Alexander thought that Bibiana would have given up at last. At least, that’s what it seemed when she left with nothing else to say. However, his relief went away when he saw her back into the library the next day, at the same hour, disturbing his peaceful break again. He was surprised, though, that she came with another book in her hands and silently sat down in front of him, ready to read as if it had nothing to do with him. That detail made him frown. What was she up to?
Curiously, nothing at all. Bibiana stayed there as quiet as a mouse for the whole half an hour, just reading the pages without saying a word.
Five minutes before the ringing of the bell, she stood up, put the book on the right shelf and left the same way she’d arrived.
Alexander followed her with his eyes until she disappeared and then blinked a couple of times, in confusion. He wasn’t fool enough to believe that little miss nosy had discovered a sudden taste for reading, even less when she had so many friends to meet up with during the small and fewer pauses between lessons. So, what was that about?
He decided not to think about it anymore and carried on with his routine. Nevertheless, Bibiana came back on Friday and, although Alexander had the weekend to avoid her face, he did have enough when she reappeared for a third time on Monday.
Willing to know what the heck she was doing, he waited for her to sit down and chose a direct approach of words.
“I gave Bukowski the damn project this morning with our names on it, so there’s no reason for you to come here for the third time in a row. What the hell are you up to?”
“Me?” Bibiana raised her eyes from the book, pretending to be surprised. “What are you talking about? I only want to read. That’s what libraries are for, right?”
The answer, although obvious, didn’t pass Alexander’s filter.
“Do you really think that I believed for a second that you only come here to read?”
“What else would I do, otherwise?” Her innocent face made him even more suspicious.
“I can think of a couple things…”, he muttered, fleetingly gazing at the book in her hands. When he saw the title in the cover, his eyes went wide-open. “Where did you... get that…?”
“Oh, you mean The Cyberid?” She calmly smiled. “You didn’t want to tell me the title, so I used the illustrations and the name of the author on the cover as reference. Then, I looked it up on the Internet and I quickly found a translation of the book, so I bought it. Since my parents have a Premium account I got it really fast. And to be honest, I like it. It has some interesting morals”.
Alexander was dumbfounded. That crazy green-eyed chick never ceased to surprise him. Had she really looked for the book and bought it? He was caught so off-guard that he ended up gaping, so she tried to give him an opening.
“I’ve just finished the part about Trurl and Prince Pantagoon. It was quite funny. What do you think?”
The question hid no traps, but Alexander was unable to answer it. It was the first time in his life to be left speechless. Something quite astonishing. As surprised as he could be, he always had a reply within his mouth. Then again… why had he lost that ability all of a sudden?
“I… won’t stand this”.
Overwhelmed by the situation, he took his things and fled from the library, forgetting his tea again; cold. He didn’t want to stay any longer while she was there, but couldn’t either understand why he was feeling so outraged and, at the same time, dealing with a strange pressure in his chest. Bibiana had a talent to drive him nuts, but also to make him feel uncomfortable in his own element… And that was something. How did she achieve that?
He found refuge in an empty classroom and practiced a couple of breathing exercises to regain some peace and slow down his heart rate. If only he had the silk ribbons at hand. So annoying!
As soon as he recovered control over his body, the bell announced the end of the pause and students filled the hallway again.
I didn’t expect Alexander to run away from the library in such a hurry. In fact, I thought he would get mad as usual and blurt one of his hurtful comments out at me to end our daily showdown up.
When he went out the door I stood up too. Why would I stay at the library if he wasn’t there? I could have gone after him, but something told me I had done enough for the day. My intention was to make him get used to my presence, not fear me. And speaking of fear…
“There you are!” It was a heck of a fright when Mar came out of nowhere, next to the stairs. “Where have you been? I’ve been looking everywhere!”
“Hum… I was with… our History teacher”.
“The History teacher?” Mar raised an eyebrow. “In the library?”
“Well, she must have a twin sister, then, because one of them has been in the cafeteria for some time now”.
I tightened my lips not to bite my tongue. She’d caught me!
