“Tell me again; why should I help you with this?” she asked the boy kneeling in front of her with a raised eyebrow.
“Because you’re good and helpful and applying for school captain,” he replied without looking up at her.
They were both hidden in a back corner of the library and he was busy fiddling with a little box and a screw driver.
“You do realise that if you get caught, you’ll be in a whole lot of trouble?” she questioned him again, her eyebrow seemingly permanent in its perch.
“But, we won’t get caught,” was the boy’s flippant response, accentuated by a characteristic shrug.
“I haven’t agreed to it yet. So, there’s no “we” about it!” she snapped.
“But, you will!” he insisted.
“Why on earth would you think so?” she exclaimed
“Because you’re good and helpful and…”
Finally, he looked at her and grinned. Putting the box aside, he stood up to his full 6 foot glory and towered over her 5 foot 6 inch self, which was currently glaring at him.
“Come on, Loopy! Where’s your sense of fun?”
The glare didn’t soften.
“You know you’re my last resort. I wouldn’t ask you unless I abso-effing-lutely had to.”
The glare sharpened.
“Fine! I can’t ask anybody else! And Christmas is only a week away and it has to be spectacular!”
“What has to be spectacular?” she asked, her eyes narrowed.
“This Christmas present,” he looked down and scuffed his feet on the floor, “Indu’s parents are getting divorced and she’s…she’s taking it really hard…I have to do something!” he met her eye and the desperation in them melted her heart.
“Who’s Indu?” the snap had gone out of her voice and only the softness remained.
“My cousin,” he said gruffly, “My best friend really. She comes home for Christmas and this is her Christmas present. I tell you, Christmas sucks!”
The childish affirmation brought an unbidden smile to her lips.
“So, what do you want me to do?” she took a step closer and looked up at him with a smile.
“If you had only asked that earlier, we would’ve saved all this time,” he said, taking a step forward
“If you had only been honest with me, we would’ve saved all this time,” she retorted in the same tone, taking her own step forward.
They stared at each other, unmindful of the distance absent between them, each challenging the other to look away first. But, his eyes went down to her lips a second before hers and he lost.
A red hue deepened in both their cheeks as they looked away simultaneously.
“So…So, umm…what do you need me to do?” her falsely cheerful tone did its best to break the tension enveloping them both.
“I need you to sneak her into the school.”
Lips. Curvy, pink lips. Slightly parted and glistening. Inviting and challenging. At the same time.
Jay shook himself and looked down at the ignored chicken on his plate.
“Dude, you ok?” Nikhil’s voice prodded him out of his reverie more than the promise of food in front of him.
“Yep. Just fine.”
Yes, he was just fine. And he hadn’t just been thinking about Loopy Laila’s lips. Not at all. Even if it did make for a snappy alliteration. He was a 16 year old boy. So, those could be any girl’s lips. Really. Maybe even a boy’s. But, most certainly not Laila’s.
Suddenly, his back straightened and his head cleared and his gaze focused. There she was. Walking into the dining hall, laughing with her friends, making a face at the food on offer…there was Laila. And she was beautiful.
He couldn’t help the groan escaping from his mouth.
“Was he looking at her?” she wondered as she laughed at something Mary said. After all, she had spent a few extra minutes in front of the mirror with her hair. And her clothes. And her lip gloss… she caught her thoughts and reined them back.
“Who cared if he was looking at her?” she thought now. She only wanted to look good for herself. Not for him. Definitely not for him!
She looked over and caught his eye. And blushed immediately.
“Laila, why are you blushing?” Mary was frowning at her from across the table.
“I’m not blushing!” an auto-pilot response was readily given and just as readily ignored.
“Why is Jay staring at you?” popped the next question.
“Maybe I have something on my face,” the next auto-pilot response. Then, “Do I have something on my face?” she demanded of her friend, glaring at her in a stipulation for honesty.
She needn’t have. She had nothing on her face. Mary affirmed with her reply what she had already known. Jay was staring at her.
She blushed again.