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Alley Cats

Hot Chip

Chapter Three

The awkward silence was unbearable. A weekend had passed, and then an entire Monday where Jonah had successfully avoided Annie in the halls and even evaded her in second period. Tuesday morning had been successful too—that is, until now. Their teacher had designated a half hour of today’s class for working on the midterm project, which is why Jonah was now uncomfortably sitting side-by-side with Annie, their desks pushed together like all the other pairs in the classroom.

Jonah was visibly irritated and uneasy. The tension was making him clench his jaw. His flat eyebrows, frown, and crossed arms were all the apparent to Annie, leaving no question what Jonah was feeling at the moment. Jonah made no effort to say a word. More like, he made every effort to not say a word. He was too pissed off to say anything.

Annie had barely spoken a word either. She kept starting to say something and stopping, afraid she’d make the situation worse. She timidly glanced over at Jonah, whose gaze had been honed onto some random object yards in front of them, refusing to make eye contact for the last fifteen minutes. Annie decided she had to bite the bullet.

“I’m sorry about the other day,” she said quietly, starting to twiddle her thumbs.

Jonah hardly made a reaction visible to the naked eye. With only a slight twitch of his mouth, he said nothing to acknowledge Annie’s apology.

“I’m not trying to invade your life,” she continued.

Jonah huffed sarcastically, breaking his own vow of silence. He thought that statement was too completely absurd to ignore. He turned to Annie with one eyebrow raised and asked accusingly, “Really?

“I just think it’s a mistake to fail your classes on purpose.” 

“I don’t need to be judged by you.”

“I’m not judging you.”

Silence fell on the pair once more. Instead of the air clearing, it seemed like it was getting heavier still.  Annie knew she had been pushy with Jonah, which likely hadn’t given the best impression from the start. She wanted him to trust that she had good intentions. Because she did. Even if she couldn’t explain it entirely herself why she did—she did. 

“So can we still meet after school?”

“Hmph.” Jonah grumbled, rolling his eyes. “Whatever.”

Back at the grindstone, Jonah found himself in the library again after school with Annie. He slowly rocked back and forth in his chair as he wondered how this was his third outing to the library within a week’s span. He was still not pleased about the last visit just this past Friday, but his current state of mind was that of unfathomable boredom. 

Jonah stopped rocking in his chair and slumped onto the table where he leaned on the open textbook in front of him, his head in his elbows. He watched Annie as she typed and clicked on a school laptop that she borrowed from the librarian. They were only allow one per table, so naturally Annie was in charge of the computer while Jonah was stuck yet again with a giant, dull textbook which he had barely gotten through a page of reading.

He stared forlornly down at the book again, and when the words started to meld together he gave up and being a fast-tempo’d tap, tap, tap on the tabletop.

“Are you…even doing anything?” Annie asked hesitantly, looking up from the computer screen after noticing the incessant tapping.

“This stuff is so boring…” Jonah whined.

“It could be interesting if you tried.” she replied matter-of-factly.

Jonah pushed back in his chair and balanced on the rear legs while gripping the edge of the table. He hung his head back and complained, “Ugh, you run a tight ship. I feel like I’ve been here forever.”

Annie smirked, though Jonah couldn’t see it. She thought this display of Jonah antsy in his chair was more relatable than the usual cold demeanor he wore. She felt that maybe she was actually starting to peel back the layers of his personality that he usually kept under lock and key. Annie knew that there was more to Jonah than the obvious first impression, and in this moment, she felt hopefully that she would get to see what laid underneath his distant, prickly exterior.

Suddenly, Jonah shot up like a lightning bolt, his chair slamming to the floor. He looked alarmed, like he had just remembered something.

“Wait, what time is it?” he asked desperately.

“Umm…” Annie mumbled, looking at the clock on the computer screen. “Almost four o’clock.”

“Shit!” Jonah exclaimed. “My mom gets home early today. If I’m not home, she’s gonna freak!” Jonah jumped up, stuffed a few things into his backpack, and slung the bag onto his shoulder. Annie blinked as Jonah speedily packed all his things to leave, barely able to process what was happening.

Jonah spat out as he began to dash away. “Sorry, bye.”

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