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Home > Pivot Point (Pivot Point #1)(10)

Pivot Point (Pivot Point #1)(10)
Author: Kasie West

“It’s hard to keep track when you’re looking into so many, isn’t it?”

He narrows his eyes in confusion and I try not to laugh.

Laila hits my leg. “So you should come help us dye Addie’s hair after school.”

I keep myself from gasping my objection to her offer and add, “Yeah, sure. We’re doing it at Laila’s house.”

She scrunches her nose and throws me the thanks-a-lot look. “We are?”

“Yes.”

“But no one will be at your house. My dad and brothers will be at mine.” That’s her nice way of saying she doesn’t want Duke at her house.

I don’t want him at mine either, and since she’s the one who brought it up, I don’t back down. “I know, but my mom might come home early today and in order to achieve maximum impact, she can’t walk in when my hair is wet.”

“Maximum impact?” Duke says.

“Yeah, she’s rebelling,” Laila tells him.

“Against what?” he asks.

“I’m not sure exactly. Against what, Addie?” Laila asks with a smirk.

“Against unnormalcy. Antiaverageness.”

“Let me get this straight. You’re rebelling against being Paranormal?”

“No, this has nothing to do with abilities. I’m promoting the norm. The cliché. The typical.”

“I’m lost.”

“She thinks if she can check off every item on the list of ‘how the average teen deals with divorce,’ her parents will get back together.”

I glare at Laila, irritated she would share that with Duke. “That’s not true. I don’t think they’re getting back together.” Anymore. “But since they’re getting divorced, I don’t want to miss out on any of the fun experiences that go along with it.” I hold up a strip of hair.

“Ah, man. Your parents are getting a divorce? Sorry, that sucks.”

“Mine and half the other kids’ parents on campus at some point, right? Nothing new or exciting. Just average.”

He raises his eyebrows. “And average is … good?”

“Exactly. See, you’re learning. It’s all about expectations. If you do the typical, you can expect the typical result, no surprises.” In my attempt not to stare at him too much, I have gone from looking at the cloudless sky to a small rock by my hand and now to the vines growing up the building in front of us. They have covered nearly every inch of red brick as they climb their way up the wall, searching for open space.

Duke speaks, bringing my attention back to him. “So you’re acting out against your parents, and what exactly is the typical result of that?”

I lean back on my palms. “Well, before the divorce, my mom would’ve flipped out. I would’ve been grounded and she would’ve taken me to the salon, made them dye it back at my expense.”

“But now?”

“Now she’ll flip out, but because she’ll recognize it for what it is—me begging for love and attention—she’ll tell me she’s disappointed but then take me to a movie or something.”

“Really?” He looks to Laila as if checking to see if I’m serious. When Laila shrugs, he turns back to me. “She’ll reward you?”

“For sure.”

Both he and Laila look doubtful. I assure them with, “You’ll see.”

He hops to the ground, then moves in front of me. Leaning against my legs that are still dangling off the stage, with one hand on either side of my knees, he says, “Sounds exciting. I’ll see you after school then, Blue Eyes.”

I hold back a curse.

“I knew they weren’t brown. I didn’t know you were studying Light Manipulation. I’m impressed. But it takes concentration.” He leans forward slowly until his mouth is inches from my ear. My eyes flutter and I know he heard the gasp of air I took no matter how quiet it was. “You got distracted,” he whispers, then grabs his backpack from behind me and leaves.

“Not by you,” I call after him.

He turns and walks backward for a moment, a wide smile spread across his annoyingly handsome face. He knows I’m bluffing. He raises his eyebrows and shrugs his shoulders before he pivots and is gone.

“You know I want to kill you, right? Again,” I say to Laila as we sit in her living room waiting for Duke to arrive. “Why would you invite him? You’re making him think I like him or something.”

“You do.”

Her brothers dash by the couch, one chasing the other. They knock into one of the few remaining paintings on the wall, sending it swinging. Five years ago, Laila’s house looked like a page out of a magazine. Now it’s stripped bare. Only the essentials are left.

Laila yells after the boys, “I have company today, so stay caged somewhere until Mom gets home from work.” She stands to straighten the picture. Even though she hides it well, I realize she must be embarrassed. Why did I insist on doing this at Laila’s? I’m a horrible friend.

The doorbell rings, and my heart flips. She raises one eyebrow and skips to the door.

“Duke,” she gushes. “How are you? Come in.”

“I’m good. I brought some supplies.” Out of his back pocket he pulls a pair of elbow-length, bright orange rubber gloves.

“We’re dyeing hair, not scrubbing toilets,” Laila says.

“I thought hair dye was like flesh-eating acid.”

