I wasn't quite sure what it was about her that gave me the creeps. It could have been her narrow eyes or the fact that she seemed to be everywhere I went - maybe it was both. But Jodie was always there, staring silently as I walked into my house, grabbed my things from my locker or even sat in a café outside of town! Jace told me I was being obsessive, worrying over a school girl whose parents were two of my teachers and clearly had nothing erotic about them. Mr and Mrs Hollow were practically talking robots, standing in front of the class with their hands folded over their jelly-like bellies and speaking in a monotone voice that showed zero enthusiasm.
'If you're thinking about Jodie again,' Jace interrupted, reaching across the table to slap me out of my daze, 'then I'm outta here.'
I gave him a firm look. 'Don't be ridiculous. Of course I'm thinking about her.'
He smirked, settling back into the leather booth with a dreamy look on his face. 'Like sexually? Because that could be interesting.'
I kicked him under the table. 'That's disgusting. So disgusting I'm feeling the vomit actually rise in my throat until I can taste bile on my tongue.'
Jace laughed. 'Okay, Mindy. I get it. My jokes aren't funny to you. Damn, I definitely should hang out with the boys more. You're too serious.'
I glanced across the diner, through one side of the counter to the opposite corner of the place, and my eyes immediately locked into Jodie's. Maybe I was too serious, but didn't being stalked give me enough reason to lose it every now and then? Jace wasn't helping. With his sarcastic jokes all the time, we just about never had an actual, down-to-earth - you know, real conversation!
'I swear she's following me,' I said softly, as if I thought she could hear us from across the other side of the diner.
Jace groaned and banged his fists on the table. 'Argh! She's not following you! She lives across the bloody street! Obviously, you'd run into each other every now and then!'
That much was true, but Jace had forgotten about the incidents outside of our mutual house location. When the school year had started, I'd ditched school and hung out in the park with my iPod and a fresh bag of chips from the marina. It was peaceful for a few weeks, before Jodie miraculously had the same free periods and used the same fish and chips shop. Then, when I changed shops and parks to sit in, so did Jodie. Whether or not she wanted me to know she was there - I did.
Then it got even stranger - she began following me when Jace was around. It didn't matter how many times I ordered him to drive to a different café, she was always there. I felt like her own, personal GPS!
She couldn't have been following us, though. That was the weird bit; even though we went to the same school and lived on the same street, she was always in the cafés before Jace and I. It was almost like she wanted me to feel like we were following her.
'God!' Jace cried. 'Why am I friends with someone so unreliable?'
'Sometimes I feel like even though you're here in front of me and I can touch and feel you, you're not really here.'
I shrugged. 'My mind is constantly spinning and thinking up new ideas.'
'Ideas about a stalker! Mindy,' he said in a begging tone. 'Would you get over it? The odds aren't strong enough to support your case.'
'So, you're saying these occurrences are . . . incidental?'
'No, I'm saying that you're a psychotic freak whose parents hate her, whose sister would bury her alive and whose best friend is bound to become a check out chick!'
My head cocked to the side to take in Jace's wide, mocking grin. Trust him to make fun of a serious situation.
'For the last time, apprenticeships do not lead to people becoming check out chicks!'
He crossed his arms and lifted them above his head, leaning back in the booth. 'Well, I'm not going to be working in a roof for the rest of my life.'
'And why would a pretty face like yours want to be hidden from the world?'
He pulled a face and hesitated, his mouth half open as if he was deciding whether or not his retort was going to make my sarcastic comment sound better or worse in his case. Deciding against speaking at all, he dropped his hands and looked out the window, swirling the remaining dribbles of his strawberry milkshake around the bottom of his glass mindlessly.
'Aw, did I hurt your feelings?'
He looked at me through his eyelashes, apparently not a very handsome look for him. 'If you think a petty comment like that,' he said with an annoying smirk, 'could break through this rock hard barrier, then you're wrong.'
He slid out of the booth, tossing his bag over his shoulder, and dragged me out behind him. 'You're going to have to try harder,' he finished with a smirk.
I grinned into his chest and reached back for my bag, downing the last mouthful of banana smoothie. But before I could truly leave the diner, I had to see her. Jodie.
Once Jace was outside, I leant backwards to sneak one last glance at her. But she wasn't there. Jodie Hollow had slipped out of the place almost as invisibly as she'd entered.
But she wasn't invisible to me. I knew she was there, as much as Jace or anybody else was going to try and convince me otherwise.