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Chapter Twenty

"So, I'm going to warn you that these scissors aren't really as sharp as I'd like them to be," I said nervously.

"Don't you trust yourself?" Cole pressed.

"Well, yes, but..."

"I'm obviously not going to run away now am I? Do what you will."

After we had climbed out from under the tree and Cole grabbed his walking stick, he had slowly made his way to a small wrought-iron table. He was sitting as if he was strapped in an electric chair; he clutched his walking stick tightly.

A trip to the front desk had netted me a pair of scissors, but they certainly weren't professional sheers. I bit my lip and studied the main of jet black hair.

Where did I begin?

I have to admit that staring at the back of Cole's head reminded me of another certain dark-haired male. I took a deep breath. I wasn't exactly trained to cut hair, but I had vision. I had heart. I tampered down my fears and began to shape the hair using the model that was stuck in my brain.

After a few snips I gained momentum. I was in the zone. The sounds of the chirping birds overhead provided piped in background music. I began to hum softly. His hair was soft to the touch. Black wisps cascaded to the ground all around him.

"My neck itches," he complained half-way through. I patted at the offending hairs.

"You'll probably have to change your shirt when I'm done," I apologized.

Not far away, but lost in their own little world, Joe and Krista had their heads bent close. They were deep in conversation.

The longer I worked, the more I could tell that this had been a great idea. Cole had a beautiful neck; it gave way to broad shoulders. I had never noticed his shoulders before.

"Are we done yet?" he asked.

"Not yet," I said. I had played with the back far too long. I moved around until I was standing in front of him. This was the true test. My desperate need to see his eyes propelled me forward. The slicing sound of the scissors came rapidly.

"How much are you cutting off?!" Cole exclaimed.

"I'm giving you a summer cut," I explained.

"Is that beautician for bald?" Cole shot back.

"No, it's Ally for--" I stopped.

He was staring straight ahead. He blinked slowly. His eyes were framed with lashes that would make any girl envious. And his eyes...

They were a beautiful emerald green. It made Mason's and Daniel's eyes look weak by comparison. How cruel was it that they were eyes that could not see?"

Realizing that I was leaving his with just one small section of disorder remaining, I made quick work of it. I ran my fingers through my hair, priding myself on the way it fell. It was an intentional just rolled out of bed look. It gave him a playful, youthful air.

He was gorgeous.

"Wow," I whispered.

"That bad?"

"What?" I asked. "No, it's good."

He lifted a hand and ran it along his hair. When he didn't answer, a lump rose in my throat. I was prepared for a rant.

"It feels good," he admitted. "Not too short."

"And we can see your eyes," I added.

"Ah, but they can't see you," he said. The smile he formed made me realize he didn't mean it as an angry jab.

"It'll be much easier to take care of," I began to ramble. "Just wait and--"

Suddenly, he lifted his hands. Slowly they found my waist. Fingers trailed across my stomach; hands pressed into my hips.

"You're such a little thing, aren't you?" he remarked."

"I...I..." I stammered.

"I wasn't nervous until I felt your presence standing right in front of me," he said softly. "I didn't think you'd like what you'd see."

"How can you say that?" I asked. I was beginning to sweat. His hold on me was soft and gentle, but the way his fingers still stroked seemed a million times more intimate than anything I had ever experienced before.

"People are materialistic, Ally," he said. He dropped his hands. I ran my sweaty palms along my sides, reclaiming them again as my own. "Even you."

"M-me?" I said. "I'm not materialistic," I argued. His words hurt.

"You're not? Then how come you needed to see my eyes so bad? And don't tell me they're windows to the soul. Mine are shuttered. And I'd like to believe I still have a soul."

"That's not-- You don't-- I mean--"

"Is it the whole love at first sight thing?" he asked. "Did you stare into my eyes and fall madly in love? Did you imagine breaking me out of here so we can leave happily handicappably ever after?"

His voice was getting harder and harder. I had no idea what had brought on the sudden mood swing. I clung to the scissors.

"I'm sorry if I upset you," I said quietly.

He suddenly grabbed for his walking stick and stood up. He swatted at his shirt irritably.

"Aw, fuck it," he said. He grabbed the bottom of his shirt and yanked it over his head. A milion little hairs caught the wind.

My breath became trapped halfway between inhale and exhale. Underneath the old red Hanes' t-shirt he wore, was a perfectly defined body. I knew he didn't work out in the gym, yet he was in no way fat. He didn't have rippling abs, but what he had was solid and muscular.

He began to walk away and I felt torn. I glanced back at Joe. He looked happier than I had seen him in ages. I couldn't pull him away yet. I glanced back towards the doors. Cole was disappearing down the hall. I made a split-second decision.

As quietly as possible, I followed him. He seemed to know exactly where he was going. He held the stick out in front of him so as not to run into a sharp corner or another person. I wasn't sure if he was just walking to get away or if he had an intended destination until he slowed and ran his hands over a bumpy sign. I knew it was Braille. He opened the door to the right of the sign and walked in. The door didn't close all the way behind him; I took it as a sign and slid in.

It didn't take a rocket scientist to realize that I had just entered his room. A poster of Albert Einstein hung above his head with raised Braille text at the bottom; no doubt a quote from Einstein himself. There was very little else in the way of decorations. I spotted a bookshelf, crammed with this volumes. The titles I saw sounded like they would be way over my head.

As I was looking around, Cole sank down on his bed. He shook his hair with his hands again, swatting at his neck. I couldn't help but think how Shelby would have been interested in him from an artistic point of view. I inched closer. I knew that if i didn't announce myself soon, I would cross that line between curiosity and plain snooping.


"You were following me," he said much more calmly than I had anticipated.

"I just didn't want you to leave mad," I said. "Can we talk? I just don't understand and--"

"I know you don't understand," he responded. "I don't understand. I'm surrounded by half a dozen catty girls my age that I have to deal with everyday and honestly, I can forget them in an instant. But I can't stop thinking about you."

I pressed my hand to my chest. "Me?"

"Yeah, you."

"What about me?" I asked.

He sighed. I watched him turn his hands, palm up.

"I can't help but think about what it would be like to kiss you. I've never had one. A kiss, I mean."



I stared down at him. I had come to do a good deed; I had come to chat as friends.

Was I ready to give a kiss so freely?