Someone was watching her. Not in the I’m-interested-in-you-gal or You-took-my-seat kind of manner, but a shadowy, prickly sensation that made Finley feel as if she were sitting naked in the crowded classroom, or had drugs piled up on her desk. Neither was true, of course. She couldn’t be more normal in her sweater and jeans, doodling away on her test paper (she had finished it in half the time allocated), dreaming of the bell and hoping the cafeteria wouldn’t be crowded. Finley disliked crowds.
The bell rang, and as students gathered their books and pens, someone poked Finley’s back. She swiveled around at lightning speed and met the startled gaze of her best friend, Jordan.
“Why’re you being so jittery? You look like I’m going to attack you.”
“Nothing.” If it were the first time, Finley would have kept it to herself, but that prickly feeling had been going on for a few days, she might as well tell. “Actually, I think someone’s watching me.”
Jordan let out an exasperated sigh. “Didn’t you notice? Troy’s got a crush on you.”
“Yeah, Troy.” Jordan poked her back again. “He’s liked you since he transferred in the beginning of the semester.”
Finley hefted her bag over her shoulder and walked out of the classroom.
“Aren’t you even going to give him a chance?” Jordan said, catching up to her in the hallway.
“Oh pul-lease. Troy’s decent, not everyone’s like Greg…”
“Don’t mention his name!”
“Fine.” Jordan held up her hands. “But hello, girl, you haven’t gone on a date for years! You need to go out more.”
“I have plenty of dates. With my laptop. I don’t have time for…oh no.” They had arrived in the cafeteria and the queue resembled a serpent. A large, coiling serpent. All the good seats were taken.
Jordan sighed. Finley was burned badly by a jerk when she was a sophomore, but that was two years ago, an eternity for a teenager.
It wasn’t because Finley was homely. Quite the opposite, in fact. Creamy complexion, luminous eyes, long fringed lashes, and perfectly shaped face. She had the dark-eyed, dark-haired look of a southern European belle, looking like she should be promenading in the streets of Madrid or Rome, with large earrings and large sunglasses, clutching a tall cup of coffee. But here she was, in small town America. Perhaps that was why most boys stayed away, finding her unapproachable. Nor did it help that Finley deliberately acted unapproachable. She was anti-social, unfriendly, rarely cracked a smile, and frankly, as fun as her clothes―plain o’ T-shirts or sweaters, perennial jeans and sneakers. Also, she hated makeup. Jordan had begged season in and season out to give her a makeover. You’ll make heads turn, she had said. Kimberly won’t hold a candle to you. To which Finley rolled her eyes; Kimberly, the one voted most likely to be homecoming queen, was drop-dead gorgeous and could be in Hollywood if she wanted. But it didn’t matter if all girls were Kimberlys; Finley would still be as impervious to makeup as an umbrella to rain. The most she consented was wearing a pair of magnetic earrings Jordan had forcefully thrusted into her hands on her birthday. (Finley hated earrings, she didn’t even have her ears pierced)
More than once she heard people whisper that Finley McCarthy wasted her looks on her personality. She didn’t care. She had far more things to worry about. Like trying to survive alone in the world.
She did not feel The Gaze as she waited in line; though Troy was sitting only a few tables away, she discerned that his surreptitious glance was different from The Gaze. His gaze she barely noticed, but the latter…she’d get her nose pierced if she could find out who it was