Made of steel (made of s.., p.17
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       Made of Steel (Made of Steel Series Book 1), p.17

           Ivy Smoak
 

  ***

  "Ready to go find that super sexy job?" Kins said as she sat down next to me on the bench. I looked up from my phone. I was trying to memorize my number so that when people asked, I wouldn't have to look it up. Eli had already made fun of me for having to do that this afternoon.

  "Actually, I found one already." I slid my phone into the front pouch of my backpack. "I just got hired at the Corner Diner." I pointed across the street.

  "Well, congrats. That's like one of the most popular places to eat off campus. You didn't even need me." She looked slightly disappointed. "How'd you find it?"

  "I went to lunch with Eli and..."

  "Really?" she said, cutting me off. "Patrick's friend? I thought you kind of ruined that after you totally ditched him the other night."

  "Well, it wasn't a date or anything like that. We got paired up for a psychology project. We were discussing our topic."

  "That sounds hot."

  I laughed. "How on earth is that hot?" It was kinda hot. "We're just friends."

  "And there's a 70 percent chance it'll become friends with benefits. Fact."

  I laughed. "That's not a fact."

  "So how about we just go shopping instead?" she said, ignoring my comment.

  "That's a great idea. I really do need to pick up my books. We have that reading assignment for sociology and..."

  "No, not for books. For clothes. You mentioned that you wanted to go shopping the other day. That'll be more fun than a job search anyway." She stood up. "And I know the perfect place. I need to pick up a new dress too. Patrick asked me on a date later this week."

  "That's great." I touched the side of my neck that my hoodie was covering. I couldn't go shopping today. She'd see it. "I'll definitely help you look. But really I just need a new pair of sneakers."

  "Suit yourself."

  I grabbed my backpack and followed her. "So, a date with Patrick? I thought you had the hots for our RA?"

  "I like to keep my options open. Patrick is a really nice guy. But I don't drool when I see him."

  "That's probably a good thing. Or else he wouldn't like you."

  "Well tonight I'm going to try to get Mr. RA to like me. I have this master plan. I'm going to trip right next to him and surely he'll catch me."

  "And if he doesn't?"

  "Then I'll make a fool of myself. But you'll be there to calm me down afterwards. So no harm no foul." She shrugged her shoulders. "When are you seeing Eli again?"

  "Probably in class on Wednesday. How were the rest of your classes today?"

  "The same as sociology. Pretty much just a day of syllabi. I don't know why I was so worried last night. Oh, here we are."

  I stopped in my tracks. A tall man in a dark gray suit had just stepped onto the sidewalk in front of me. All I could see was the back of him. But his stature was the same. The way his muscles bulged in his suit was the same. His buzzed head was the same. It's him. It felt like my body turned to ice. He's here. Fear gripped at my heart.

  "Sadie?"

  I could feel his fingers around my throat. I took a step back and bumped into someone.

  "Watch where you're going," said a gruff voice.

  The man in the suit turned his head at the commotion. It felt like I started to breathe again. I had seen Don Roberts' face when they were cuffing him. It was ruined, half scarred from the burns. His blue eyes had bore into mine with hatred and what I thought was a promise of revenge. But this man's face was perfectly smooth. And his brown eyes weren't looking at me with hatred. He was looking at me like I was a dumb girl, blocking everyone's path on the sidewalk. His eye color didn't prove anything. After all, my eye color had changed too. But there was no way he was going to be able to fix his face. At least not any time soon. It's not him. I'm safe.

  "Earth to Sadie." Kins stepped in front of me and waved her hand in my face. "Hey, you okay? You look like you just saw a ghost."

  "Yeah, I'm okay." I touched the side of my neck and stepped out of the way of the people walking by. "I just thought I saw someone I knew."

  "Geez, not someone you liked I'm guessing? You look so pale. Are you sure you're okay?"

  "I'm fine." I plastered a smiled to my face even though my heart was beating out of my chest.

  She was looking at me like she was truly concerned. "We're here." She gestured to the building beside us. By the way she was staring at me, it didn't seem like it was the first time she had said it. "If you're still up for it?"

  "No, I'm definitely still up for it. I'm sorry." I shook my head. Act normal. I had been so busy having a mini heart attack that I hadn't even realized Kinsley had been trying to get my attention. I looked in the window of the small boutique. I wasn't sure I was going to find comfortable shoes here, but I followed her in anyway. I didn't want to be outside. There were too many people in this city. How could I keep an eye out for someone I recognized if there were a million people every time I stepped outside? Nothing felt safe. I swallowed hard. It wasn't him. No matter how many times I told myself I was okay, my heart was still racing. I tried to focus on the racks of clothes. I'm safe.

  "Aren't these clothes so cute?"

  I appreciated Kins' distraction. I glanced at a price tag on the first dress I passed. $79.99. "Definitely cute." And expensive.

  "This one's perfect. And this one." Kins already had a few dresses draped over her arm by the time I registered the fact that I couldn't afford anything here.

  I walked through the rest of the displays until I came to the back of the store. The wall was lined with shoes. Most of them were ridiculously high stilettos. But along the bottom were some fashionable sneakers. I stopped when I saw a pair of light gray Converses.

