Milton 'n' McGold


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3. Chapter Three

The boys, thankfully, seemed oblivious to the undercurrents in the room. When she caught the eye of Faish, a friendly Pakistan boy in her year, h just grinned back and returned to his conversation. Shame there was no room left at his table.
Not wanting another battle, she avoided taking a seat with any girls. Her normal place by the serving counter was occupied so she slid in to a spare chair at same table on the far right. It was a good place to watch the room and had the advantage that she didn't recognise the two boys already sat there, so they should at least be ignorant to the under currents.
"Hi. You new to Parton?" she asked brightly, pretending she wasn't worried about the atmosphere in the dining hall. She was attuned to danger, thanks to past experiences in a rough school, and somehow the situation had subtly changed. She was no longer so sure she was safe. It might not be drug dealing seniors she had to worry about in the corridors here but something was...well...off about Parton. Worth thinking about later, but for now she turned to give the new comers her attention.
The tousled-haired one on her right ignored her, apparently engrossed in a Sudoku puzzle. Extreme level. Great. She had put herself next to an ultra geek-admittedly a handsome one. Hoping for a rescue, she peered beyond him to the other stranger on Sudoku boy's far side.
"Hi, I'm Abbi."
This time her greetings did not fall on to deaf ears
"Hey Abbi. I'm Jackson Shaw."
Not only did he have a lovely deep voice, east Coast accented liker hers, but he had a smile that felt like the sun coming out to brighten her day. His hair was shaved close to the scalp, like a military man. His skin tone was just a few shades darker than hers. Total effect? Totally sexy.
"So, you just...err...just joined us, Jackson?
"Yeah. We started today.
We? Did that mean he came as a package with Sudoku?
"Oh awesome. I hope you settle in okay. I mean, it's strange time to come in, so late in the academic year.
Jackson tapped his finger of his left hand on the table, a pianist practising the bass line. "Couldn't be helped Abbi. We got expelled from our old school.
Abbi wondered if her was joking; he seemed so cheerful about the fact. "What?
"The professor here blew up the lab. I was just an innocent bystander, your honour." Jackson's eyes were laughing at her expression of shock and dis belief.
"Oh, err, year right. Sure you were."
His expression told her that he appreciated the fact the she played along. "I always blame him. He never takes the trouble to defend himself. Do you Sebastian? He nudged his friend.
"Hmmm. The boy filled in the grid with lightening speed. Abbi thought he had to be making up the answers but when she checked the first box it all checked out, she couldn't fault it.
Waiting staff appeared with he first course, a dangerous lading of hot soup over the students shoulders. Most of the servers were poorly trained or locals drafted in just for dinner time service, the older students knew to lean well back. The Sudoku boy did not take evasion but threw his napkin up to catch the few drops that were about to land on his shoulder with no pause to his concentration. Hmmm impressive.
"Is he always like this? Abbi asked
Jackson smiled, "Hard to believe but yes. He broke a roll into pieces and soaked it in his soup. "You think he hasn't noticed you but you're wrong."
"Yeah right."
"No it's true. Hey Seb, stop that and say 'hi' to the nice girl sitting on your right.
"Pathetically easy. I don't know why I bother any more. "The boy dropped the paper between the chairs on the floor.
"You bother because if you don't your poor brain doesn't won't have something to work so it will start to cannibalise on its own cells out of sheer boredom."
"Hmm. Not scientific but you might point." Sudoku sat up straight, showing off how exceptionally tall he was. He has crop lose chestnut curls framing his angular face. These two made the rest if the boys in her year look plain. She predicted that they would be either very popular with the other guys and wanted to be hung out with, at the front of the line for girlfriends or, and this struck her as more likely, envied for being so damn sexy.
"So turn your mind on our dinner guest."
As Sebastian look like he was worth the extra effort Abbi reintroduced herself. "Hi I'm Abbi." She held out her hand.
He glanced at her hand but picked up his soup spoon instead. "I already know who you are."
