Made of steel (made of s.., p.22
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       Made of Steel (Made of Steel Series Book 1), p.22

           Ivy Smoak
 

  ***

  My shift was almost over. It had flown by. I liked talking to the customers. I liked getting the tips even better. It would be easy to live off the money I made here. There was no reason why I'd need more money than this.

  The diner was still packed even though it was after 9. I started bussing down my last table. I piled all the cups and plates onto my tray and lifted it with one hand.

  I glanced out the window. Eli was already standing outside the diner. His eyes met mine and he smiled. I'm pretty sure I blushed. Honestly, I had been looking forward to seeing him all day. I could tell that Tuesdays and Thursdays were going to be my least favorite just because I didn't have any classes with him.

  Someone bumped into me while I was staring out the window. I had good balance, but it was just enough to tip the tray slightly to the left. Before I could straighten my hand, the cups and plates slid off the tray and crashed onto the floor.

  Shit! I immediately knelt down and started wiping up the mess.

  "I'm so sorry," said a deep voice. "I didn't see..." his voice trailed off.

  I looked up to tell him it was okay. It wasn't the first time I had dropped a tray. But I lost my voice when I saw his eyes; his perfect brown eyes. I'd recognize those eyes until my dying breath. It felt like my heart dropped into my stomach. Miles? I swallowed hard. Miles fucking Young? So much for forgetting about the past when the past was literally right in front of me. Part of me wanted to grab his face and kiss him. God, I missed him. I missed his smile and his laugh and the way he made me feel. But a much bigger part of me wanted to slap his perfect face. I hated him. My heart was filled with anger for the way he had left me. He abandoned me when I needed him the most. I felt like I was going to be sick, but I couldn't look away from him. He looked the same, yet so different. His hair was cut close on the sides, but was long on top. It still fell on his forehead in that way that made me gulp. His jaw line was sharp and there was stubble across it. The playfulness was gone from his eyes though. He looked grown up. But really, he looked more tired than anything else. What happened to you? What happened to us?

  "Summer?"

  I immediately shook my head. It took me a second to remember who I was, who I was trying to become. Because when he said my name like that, I just wanted to be what he remembered. I wanted to be that small, happy girl. Even once my parents had died and I started to feel invisible, he had always made me feel seen. But that was a long time ago. "No. That's not my name." It practically came out as a whisper. "I'm Sadie." I didn't put my hand out for him to shake. I didn't want him to touch me. I didn't want to know if I still felt that spark. I couldn't still feel that spark. Some things were better left in the past. I knew that better than anyone.

  He lowered his eyebrows slightly. "I'm sorry...you just..." his voice trailed off again. "You remind me so much of someone I used to know. But she had red hair. I don't even know what I was thinking." He laughed awkwardly and shook his head. It looked like he was having trouble processing the fact that I wasn't the girl he had abandoned all those years ago. The one that he cast aside like yesterday's news.

  And honestly, I wasn't. The years had changed me. My eyes started to get watery. The years had ruined me. He had hurt me more than years of abuse ever could. That feeling of being unwanted had killed me. I needed him and he had just disappeared. I definitely hated him now more than I had ever loved him all those years ago. "I must just have one of those faces." I immediately looked back down at the broken dishes. I pushed my hair over my shoulder and started to pick up the broken pieces, going as fast as I could while trying not to cut myself.

  "Jesus, what happened to your neck?"

  I immediately clapped my hand over the side of my neck. Ow. He always had the knack for making me feel vulnerable around him. "Nothing. It was just an accident. Clearly I'm clumsy." I pushed my hair back in front of my shoulder and slid the remnants of food back onto the tray with my dish cloth.

  "Let me help you with that."

  "I don't need your help." And I didn't. I didn't need him. Not anymore.

  There was a frown on his face as I stood up. He just blinked at me. He was staring at my hair that was now covering my neck. I needed to get out of there. He could see through my disguise. He could see through my fake smile. He always had been able to.

  "Excuse me," I said.

  He didn't move, but I stepped around him and practically ran into the kitchen.

  "I'm sorry," I immediately said to Joan. "You can take the damages out of my tips." I set the tray down on the counter and started to wash my hands. They were shaking. I tried to take a few deep breaths. Did he believe my lie? Did he believe that I wasn't Summer? I had just ruined everything. I couldn't seem to stop shaking.

  Joan laughed. "Don't worry about it. If you hadn't dropped a tray on your first day it would have been a new Corner Diner record. You did a great job today." She gave me a kind smile.

  She probably thought I looked upset because of the dishes I had broken. But that wasn't it. I was grateful that she couldn't see through me as well as Miles could. "Thanks, Joan."

  "Same time tomorrow?"

  I sighed with relief as I hung up my apron. Joan was definitely the nicest boss I ever had. "Absolutely. I'll see you tomorrow." I pulled my hoodie over my head and exited the kitchen before she had a chance to change her mind.

  I could feel Miles staring at me, even though I was avoiding looking at him. It was like I could sense his presence. Before I pushed through the doors, I made eye contact with him. He looked truly concerned. It was too late for him to be concerned about me, though. He already had his chance.

  "Hey," Eli said with a big smile. "I saw the fall. You okay?"

  I laughed. "It was nothing. And my boss is ridiculously nice. She said she didn't even care."

  "Good." He slid his fingers down one of the strings of my hoodie.

  And just like that, I forgot about the last few minutes. Somehow in the past couple days, Eli had become my anchor. It was easy to forget about my fears when I looked into his eyes. I stepped closer to him and laced my fingers behind his neck. His skin felt so warm against my fingertips.

  "So, your first day was okay?" He placed one of his hands on my lower back and pulled me slightly closer.

  I ignored the panic rising in my chest. This was good for me. I was safe. "It's a lot better now that I'm with you."

  He leaned down and kissed me.

  I immediately stood up on my tiptoes so I could kiss him back.

  "I missed you today," he whispered against my lips.

  We had stayed up way too late last night, staring at the stars and talking. But even though it hadn't been that long since I had seen him, I missed him too. It had been a long time since I had missed someone that I knew I'd be able to see again. I had been protecting myself for years, not getting too close to anyone. "I missed you too."

  "Are you still up for ice cream?"

  "I'm always up for ice cream."

  He kept his hand on my lower back as we walked down the sidewalk. It truly felt like nothing bad would happen to me as long as he was by my side.

  I looked through the window as we passed by Miles' table. He was still staring at me. His eyes drifted down to Eli's arm wrapped around me. And I knew what he was thinking. I immediately snapped my head forward again. Eli would never hurt me. Besides, I never had an issue with physical pain. I could take it. I was stronger than I looked. It was the emotional pain that had a way of hurting me the most. It stuck with me and tried to swallow me whole. Miles was one of the worst offenders.

 
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