There was something oddly still and quiet about him, and I had yet to hear him speak, even though he was in four of my classes. He wore his hair smoothed back, and his eyes were a matching shade of black. His looks were rather striking, but he weirded me out too much for me to find him attractive.
“Sorry to disturb your sleep.” Mr. Meade cleared his throat so I would look up at him.
“It’s okay,” I said.
“Miss Everly, why don’t you go down to the principal’s office?” Mr. Meade suggested, and I groaned. “Since you seem to be making a habit of sleeping in my class, maybe he can come up with some ideas to help you stay awake.”
“I am awake,” I insisted.
“Miss Everly—now.” Mr. Meade pointed to the door, as if I had forgotten how to leave and needed reminding.
I fixed my gaze on him, and despite how stern his gray eyes looked, I could tell he’d cave easily. Over and over in my head I kept repeating, I do not need to go the principal’s office. You don’t want to send me down there. Let me stay in class. Within seconds his face went lax and his eyes took on a glassy quality.
“You can stay in class and finish the lecture,” Mr. Meade said groggily. He shook his head, clearing his eyes. “But next time you’re going straight to the office, Miss Everly.” He looked confused for a moment, and then launched right back into his history lecture.
I wasn’t sure what it was that I had just done exactly—I tried not to think about it enough to name it. About a year ago, I’d discovered that if I thought about something and looked at somebody hard enough, I could get that person to do what I wanted.
As awesome as that sounded, I avoided doing it as much as possible. Partially because I felt like I was crazy for really believing I could do it, even though it worked every time. But mostly because I didn’t like it. It made me feel dirty and manipulative.
Mr. Meade went on talking, and I followed along studiously, my guilt making me try harder. I hadn’t wanted to do that to him, but I couldn’t go to the principal’s office. I had just been expelled from my last school, forcing my brother and aunt to uproot their lives again so we could move closer to my new school.
I had honestly tried at the last school, but the Dean’s daughter had been intent on making my life miserable. I’d tolerated her taunts and ridicules as best I could until one day she cornered me in the bathroom, calling me every dirty name in the book. Finally, I’d had enough, and I punched her.
The Dean decided to skip their one-strike rule and immediately expelled me. I know in large part it was because I’d resorted to physical violence against his child, but I’m not sure that was it entirely. Where other students were shown leniency, for some reason I never seemed to be.
When class finally ended, I shoved my books in my book bag and left quickly. I didn’t like hanging around after I did the mind-control trick. Mr. Meade could change his mind and send me to the office, so I hurried down to my locker.
Bright-colored flyers decorated battered lockers, telling everyone to join the debate team, try out for the school play, and not to miss the fall semiformal this Friday. I wondered what a “semiformal” consisted of at a public school, not that I’d bothered to ask anyone.
I got to my locker and started switching out my books. Without even looking, I knew Finn was behind me. I glanced over my shoulder and saw him getting a drink from the fountain. Almost as soon as I looked at him, he lifted his head and gazed at me. Like he could sense me too.
The guy was just looking at me, nothing more, but it freaked me out somehow. I’d put up with his stares for a week, trying to avoid confrontation, but I couldn’t take it anymore. He was the one acting inappropriately, not me. I couldn’t get in trouble for just talking to him, right?
“Hey,” I said to him, slamming my locker shut. I readjusted the straps on my book bag and walked across the hall to where he stood. “Why are you staring at me?”
“Because you’re standing in front of me,” Finn replied simply. He looked at me, his eyes framed by dark lashes, without any hint of embarrassment or even denial. It was definitely unnerving.
“You’re always staring at me,” I persisted. “It’s weird. You’re weird.”
“I wasn’t trying to fit in.”
“Why do you look at me all the time?” I knew I’d simply rephrased my original question, but he still hadn’t given me a decent answer.
“Does it bother you?”
“Answer the question.” I stood up straighter, trying to make my presence more imposing so he wouldn’t realize how much he rattled me.
“Everyone always looks at you,” Finn said coolly. “You’re very attractive.”
That sounded like a compliment, but his voice was emotionless when he said it. I couldn’t tell if he was making fun of a vanity I didn’t even have, or if he was simply stating facts. Was he flattering me or mocking me? Or maybe something else entirely?
“Nobody stares at me as much as you do,” I said as evenly as I could.
“If it bothers you, I’ll try and stop,” Finn offered.
That was tricky. In order to ask him to stop, I had to admit that he’d gotten to me, and I didn’t want to admit that anything got to me. If I lied and said it was fine, then he would just keep on doing it.
“I didn’t ask you to stop. I asked you why,” I amended.
“I told you why.”
“No, you didn’t.” I shook my head. “You just said that everyone looks at me. You never explained why you looked at me.”
Almost imperceptibly the corner of his mouth moved up, revealing the hint of a smirk. It wasn’t just that I amused him; I sensed he was pleased with me. Like he had challenged me somehow and I had passed.
My stomach did a stupid flip thing I had never felt before, and I swallowed hard, hoping to fight it back.
“I look at you because I can’t look away,” Finn answered finally.
I was struck completely mute, trying to think of some kind of clever response, but my mind refused to work. Realizing that my jaw had gone slack and I probably looked like an awestruck schoolgirl, I hurried to collect myself.
“That’s kind of creepy,” I said at last, but my words came out weak instead of accusatory.
“I’ll work on being less creepy, then,” Finn promised.
I had called him out on being creepy, and it didn’t faze him at all. He didn’t stammer an apology or flush with shame. He just kept looking at me evenly. Most likely he was a damn sociopath, and for whatever reason, I found that endearing.