8. Surprise, surprise

When the light was taken away from my red face, I hid it in my palms. I could not believe what had just happened. I thought that those things only happened in movies, or when someone is getting engaged or something. This was so crazy!

"I shouldn't have come!" I yelled, still hiding my face with my forehead resting on Linda's shoulder.

"What?! What are you talking about? It was amazing! How many people do you think can get this kind of attention?" She yelled back, removing my hands, so she could see me. "Come on! Enjoy it while it lasts. It doesn't have to mean a thing!"

"I don't like attention. If he knew me, he wouldn't have done it." I pointed, and risked a shy look to the band on stage.

"Who knows what it would have been? Does it matter?" Tina rudely remarked behind me.

"The thing is, Thomas seems to like Alice," Linda explained, her voice fighting over the music and the crowd's screams.

"Interesting. Do you like him?" my step-sister asked directly, and I felt like I was going to have a heart attack from so many surprising emotions.

Do I have to answer that at all?

Should I lie?

I know I have a crush on him, but I guess it will pass. Sure, he is a minor celebrity with a cute look and cocky attitude. I could fall for him even if I see him on the TV, and never see him for real. It doesn't make a difference, right? But I knew it wasn't true… because he was here. Thomas was singing to me, showing to all those strangers his affection or whatever he thinks he has towards me.

"Oh God! You do like him! Do you have to be like all others?" Tina rolled her eyes, when I kept silent at her question.

"He is pushing too hard. I thought that isn't your type." Linda yelled on my other side.

Hell, this night was turning into a nightmare. "Like others." Tina said. 

No! I don't want to be like others in no way. I love being different. It was a part of what defined me. I couldn't betray this part of me, or I might lose myself or something.

"Stop, you two! I did not say that I like him. Even if some silly… confused part of me does… I don't care!" I raised my hands up in frustration, and turned around, running to the exit. "Don't follow me!"

Tina and Linda gave each other a confused, surprised look and I could feel their stares on me. I already knew that I was overreacting, but I was overwhelmed. It felt like I was all alone at this, when even my friend was questioning me.

"Who is going to drive me back? You are my ride." My step-sister's kid-alike voice yelled after me, but she got her answer instantly from my best friend, sparing me.

"I will drive you!" Linda said, and yelled after me, "What will you do?"

I ignored her, leaving her to think that I didn't hear her. 

Honestly, I don't understand myself right now.

I just felt so mad, desperate and annoyed. With everyone and everything. I went to the bathroom again, escaping from whatever was out there, when from what I was really hiding, was inside me.

"Arghhh!" I yelled, angrily and heard my voice loud and clear, because here the music was only in the background.

I rested my fists on both sides of the only sink, and stared into the rusty mirror. 

“Why me?!” I groaned, remembering the opening speech of the famous boy.

Just like in the movies, the water in one of the three bathroom stalls flushed. I gulped and turned back to see who was witnessing my frustration. A second later, from the right stall came out Alex, one of my step-brother's friends. He was the charming one from their four person brainless herd, not that Steven wasn't cute, but… yeah.

"Oh, great!" I sighed and returned to watching my over-painted face.

"Hi. What are you asking yourself?" he came closer to me, a concerned expression taking over.

"Like you will understand." I groaned.

"Are you always so quick to judge people?" he questioned, now invading my personal space as his arm almost touched mine.

What is wrong with everyone lately? Is there no personal space anymore?

"Are you always pushing yourself to people for answers?" I glared at him.

"No, but you are leaning on the only sink here." He defended, and I instantly moved in surprise.

"Sorry," I stepped back with my head bent down. "I didn't realize it."

He washed his hands, inspecting me in the mirror. Then he turned to me with a small smile. He was adorable, I must confess. His light brown hair was long, curly on top and shaved behind his ears. Dark red shirt was covering his trained chest and wide shoulders. Light blue jeans and white sneakers were what he often wore, and today was no exception.

"Can I at least get an answer?" he pushed, but it somehow seemed kind.

"I am wondering why one boy decided to make a joke out of me," I told the truth, realizing what was the reason for my anger. I felt like he was playing me; like I was a fool.

"Who is making such a joke?" he narrowed his eyebrows, like a father or a big brother would.

"Doesn't matter. Someone who doesn't know me, but somehow decided I am that stupid to fall for his pretense. Like, someone like him, would like me of all people. What a twisted game?" I rambled.

Leaning back on the wall behind me, I rested my back, not caring how dirty it was from all those vomiting, drunk people. Why was I talking to Alex for this… or at all?

"Hmm, I doubt that this is the case. Maybe you don't know everything. Why do you think so less of yourself?" he asked thoughtfully.

"Why? Look at me?" I pointed at myself.

I was no one on the popularity stage in school. I was invisible.

"I am looking at you." He answered and his lips revealed his white teeth.

"Do you even know who I am?" I asked, as a small dose of excitement filled me.

"Of course! You are Alice, Steven's sister." He grinned.

"Oh!" I said in surprise and then looked away. "Step-sister."

"Can I help you somehow? Maybe you could talk about things with someone who can see them from a different angle?" Alex made a point, and stretched his hand to me like he was inviting me to dance.

I bit the inside of my cheek and something in me snapped.

"Why not?" I answered and placed my hand in his.

When we stepped outside the bathroom, Thomas’s voice pushed its way into my ears, so I hurried to the exit where the man from before was still smoking. Seeing me in a rush, holding that boy's hand, a concerned look appeared on his forehead. While passing by him, he cleared his throat.

"Uh-hmm! You are leaving so soon?" the man said, questioning my behavior.

I stopped at the end of the stairs, and looked up to him. "Um, yeah. What is it to you?" I asked. He must have been around twenty-five, maybe. He was so serious that it seemed strange for his young face. 

What the heck is up with everyone today -- messing with me? Why does he care?

"I was just wondering if all is okay because you see, I am the club owner. I want all to be okay. This boy is not bothering you, right?" he explained, and looked suspiciously at Alex, still holding me by my hand.

"What? No, man! I am taking her for some fresh air." My brother's friend quickly defended.

"It's all okay." I lied, but at least it was kind of fine that this boy was taking me out of this place. "Thanks for… um, asking."

"Of course. Stay safe, guys!" The club owner said, and pushed out a circle of cigar smoke.

I turned to Alex, and pulled my hand gently. He smiled, and we started walking slowly on the street next to each other. It wasn't a busy street, it was far from the center of the town. Only half the lights were working on our way, making it darker than I preferred. I checked my phone to see why it was buzzing in the back pocket of the tiny white skirt. It was a message from Linda, saying, "Thomas asked for you." I rolled my eyes, but did not answer it.

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