"Phil travels a lot. He plays ball for a living." I half-smiled.
"Have I heard of him?" he asked, smiling in response.
"Probably not. He doesn't play well. Strictly minor league. He moves around a lot."
"And your mother sent you here so that she could travel with him." He said it as an assumption again, not a question.
My chin raised a fraction." No, she did not send me here. I sent myself.
His eyebrows knit together. "I don't understand," he admitted, and he seemed unnecessarily frustrated by that fact.
I sighed. Why was I explaining this to him? He continued to stare at me with obvious curiosity. "She stayed with me at first, but she missed him. It made her unhappy… so I decided it was time to spend some quality time with Charlie." My voice was glum by the time I finished.
"But now you're unhappy," he pointed out.
"And?" I challenged.
"That doesn't seem fair." He shrugged, but his eyes were still intense.
I laughed without humor. "Hasn't anyone ever told you? Life isn't fair.
"I believe I have heard that somewhere before," he agreed dryly.
"So that's all," I insisted, wondering why he was still staring at me that way.
His gaze became appraising. "You put on a good show," he said slowly. "But I'd be willing to bet that you're suffering more than you let anyone see."
I grimaced at him, resisting the impulse to stick out my tongue like a five-year-old, and looked away.
"Am I wrong?"
I tried to ignore him.
"I didn't think so," he murmured smugly.
"Why does it matter to you ?" I asked, irritated. I kept my eyes away, watching the teacher make his rounds.
"That's a very good question," he muttered, so quietly that I wondered if he was talking to himself. However, after a few seconds of silence, I decided that was the only answer I was going to get.
I sighed, scowling at the blackboard.
"Am I annoying you?" he asked. He sounded amused.
I glanced at him without thinking… and told the truth again." Not exactly. I'm more annoyed at myself. My face is so easy to read — my mother always calls me her open book." I frowned.
"On the contrary, I find you very difficult to read." Despite everything that I'd said and he'd guessed, he sounded like he meant it.
"You must be a good reader then," I replied.
"Usually." He smiled widely, flashing a set of perfect, ultrawhite teeth.
Mr. Banner called the class to order then, and I turned with relief to listen. I was in disbelief that I'd just explained my dreary life to this bizarre, beautiful boy who may or may not despise me. He'd seemed engrossed in our conversation, but now I could see, from the corner of my eye, that he was leaning away from me again, his hands gripping the edge of the table with unmistakable tension.
I tried to appear attentive as Mr. Banner illustrated, with transparencies on the overhead projector, what I had seen without difficulty through the microscope. But my thoughts were unmanageable.