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Made of steel (made of s.., p.11
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       Made of Steel (Made of Steel Series Book 1), p.11

           Ivy Smoak
slower 1  faster

  Chapter 11


  "Aren't you hot? It's like a thousand degrees," Kins said as she spread out a blanket on the Green.

  I pulled the side of my hoodie up slightly to cover my neck. "I'm cold all the time. It must be a North Dakota thing." I laughed awkwardly. I had changed into a pair of jean shorts, but I was still wearing a baggy hoodie.

  "I guess. It would be awesome to visit sometime. I've never been farther west than Chicago. What's it like?"

  Shit. "Well, the badlands are pretty cool, but I've seen them dozens of times." That was literally the only thing I knew about North Dakota. I had never been there in my life. "Honestly there isn't a ton to see." I needed to change the topic. "So did you grow up around here?"

  "In Queens. Whenever you're missing a home cooked meal, you can come visit my parents with me."

  "Thanks, I'd like that." I couldn't even remember the last time I had a home cooked meal.

  "It's just like a thirty minute subway ride away. I'm actually super lucky they let me live on campus. Why do you keep looking over your shoulder?"

  "What?" I turned back toward her. "Sorry, I thought I heard something." I should have felt safe surrounded by hundreds of new students. But I didn't. It felt like someone was watching me. A chill ran down my spine.

  She laughed. "I'm a little jumpy too. It's a little weird that neither one of us knows anyone else here. Maybe we should change that. Hey, look," she said and lightly touched my shoulder.

  I tried to hide my cringe.

  "Those guys are totally checking us out."

  I laughed. I highly doubted that they were checking me out in my huge hoodie. They were probably both staring at her. I didn't even bother looking at where she was pointing.

  She started waving them over.

  "What are you doing?"

  "We have extra room on our blanket. They're about to sit in the grass. I'm just being nice."

  "But you don't even know them."

  "Exactly. I don't know them. But I want to." She winked at me and then laughed. "You should see your face. You're acting all stranger danger on me. It's our first night here. We're supposed to talk to strangers. That's the whole point of this mixer thing. We were strangers this morning. And now you're literally my best friend here."

  I couldn't argue with that. Kinsley was now officially my only friend. I wasn't even allowed to contact anyone from my past. It probably wouldn't hurt to expand my circle a bit.

  "Hey, is it okay if we join you?"

  I looked up to see two very handsome guys standing next to our blanket. What I didn't expect was for one of them to be smiling at me.

  "Is that okay?" he said, still looking directly at me. "We didn't think about bringing a towel or anything to sit on." He shrugged his shoulders.

  "Of course you can sit with us," Kins said. "Right?" She nudged my shoulder.

  Again I tried to hide my cringe. "That's fine. We can move over. There's plenty of room." I slid all the way to the end of the blanket and waited for Kins to slide over next to me.

  But she didn't move over. Instead she smiled up at them and tapped both the spots beside her.

  And now I know Kins is a ridiculous flirt. All I wanted to do was watch the movie. I tried to keep my eyes glued to the screen as the guy who had smiled at me sat down between Kins and me. I folded my arms across my chest and leaned slightly away from him. If I leaned over any farther I'd probably fall over in the grass. But I couldn't seem to stop trying to put more distance between us. It took all of a few seconds for it to actually happen. I placed my hand down on the wet grass just in time to not completely topple over.

  The boy next to me laughed. "Um, you sure this is okay? I promise I'm not trying to ruin your night. I really did just forget to bring a blanket."

  I knew I was being awkward. I just didn't know how to stop. "It's fine," I gave him a small smile and turned my head back toward the screen. It was only previews, but I had always enjoyed the whole experience. I had no idea what movie was about to play, but I hoped it was a good one. It would be nice to be able to take my mind off the script of my new life for just a few hours.

  "I'm Eli." He put his hand out for me.

  I lifted my hand out of the grass and shook his hand. Oh God, I just got his hand all wet.