I laugh. “Because then everyone would want to dye their hair.”

“So there isn’t some flesh-burning caveat on the box?”

Laila draws down the corners of her mouth as though she’s impressed. “I think Duke’s been reading hair-dye boxes, Addie, what do you think?”

“Have you been doing your homework?” I ask, standing.

“I didn’t want to look like an idiot, but apparently I didn’t save myself from that fate.”

Laila hits him on the chest. “It wasn’t idiotic, it was cute. Come on, I can probably even find you some toilets to clean.”

“Ha-ha.”

In the kitchen Duke pulls on his rubber gloves and holds up his hands like he’s about to perform surgery. He even makes orange gloves look adorable.

“What do I do?” he asks.

“Why don’t you just sit over there so you don’t hurt yourself?” I say, pointing at the table.

Laila says, “Oh, Addie, don’t be a poor sport.”

“Says the girl who isn’t getting flesh-eating acid put in her hair.”

Laila sits me on a barstool and separates a section of my hair out from the rest. “Duke, come hold this while I get the stuff ready.”

He stands way too close and smells way too good. I avert my eyes, looking at the green numbers of the microwave clock. Laila walks across the kitchen and turns on the water to fill a bottle.

“You know what else the average girl who’s acting out does?” Duke asks quietly.

I glance once at Laila, but it’s obvious she can’t hear us. “What?”

“She starts spending all her time with a boy who’s no good for her.”

“And that boy would be …?”

“Me, of course.”

“You’re no good for me?”

“Horrible. I’ll take your mind off schoolwork, force you to constantly think about kissing, and make you want to spend all your free time away from home.”

I can hardly breathe. “Sounds tempting … you know, just to go along with my acting-like-the-average-teen plan.”

“Exactly.”

I look up and meet his eyes. “You know we’re nothing alike, right?”

“Isn’t there a reason for the saying ‘opposites attract’?”

“Yes—magnets.”

A spray of water hits me on the side of the face. “Watch out, I’m armed and dangerous,” Laila says, laughing. She turns the spray bottle on Duke.

“No, I’m defenseless.” He drops my hair and scoops me up by the waist, facing away from him.

“You’re using me as a shield?” I ask.

“You don’t make a very good one,” he says. “You’re too small.”

As if to prove his point, Laila lets off a series of squirts. Most hit me, but several hit him. The whole time I push against his forearm in an attempt to get free. He plops me back down on the stool and goes charging after Laila. She screams and runs. When they walk back into the room, he’s holding the squirt bottle and water is dripping down her face.

“I defended your honor,” he says to me.

“You used me as a shield.”

“So what’s this for?” he asks, holding up the bottle.

“We need to get Addie’s hair damp.”

“I’ll be in charge of that,” he says too readily.

“I don’t trust you or your toilet gloves.”

He squirts me once, right in the face. I blow air between my lips, spraying water everywhere, and try to suppress a laugh. “You’re so dead.”

A booming voice calls out from down the hall. “Laila, what’s all this water?”

“It’s nothing, Dad, I’ll clean it up in a minute.”

He pokes his head around the corner and sees Duke and me. “Oh. I didn’t know you had company.”

“Yeah, I do.”

His hair sticks up at odd angles, like he just woke up from a nap. His cheeks seem bonier than the last time I saw him, and the circles under his eyes twice as dark. “Do you have a few bucks I can borrow?”

Laila pats her pockets. “Nope.”

He rubs at his nose, and I’m tempted to rub mine as well. Not just because he did, but because the smell of smoke he brought with him finally reaches me. “Come on, Laila. I’ll pay you back. Your mom didn’t leave me any, and I have a friend coming over in a minute. I owe him money.”

“Sorry. I really don’t have any. I spent my last five bucks on lunch today.”

He stares at her for a long time, probably trying to verify that her thoughts are saying the same thing as her mouth. Laila’s thoughts have most likely shifted to words like jerk-wad. Okay, maybe not the wad part—she probably thought of a more colorful expletive—but still. I can tell Laila feels uncomfortable and I search for a way to change the subject.

“Hi,” Duke says. “You must be Laila’s dad. Nice to meet you. I’m Duke—”

“Duke Rivers. Yeah, I know you. Best high school quarterback in or out of the Compound in over a decade.”

I roll my eyes. Like it’s fair to compare guys outside the Compound to Duke. He has an ability; they don’t.

“Thanks. So you go to the games, Mr. Stader?”

“Not usually, but I read the news feeds. Have you decided which college you’re going to next year?”

Duke rests a hand on my shoulder, and even though it’s wearing a rubber glove it still manages to set my heart racing. “Not yet. I’m working on it.”

“How many offers have you gotten outside the Compound?”

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