Chapter 23

My laugh escaped my lips as the fry that I threw hit its target, a little louder than I meant it to be but the busy restaurant was noisy enough that the sound of my laugh actually got muffled and drowned in the sea of voices.

Alex gave me a mock dirty look for a second before chuckling with me, picking up the fry that had fallen onto his lap after hitting his forehead. He popped the fry into his mouth and munched on it.

It was lunch time and we were in McDonald's so it wasn't surprising to see it packed with people. We were lucky we were able to find a seat, otherwise we would have had to sit in Alex's car again like the last few times we were here.

At first, sitting across from Alex and actually having lunch with him was weird and slightly awkward. It was off-putting. But after got that initial awkwardness out of the way, I found it to be the best part of my day. At first, we went out of school to grab lunch to escape the prying eyes, but now, I went because I actually have fun while I'm at it. I actually look forward to it every morning.

Now, it's become a habit to just meet him by the school's front steps so that we can drive to McDonald's together.

Yes, we are both well aware of the cancerous cells we might be fostering by the rate that we were consuming fast food at. Don't set us as examples, kids, listen to your parents.

I let my grin stay on my lips as I looked down on my burger, picking it up to bite into it. I looked up at Alex and saw him smiling like a fool at me, triggering my own smile to surface as well.

Do you know how hard it is to chew your food while smiling? It must've been quite the sight to see.. or not.

"Oh my God, I want someone to look at me like that." I heard someone say.

"God, they look so in love. I feel so single looking at them." Another voice gushed as I looked around to see who they were talking about.

Two girls sitting a few feet away looked at me with wide eyes, as if they were caught doing something they shouldn't have been doing. They quickly looked away and I turned back to Alex, who quirked an eyebrow at me questioningly.

"What? Do you know them?" He asked.

I shook my head. He must've missed what they said. Which wouldn't be surprising since I was sitting closer to them and their voices were soft compared to everyone else's in the restaurant.

Even so, I still couldn't get rid of the butterflies I felt in my stomach when I heard what they said. Really? Did we really look as if we were in love? Was Alex really looking at me in a certain way?

I looked at Alex, probably for a few seconds too long. He raised his eyebrows and started patting his face with a napkin. "What? Is there something on my face?"

I shook his head as he picked up his phone to look at his reflection. "No, I was just thinking about something." I told him honestly.

"What were you thinking?" He asked me, putting his phone down and grabbing another fry from the tray we had poured the fries onto.

I bit my lip and shrugged. "Nothing important."

"Like hell am I going to tell him what I was thinking. Over my dead body." I spoke to myself mentally as I watched him tilt his head to the side and shrugging it off.

I started drifting off with my thoughts again as I looked at him eat his fries while reading something from his phone.

I mean, I guess we have started being close. It would be weirded if we haven't since it's been 2 weeks since we've been having lunch together.

It wasn't like we had started spilling our guts to each other and exposed each of our deepest darkest secrets and swore to be blood sisters but we were starting to act like decent friends who are able to joke around and tease each other.

And to me, that was more than what I have ever dared to wish for ever since we drifted apart years ago.

I no longer have to try brush off the stinging hurt I feel whenever I had to face his cold and stoic expressions directed at me, I don't have to feel the plunge of the knife to the heart anymore every time he acted as if I didn't exist, because he has started to greet me in the hallways and smile at me when he sees me ever since we started having lunch together. That was more than enough already. This was more than enough.

"So what are your plans for the weekend?" Alex asked me, breaking me out of my thoughts.

I shook my head lightly. "Um, nothing."

Alex raised an eyebrow, "Nothing? Really? That sounds depressing."

I shrugged, "I kinda lost my one and only friend, remember? There's not much that I can do even if I wanted to anyway."

Alex fell quiet at that. I didn't mean to sound so pathetic but I guess I accidentally made it sound that way. I didn't want to make him feel bad for me 'cause even though I did feel sad at times and maybe a tinge of loneliness here and there, I was still alright. I was okay.

"Well, you've got this friend sitting across from you." He said after a while, surprising me.

I mean, I shouldn't be but I was. Despite how friendly we've been acting around each other, it was still the first time that I heard him admit it.

I stopped eating for a while to look at him dumbly.

He waited expectantly for my response, waving his hand in a circle, "Well?"

I looked at his hand motion and mimicked it slowly, "Well? What?"

He rolled his eyes and looked at me as if I was the dumbest person on Earth. Well, I'm sorry if I'm a bit slow. Not everyone is gifted to be able to pick up things quickly, you know.

"What do you want to do?" He asked me.

My eyes grew in size. Why does he care?

