Jace handed me the ketchup and shook salt over our hot chips.
'I don't know why your parents hate you!' he said, sarcasm dripping from his voice. 'You follow all of their rules and do everything they ask!'
I stepped away from the pushy crowd and followed him up the stands, filing into the last empty seats. An older, pudgy woman growled from behind, angry that Jace's tall head partly blocked her view.
'Why do you have to be so nice, Jace? Seriously, everything you say . . . just a bundle of compliments and support!'
'Come on,' he said, sounding disappointed. 'I'm trying to make you feel better!'
'By taking me to a game of rugby! You know I hate football.'
'I also know you hate your parents. I thought maybe the anger in the game would inspire you to . . . I don't know . . .'
'Swing a hit at my sister?' I shrugged, pleasantly surprised by the satisfying idea. 'Maybe.'
I looked away from Jace and out to the field where cheerleaders danced, flinging their skinny bodies around and twisting and twirling through the air like long, bendy chew lollies. I looked down at the plate of chips in my lap and smiled. When the girl race refused to accept me as one of their own, at least chips would comfort me.
When the game started, I couldn't follow what was going on. With Jace and his ongoing commentary in my ear, I struggled to focus on something other than how much the game reminded me of what was going in my head. When one player got the ball, he basically got it to hand over to someone else. When I finally felt good about myself, my family had to go ahead and kick me out like I was some kind of intruder. I suppose with my fashion and "attitude" that was how my family really did see me.
By the time the first half was up, the first 40 minute interval, I was close to falling asleep. The umpires' whistles had become almost silent and I was no longer bothered about whether or not I was distracting the people in front or behind me.
'You want more chips?' Jace asked.
'I want a better family.'
He nudged me in the side, smiling sadly. 'Hey, don't we all?'
I knew he said it to comfort me, but his attempt was unsuccessful.
I got up to go to the toilet, carefully making my way through the crowd. I'd beaten the line, hurrying into a cubicle before getting stuck behind ladies that took forever to do up their pants and suspenders.
It was when I was washing my hands did I see her. Jodie.
She was washing her hands next to me, reaching for the same soap dispenser and accidentally brushing her hand against mine. Her dark hair was tied back in a firm braid with curls down the sides of her face to bring out the husky browns of her eyes. But she was still creepy. She had that stance about her that made you want to scurry away with your head hanging low and shoulders hunched over. Her eyes told you that no matter how hard you tried to hide your secrets, she still knew what they were.
Everything about her told me to stay away, except that somehow I couldn't. She followed me everywhere! It didn't matter than she wanted me to think that I was running into her the whole time because that was crap! Jodie Hollow was my stalker.
I blinked and hurried to dry my hands. She followed, blank faced and sneaking glances at me through her eyelashes. Something cold rippled down my spine, urging me to get out.
When I did, I mostly ran, hot in the face and my heart pounding. Every now and then I had to check that she wasn't behind me, and sometimes she was.
I collided with something hard and soft at the same time. I pushed off it, surprised by the strong arms around me.
It was Jace.