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Devour (Devoured #1)(6) by Shelly Crane

“Um...” I stalled.

“Alright. Just thought I’d ask even though I already knew the answer,” he said and turned to go.

I bit my lip. This was ridiculous. Tate couldn’t tell me who to be friends with.

“Wait,” I called. “It’s fine.”

“Don’t feel sorry for me. I can sit somewhere else, it’s fine, I just figured it’d be more fun to sit with you.”

“I don’t feel sorry for you. I want you to sit. I never get to pair off with anyone I know for these things.”

“You’re sure? I don’t want to get you in trouble.”

I bristled at his implication but knew it wasn’t really him I was upset about. If Tate hadn’t showed his butt last night, Eli would have no reason to think that.

“No, I promise. It’s fine.”

He sat down, taking off his bag and throwing it over the edge of the chair. I didn’t want things to be weird so I started talking right away.

“So. Where did you go to school before? Did you go to where your parents taught?”

“Yep. Over there kids of all ages sit in the same classroom. It was weird I guess. It was kind of like being homeschooled. It was very laid back and they tried to make it fun.”

“That’s sounds cool. So why did you move to the states?”

“Back to the states, actually,” he clarified. “We lived in Seattle until I was twelve. Then moved to Zimbabwe until now. Now I’m eighteen, graduating and they’ll be leaving for some other place soon and I’ll have to figure out what I want to do.”

“I hear you there. I’m so lost on what to do with the rest of my life.”

“What do your parents do?” he asked, putting his head on his elbow to look at me.

“They died a few months ago,” I answered smoothly and tried to keep the sting out of my voice.

That response always elicited mixed responses from people and I tried to not make it uncomfortable for them by tearing up.

“Ah man. I’m sorry.”

I shrugged. It wasn’t like I could say ‘it’s ok’ because it wasn’t, but I could at least try to keep it together.

The teacher came in and started to explain our goals for the year. To create a piece for submission to any art school of our choice, whether we wanted to go to Art school or not, was our final grade.

“And today, we’ll be learning about shading. No piddling in my class. We’ll be starting right out of the gate with a graded project due by the end of class.”

The class’s collective groan was lost on me. I was excited. Art was exciting and fun and with Eli as my table partner, I had a feeling it would be interesting this year.

“I’m sorry I brought up your parents,” he said and looked up at me a moment before looking back to his paper.

“It’s ok that you did. You couldn’t have known,” I said and felt my heart break a little at having to say that. “I want to remember them. It’s nice to talk about them sometimes. Everyone else avoids it because they think it’ll make me sad.”

Having to tell someone they were allowed to bring my parents up... It was just wrong. I looked at Eli and saw that same expression on his face as before. Ecstasy wrapped in pain and discomfort.

“Are you ok?” I asked.

“Yes,” he answered, his voice strained. “I’m fine, just uh...” He looked at me and I felt bad. I had made him uncomfortable with all that dead parent talk and now he was embarrassed or something. I felt even worse. And then his face twisted even more. “I’ve got to go,” he said suddenly and huskily.

“What? Class just started?” I protested, completely baffled.

“I’ll see you tonight, ok? At the match,” he called as he grabbed his stuff and made a swift getaway out the classroom door.

I was so very confused, but what could I do? I didn’t have his number to check on him. He’d been acting kind of weird all day. I would ask him tonight. Maybe he was going through something or having a problem about moving again.

Class ended uneventfully and I turned my shade in of a Dogwood tree along the river bank to which the teacher smiled at me me in appreciation. I made my way across the street quickly and prepared for the barrage of screams and squeals.

“Clara! Clara’s home!” Josiah announced loudly, as he did everyday.

“Clawa!” Hannah yelled happily and wrapped herself around my leg. “I had fishies today.”

“You did,” I crooned and picked her up, slating her to my hip. “Oh, man. I could really chow down on some gold fishies right now.”

“There’s more! In there!” she pointed towards the kitchen and I followed her instruction. “Mommy, mommy! Clawa wants fishies too!”

“Oh does she now?” Ruth said and smiled at me. “Hi, Clara. How was school today?”

“Great. I can handle my new classes pretty well. And there was a new guy today. Eli, from Zimbabwe.”

“Really? That’s interesting. What was he doing there?”

“He said his parents were some kind of teaching missionaries or something.”

“That’s awesome. God Bless them. Now, honey, would you mind taking this stack of letters to the post office on your way to the match tonight? I didn’t make it today and it’s the get well cards for the church members.”

“Sure. No problem.”

“You’re such a sweet girl. You know we love having you around, don’t you?”

“Yes, ma’am, I do, and I like being here too.”

“Good. Have fun tonight and you know Pastor’s rules.”

“No after midnight and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do if he was watching me.”

“That’s our girl. Everybody say, have fun Clara.”

A sweet shrill untamed chorus of ‘have fun Clara’ rang out as I smiled and ran to my room in the back of the hall. The parish was a small but pretty green cottage type house right next to the church. It was one story but I got lucky, my room was all the way on the other side of the house so I never heard babies crying at night.

I took a quick shower and went to put on some clothes. I had to be at the games and matches half an hour early to sell hats and buttons and ribbons and such.

I picked out a red long sleeve shirt and jeans with my black boots, to match our school colors for The Red Devils.

It was getting chilly out at night now but I figured long sleeves were good enough. I fixed my hair in the mirror on my dresser. My room, my temporary room, was cute. It had been Mrs. Ruth’s sewing room but when I moved in, she let me have it because there was no where else to go. The walls were a pastel purple and the trim and carpet was a lime green. She’d asked me several times if I wanted to paint or change anything, but I figured I wouldn’t be here that long and I wanted to make it as easy on them as possible when I left to get things back to normal.

Once I was ready, I headed downstairs and said my goodbyes before walking down to the post office and then hurrying across the street to the school and around back to the gym. Sarah already had our table set up and was putting out all our merchandise. She was the only one of my friends who participated in the sprit squad, or anything really. The boys were into their sports but Dee and Meagan refused anything extracurricular for school.