After a gruelling session with Ma’am and having not eating anything since the pecan plait I had for breakfast, I’m starving and quickly get in line.
With everyone jumping out of the way, I’m at the front in seconds. Leo and Roan don’t even bother joining the back, Roan comes to stand behind me while Leo jumps in front and orders the last steak.
The dinner lady behind the counter gives us a wary look as if I’m going to cripple my friend right in front of her.
“Can I have the gammon then please?” I ask. I prefer to have lighter meals for dinner so usually have a hot lunch and a sandwich before bed.
She quickly serves it up to me along with eggs and chips despite me trying to offer her a smile.
Leo’s already further down grabbing a slice of chocolate cake.
As I slide my tray down, I watch Roan move up. He’s still limping. I want to ask why but worry that he’ll get defensive and clam up.
Like I said, we all have a past.
But not everyone is willing to share it.
I grab a sticky toffee pudding, feeling I deserve it after PE, and join Leo in our spot, Roan following closely behind.
We sit down and start eating, Roan slowly and delicately, still lost in thought, Leo wolfing it down as if he’s been starved for a week.
Something is different.
Looking round, I realise the group of Uppers, the closest table to ours, is closer than usual.
Us Outsiders aren’t unwelcoming, we don’t terrorize the school, we are not Outsiders by choice. So the only reason people start to get closer to us, don’t move out the way so quickly, meet our eyes, is when they reckon they can take us on.
It’s when they envy the supposed power they think we have.
And right now, the Uppers are darting looks at me, laughing, sneering.
“Trouble.” I murmur, going back to eating, pretending I haven’t noticed any difference in them.
“Hmmm?” Leo questions, shoving another mouthful of steak in.
“Where?” Roan asks, never taking his eyes off his plate.
I dip a chip into the runny yolk of an egg and chew it thoughtfully.
“They’re being riled.” Roan answers.
“Hey it’s your true love, Rose!”
“What?!” Forgetting to be subtle, I dart my eyes through the crowd of Upper boys until they lock on a pair of grey ones, daringly meeting mine.
I grind my teeth together, vaguely aware that Roan is full on smiling and Leo has put down his knife and fork and is delicately wiping his mouth.
“Show time.” He grins and stands up, waiting the few seconds it takes for the canteen to fall silent as all eyes turn to Leo and follow his to Alex, who, despite everything, still stands with a smug smile.
“Rose, hold me back when I’m done.” He murmurs.
It’s all for show. When people start to bore of watching Alex dance like a chicken, I grab Leo, pretend to be crippling him and pull him back down to sitting.
Shooting each of us a smile Leo nods his head at Alex.
“What’s your name new kid?”
Alex smirks, as if he knows Leo’s game.
“It’s Alex, what’s yours, Outsider?”
Murmurs bounce around the room and Leo fights to keep a smile off his face.
“It’s Leo, but most here know me as the Body Snatcher.” He lets the grin slip out, a mischievous, guilty smirk. “Would you like me to show you why?”
Alex chuckles and opens his arms out.
“Knock yourself out.”
Leo’s grins widens and Roan and I share a look, both of us rolling our eyes as he stretches his arms and cracks his neck.
His eyes meet Alex’s.
Alex stays motionless as people around him begin to twitch and dance. He simply stands in the middle, arms folded, feet planted.
He’s directing it away from him.
Leo frowns and growls under his breath, taking a step forward towards the laughing Alex.
I quickly grab hold of his arm, emitting a low thrumming to warn him not to try and resist.
“I thought you said he was a Scrambler?!” He barks, wincing as I turn up the thrumming momentarily in a warning before dropping his arm.
“He was!” I hiss.
“You’re both right.” Roan says quietly behind us as the room dissolves into questions and whispering.
“He was a Scrambler, now he’s a Body Snatcher.”
“Will you talk some freaking sense for once?” Leo sighs, slowing beginning to calm down. He doesn’t take losing very well.
“He can use the Quirks around him. Direct them, use them channel them. Alex is a Channeller.”