Made of steel (made of s.., p.18
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       Made of Steel (Made of Steel Series Book 1), p.18

           Ivy Smoak
 

  Chapter 16

  Monday

  I finished reading the article and exhaled. The bail hearing still hadn't happened yet. Don Roberts was in prison. I had just been imagining things. He wasn't here. No one was following me. I had needed the validation of the article. I had started to wonder if my mind was slipping. I had become good at pretending I was okay. Now I was worried that I was too good at make-believe. I bit the inside of my cheek. I wasn't crazy. It was just taking me time to adjust. Which was normal. Right?

  I exhaled slowly. Mr. Crawford had sent me to New York City for a reason. I clicked out of the article and closed my laptop. I just needed to focus on the present. Really, I needed to finish unpacking. The first suitcase Mr. Crawford had given me basically had everything I'd ever need in it. There were so many clothes, toiletries, sheets, and even a computer for my classes. I hadn't even gotten around to going through the second one because I hadn't needed anything else. But I needed to stop by the bank tomorrow and the documents weren't in the first suitcase. I'd have to get the information to Joan tomorrow so that they could pay me.

  Kins had just gone to the bathroom, so I had a few minutes where she wasn't looking over my shoulder. I pulled the second suitcase out from under my bed and unzipped it. When I lifted the lid, I almost started crying. I lifted up the sociology textbook that I wasn't sure I could afford and glanced back down at the rest of the books I needed for class. I wasn't supposed to call Mr. Crawford unless it was an emergency, but I was tempted to call so that I could thank him. This was too much.

  Underneath the textbooks were a few other books. No, not just any books. My books. I picked up the worn copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and pulled it to my chest. He had told me I couldn't bring anything with me. But he had snuck in a few things of mine underneath everything else. Now I was crying. I wiped away my happy tears and quickly opened up the cover to see my father's inscription. There was a sticky note on top of it. "Anything is possible if you believe, Sadie," was scrawled across it in Mr. Crawford's handwriting.

  I smiled as I lifted up the sticky note.

  Summer,

  I hope that I'm beginning to instill in you a joy of reading and a sense of adventure. Just remember that one day, your real life will become an adventure even greater than the stories you've read. When that time comes, I know you'll embrace it. You may not have a scar on your forehead, but I know you're destined for great things. Never stop believing in the impossible.

  Love always,

  Dad

  I wiped my tears away again. Maybe my life right now wasn't how I'd dreamed it would be. But this was my adventure. I needed to embrace it.

  I placed the sticky note back over my father's inscription and put the book on top of all my textbooks. No, my parents weren't here to see me experience life anymore. I could still make them proud, though. I was always determined to do well in school growing up. But there was more to life than textbooks and good grades. It was about experiences. If people asked a few questions along the way, so what? I was done hiding. I was Sadie Davis. And I was going to own it.

  "Hey, you ready to get going?" Kins asked as she walked back into the room.

  I grabbed a manila envelope labeled "bank documents," out of a pouch in the suitcase and closed the lid. "Yeah." I set the envelope down on my bed. Tonight I was going to be completely focused on getting to know the other people on my floor. It was going to be fun.

  My phone started vibrating on my desk.

  Kins was closer to it than me. A smile spread across her face as she lifted up my phone. "You have one new message from Eli." She tossed it at me. "What'd he say?"

  I swiped my finger across the screen. "He said to meet him outside." I looked up at Kins.

  "Now that's romantic."

  "I'll just tell him I'm going to the floor party." I started typing out the text. But my stomach felt like it had flipped over. We had agreed to be friends. What was he doing standing outside my dorm building? I tried to hide my smile.

  "Are you kidding? You should just go outside."

  I shook my head. "I already told you I'd come with you, though."

  "You can't shoot him down. It's probably some big romantic gesture."

  "I'm sure it's not." I kind of hoped it was. It was like I was getting a second chance. At lunch today I felt like I'd stomped on any idea of us being more than friends. I wasn't so sure that's what I wanted though.

  "Seriously, Sadie, I'm just going to be flirting with our RA all night. I'm not going to ask you to miss this opportunity for you to witness me embarrassing myself. You can always stop by later if you want. But Eli is clearly into you. It's definitely some romantic surprise."

  "We're just friends." I smiled to myself.

  "Did he say anything else except for 'meet me outside'?"

  "No, that's it." I showed her the screen.

  "Then go get your surprise. I'll vet our floor and introduce you to anyone worthwhile later. You won't be missing anything."

  "Are you sure?"

  "Mhm. You should definitely put on something...well, less. You've been living in that hoodie. It's 90 degrees outside."

  "I like this hoodie."

  "Suit yourself. It'll officially be the most comfortable first date in history."

  "That's what I was going for. You look great, by the way." I had just noticed the extra makeup she was wearing. And she had changed into a crop top paired with the shortest shorts I had ever seen. Mr. RA would be the one drooling tonight.

  "Thank you." She smiled. "Now I just have to try not to make a fool of myself. I have to go though. I want to be one of the first ones there so that I get a seat next to the RA. God, I'm getting all nervous just thinking about him." She opened up the door.

  "You're going to knock him dead."

  Kins laughed. "Same to you."

  As soon as the door closed, I texted Eli to let him know I'd be right down. He was probably just here to talk about our project, but I glanced in the mirror anyway. It was still strange seeing myself with brown hair and brown eyes. I wondered if Eli would be attracted to what I really looked like. I quickly shook my head. This is what I really look like. I was done overthinking everything. I had originally planned to make new friends tonight. Instead, I'd be focusing on improving the one relationship I had already started. And seeing if it could be more.

  It had been a long time since I had been this nervous to see a boy. I shook my head. It had probably been ten years. That was way too long. I smiled at my reflection in the mirror. I can do this.

