A/N: So this is a new story that I'm pretty excited about. It's Naley, as usual, but it's anything but a usual Naley story. So enjoy and let me know what you think. :). Oh and other couple as of right now are somewhat determined but they're not very typical. Until next time...
Life is Short
She knew life wasn't easy. Firsthand experience told her nothing was ever given to her; everything she had even gotten was something she had painstakingly earned. Of course some things came naturally. Some things you were simply born with. A gift was not something you wasted in her opinion and to see such talent be imbedded in someone so unappreciative was beyond her.
She stared at him, mesmerized by his stoic exterior. He always looked gruff, like he was about to yell or scream at any given second, but words rarely left his mouth. He sat, grey hoodie over his head, hunched over the desk focusing on the problems in front of him. She couldn't help but wonder if he was centering his energy on Calculus or with dodging all the curveballs life had thrown him.
She couldn't argue that they had been quite a few. But people dealt with them all the time. People with bigger problems and devastating tragedies had somehow managed to pick up their lives and move on. At first, she had been sympathetic. After time, however, she just didn't see the point in mulling over the past, sinking yourself into an obvious oblivion…on purpose.
She furrowed her brow in confusion as she watched him stop at one of the easier problems. He quickly shook his head and wrote an answer down moving on to the next question. He was smart, and he didn't need a tutor. If she had to guess, she would assume his IQ was very high, possibly even higher than hers. She didn't understand why she even agreed to help someone who didn't really need it, but over time she realized that he simply just needed someone to believe that he could.
The routine was the same everyday. They would come in, she would look over his tests, homework, and assignments, pointing out the mistakes she knew he made on purpose and he would nod his head. She would explain the correct way to do things and then they settled into silence; him doing his homework for the evening and she doing hers. Except she never did hers.
He enthralled her. He seemed larger than life and a perfect enigma. The whole town had heard his story, his misfortune, and she had a hard time piecing everything together. She felt, that even though their relationship never ventured outside the four walls of the tutoring center, that she was his closest friend. Conversation was not their strong suit, but she took it for what it was and she waited for the day when he would open up to her.
It had been months since their tutoring sessions had begun, and the only meaningful piece of information she had gotten out of him was his middle name. Secretly, she had to steal even that. She never sensed that they were on the same page, or even in the same book for that matter. Whatever book he was, it was under tight lock and key; a secret and forbidden journal she was dying to read.
She noticed that he never was with anyone, always keeping a book in his nose at lunch. They were always older looking books; leather bound, and quite beat up like they had been read hundreds of times. It was fascinating to her, how brilliant he seemed to be and how humble he appeared. In the one class they did share, she had only heard him speak once and it was a mumbled answer in response to a question the teacher posed.
That didn't mean he didn't have friends. In fact, the wild parties with his friends, mostly high school dropouts were notorious. She had heard several stories, mostly of booze running freely and plenty of girls around to satisfy everyone's needs. In her mind, she choose to believe he wasn't one of those guys but she knew that in all reality he probably was.
"Done." He slid the paper over to her, across the table and she snapped out her daze to take it from him, barely grazing his fingertips.
"Good." She smiled, quickly handing it back.
It took a long time to go through wrong answers. It only took seconds to go through right ones. She held back her weary sigh as she watched him throw the paper in his notebook and then to his backpack, slinging it across his shoulder. Yes, he was by no means stupid and she suddenly wondered what the point was anymore. He didn't need her help and she was positive others students did.
She held back though, knowing in the end she would miss their quiet afternoons. Being with him, she knew she was in the company of a like mind, even if she couldn't quite pick it yet. Her thoughts drifted to a fantasy of the pair, conversing about their favorite books and sharing poetry. It was silly notion, she knew, but one she couldn't suppress nonetheless.
