“So... can I get you something to eat? I don't like to brag but I have an 'in' with the owner.”
Luke tucked his wallet back into his jean pocket with a smile. I don't think he had yet to pick up on the fact that 1) I didn't care, 2) I wanted to go home and 3) I was still planning on reporting him to the No Hate Alliance.
“Oh come on Maya,” Luke said again, leaving over the table for a moment. “I just told you some major news. Aren't you going to say anything?”
“I told you. We're not going to have some kumbaya moment just because we both come from cross-species families.” I shook my head. “I want to go home, Luke. I promised Ronan was going to meet me at the park and I didn't show up. He's going to wonder where I am.”
“I saw him.”
“As I was... escorting you from the park,” Luke went on. “I saw him.”
“And what? Did you say anything to him?”
“I might have.”
My face paled. “What... what did you say to him?”
“Just that you were gonna be late and to try back at 6.”
I jumped up from my seat. “You... you what? How could you say that to him? What's he going to think now?”
“I don't know,” Luke said. “And frankly, I don't really care. Do you actually like that guy or something?”
“That's none of your business.”
“Hey, I told you something private about me.”
“That was your stupid choice,” I said. I tried to glare at him. I didn't understand it. Why... why were so many giants more than ready to give me information that I just didn't want? I didn't care if Ronan's real name was Ronnie. I didn't care that Ronan was a special. And I certainly didn't care to know about Luke's half-family. But then... something dawned on me. “I'll tell the whole school about this if you don't let me go.”
His confidence finally settled. Thank. God.
“You... you wouldn't,” he muttered. “Maya, I told you this—”
“Why you told me is your own problem,” I said. “I didn't ask. I didn't want to know. I don't care that your father is a human. You hear me, Luke? I. Don't. Care. Why would you even tell me in the first place if it's something you want to be kept a secret... wait a minute... how are you keeping that a secret?”
“It is a secret, isn't it?” I challenged.
“Only a few people know,” Luke said. I guess at this point he realized that he was pretty screwed.
His face darkened. “N-no. He doesn't know. He just knows that my dad's a real hardass.”
“He is.” He looked away for a moment and staring up at him, I almost felt bad.
“You shouldn't have told me,” I couldn't help saying. “Despite us having that in common, Luke. You... you were horrible to me. To all humans. I don't even know how you're getting away with so many secrets.” It was hard to think about how many secrets lingered around Luke.
Dating humans for fun.
His stepfather being a human.
I wondered what else lurked behind those friendly blue eyes.
“How is your dad even scary?” I couldn't help asking. He looked surprised.
“I thought you didn't want to talk to me anymore,” he said.
“Call me curious.”
“You mean you want more ammo to use against me.”
“I guess you'll never know,” I said. “Speak.”
“Do you... do you remember back in the day when humans and giants were kept pretty seperate?”
“No,” I said. “I was too young and so were you. Get to the point.”
“There was a particular human,” Luke went on, “Sunny Days. Do you remember reading about her in the papers?”
“The first human to fight to have her marriage legalized with a giant,” I said. “Once again, Luke. Everyone knows that. Get to the point.”
Luke started to trace a long finger around his coffee mug. “Well, there were always rumors circling around her. About being a special. How it was rare, but it happened. They said she was a charmer on giants. That she had the rare ability to get giants to do what she wanted. There was always a worry that her husband only fell in love with her because of that. Human specials are extremely rare, but they're out there.” He smirked. “I wouldn't be surprised if you were one.”
I narrowed my eyes. “Not biting on that,” I muttered. “What does this have to do with anything?”
“I think my stepfather is a charmer.” His eyes flickered up to mine. I gazed back with a blank expression. “So... don't you think anything about that? Don't you have anything to say?”
“I... I don't care, Luke,” I said. He looked hurt and for a moment I almost relented. But I wanted to go home. And though Luke seemed like he was having a rough time and just needed someone to talk to, I had to remember who he was. He worked with a pusher. He had his friend charm humans into liking them. He called us simple. And yes, though he said the same thing about giants, I was sure there was more to the story than that.
“Not at all?” Luke tried. I could see desperation in his eyes. “He might have charmed my mom into dating him.”
“That's his and your business, not mine. Luke... I want to go home. I don't want to stay here. Cohawk isn't the most friendly of towns for humans. It's yellow light for a reason. And it's going to start getting dark soon.”
“You'll be fine if you're with me,” he said. “I'll protect you.”
“Geezus, I don't want to be protected. I want to go home.” I checked my watch. “It was five minutes long ago. I want to go home.”