  I could still picture that night like it had happened yesterday. I imagined Julie sticking her foot out from underneath the table, showing me her new Converses. She thought they were the coolest things ever. In my mind, they weren't nearly as great as the bunny slippers my father had given me. I missed those slippers. I couldn't even remember what happened to them. But it didn't matter now anyway. I wouldn't have been allowed to bring them with me.

  "I'm going to go try these on," Kins said. "You'll have to let me know which one is the best."

  "Okay." I nodded and smiled as I picked up the pair of Converses. $50. I immediately placed them back down as Kins walked into the dressing room. I really needed to head to the bank to see exactly how much money I was working with.

  "Did you want to try a pair on?" the sales associate asked. I hadn't even seen her approach me.

  "Oh, no, that's okay. I was just looking."

  She waved her hand dismissively. "Now's the time to get them if you want them. We're getting a new autumn line in. These are all half off."

  That seemed like a pretty good deal. And I was starting a new job tomorrow. I'd have more money soon. "Could I try on a seven?"

  "Sure thing. I'll go grab a pair from the back."

  They were pretty much exactly what I needed for waitressing. If they reminded me just a little of home, all the better. I thanked the sales associate when she handed me the box, and then I sat down outside the dressing room.

  "What do you think?" Kins asked as I pulled the lid off the box.

  I looked up. I had learned three things about Kins since we had met. She was an incorrigible flirt. She was one of the sweetest people I had ever known. And she was gorgeous in absolutely anything she wore. I bet she'd look good in a trash bag. The dress did hug her in all the right places though. "It looks great. What look are you going for exactly?"

  "Sexy but chic."

  "Maybe you want something slightly longer then? That looks like..."

  "I'd put out on the first date?"

  We both laughed.

  "Seriously, though. This is more of a dress for our RA than for Patrick then. I'll set it aside." She disappeared back into the dressing room.

  Poor Patrick. I didn't have a doubt in my mind that she'd be dating our sexy RA by the end of the week. He
was in serious trouble. I kicked off the flats I was wearing and slid my feet into the Converses. They were a perfect fit. I laced them up and stuck my feet out in front of me. They looked good with the jeans I'd have to keep wearing until the bruise on my knee faded. Hopefully they'd look good with shorts too. I couldn't wait until I could wear some of the clothes Mr. Crawford had given me. I set my feet back down on the ground.

  For a long time I had wondered how Julie was. I wondered if she and Jacob ever said I love you to each other. Maybe they were still together. I'd never know. She had never contacted me after that night. She was right though. Love at first sight didn't exist. Whatever I had with Miles had been a lie. And I had never fallen in love again. For the longest time, I had been holding out hope that one day he would just appear back in my life. But I knew better than anyone that real life wasn't like that. Nothing was like a Disney movie.

  I untied the shoes and put them back into the box. Even though I didn't really have the money to spend, the shoes made me smile. And they were comfortable. Apparently Sadie Davis didn't care if she was completely broke.

  I tapped on the dressing room door. "How's it going in there, Kins?" She hadn't come out in a few minutes.

  "Nothing that tops that dress yet. I'll be out in a few minutes."

  Before I sat back down, I saw a dress on a hanger, waiting to go back out onto the floor. It was a royal blue sundress. There was no harm in trying it on as long as I didn't let Kins see me in it. I grabbed it and went into the dressing room next to hers.

  I pulled off the sweatshirt that I was literally sweating in. The bruises on my neck did look a little more yellow than purple today. Maybe I'd be able to wear clothes I wasn't melting in by the end of the week. I shed my jeans and t-shirt too and stared at my reflection in the mirror. The scar on my stomach stood out on my pale skin. I ran my finger across the uneven skin. Some things didn't fade as easily.

  I quickly changed back into my clothes. There was no point in even trying on the dress. It would have matched my eyes if I wasn't wearing colored contact lenses. But I was. My eyes were brown now, not blue. And I shouldn't have wanted to draw attention to myself by wearing a nice dress in the first place. I was supposed to be blending in.

  It wasn't like the scar on my stomach was the only one I had. I'd never be taking my clothes off for a boy without a serious conversation of what the hell I'd been through. And that could never happen. The fact that it had even crossed my mind was stupid anyway. Eli and I had agreed to just be friends. Yes, he was handsome and sweet. He had to remain off limits though. Besides, what would a relationship with him even be like? He'd never know the real me.

  I walked out of the changing room and hung the dress back up where I had found it. Even though Mr. Crawford said this was my fresh start, it still felt a lot like hiding to me. No matter how much I embraced my new life, I could never escape the physical scars. I'd be lucky if I could escape the emotional ones. The Sagitta necklace wasn't the only thing I had kept from my old life. I sat down in one of the chairs outside the dressing room and closed my eyes. Maybe I could figure out a way to explain the scars away. A car accident. People wouldn't ask questions about that. I just needed to avoid questions.

  "What about this one?" Kins said.

  I opened my eyes as she emerged from the dressing room and twirled in a circle. The loose skirt was definitely more casual but still sexy. I gave her two thumbs up.

  "Awesome. Did you find some shoes?"

  I lifted up the box.

  "Are you sure you don't want to try anything on?"

  I smiled. "Positive."

 
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