“Did I say History? I meant our Language teacher…» I tried to correct my words, but the lie was already impossible to save.
“B.B.”. Mar gave me one of her stern big-sister stares that she did so well. “It’s been days since the girls and I have seen you during breaks because you always say you have to go talk to a teacher. Are you ditching us?”
“What? No! Of course not!” I quickly answered. “I swear I’m not ditching any of you”.
“Then tell me the truth. What were you doing at the library?”
“Well… you see… if I tell you… you won’t like it” I warned her.
Mar squinted her eyes.
“I’m all ears”.
I gulped and tried to find a convincing way to tell her what I’ve been planning for days… but it didn’t come to mind, so I ended up saying things straight.
“I come to the library during breaks ‘cause… I’m trying to… become friends with Alexander”.
“...” Her eyes went wide open. “What did you say?”
“I want to become his friend, Mar. That’s what I said”.
“But you… have you gone nuts?”
“I told you all I’d show you he’s a nice guy and that’s what I’ll do” I answered firmly. “Moreover… I believe I’ve found a way into his wall”.
“B.B., are you listening to yourself?” Mar grabbed me by the shoulders. “If you hang out with him you’ll become an outcast too. Have you forgotten your days before we met?”
Her words hurt me; not because she was the one to speak… but because they made me remember a time I wished to forget. The vision of the child I’d been back in kindergarten made me pout and I couldn’t help it.
I set myself free from her hands and looked away. It was hard to admit that, if it wasn’t for her and Rita, my life would be quite different.
“Can we… not talk about it, please?”
Mar sighed in dismay.
“I only want to keep you safe”, she said. “You’re my best friend and, even though I’ll never give up on you, if you keep meeting him… that will leave a mark. You might not get rid of it until we start university. Or further. And what if others start picking on you? We can’t be twenty-four hours around to defend you”.
“And who defends him when he’s bullied?” I replied. “He has no friends, Mar. I only want to help him a bit, that’s all”.
“You shouldn’t be concerned about what happens to him, B.B….”
“That’s something I should decide for myself”, I protested. “Besides, the library’s always empty. Nobody knows I talk to him, I assure you. And even if they knew, I wouldn’t give a damn. I choose my own friends”.
Mar kept staring at me in silence. We both knew our argument was a lost cause and that I was as stubborn as a mule. Despite everything, we also knew that our friendship wouldn’t break because of something that stupid. We respected each other, even with our mistakes, and that was one of the qualities I loved in our relationship.
She sighed and nodded.
“Fine… you know what you’re doing, but try not to get too involved. If someone pitches into you, tell me”. I nodded and she added: “I won’t tell the others about this because I’m sure that Rita will come and drag you off like a puppet”.
I smiled even though I knew that would be the case.
She nodded too and wrapped her arm around my shoulders.
“C’mon, we’ll go looking for the girls. The bell’s gonna ring soon».
Alexander stepped out of his hidden spot and walked to his classroom, avoiding nudges as some people passed next to him intentionally. When he reached his seat, though, he then realized that it was History class… a core subject for everyone.
He kept his head down when the gossipers arrived and discerned Bibiana’s voice from the group of sounds.
She took her usual seat on the left column of desks, a row behind his. A strategically useless spot, for he couldn’t look at her without turning his head… Wait a moment; why in Hell would he want to look at her?! He needed to avoid her, in any case. He shouldn’t even pay attention to that girl in the first place!
Luckily for him, Miss Ochoa arrived quickly, always carrying her book arsenal, and the lesson began, giving our boy the perfect excuse not to think about anything else than the Victorian era and the liberalist movement during the 19th Century.
He didn’t lift his head during the whole five-minute pause until Spanish class and Bibiana didn’t try to approach him either, chatting with her friends. When it was all over, he rushed to freedom like a bat out of Hell.
Once home, he left his bag next to the desk and threw himself on the bed to sink his face on the pillow. He then let out all the air in his lungs and nearly choked.
It took him some long minutes to recover peace. After that, he finally decided to organize his thoughts.