my gate up and quietly mince my way over to her in an attempt to scare her from behind.


I stamp my feet, and she jerks away, horror-stricken, as she swirls around to gaze at me with wide eyes of terror. “Rainey! What the actual fuck?”

I crack up, holding my stomach as I hunch over in giggles.

“It’s not funny.” She scowls, but I can tell she wants to laugh as she sucks on the red candy.

“It is, and you know it is.” I grin, raising my eyebrows playfully.

She smiles. “You’re lucky I miss your crazy ass.”

I chuckle. “Okay, what on earth are you doing here?”

She takes the sweet from her mouth, feigning offense. “Aren’t you happy to see me?”

“Of course! I’m thrilled. How on earth did you get here?”

“Freetown isn’t far from here, ya know. Plus, there are these things called subways and trains. You know, the long thing that carries people around on a trail. Those are called railroads, by the way.”

I laugh, “Shut up! You’re still the same.” I wrap an arm around her neck. I miss my best friend. “Let’s go inside.”


“So tell me, how is it there at that posh school? Do you guys drink tea from silver cups and eat from golden platters?”

Riley takes a hit off her joint, squinting her eyes as the smoke fills the atmosphere of my room.

I shrug, folding my feet beneath me on my bed. “It’s boring. I miss Freetown.”

“Well, Freetown sure doesn’t miss you. Kendra’s been on your name since you left. Bad stuff.”

She passes the rolled cannabis to me. I take a hit, coughing excessively, and it’s her turn to laugh at me.

“Have you already forgotten how to smoke weed, woman? That school’s changing you already?”

“You wish!” I pass it back to her with a smile.

Her eyes glare over my uniform while she takes a short inhalation. She chuckles. “You guys even wear a uniform. That’s so…uptown.”

“I hate to feel ‘uptown’”—I frown—“even though I live in a house like this.”

I look over the room as if it’s my first time being inside it, and Riley does the same. My parents have money, good money.

My dad owns several merchandise stores in the country, and my mom has about five branches of her brand fashion stores. Even though money for me isn’t an issue, I’m never truly happy.

I got expelled from Freetown High because crazy stuff happened, stuff that would probably scar my image for my entire life.

What happens at high school tends to stay with you throughout your lifetime.

It’s like a stain you can’t get out of your favorite shirt, but you refuse to throw it away because it means so much to you.

My mom didn’t move here because it’s closer to Crosshill High. She moved here so she could be closer to the freshly launched store that she just opened in the district.

She couldn’t care less about me, mainly because I am not a tight roll of weed.

If there is one positive thing I can say about Freetown, it’s that it made me feel normal, like one of the kids. It wasn’t a wealthy institution like Crosshill, but I felt at home.

Riley doesn’t have much, but she’s loyal, and that’s a lot better than having material stuff. I would trade this mansion for a happy home.

“I’m still upset about what happened that night,” she states, and I watch how sadness crinkles in her emerald eyes.

I sigh. “It’s already gone. Why dwell on it?”

She nods. “You’re right.” She dusts the joint on a platter on the bedside table before she smiles brightly. “Change of topic. Met any cute guys there?”

I raise my eyes to the ceiling lights while I ponder, and Riley excitedly grabs the fluffy pink pillow off my bed and stuffs it under her arms.

My mind flows back to Ansel for some strange reason, his blue mysterious eyes beneath his glasses and his contradictory aura that leaves me confused.

He seems like a well-behaved guy who you wouldn’t find at a party, but then he has a tattoo, and both his ears are pierced.

I can’t tell if he wants to be a nerd or a bad guy. He feels like an equal mixture of both.

Then there’s that weird scene where he was taking that injured boy to the car earlier. What was he doing at the district’s police station?

I can’t read him, and I am normally so good at reading people.

“So?” Riley tilts her head to the side. “Anyone?”

“Well…there is this guy in my math class who sits right behind me. He seems nice.”

“Ooooh.” She grins, and I roll my eyes. This has always been Riley’s favorite topic.

“Then there is this guy that invited me to this party tonight—”

“Whoa. Wait. Party?” She sits up straighter, and her eyes flash with excitement.

“No, Riley. No way. I am not going.”

“Please? Why not? I mean, we party a lot, don’t we?” She pouts her lips petulantly.

“Yeah, but I just want to change my life,” I mumble. “I don’t want to be the girl I was at Freetown. I don’t want to be a ‘disgrace’ anymore.”

Riley slowly nods in understanding, and I smile a little.

A silence falls upon us before the door to the room obtrusively pushes open to reveal Jeff. His arm rests up against the doorjamb as he stares at us, obviously trying to meddle.

“Are you girls smoking something in here?”

Riley looks at me while I give Jeff the most infuriated glare. “You should knock and not just open my door without permission.”

He cackles, shaking his head. “Well, your mom and I, we own here. So I open whatever door I feel like. I don’t need permission.”

Riley narrows her eyes as she gawks at him, and I exhale heavily. “Excuse us.”

His eyes flash with an unscrupulous gleam, then his mouth lifts in a simper. “Okay. By the way, your mother won’t be back until twelve, so you’re stuck with me. And you’re Riley, right?”

He points at her, and she just stares at him unrelentingly. She knows how much I detest his guts, but she is unaware of the real reason.

“Okay, well, if you can ‘speak’ or understand human language, Miss Riley, I think it’s better to head on home. It’s hard to get taxis around this area past eight. You kids wrap up now.”

He pulls the door closed behind him.

Riley grimaces at his vanishing presence. “What’s his problem? He’s not even your dad.” She shakes her head and picks at her nails.

I sigh, “How about we go to that party?”

Riley raises her forest orbs to me, elation glittering in them. “Whoa. Are you serious?”

“Yeah. Shut up before I change my mind.”

“Yay!!” She throws her hands up. “I thought you wanted to turn your life around. What made you change your mind?”

My body rises in a shrug. “I don’t know. I just think it’s better than staying here until my mom gets home.”

“Best choice, Rain.”

I giggle, grabbing my pillow and throwing it at her face. “Whatever. You’re such a bad influence. Help me find a dress or something.”

“My pleasure!”

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