"Um, why?" I threw a different question back at him.

"Because I'm going to do it with you. Whatever it is." He answered confidently.

I don't know where the cold Alex has gone but this one scared me.

"Yeah, why would you do that?" I asked again.

"Because the fact that you have no one to spend the weekend with is sad and I feel bad for you so stop answering my questions with questions and start giving me proper answers. What do you want to do?" He said in one breath.

I looked at him in slight amazement. Whoa. Rapper skills.

He snapped his fingers in front of my face, "Focus!"

I blinked, shaking my head. Right. Focus. I thought for a while but I ended up shaking my head.

"I don't want you to do that, though." I told him.

"What? Why not? You don't like spending time with me?" He asked, and dare I say, I may have detected a hint of hurt in his voice.

I shook my head quickly. "No, of course not. I have fun when I'm around you."

When I realized what I said, I had to suppress the blush that was threatening to heat my face up and give my feelings away. I cleared my throat and recomposed myself.

"I just don't want you to feel obligated to hang out with me just because you feel sorry for me." I said out loud. I gave him my best convincing look before saying, "I'm fine. I'm really fine."

Alex stared silently for a second and for that split second I thought that I had gotten through to him, despite still being unsure on whether I wanted him to understand what I was trying to say or not.

But that all went out the window when he rolled his eyes. He raised one finger, "Uh, one, that doesn't make sense whatsoever." He raised another finger, "Two, I'm asking you because I have no one else to spend my weekend with, okay. Stop being so slow and making me say all these embarrassing shit."

I bit my lip. I was slow but I wasn't dumb. I knew that if Alex wanted, he can just hang out with anyone he chooses to hang out with on the weekend. He's got friends that he usually spends his weekends with so the second thing he pointed out was a blatant lie and we both know it. But I won't lie and say I didn't appreciate it.

At my hesitancy, Alex rolled his eyes again and started rambling, spitting out ideas on what we should do over the weekend.

"Hmm.. we can bake? Isn't that a thing nowadays with you girls?"

I gave him an "are you serious?" look, at which he responded with, "What? No? No baking?"

"Unless you can bake, then be ready to risk getting food poisoning because I'm hopeless at it." I told him.

"Aha! But you're not completely rejecting the idea of hanging out with me on the weekends!" He pointed out.

I raised an eyebrow at him, wondering what's with the sudden change in attitude towards me. He actually sounded.. excited?

"Hmm, what do you like to do?" He pondered, his eyes wondering to the ceiling of the restaurant as he thought about it.

I watched in amusement at this odd side of him. Was it because his walls were starting to come down around me? I did notice the changes these past 2 weeks but this was more than what I have seen so far. It was shocking enough to put me at a loss for words.

"Ah! Parties! You like parties, don't you? Did you hear about the party that's happening this weekend?" He asked.

At the mention of parties, I know my expression began to mirror my feelings and turned uncertain. The last time I was at a party was enough to traumatize me.

However, Alex seemed to notice. But instead of racking his brain further for other activity ideas, he gave me a look of reassurance.

"You know I'll be there too, right? I know the guys throwing the party, too. They're clean." He said.

I found the gesture sweet - the fact that he was willing to give me reassurance that it'll be okay if I wanted to go to that party.

"Technically, it was Kimmy who liked to go to the parties and she dragged me along with her." I corrected him without completely rejecting the idea of going to a party.

"I know you like the food at these parties. I've seen you hog them a couple of times. Come on, let's go to this one. It'll be fun." He tried to coax me once again.

I bit my lip, choosing not to point out the fact that he said he's seen me hog party food a couple of times. Does that mean he had been watching me just like I've watched him a few times?

Stop. Focus, Em.

I considered the idea and looked at Alex's expectant face.

How can I say no to that?

"Ugh, fine. We'll go. Let's go. Why not." I gave in. Alex banged the table and fist pumped the air in victory, causing my eyes to grow as big as saucers and look around frantically before covering my face in embarrassment.

"Did you really have to?" I hissed at him, sending sheepish looks to our neighboring tables.

He grew aware of the glares we were receiving and started sending his own sheepish smiles to the startled people around us.

"Oopsies, my bad. Okay, let's get out of here. We're gonna be late." He said, pretending to look at the time and grabbing my wrist to drag me outside quickly before the angered mob decides to kick us out themselves.

I looked at the hand that was holding my wrist as my feet followed Alex out, the skin under it tingling and my heart fluttering in sync with the tingles.

I bit my lip to hide the smile growing in me as my eyes trailed up the hand to stare at his broad back as we headed back to the car.

I am definitely treading on dangerous territories.