How long did this person intend to keep me waiting? I tapped my foot on the tile floor and glanced at the clock mounted on the wall next to me. Five minutes into our ten-minute break and still not a single trace of this no-show. In fact, how was it possible that I'm waiting on them? We came from the same place, so, if anything, they should be waiting for me. I gritted my teeth and avoided the glance of a passing teacher.
"Hey, no running in the hallway please."
Luckily, a duo of students rushing past proved of more interest to her than me pacing at the doorway to the stairwell. Aside from myself, the narrow corridor was empty except for a few stragglers milling about. I pulled out my phone, noting a full six minutes had now passed. In an attempt to salvage the remainder of my break, I connected to the school's wi-fi and opened up the internet browser. After refreshing the stats for my web novel, the views remained the same as they were this morning. Damn, and here I thought that was one of my better chapters. Oh, well. I pocketed my phone and that's when it hit me. Could this person have meant we would meet in the stairwell? The note said by the stairwell, but did they mean in it? Semantics aside, it wouldn't hurt to check either way.
The door's hinges creaked as it shut behind me, causing the girl sprawled across the third step to stare down at me. Rika propped herself up on an elbow, pulling her hands out of the pockets of her black sweatshirt. "Jeez, what kept you?"
"What kept me? You said in the note to—"
"You know what?" she interjected. "Doesn't matter. Come sit over here. I've got something to ask you."
She patted the spot next to her, brushing away some of the filth covering the cement step in the process. I couldn't help but snort at that. I mean how appealing could you possibly make sitting on cold stairs? The cobwebs collecting in the corners and the accumulated dirt only further accentuated my point. Regardless, I sat on the step above her to maintain some distance between us. Rika didn't seem to mind.
Of course, she didn't. Why would she when I walked right into her trap. Bait me into a false sense of security, and then spring a favor on me. Too late to back out now. There was no chance she'd let me leave without hearing her out. The best I could do was steer the topic clear of anything related to Ethan.
Nice job, me. A nice open-ended question to start with. Make her work for it.
"When's Ethan's birthday?"
Just kidding. I forgot I'm about as slick as a bag of rocks.
"Shouldn't you ask him yourself? Or check social media like a normal person."
She looked taken aback by my suggestions before returning to her trademark grin. "If I could do that, I wouldn't be asking you in the first place, right? So just tell me, and we can both go on with our days."
Was she trying to convince me she didn't have any social media accounts, or that she was too shy to ask? No, that wasn't the issue right now. Wouldn't telling her be a breach of his privacy? More importantly, it would give her the wrong impression and she might think she can come to me for help.
I had to avoid such a fate at any cost.
"Sorry, no idea."
Her emerald eyes lit up in mirth. "Really?"
"Cross my heart and hope to die," I replied, making the sign in front of my chest.
"What a letdown. And here I thought you'd know, being his best friend and all."
"Wish I could help you."
"Don't worry about it. I'll ask you again during lunch. I've got a feeling if Amelia and Nora tag along, they might just jog your memory."
I bit the inside of my cheek while she smirked at me. She knew she caught me hook, line, and sinker. "Fine, I get it. I'll tell you, but you have to promise to keep it a secret from him and the other girls."
"Of course, of course." She flipped her long brunette hair over her shoulder. "Now tell me!"
"It's this Sunday. That—"
"So soon? Wow, it's a good thing I asked you. Wonder why he didn't mention it though?"
There was no way in hell he'd tell them because they'd make it into some sort of competition amongst themselves.
"If that's all you need, I'm going to head to class." I stood up and brushed off my pants, not trusting they weren't covered in dust. "See ya."
She grabbed ahold of my sleeve and tugged me off balance, causing me to fall back down. "What?"
"Are you busy this Saturday?"
"Not really, but—"
"Great. Let's meet tomorrow afternoon at the mall to find a gift for Ethan."
Not bothering to wait for me to reply, though she hadn't listened to anything else I had to say either, she scampered away. Light trickled in from the hallway for a brief moment, shifting my shadow along the wall. Then, just like that, it vanished, leaving me in the relative darkness of the stairwell. I let out a long sigh that sounded like the ones Mr. Morrison made when he complained about not getting paid enough.
I didn't have time to go to the mall. Saturday was a scheduled upload day for me, and I'd already fallen behind on the latest chapter. No way in hell was I going to miss a deadline because of Rika asking for a pointless favor. I stood up and dusted myself off once more, knowing the bell would ring soon. This was the first time I'd spoken to her outside of class, but it felt as though helping her with this could quickly snowball into becoming tangled up with all of them. That was something I needed to avoid at all costs.
And the easy solution to that was to just not go. Problem solved.
My phone vibrated and I snatched it from atop my bed, swiping past the lock screen. He finally texted me back, giving me a glimmer of hope for discovering what he wanted as a present.
Ethan: not sure what i want 4 bday lol. Y u run from me 2day?
Me: Oh, you saw that?
Ethan: U still dont like friends?
Me: It's not that I don't like them. I just find it difficult to talk to you with them around.
Ethan: U have a crush on 1 of em? =)
Me: You're an idiot. I'll talk to you tomorrow
I would have felt less guilty leaving her hanging if I at least figured out what he wanted. Oh, well. She'd probably be fine. Rika was resourceful if nothing else.