Chapter 8

    “Johnson City?”
    Alexander and I had gone to a café not too far from the hotel. He was looking at a bus map and asking if I had any family at any of the places on it.
    “Are these ‘No. No one lives there.’ or  ‘No. I don’t know if anyone lives there?’” he asked.
    “I don’t know,” I said taking another bite of my blueberry muffin.
    He sighed. “Then where do you expect to go?”
    “…Away from here.”
    He shook his head. “Let’s try this.” He sat the map in front of me. “Where would you like to go?”
    I looked at it. “Hm…I don’t know what any of these places are like.”
    “Pick one and I’ll tell you about it.”
    I pointed to a place.
    “Scottsdale. A small town with a few shops and homes. It’s mostly farm land. It’s nice all year long and it’s cozy. That’s a place you would go if you wanted some peace and quiet.”
    “Hm, how about…Fredrick?”
    “Fredrick is the complete opposite of Scottsdale. Businesses and large company buildings all over. The best way to get around is by subway, and even that is really crowded all day.”
    “I wouldn’t like it there.”
    “Neither would Caramel. Most of the places there aren’t pet friendly.”
    “Then, Fredrick is out. I want to be somewhere that I’m used to.”
    “Celia City is the place most similar to here.”
    “How far away is it?”
    “Far enough.”
    “Then that’s where we’ll go.”
    “Alright. The next train leaves at 5pm tomorrow.”
    “How much is the ticket?” I asked, searching the paper for prices.
    “Don’t worry about it,” he said taking the map away.
    “I can’t sneak on the train, Zander,” I said.
    “Definitely not with all your stuff,” he joked with a smile.
    “Ha ha,” I said sarcastically.
    “Seriously though, don’t worry. I got it.”
    “That’s not necessary-“
    “Just think of it as a going away present.”
    “…Thank you,” I quietly said.
    He smiled and drank his coffee. “Do you want more?” he asked, gesturing to my cup.
    “No. I’m fine.” Surprisingly, Alexander didn’t know that I didn’t drink coffee.
    “Try it,” he said as if he read my mind. “It’s good.”
    “I don’t want it.”
    “It’s the best in town.”
    “No thanks.” The last time I’d tried coffee, it made me sick.
    “It’s sweet. Almost like hot chocolate,” he coaxed.
    I stared at my cup. It had to have cold by now.
    “Here,” he said handing me his cup and reading my mind once again. “Try some of mine.”
    “Drink,” he said putting his cup in my hands.
    Holding it made me realize that my hands were a little cold. I stayed still letting my hands soak up all the warmth they wanted.
    “Alex,” he pressed.
    I took a sip and was surprised.
    “This is good!” I said and drank more.
    Alexander laughed and said, “Please, have the rest.”
    By the time he gave me permission, I had already finished what was left.
    “Geeh, Alex. Thirsty much?” he joked.
    “That was so good,” I said.
    “Do you want more?” he asked.
    “Y-yes, please.”
    “Alright. I’ll be right back,” he said standing up.
    “Okay,” I responded, watching him walk to the counter.
    “Ali?” I heard a voice say.
    I turned around to see a girl holding two cups of coffee looking at me.
    “Joslynn,” I said.
    Joslynn used to be my best friend until Elliot broke up with me. She was convinced that I’d broken up with him because I thought I was too good for him.
    Her long black hair was in a perfect, sleek ponytail and black eyeliner framed her emerald-green eyes.
    She scowled. She’d seen the news about me.
    “You’re disgusting,” she said.
    “I didn’t do anything,” I said.
    “Killing your dad is not doing anything?” she hissed. “If so, then you’re even more heartless than I thought.”
    “Hey, babe. Got our coffee?” I heard the approaching voice say.
    Elliot was walking towards us, but he hadn’t seen me yet.
    “Yeah,” Joslynn said, pleased to have seen the look of shock on my face.
    “Oh. Lexi,” Elliot said, finally noticing me. He smirked. “I saw your little incident on tv yesterday. I guess that’s why you said you had no family.”
    Joslynn looked at him. “When did she say that?”
    “Remember, babe? I told you I saw her on her birthday. Only I hadn’t known it was right after she’d killed her dad.”
    Hearing Elliot say it out loud, made me furious.
    “I didn’t-“
    “Hey, I got you more coffee,” I heard Alexander say. That was less to me and more to Elliot and Joslynn.
     Elliot looked at Alexander like he was mad that Alexander had ruined our conversation.
     “And you are?” Elliot asked.
     “Zander. And I assume you are Elliot?” Alexander replied, glaring Elliot down.
     “I am. Do I know you?” Elliot asked, returning Alexander’s glare.
     “No, but I know you enough to know that you should leave now.”
    Elliot’s eyes flickered. Alexander was making him angry and both boys seemed to know that.
    “Who do you think you are, telling me what I should and shouldn’t do?” Elliot growled.
    “I already told you who I was. Maybe you should listen instead of checking out a girl that you abandoned because it was convenient for you,” Alexander answered.
    I realized he was talking about me and I couldn’t help but blush in embarrassment.
    Elliot started to move closer to me, but Alexander stepped in front of him.
    “Move,” Elliot commanded.
    “Leave,” Alexander countered.
    Elliot stared at him for a moment, then glanced at me.
    “I’ll see you around, Lexi,” he said.
    “No,” Alexander replied for me. “You won’t.”
    “Stay out of this,” Elliot said to him.
    “Stay out of her life,” Alexander said to him.
