“Hey, I’m Riley.”
For a single moment, the girl didn’t react. And then she slowly turned her head to look at me as if I was crazy. The emotion emanating from her was confusion.
No one talks to her, I realized.
“You’re in my biology class with Mr. Carter, right?”
“Uh… yeah… I guess.”
“I’m Riley,” I said again.
She just stared at me. The feeling of confusion was strong. Finally she opened her mouth and stammered, “Al – Alex. I mean, um, Alexandra. I’m Alexandra.”
I nodded with a smile, remembering. Her name in the roll calls of the classes we shared was “Alex.”
“Parents were Greek mythology fans, huh?”
She squinted her eyes at me. “Yeah, I… guess.”
“So do you prefer Alex or Alexandra?”
She shrugged. “Whatever.” What is wrong with you?
I cocked my head to the side curiously. “Is something bothering you?”
Her expression changed to one of shock, but she recovered quickly and flattened her features into impassivity. “Nothing. Why? And… who are you again?”
“My name is Riley. And it occurred to me that we’ve had two classes in a row together all year, and we haven’t spoken a single word to each other.”
She continued to gaze at me, carefully protecting the lack of emotion on her face.
I took a deep breath and leaned a little closer to her. “And it seems to me,” I said softly, “that you could use a friend. A really good friend.”
At that, she looked startled again, almost alarmed. I watched her for a moment; she began to squirm uncomfortably.
“Am I right?” I whispered.
She took a deep breath and nodded slowly.
I smiled gently. “Let’s be friends.”
She raised an eyebrow skeptically. Is that really how it works?
“That’s really how it works.”
That startled look again. I should probably stop doing that.
“But really, do you prefer Alex or Alexandra?”
“I really don’t care. Everyone calls me Alex.”
I leaned back and regarded her; her shoulder-length white-blond hair that curled at the ends, her bright blue eyes that were almost too big for her face, the smattering of freckles across her nose and cheeks, and the fact that she was rail thin – they all made her look two or three years younger than me. She made me think of a little Greek pixie.
“How about… Lexi?”
She tilted her head slightly to the side, wrinkling her nose in thought; I could see a tiny smile start to play at the corners of her mouth. Then, as if she’d caught herself, she quickly returned to her emotionless expression and shrugged again. “Whatever.”
I pursed my lips. She obviously had several layers of walls up, but I had the best tool at my disposal for getting through to her. We were going to be the best of friends.