Run, Girl (If You Can) - Chapter 3 - Mind If I Sit Here?

[Updated at: 2021-01-11 19:14:40]
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"Keeley, I think that guy is staring at you," Lydia said uncomfortably around a bite of her sandwich.


"What gu—" Keeley\'s blood ran cold. Sure enough, Aaron was staring at her. What was he doing? He had a lunch tray outside the cafeteria!


It was against the rules and he always followed the rules because they supported the system that built his family up. At one point early on he tried to convince her that they existed for the sole reason of keeping unworthy people in check.


"Who is that?" Jeffrey whispered.


"Are you crazy? That\'s Aaron Hale! The only child of the CEO of Hale Investments. Haven\'t you heard? He\'s been training to inherit the company since he was born. He\'s wicked smart—don\'t you know he\'s going to Harvard after graduation?" Lydia asked incredulously.


"I heard they wanted to give him a full-ride scholarship because of his grades and other accomplishments but he refused it because he was insulted that they didn\'t think he could pay for it himself."


"Well that\'s just stupid," Keeley said spitefully.


She remembered that well. She turned down her first choice—NYU—in favor of Boston University so she could be in the same city as him but he never wanted her to visit him at school so all of their dates happened elsewhere.


"What\'s stupid?"


All three friends cowered beneath the frightening figure in front of them. His uniform was identical to theirs but they could never match the way he carried himself. Aaron wore it like a king.


It didn\'t hurt that his chocolate brown hair never had a single strand out of place either. He was above them all yet here he was butting in on their conversation.


"Nothing!" they all yelled in unison. Angering this young man would likely be the last thing they ever did.


Keeley cursed herself internally. The bitter, angry part of her wanted to tell him to his face but it would only provoke him. If she wanted to stay under the radar, she couldn\'t get on his bad side.


"Mind if I sit here?"


Mind? Were any of them allowed to mind? They would have to be insane. But lunch became a very quiet affair after that.


Jeffrey and Lydia were too afraid to say something that would put a target on their backs. Keeley couldn\'t speak because she was afraid she might say something horrible that he deserved to hear.


"It\'s surprisingly warm for January," Aaron observed conversationally after a long stretch of silence passed.


Did he seriously come over to pick a fight with some scholarship kids over the weather?


Their little group very quickly became the center of attention. Scholarship kids, students who could afford the tuition but weren\'t well-known, and social outcasts hung out in the student lounge. The elite stayed in the cafeteria.


Most people in the school knew who Aaron was and even if they didn\'t, his aura stood out in a space like this. Nobody in the room understood what was going on, least of all Keeley.


"Yes," Lydia squeaked out. "I didn\'t even need a scarf today."


Keeley couldn\'t help but applaud her bravery. Aaron was terrifying. What had ever possessed her to love someone like him?


Those eyes seemed to hide some sort of secret from her. It was one she never figured out in all the time she knew him. Now she didn\'t care.


"I still need a scarf; I have to walk home," she said in a show of support for her friend. It would be awkward if Lydia was the only one responding.


"Please, you walk way less than I do. You\'re mostly on the subway!" Jeffrey pitched in.


This was true. Keeley lived all the way out in Brooklyn. Since Jeffrey was much closer in Harlem, he walked a good chunk of the way home without subway assistance.


And thus the conversation turned into a lengthy discussion of the merits and demerits of the subway. Aaron couldn\'t participate since he had never been on the subway in his life, always being picked up and dropped off by private car.


Only the wealthy and the insane regularly used cars in the heart of the city. Traffic was always terrible.


Keeley watched Aaron out of the corner of her eye. He seemed annoyed. What? Was the subway offending his rich kid sensibilities? Or was he mad that they were ignoring him?


It was most likely the latter. He wasn\'t used to being ignored since people were always fawning over him.


By the end of lunch, the group Aaron intruded on had switched from talking about the subway to discussing college acceptance letters. Most universities made their final decisions by the beginning of March. The emails could start coming in any day now.


"Where all did you apply, Keeley? I mostly applied to schools in New York so I could use in-state tuition," Lydia stated with a twinge of regret.


She really wanted to go to school in California where it was warm and sunny but she would need a scholarship to make that happen. She applied for several but there were no guarantees.


"NYU, Boston University, Penn State, Pace. I want to stay on the east coast so I can visit my dad easily."


"Boston University? That\'s not far from where I\'m going," Aaron said casually, surprising everyone.


Why was he deigning to speak to mere mortals? This was surely the strangest lunch period Jeffrey and Lydia ever experienced.


"It\'s a back-up school," Keeley said through slightly gritted teeth.


She would rather die than go there now. Aaron would be at Harvard, she would be at NYU, and the world would reset itself to how it should have been.


He could have a rich and influential Harvard graduate wife and Keeley could live her life peacefully. Win-win.


The bell rang and she hastily wished her friends goodbye before rushing off to her next class, leaving that perplexing ice block behind her. There was absolutely no reason the golden boy should have eaten lunch with a handful of scholarship students.


Jeffrey didn\'t even know who he was. It was obvious he came over for Keeley. But why? What did he want from her? They didn\'t even know each other yet!


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