    I saw Elliot’s fist start flying toward Alexander’s face.
   “Zander!” I yelled, as Alexander caught Elliot’s hand and returned the punch.
    Joslynn gasped as Elliot fell to the ground.
    “Come on,” Alexander said to me. He grabbed my hand and pulled me outside.
    I looked at him. He seemed surprisingly calm considering what just happened.
    “Don’t say anything yet,” he said.
    He was leading me back to the hotel. I followed him through the front doors. I glanced at the desk as we passed to see if Mr. Carter was there, which he wasn’t.
    We took the stairs up to the top floor. He led me to a door at the end of the hall. He unlocked the door as I asked, “Where are we going?”
    “My room,” he responded and opened the door.
    He pulled me into the blue colored room then closed and locked the door behind us.
    I looked around and saw that his room looked very different from mine. His bed was smaller and directly underneath the window. There was a table with a television in front of a small grey sofa. There was a bookshelf in the corner opposite the bed, next to a chair and floor lamp.
    Alexander let go of my arm and sat on the sofa.
    “Are you okay?” I asked, sitting next to him.
    “Yeah. You?” he asked.
    “I think so…What happened back there?”
     He hesitated, then said, “He hurt you once. I didn’t want him to hurt you again.”
    He looked at me.
    “I never mentioned Elliot to you.”
    “You didn’t have to. He acted like he owned you.”
    “He doesn’t. And neither do you.” I knew I should have been thankful for his help, but Alexander interrupting me and Elliot made me frustrated for some reason.
     “I didn’t say I did.”
     “But you’re acting like it.”
     “I was just trying to protect you.”
     “I was fine. I’ve dealt with Elliot before. A few days ago, in fact.”
     “…I’m sorry. I wanted to be a good friend.”
    I touched his hand. “…Thank you, Zander.”
    He smiled a little. “I’d do anything to keep you safe.”
    I blushed a little and he smiled more. I turned my head away and started to move my hand but held onto it.
    “Z-Zander. Stop playing,” I stuttered.
    “Your hands are small compared to mine.”
    I didn’t know what to say.
    “I like them,” he added, rubbing my hand. “They’re delicate and soft.”
    “T-thank you.”
    He let my hand go and stood up. “I’ll be right back,” he said. “Make yourself at home. Bathroom’s over there.” He pointed to a door to our right.
    “Where are you going?” I asked, afraid that he might have been going to hunt down Elliot.
    “To talk to my dad. I haven’t seen him all day.”
    “Oh. Okay.”
    He pet my head and smiled. “Don’t worry. I won’t get into any fights.”
    I blushed and pushed his hand away. “I’m not a pet.”
    “I know,” he smirked. “You’re a lot more trouble and a lot more stubborn.”
    I grabbed the pillow next to me and hit him with it.
    “No I’m not,” I said.
    He just laughed and walked to the door and took the pillow from me. He held it out of my reach and said, “Behave yourself while I’m gone. No raiding my room for secret stuff.”
    I blushed more and he smiled.
    “S-shut up, stupid,” I said.
    “Aw,” he said, poking my cheek. “You’re all red thinking about all the naughty things you could find.”
     I pushed him out the door. “Ignoramus!” I yelled.
     “Ignoramus? Nice. Twenty points for using the SAT word of the day,” he laughed.
    “Go!” I said, slamming the door behind him.
    “Hey, just in case you forgot this is my room, so I will be back,” he said through the door.
    “Ignoramus!” I yelled again.
    I heard his laughter fade away as he walled down the hall.
    When it was quiet, I felt alone again. I walked around and looked at the room.
    I found a few pictures of Alexander and his father. I didn’t find any of him and his friends, but I saw one of a woman holding a baby. In the bottom left corner I saw that someone had written, “Zander. 5 months.” I guessed that was his mother.
    She and Alexander had the same fierce, determined eyes, but other than that, they didn’t look remotely similar.
    Well…they both had the same gene for being undoubtably gorgeous, in their own ways.
    I blushed at that thought. I imagined that if I’d said that last part out loud when Alexander was around, he’d mock me relentlessly.
    I sat back on the sofa and turned the television on. A classical music channel was playing and it was calming.
    I relaxed and thought about the events of the afternoon.
    I wouldn’t have ever thought that Joslynn would end up with Elliot. Better yet, I would have NEVER thought that Elliot would want to go out with one of my ex-best friends. Not that Joslynn wasn’t really nice and pretty, but Elliot wasn’t the kind of guy that dated girls younger than him. I found out that I was the reason for that decision.
    I’d overheard someone at my old school say, “He said younger girls are too needy and childish.”
    Being around Elliot with Alexander there, too, made me feel safer.
    It had felt like Elliot was trying to get my attention by showing off and I didn’t like that. He couldn’t possibly want me back. He hated me. He’d made that clear several times before. Yet, seeing him argue with Alexander made me…confused. Either Elliot was jealous or Alexander just insulted his pride.
    Probably the pride thing.
    I decided to give up worrying about it for a little while, then I yawned and laid down.
    This time tomorrow I’d be on a train to start my new life. I’d be safe.
    I started to fall asleep, so I vaguely remembered hearing Alexander come back into the room. I thought I heard Caramel barking in the room too.
    “I guess coffee and confrontation makes her tired, huh, Mel?” Alexander said.
    Caramel whimpered.
    Alexander pet my head. “I’ll miss you, Alexia. Stay safe, sweetie.”

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