Grayson’s eyes bulged out of their sockets when he realized what he had done. “I didn’t mean for that to sound like it did.” He nervously shuffled the papers our chemistry teacher dropped onto his desk. “I meant, ‘oh God, it’s only the first day and we already have a project. Not, ‘oh God,’ you’re my partner.”
Despite Grayson’s anxious behavior and watching him stumble to find the right words I still couldn’t get the butterflies in my stomach to settle down. “That’s okay.” I barely managed to mumble.
“Hey,” Grayson furrowed his brows as if he remembered something. “Were you in my SAT prep course?”
“Um,” I hesitated to answer.“I’m not sure?” I shrugged my shoulders at his question. “Did you take the course last year with Mrs. Gentry?” Of course he did Amal. You only stared at him everyday for a month.
His face lit up, “I knew I recognized you!”
I stopped breathing. Did he just say he recognized me? As in he actually noticed me?
Before I could say anything, our teacher was finally done with assigning partners and back at his podium. He spent the remainder of class going over the curriculum and briefly explaining our upcoming projects.
The bell for rang for lunch and I gathered my things to meet Chloe and Lane.
“Amal, wait!” Grayson called after me. I turned around to find him still packing his things away. “I was thinking we could get started on our first project. I know it’s early, but I hate procrastinating.” He slung his backpack over his shoulders as we proceeded to walk out of the classroom. “Can we meet during Senior free period?”
My eyes widened. Senior free period was when I was planning on working at Oliver’s office. “That won’t work for me.”
Grayson laughed, “oh come on, you can wake up a little early can’t you?”
“It’s not that.” His smile vanished when he noticed I hadn’t laughed along with him. “It’s just…I’m busy in the mornings.” I spotted Lane from across the hall. “How bout Thursdays? After school?”
“Sure” He shrugged his shoulders.
We waved goodbye to each other and headed in opposite directions.
The rest of the day dragged on and quiet frankly I couldn’t think about much other than going to work at the record label the next morning.
“Well, well, well…” Oliver’s voice boomed through the office as I walked into my cubicle. My cubicle, it still felt so weird to say. “If it isn’t my new assistant.” He rubbed his hands together and smiled.
The corners of my mouth drew up as I waved. “Hey Oliver.” I sat down in my swivel chair and spun around to my desk. I was greeted with a new stack of papers. “Oh, wow.” I mumbled.
“So, I’m actually gonna need you to go through these contracts and adjust them.” He pointed to another, smaller, stack. “These are the list of demands that need to be rewritten.” Oliver shook his head. “I swear new artists are the worst people to deal with.”
“Oh yeah?” I ran my thumb over the corners of the pages as I skimmed through them. “So when do I get to do some fun stuff?” I wanted to be in the action, not behind a desk doing paperwork.
Oliver laughed. “I need to make sure you can do this first.”
I faked a smile back. “Gotcha!” I turned towards my desk again as Oliver walked away.
Half a second hadn’t even passed before he was back again. “Oh, by the way, I’ll be heading back to campus in a couple of hours. You want a ride?”
I froze. Oliver continued to stare at the back of my head as I sat silent. “You know what? I just got an email from my professor letting us know class is canceled, so I won’t be going til’ much later. Thank you though.” I looked over my shoulder at him briefly before I continued flipping through the papers again.
“Great! So, you can stay late today?” Before I could even answer his question Oliver was out of sight. I anxiously peered over my cubicle wall. What was he about to make me do? I watched him run to his office and return with yet another stack of folders. “When you’re done with the contracts, I need you to go through the numbers on these reports. Our team looked over it already, but I just feel like they’re missing something.”
“Oliver,” I sighed as I unwilling took the folders from him. “This is above my pay grade.”
“I know, I know, but I don’t really trust my dad’s team. Besides you seem like a smart girl.” He held his fists under his chin as he pouted. “Please?” His big faced watched glistened in the sunlight that poured in through the windows surrounding the office causing it to reflect on my face.
“Fine.” I gave in as I shielded my eyes. “But you owe me.”
Oliver closed his eyes and lipped the words, thank you. He was just about to walk away again when he remembered something. “Actually, my dad’s having a party Thursday night. One of our artists broke a sales record so we’re celebrating. Nothing big, just a couple hundred people.” My eyes bulged out at Oliver’s description of an intimate party. “You should come. I’m not going to take no for an answer.” He grinned as he finally walked away for good this time.
I tugged at the roots of my hair. How was I possibly going to finish all this work before third period? And that wasn’t even the least of my worries.
When Thursday finally rolled around, I felt like I built up enough confidence to make my escape. Oh, I guess this is where I should mention that my parents were completely against high school “parties.” The only reason I even had a curfew of 10 PM was for the rare occasions I was at Chloe or Lane’s place. I mean, technically, this wasn’t a high school party, so I didn’t feel too bad.
Nonetheless, I was still scared out of my wits. I talked to Sophia at least a million times that day. She went over exactly what I needed to do to ensure that my parents would never find out my whereabouts. She was a total profesh.
“You have to plant the seed as soon as you get home from school. Just drop a comment here and there about how tired you are. Then after dinner tell your parents you’re calling it a night. From that point it’ll be easy! After about thirty minutes sneak out of your window.”
“You think jumping out of a second floor window is going to be easier?” I practically yelled back on the phone.
Around 7 o’clock that night I tried to fake a yawn. I explained to my parents how I was having such a long hard week. Right after dinner I convinced them that I really needed some sleep to catch up on.
“Oh, Amal!” My mom wrapped her hand around my head as she hugged me. “It’s only the first week of school and you’re already working so hard!” I felt the corners of my lips tightening at the excitement that my mom was actually falling for it. “Go to bed, baby. Maybe tomorrow will be a better day.”
I shrugged my shoulders as I frowned and slowly walked into my room hoping they were actually buying the whole thing. I locked the door behind me and quickly dumped a bag of Sophia’s old dresses, that she forcefully made me take home with me.
I picked out the least uncomfortable looking one and tried my best to recreate the winged eyeliner looked Sophia spent most of the summer teaching me.
Half an hour had passed and I hadn’t heard anything from my parents. I threw on a hoodie and sweatpants over my dress and took a deep breath. This was it. Moment of truth.
I opened my bedroom window and looked down. There was a small slither of the rooftop that I would be able to jump onto. I held onto the windowsill as I lowered myself down. Crap… What now?
I struggled as I crouched down. I saw our backyard fence and decided to jump. I’d like to say that I successfully made it, but I just barely did. I yelped quietly to myself as my feet dangled beneath me. Come on, Amal! You can do this! I tried to encourage myself as I pulled myself up.
It took a couple of minutes of struggling before I made it to solid ground. I was home free! I felt a giant smile on my face in victory.
I tiptoed around the house until I made it to the front. I froze in terror when I heard a rustling noise coming from the bushes next to me. I’m not sure what possessed me to stop, but I wasn’t too happy that I did. “Oh my God!” I yelled out loud as a raccoon jumped out at me. I swung my bag in every direction trying to ward it away.
I covered my mouth hoping my scream wasn’t as loud as I thought it was.
That’s when our pouch lights flashed on. I turned around to see my dad standing in the doorway.
“Amal? What are you doing out here?”
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