Pulling his hoodie over his head, she marveled at the artwork that graced his body. A tiny barbell rested right about his eyebrow. She didn't think it looked quite right on him though. A large tribal tattoo covered the majority of his left arm and a small Chinese symbol was branded on the back of his neck. His wrist though puzzled her the most. No matter what she had heard from other people or what she had gathered from their short talks, she couldn't figure out why he had that particular word on his wrist.
She never got up the courage to ask, truthfully. She wanted to know everything about him but at the same time was very cautious. He seemed to be a ticking time bomb and anything could set him off. But there just seemed to be something in him, something deep inside; that gave him depth. His reputation was somewhat shaky, a typical bad boy most would say. It was just a façade though and she could tell.
She just didn't know if she wanted to break that façade.
"Do you want to go for some coffee?" she found herself asking, her small hand over his much larger one. She didn't know what possessed her, and she was sure she had made a mistake when she saw hesitation flash through his eyes. She removed her hand, throwing it in her lap with the other one. Looking down at her fumbling hands, she murmured the next part. "Or not."
She looked up again and he was gone.
She wasn't sure what brought her out that cool night. She had stayed at the tutoring center another hour finishing up the homework she hadn't been able to concentrate on and headed home. Managing to shove down a measly three fork fulls of food, it didn't take long for her mom needing her help with the youngest of the group. Afterwards she had nearly fallen asleep in the shower from pure exhaustion, and then headed to bed.
Except sleep would not come.
It was 2 in the morning when she quietly snuck out of her abode, careful not to wake her mother or any of the four children under five. Her parents were happy, and totally in love but she didn't think it was very fair, being the oldest still underneath their roof to be stuck with caring for her parent's offspring. She couldn't really complain though; her parents were wacky and laid back and she knew they would do anything for her.
Her older sister, by two years, had clearly inherited their parent's lack of inhibition. She was never in one place for more than a few weeks, and by this point had held hundreds of jobs. She was carefree, and lived her life to the fullest never stopping to care about anyone else; and rarely ever caring out herself. Where her sister was the wildflower, she was the wallflower.
It was the beginning of December and Christmas was just around the corner. Sadly that meant that school would be out soon for the break and as much as she despised herself for thinking it, she was going to miss her tutoring sessions those few weeks. She tightly wrapped her coat around her and blew her breathe in her hands. She wasn't sure where she was going, and it was bitter cold, but there was no turning back.
Her heart nearly stopped when she stumbled upon him. She had only been to the river court a few times in her life, but never had she expected to see him. She let a tree hold up her body weight as she leaned against it, silently watching him. He was graceful and clearly brilliant with basketball as well. He didn't have a coat on, or a shirt for that matter, but the chill didn't seem to bother him in the slightest.
He almost looked happy.
She wanted to talk to him but knew he would never respond. The moment would be lost and the almost happy look on his face would disappear. She would be left, once again, confused and a little hurt without any explanation. And he would be mad. This was something he was obviously good at, but it was something she would never have guessed. He wasn't on the basketball team, and she assumed that was by choice. It was something he kept to himself.
She respected that. Having the crazy family she had, days were long and years were a small eternity. It was expected of her to be the adult and reason in the family and really it was quite stressful. So of course, she had to find an outlet. She wasn't sure if she was any good, or if it was something that would take her places but she loved doing it and it never failed in helping her out one way or another.
Still, it was a secret to her, as basketball was his secret. Her parents knew she could play piano and guitar, for they had paid for the lessons, but singing was her passion and her desire and it was all hers. Not even her best friend knew of her talent and she was okay with. Secrets were something that people needed; a guilty pleasure to make you feel as if you had something to make you above others.
She was snapped out of her thoughts, seeing him standing in front of her. His ball was on his hip, his arm casually holding it in place. She couldn't read his expression, nor could she ever, but she was hoping he wasn't going to be pissed or upset for watching him. She wasn't sure what to say, and after pulling her beanie further on her head, standing up straight, and clearing her throat she was ready to speak.
"Uh, hi." She squeaked out and she could've swore she saw amusement in his eyes. "I uh, I'm sorry I was eavesdropping."