Abbi let her hand fall into her lap. Fine, be like that, you're not that cute anyway, Mr Arrogant. Clearly he had put her in the dumb category already, that stung. A lot. "So I get it. I say my name and now you know my whole life story! Gee: no need to ask me how I am or to say hello. Gosh, darn it, you must be so clever."
Jackson chuckled at her sarcasm. "Well, that's Sebastian McGold for you. And believe me, he does know you - height, weight, life history. He probably has a shrewd idea of your...umm...shoe size." He winked while trying to supress a laugh.
That seemed highly unlikely. They boy had not met her gaze, let alone given her feet or other parts of her body any attention.
"I think I'm getting the picture of your friend, Jackson. Six three, maybe six four. White British. Too intelligent for us mere mortals. Posh education at one of those school that are called public when they're really private like Eton, Harrow or the equivalent until he was expelled." She said the last bit with a smug face. She would have loved to see that.
Jackson was highly amused. He stirred his pea and red pepper soup in a circle, mixing in the crème fresh. "Carry on."
Abbi made an educated guess. "He need you to dress him."
"Spot on," Jackson was intrigued as to how she knew. "That's me his valet; how did you know?"
"You're wearing a James Love suit..."
"A designer second I might add." Jackson slipped in.
"And your friends has one too..."
"I know a very useful guy."
"But his shirt is probably a hand-me-down from a brother or his father's wardrobe as it doesn't fit properly, the sleeves are too short. I figured he threw it on this morning before coming here and since then he's been hard at work on his Sudoku until you forced him into the only decent suit he has. He couldn't be asked to put on a matching shirt like you did and I'm guessing you decided the battle wasn't worth fighting. Am I close?"
"Hey Seb you got yourself some competition. How many points does she get?"
Sebastian look at Abbi's face for the first time. He had eyes that were a pale jade colour, almost alien in their intensity. Her heart did a little flip of shock as she recognised the attractions he felt when she first set eyes on him and just got ten times worse. Moth, her; flame, him: result, burnt wings.
"Not bad." His voice wasn't as cold and bitter, more deep and distant, as if it were a struggle for him to remember to relate to Earth people like her.
"And that, Abbi is high praise from my man here. Congratulations." Jackson shook her hand across Sebastian's mean then let go.
"Thanks." Abbi took a sip of her soup, attempting to regain her balance. "So what did I get wrong?"
Sebastian crumbled a piece of bread with his long fingers and scattered them on the surface of his soup. He glance at Abbi's face then turned his attention back to his soup. "It's my shirt. I grew."
Jackson nodded. "Yeah he never goes shopping for clothes. He will wear something 'till it falls apart or we hide it from him."
"Who's we?" asked Abbi.
Jackson looked troubled for a moment. "They guys at our old school. Yeah, them guys."
"But you got him the suit?"
"It was given to me. We both a generous..." Sebastian searched for a word. "....Godfather."
"I wouldn't mind one of those." said Abbi, thinking of her phone. "So I only did 'OK' then Let's see what you've got about me." She was intrigued at what he would pick up as she was convinced he had not registered on his girl detector.
Sebastian finished his soup before replying.
"Go on. The suspense is killing me."
"As you wish." Sebastian pushed the bowl away and leant well back in his chair to study her. Really study her. Abbi had never had someone look at her so closely before. It was like he was a human MRI scan, revealing all her layers.
"Fire away." She crossed her arms. A little worried about what she had gotten herself into.
"Abigail Milton. Seventeen. Granddaughter of the school's caretaker, Steven Bain. You have been at the school for three years, which explains why you use both British and American English idioms. Parents deceased. One parent an American army officer, father most likely. Yes, yes of course the father as the mother was British. Idiot." He hit his forehead. "Father was African American and proud of his heritage from the civil right movement, but that is so obvious I apologise for mentioning it."
"How did you....?"
Jackson shook his head, warning her to let Sebastian finish.
"You are five three and would like to be taller. Size 8 or about American size 6, though the conversion equivalent is not exact. You don't have much money, shop at Oxfam, but fair-trade, read real books rather than eBooks. Shall I go on?"
He was good; she had to give him that, but Abbi was irritated by his calm dissection of her habits and person. "How do you know all this? Have you been going in my room?"
