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Watch Me Follow
Author: Harloe Rae

Ryker

For the first time in my life, I don't feel alone. This blinding ray of sunshine has suddenly appeared in the form of a beautiful girl.

SHE’S SMILING AT me.

Lennon Bennett is the most beautiful creature to ever grace this fucked up planet and she’s currently turned around in her seat, grinning at me.

That’s never happened before so I’m not sure how to react. I fight the initial urge to shield my face with the thick curtain of hair tucked behind my ear because I want her to see me. Shock streaks through me like lightning as her unwavering stare stays fixed on me—the boy everyone always looks away from. I’m not prepared to handle this sort of blatant attention, especially from her. My heart threatens to burst as I’m consumed by her gaze but my face remains blank, like usual.

“Hi,” Lennon barely whispers. “Can I, um, borrow a pencil?”

Her sugary voice is soft but clear, sinking deep into my bones. Sweat dots my brow as I blindly reach into my backpack, refusing to break eye contact. My clumsy fingers fumble a few times before getting a grip on one and hold it out to her.

“Oh, uh . . . thanks,” she mumbles as red colors her cheeks.

Why is she blushing?

Confusion clogs any attempt at processing this interaction while I scan her flushed face. My head jerks in acknowledgement but my lips remain frozen in a flat line.

Lennon clears her throat before asking, “Can I have a piece of paper too?”

I carelessly tear a sheet from my notebook and offer it without hesitation. Her shoulders shake with a soundless giggle as she thanks me and takes the paper from my trembling grasp. Lennon doesn’t look away and I wonder what she sees as she keeps staring at me. After a moment of shared silence, she sighs heavily and the smile slips from her lips.

Before I can consider Lennon’s reaction further or try forcing a response, she twists back around and effectively breaks our connection.

I fucking blew it.

She talked to me and I said nothing, which is exactly what I am—fucking nothing. Why do I even bother? Maybe because the small slice of hope surviving in my starved heart believes she could be different.

Ever since Lennon started school here a few weeks ago, my thoughts have rarely strayed from her. Each glorious piece of her fuels my fantasies and drags me deeper into obsession. I’m totally infatuated with her, but what the hell am I supposed to do about it?

Keep staring like a creep.

Lennon’s skin glows with a bronze tan even though it’s still spring in Michigan. I'm not sure where she moved from but it must have been warm. She’s very short, tiny really, which makes protective instincts I didn’t know existed rattle inside me. Even though I never touch anyone, my arms ache with the urge to wrap around her skinny waist and pull her close. Lennon’s glossy dark hair appears to be made of the softest silk. The long waves shimmer whenever she shifts her head and constantly lures me into a trance. Her sparkling aqua eyes remind me of a tropical sea. Today is the first time her smile has been cast my way and the beaming sight is by far my favorite. Possessiveness has been slowly spreading through me but I’ll never be able to let her go now that she’s acknowledged me. The realization hits hard and knocks any remaining sense loose.

Not that I had much to begin with—at least according to everyone else.

I slouch deeper into my desk as the dark memories wash over me. Every nasty name in the book has been spat my way, but I stopped listening years ago. The verbal assaults all sound the same eventually, whether coming from my worthless parents or the jerkoffs currently surrounding me. The constant onslaught makes keeping to myself even easier. I’m not interested in spending time with people, mostly because they cause anxiety to perpetually pound inside me. The nerves created insecurities and embarrassing misunderstandings when I was little so it became natural to distance myself.

Soon enough, everyone thought I was some sort of freak.

I never bothered correcting them because they’re right.

I’m a fucking loser weirdo.

What started as awkwardness morphed into fury, but only toward myself for being this way. It’s all my fault.

At least now everyone at school pretends I don’t exist, but their taunts behind my back carry across the echoing classroom. The snickering ridicule and cruel names bounce directly to me but all I do is hunch down further.

I don’t blame them for keeping quiet to my face. Considering I’m built like a professional linebacker and barely eighteen, I’d turn the other way too. I work out almost constantly to manage my anxiety and ensure the threatening madness doesn’t take over. Probably doesn’t help that I never talk to anyone or even look their way.

But why the hell would I?