"You mean you weren't stalking me?" he asked, dropping the ball and taking a seat on top of it. She quickly shook her head no. "Well, damn."
"Okay." She nodded. "Wait. What?"
"What are you doing here?" he questioned, eyeing her intensely. "It's two in the morning on a school night. Shouldn't you be in bed tutor girl?"
"I resent that." She huffed crossing her arms over her chest. "Just because I'm smart doesn't mean I'm in bed by eight sharp."
"Alright, alright." He threw his hands up in mock surrender, smirking slightly. "I wasn't being serious. I'm out at two in the morning too you know."
"You skip school twice a week too." She pointed out and he chuckled in response. She had never heard him laugh.
"Don't we have tutoring tomorrow?"
"I wouldn't miss that." He told her honestly. She rolled her eyes and walked up to him, kicking the ball out from underneath him. He instantly fell on his bottom. "Hey!"
"What?" she asked innocently scooping up the ball and effortlessly throwing it into the basket. He got up and quirked up his eyebrows in interest. She shrugged. "I have a lot of boy cousins."
"Not bad." He approved, walking over to the grass to grab the ball. He too, shrugged. "I'm still better."
"Undoubtedly." She agreed catching the ball as he tossed it to her. "You're really good."
"Decent." He corrected, watching as she tossed the ball in once more. "I never would've pictured you as good in basketball."
"That's not the only thing." She replied as they continued to shoot the ball. "I can cook, change the oil in a car, sew, install a starter, clean, throw a mean spiral in football, kill you in mud wrestling, sing, dance, and write music."
"Sing huh?" he questioned and she squinted her eyes in confusion. Out of all her talents he chose that particular one. "When you going to sing something for me?"
"That would be the day after never."
"So tomorrow's good for you?"
She laughed nervously. "Tomorrow we have tutoring."
"You don't want to go and do something fun?" he questioned, coming closer to her and taking the ball out of her hands.
"But math is fun." She smiled sweetly as he shook his head in amusement. He shivered and on instinct she put her small arms around his much larger torso. "You're very cold."
He didn't respond, just quickly brushed his lips across hers. She briefly wondered if it had even taken place, if it was just another day dream in itself. It was over quickly and once she willed herself to open up her eyes he was looking down at her curiously. She realized this was big, almost too big, and stepped away from him as if she had been burned.
"I'll uh, see you tomorrow after school." She mumbled, putting her arms tightly around herself.
"I won't be there."
"But you just said…"
"I've got plans." He coldly cut her off walking over to the table and throwing on his hoodie.
"It's not like you need them anyway." She retorted, glaring at him slightly. He stared at her, looking very pissed off. "In fact, I'm sure a lot of other people could benefit from my tutoring than you."
"You're tutoring?" he chuckled incredulously. "You mean you're hour long session of daydreaming and drooling?" he smirked, chucking the ball at her and walking past her.
"Nathan!" she called out, closing her eyes, and clenching her teeth. He absolutely infuriated her. "You always do that."
"Do what?" he asked after several moments with their backs facing one another.
She spun around to face him. "You shut up and close up and what does that do? Nothing. You're so hot and cold all the damn time I don't know what to make of you."
"So maybe we just need to go our separate ways." He said indifferently turning around to look her in the eye as well. He barely saw hurt flash through her eyes which was quite surprising but he could tell she was angry as she threw the ball back at him.
"Yeah, I guess so."
They stared at one another for a several minutes, neither wavering until a loud ring was heard. He reached for his ringing cell phone answering it rapidly. She rolled her eyes annoyed as he talked about going to a party. This had been the most he had ever talked to her, ever done, and it ended with a fight and a hasty disbandment of their somewhat of a friendship.
"I'm outta here." She grumbled, throwing up her hands in defeat and making her way off the court. He grabbed her arm, stopping her, and pulling her close whispering in her ear.
"Or you could come with me?" he pressed, quirking up his eyebrows in interest. "What do you say tutor girl?"