"No. Everything I need to know is right here."
"I suppose you know my shoe size too, detective McGold?"
His eyebrows rose at the sarcasm. "Size 5. I can make an educated guess at other measurements if you wish."
Jackson swallowed a laugh.
"No thanks." Abbi said quickly.
"And you had a fight with the blond over there about..." Sebastian brushed the tip of his nose, "...about a ridiculously large handbag."
Abbi was amused. "I think you'd better stop before you spill all my deep dark secrets."
"Oh you're not the kind to have dark secrets. You are an open book usually honest, preferring to be direct and physical rather than subtle and devious, but under that surface show of strength, there is a hint of shyness and fragility, such as now when you prefer not to meet my eyes."
Naturally that meant Abbi had to force her eyes to meet his. She immediately regretted it as his eyes seems to draw her in like a black hole.
Jackson put a hand over Sebastian's mouth. "You'd better shut up, my man, before she plants a fist in your face."
Raven looked at the crumbs on the table, avoiding eye contact. "So how did you know about the fight and...stuff?"
Sebastian did not appear to understand that he had embarrassed her. He was to busy glowing in his cleverness. "That was simple: clothes speak for themselves label cut out at the back of the dress, cotton tag end still hanging out so a recent second hand purchase. Bead work from Bangladesh. Fair guess that they were bought together as you match them as an outfit so that suggest Oxfam rather than a home-based charity. There is a branch town. As for the fight, the girls over there have been looking in your direction continually since you came in, most comments have been directed to the blonde and she's been clutching her bag to her chest all night as if she was expecting you to rip it away from her."
He was right: the tote was back. All that fuss over something that wasn't even stolen! "The jerk, she hadn't lost it at all!"
"She did misplace it," Sebastian continued. "It had been removed by your grandfather when he found it during lunch clean up. He put it in the sectary's office and asked her to give it back to the owner. I heard the sectary call over the blond on my way in today."
So that was why they still blamed her. They thought her grandfather was in on it too, cover for her when she got caught.
Resentment fought with curiosity and curiosity won. "How did you know about the fight?"
Sebastian paused as his bowl was taken form in front of him and the second course of lamb and new potatoes was placed in front of him. "You have a slight scratch on the side of your neck that suggests a girl fight," he gestured with his trim nails, "and a mighty fine bruise over your left eye. Actually now I think about it, there were two, weren't there? Yes, two of them. You and two girls probably after lunch judging by the age and colour of the bruise."
She watched with fascination as he dissected his meat with surgical precision. "Anything else?"
"Your phone. It got broken or stolen." He chewed on the lamb, piece by piece.
Abbi put down her fork. "How on earth do you know about that?"
"Because that girl over there has been waggling her iPhone at you. The gesture suggests that she has something that you don't."
"Wow, well done," Abbi said flatly. "So you are, what? Sherlock Holmes's love child?"
"Impossible. He is a fictional character based on the real life Dr Joseph Bell, a medical lecturer from Edinburgh who pioneered..."
"Enough information Sebastian. She was making a joke." Jackson said softly.
"Thanks, you can get back in your box now." Abbi gave up on her meal. If her behaviour was going to be put under a microscope, she'd prefer it to be by a friend and in private. "It was nice meeting you Jackson."
Jackson caught her sleeve before she left. "Before you go, Abbi, was he right about the civil right movement?"
Sebastian snorted and added another teaspoon of mint to his meal.
"Yeah, he was actually."
"Bracelet." Sebastian muttered.
Abbi turned her silver band around so Jackson could see the inscription. I have a dream
"Clearly an American piece from 1960's referring to the Martin Luther King speech; date suggests a family heirloom."
It was the last present her father had given her before was deported out of the country and shot to death by friendly fire. Abbi put a hand over it protectively.
"It's a nice piece." Jackson said.
Sebastian swallowed his mouthful, appetite sharpened by the display of intellect. "Actually it's only silver plate which means it's not worth that much."
"Actually, it's worth everything to me." Abbi gave him her back and marched out of the dining hall.

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