Everyone I cross paths with has only offers sneers.

Except her . . .

If no one else was around, I’d talk to Lennon. She can have all my words and focus. I’ll give her anything she asks for without a moment of hesitation.

She quickly peers over her shoulder and smiles at me again.

What does this mean? Does she like me? Or is she secretly mocking me like everyone else?

Not sure I could handle the latter.

I’m used to being alone and planned to continue this way until a certain girl plowed into my life. The moment Lennon strolled into homeroom and sat in front of me, the whirlwind in my mind settled and she was all I could see. I don’t understand my powerful reaction to her. Maybe I never will. What I do know is Lennon has given me a sliver of peace and reprieve from my shitty reality. Even if she doesn’t know it.

The dismissal bell rings and everyone begins shuffling out of the classroom. I stay in my seat, unable to comprehend the attention Lennon gave me. Even when she gets up and leaves, I’m paralyzed by the rare joy rushing through me. It evaporates without her presence and the familiar dread slams down on my shoulders. My stinging eyes clench shut as I count the hours until our next class together. Only two today—I can survive that long.

After scooping up my stuff, I begin the lengthy trek to next period. This damn school is so big they give us ten minutes of passing time but it’s still not enough. Luckily kids get out of my way, making room in the squished halls for me to pass. My long hair acts like an extra shield while I keep my gaze averted but their whispers hit my ears.

Hulk.

Weirdo.

Loser.

Stupid.

Crazy Eyes.

The last one has stuck through the years, but I don’t know why. Apparently, my idiotic peers have an issue with my blue stare never settling on anyone for long. I’ve been told the color is strange—very light blue blending into a darker edge—but the shade doesn’t seem odd to me.

Fuck them for judging me.

But I always get them back.

I gladly return the favor by hacking their social media accounts. It’s easy to make a mockery of them with a few clicks of the mouse. They screw with me and I fuck them back harder. All from the comfort of my own home. Everyone thinks I’m dumb but soon they’ll realize how wrong that assumption is.

I keep walking without another thought, ready to get away from all these bodies. I’m uneasy and restless as fuck but thankfully get separated from the masses when I head downstairs.

As I’m passing the cafeteria on the way to gym, I hear a faint cry coming from a darkened alcove on my left. My stride falters momentarily as I wonder what’s going on but it’d take a lot for me to get involved. I plan to keep going until her voice rings out.

“Please let me go. Please!” Lennon’s whimper echoes across the small space and slams into me. I easily recognize her delicate lilt and immediately cross the short distance separating us.

Jason Hicks, a well-known asshole around campus, has Lennon shoved up against a door in the shadowed corner. At first, it’s difficult to see what’s happening but as I approach it’s clear he’s lewdly thrusting his hips into her. Lennon keeps begging him to stop but he cuts her off with a snarl.

“Shut the fuck up and stop struggling. You’re a damn tease, Lennon. It’s time you pay up for tempting me and I expect you to meet me after school this time. Otherwise we’ll just ditch class together now. Your choice, babe.” His disgusting words ricochet around the secluded area.

I’m right behind them but only Lennon notices me. Her usually tan complexion is ghostly white as tears stream down her cheeks. Her blue eyes widen and plead with me to do something, anything, to stop him.

Any awkward discomfort disappears as anger seeps into my veins. My words rumble from deep in my chest, “Leave her alone.”

Jason’s head tilts to the side and he glances over his shoulder. He snorts loudly while glaring at me. “This doesn't involve you, Crazy Eyes. Get out of here and go back to being a silent weirdo, like you're good at.” His disgusting mouth twists into a sneer.

The familiar nickname grates on my already fraying control and my body trembles with the desire to wipe the arrogance off his face but I hesitate to use my strength against someone. I’m standing motionless, waiting for Jason to go away on his own, when Lennon breaks the silence.

“Please.” Her angelic gaze bores into me. “Help me.” Her tone is meek but to me it sounds like a scream. She needs me and I’d never deny her anything.

My hand automatically reaches out to grip Jason’s neck with bruising force, my fingers digging deep into his flesh. In the next breath I yank him back before shoving him to the side. He bounces off the wall before stumbling into the empty hall.

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