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Sunday Snippet #96

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Winging It

Author: Deborah Cooke

Publisher: NAL

6 December 2011

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We ran out of conversation at that point. I got my books for the morning classes, sure that he’d leave.

He didn’t.

He cleared his throat. For the first time I’d ever noticed, Derek looked uncomfortable. He almost shuffled his feet. That made me curious as to what he wanted to say. “So, they say you draw.”

Now I was the one watching him intently. “Some. Yeah.”

Those eyes were icy blue, his gaze fixed on me. “Dragons.”

I swallowed, feeling like I was under a microscope. “Usually.” I felt myself blushing. “Call it a weakness.”

“I don’t.” I wasn’t sure what he meant by that, but he was digging in his bag. He offered a new notebook to me, as if he thought I’d refuse to take it. “Draw me one?”

Kids asked me to do this all the time, to embellish one of their notebooks with a dragon. For some reason, Derek’s request felt different, maybe just because he was different.

Intense. That was the word for him.

Like the weight of the world was hanging on my decision.

Or maybe I was making too much of it.

I tried to shake off my sense of foreboding. “Sure,” I said, as if it was no big deal.

It wasn’t.

At least it shouldn’t have been.

“Gotta get in line early,” he said, to myt surprise. “Haven’t you heard?” He was studying me again. “Everyone’s talking about the dragon who spooked Suzanne.” He jerked his head toward the bathroom, scene of the crime, which was closed off.

“Oh, I did hear something,” I said, trying to sound disinterested.

“I thought you’d be all over that story, since it stars a dragon.”

I blushed. Again. “I like them better in fiction.”

“Really?” He couldn’t have sounded more skeptical.

I changed the subject. “So, any preferences? Flying? Perching?”

“Kicking butt.” He spoke with resolve. “I want to see a dragon kicking some bully’s ass.”

My mouth went dry. I had those prickles on the back of my neck again.

There couldn’t be any way that Derek knew my secret.

Could there?

He looked one more time into my eyes, hard, as if he was trying to tell me something. I couldn’t think what it might be. I couldn’t think of a thing to say.

Not one thing.

Derek smiled a little, that secret smile he seemed to keep especially for me, then turned and walked away. I stared after him, wondering.

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