  Without another thought, I walked out of my dorm room and locked the door behind me. There were some people gathered at the elevator. But I was feeling too antsy to wait around. I pushed through the door to the stairwell and started walking down. I liked this feeling in my stomach. I was used to being nervous. Not in an excited way, though. Every day it seemed like I lived in fear. Terror danced around in my stomach. God, this type excitement made me feel alive.

  When I stepped outside, Eli was leaning against a lamppost staring down at his phone. He was wearing the same button up shirt with the sleeves rolled up as he was in class. He was even still sporting a backpack over one shoulder. But he had changed into a pair of pants that hugged him in all the right places. It actually made me like him even more for being sensible. It got cold at night here even though it was hot during the day.

  A pair of earbuds were hanging out of the front pocket of his shirt again. I suddenly wanted to ask him a thousand questions. What was he listening to? Was he homesick too? Did he leave some heartbroken girl behind in Utah?

  He put his phone in his pocket and slowly lifted up his head. His eyes seemed to light up when he saw me. I realized that I had been awkwardly standing there staring at him. I quickly walked over to where he was standing.

  "Hi." My voice sounded strange in my throat. I needed to calm down. As far as he knew, I still just wanted to be friends. He was probably here to talk about the project or something.


  He smiled and lifted up the plastic bag he was holding. "Have you eaten yet?"

  "No. But you already bought me lunch."

  "Well, now I've bought you dinner too. I hope you like Chinese food."

  "I love Chinese food." I looked back over my shoulder. "Did you want to come in to eat?" The thought of being alone with him made me a little more nervous. I probably shouldn't have just invited him up to my room. That made it seem like I was putting out or something. Is that why he was smiling at me right now?

  "As enticing as that is, no. I have a surprise for you. "

  Thank God. I exhaled slowly. "What is it?"

  "You better come find out." He nodded his head toward the far side of campus and we started walking together.

  "You do realize that I have a dining meal plan that I should be taking advantage of?"

  He laughed. "Yeah, me too. Maybe we can check that out a different day. The menu tonight looked really strange. I'm glad I caught you before you headed over."

  "Oh, I wasn't going there tonight anyway. My floor was having this pizza party thing for everyone to meet."

  "I'm sorry. If you want to go to that, we can always do this another night."

  "No, I was happy that you texted me. Crowds aren't really my thing. I'd rather just slowly meet people as I run into them in the bathroom or something."

  He smiled. "I never would have guessed that."

  "Really?" I stepped closer to him on the sidewalk to avoid someone walking by. As soon as the person was out of the way, I could have stepped farther away from him, but I stayed where I was. I liked being close to him. I had that overwhelming feeling of how safe he made me feel. For the first time since I had moved here, I didn't have this creepy feeling that someone was watching me. Eli somehow calmed my nerves at the same time he was making my stomach do back flips.

  He laughed. "Yeah, I was kidding. It takes all of five seconds walking with you on the sidewalk to see how bad you are at crowds. It's almost like you're scared of everyone."

  I laughed. "I would have thought it was a small town thing. But you seem to be adjusting alright."

  He shrugged his shoulders. "Honestly, besides for my roommate, you're one of the only friends I've made."

  Friends. It was my own fault for being put in that category. "Same to you, buddy."

  He laughed and shook his head. It almost seemed like he was annoyed by my comment. And that made me smile. Kins was right. He still wanted to be more than friends. We stopped at the edge of campus at the street light and he put his free hand in his pocket. He stared at the crosswalk that had a red hand telling us not to cross, not saying a word.

  "What are you listening to?" I asked.

  "What?" He tore his eyes away from the crosswalk and glanced down at me.

  I touched the earbuds dangling from his shirt pocket.

  "Oh." He laughed. "Nothing, actually. My iPod broke a few months ago. But I've found that I kind of like just looking like I'm listening to music. People tend not to bother you when you look like you don't want to talk to them."

  "And here I thought you were a nice western gentleman."

  "It's an adjustment for me to be here too. Sometimes I just need to feel...alone I guess? Maybe that sounds kind of weird. I kind of miss the silence, is what I mean."

  "No, I get it. It's very loud here."

  He laughed.

  "But at the same time, I actually hate being alone. I like that there's always someone nearby." Someone to hear me scream. I shook away the thought as we crossed the street. I had a feeling I'd never need to scream if Eli was beside me.

  "Is that why you're still hanging out with me even though I refuse to stop flirting with you?"

  "Because I like having someone nearby?" I laughed. "No, that's not it."

  "Ah, so it's because you're forced to be my psychology partner then?"

  "No, that's definitely not it." I wasn't going to play games with him. That wasn't me. "It's because you remind me of home."

  His eyes met mine. "You remind me of home too, Sadie."

  I swallowed hard. "Why, did you leave some brunette back home or something?"

  He laughed. "No. I don't really know how to explain it. But your smile seems warmer than other peoples. No one else's smile reaches their eyes here."

  I could feel myself blushing.

  "We're almost there," he said and turned to walk down some steps.

  I hadn't been paying attention to where we were going at all. My eyes hadn't left him since we stepped off campus. But I'm pretty sure we had just turned into Central Park. "Is this Central Park?"

  "The one and only."

  "I didn't realize how close it was to campus."

  "Are you sure you visited here before deciding on this school?" He smiled at me.

  "Yes, of course." I wasn't sure if I sounded convincing though, because all I could focus on was how amazing it felt to be surrounded by grass again. The farther we walked, the more and more it felt like we weren't in a city at all. "This is amazing."

  "I thought you might like it."

  I smiled up at him. "Thank you for my surprise."

  "This isn't your whole surprise, Sadie. I want to show you something." He held his hand out for me.

 
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