  His eyes twinkled like he was holding back more laughter. He wiped his hand off on his jeans as I leaned ever farther away from him. "And you are?"

  "Summer." I immediately coughed. "Summer is my favorite time of the year. And my name is Sadie." What is wrong with me? "Sadie," I said again. It still sounded strange coming out of my mouth.

  He smiled. "Well, it's nice to meet you, Sadie. I'm a fan of summer myself."

  Before he could ask me any questions, I asked one of my own. "Are you from New York?"

  He laughed. "No. Actually, I'm from this super small town in Utah."

  "Really? Where?" I had never been to Utah. But I had been to almost every state through the characters in the books I constantly read. It was almost like I had been there. The descriptions reminded me of home.

  "Moab. I'm sure you've never heard of it."

  I hadn't heard of it. But how different could it be from Wyoming and Colorado? I could picture mountains everywhere. I could almost smell the crisp air. "No, I haven't traveled much," I lied. "I had never even left North Dakota until moving here."

  "North Dakota? So you couldn't wait to move to the big city either, huh?"

  "Yeah. I guess we came here for the same reasons." I swallowed hard. I was forming a connection with him based solely on a lie. This was harder than I thought it was going to be. He seemed like such a nice guy. I wished he had sat down on any blanket other than mine. My lies weren't worth his time.

  He smiled. "I guess so."

  I turned back to the screen, but I kept glancing at him out of the corner of my eye. He was wearing a button down with the sleeves rolled up. There were earbuds hanging out of his front pocket. He had dirty blonde hair and a kind smile. And it seemed like he wore that smile almost all the time. There wasn't a single threatening thing about him. He actually looked like the classic boy-next-door. But he wasn't my boy-next-door. I pulled my knees up to my chest and hugged my legs.

  I hated when my mind wandered to Miles. It had been five years since I had even talked to him. Things still reminded me of him, though. That's what sucked the most. That I remembered him when he had so blatantly forgotten about me.

  "Ouch, that must have hurt." Eli lightly touched the side of my knee where there was a huge bruise.

  Don't touch me. I shifted slightly away from him. For some reason, his gentle touch hurt almost as much as getting the bruise in the first place.

  I hadn't even thought about hiding the bruise on my knee. In comparison to the one on my neck, it was so tiny. But it wasn't exactly small. Not to a normal person. I laughed awkwardly. "I'm ridiculously clumsy. It's nothing."

  "What happened?" He sounded concerned.

  "It really was nothing. I just fell. Up the stairs. Believe it or not, it's actually a lot easier to fall up the stairs than down." What the hell am I saying? Luckily the movie had just started. I shushed him before he even got a chance to respond.

  The movie should have been a reprieve. But when I saw the Disney logo, I bit my lip. Frozen. Even though it had been out for years, I had never watched it. I had stopped watching Disney movies when I was a kid. I hated how the parents always died. How were these characters supposed to find their happily ever after when there was so much pain in their hearts? Maybe this one will be different.

  After several minutes of happy images, I watched the parents' boat sink into the water. It felt like it was hard to breathe. I looked up at the sky. Seeing the stars always gave me strength. They reminded me that anything was possible. But I couldn't see a single star in the sky. The city lights were too bright. It felt like my throat was constricting.

  "It's weird, right?" Eli whispered. "That you can't see
the stars?"

  I blinked hard, trying to keep my tears at bay. "I have to go."

  "I'm sorry, I'll be quiet. I hate when people talk during movies too." He smiled.

  "No, it's not that." My voice sounded strangled. "It was nice meeting you." I stood up before he could say anything else and weaved my way as quickly as possible between all the blankets filled with other freshmen.

  I knew I wasn't blending in. I knew I wasn't being normal enough. Unlike the characters in Disney movies, my life didn't seem to keep going after bad things happened. It was like I was frozen in time. In pain. And I couldn't breathe in this city. How could I breathe if I couldn't see the stars?

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