“How can you just blow this off so easily?” he snapped. I could tell that he was starting to lose his cool and his patience, but honestly I didn't care. I didn't ask for this. “I'm telling you that my father is a human. That's he's a special. That he might have charmed mom into marrying her!”
“And what does anything of this have to do with me?” I snapped back. “I don't care!”
“I told you we had things in common. I wanted to apologize to you.”
“And so you have,” I said. “Apology excepted.”
“Don't you want to know anything about me?” he asked. “About why my dad hates who he is? About why he forces everyone in the family to carry the name of the Republic of Conservative Giants even thought he's a human himself?”
“I don't care about the Republic,” I muttered. “I know what being a Conservative giant means. And no, I still don't care.”
He slammed his heavy fist on the counter. “Well, why not?” he snapped.
“Don't think that I'm going to be intimidated by you!” I shouted. Several giants in the diner turned their attention towards us but I focused on Luke. If he was going to 'protect' me as he said, than I might as well take advantage of it. “You thought that just by handing over some random information about your family that—”
“It's hardly random.”
“It's random to me because I don't see the point. I don't care. I don't know how many times I can make this clear to you. I don't care. You did some horrible things and you think I'm suddenly going to think you're a not so bad guy and you have a deep past? Luke you're...” I trailed off, knowing how much this was going to hurt him, “... you're a bad person. You do bad things.”
He stiffened in his seat. “You... you don't know anything about me. Not really. Not yet. But I'm trying to tell you—”
“You don't have to win me over,” I said. “And you don't have to explain yourself. If you want to act like slime and trick humans into dating you for fun or to get some sick kick with that asshole, Evans, be my guest. Just stay... stay the hell away from me.”
My phone buzzed in my pocket. I looked up at Luke.
“You may as well get it,” he grumbled. “I guess this isn't going anywhere.”
“I guess it's not,” I said. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my phone. Ronan. It was hard not to smile. “Hello?”
“It's good to know how much a promise worth Maya Jones is worth.”
“Ronan, you don't understand,” I started. “I...” my eyes flickered up to Luke. What I said next could change everything. I had to watch my wording. Despite everything I still didn't want Luke to get in so much trouble. Not yet. “I... uh... I fainted at the park.”
His voice changed immediately. “Are you okay?”
“I'm fine!” I squeaked. My eyes drifted over to Luke's. He looked as surprised as Ronan sounded. “I'm okay, really. Someone picked me up and took me indoors so I wouldn't get sick.”
“Are you at home? Do you want me to come over?”
I blushed. “I'm... I'm not at home,” I whispered. “But... but I do want you to come over.”
Luke's eyes widened.
“Well, where are you?” I could hear him shifting around, even his steps rung heavily over the phone. “Maya Jones. Where are you?”
I swallowed hard. “C-Cohawk.”
Movement stopped over the phone. “Cohawk? What the hell are you doing in the next town? Stay where you are. You know about that places' reputation.”
“I'm with someone,” I said. “Another giant. I think I'll be okay.”
“Isabelle?” he guessed.
I shook my head. “Uh... no. She wasn't the one who found me and brought me here.”
“Maya...” Luke said in his booth. His eyes flickered up to the waitress from before who was watching the scene unfold. I'm sure she was wondering the same thing. Whether she should come over. Cohawk really didn't have the friendliest reputation when it came to humans...
“Maya Jones!” Ronan's voice brought me back to the present. I heard a door slam. “I'm coming to get you. Where are you?”
“What is this place?” I asked Luke. “What's it called?”
He frowned. “He won't like it,” he said softly.
“Who the hell is that?” Ronan snapped. “Are you with a guy? Do you know him?”
“He's from school,” I said.
“Well, who is it?” he asked. “And where are you?”
“Where are we?” I asked Luke again.
“The red, white and black diner,” he muttered. “But he won't like it.”
“The red, white and black?” I said over the phone.
“Of all places in Cohawk and you're there? Does your dad know?”
“N-no,” I stammered. “Not exactly.”
“So why didn't you call him?”
“I... uh... I didn't have my phone right away.”
“Who are you with?” Ronan asked again. “I'm on my way. Who brought you to Cohawk and that redneck diner of all places? Who. Are. You. With?”
I bit my lower lip. It was now or never. “Luke,” I said quietly.
“Luke.” His voice didn't question. He knew. “At the park. Luke saw you passed out at the park and... now you're in Cohawk. With him. At the redneck diner.” I swear I could hear the disapproval in his voice and without warning or reason my eyes started to answer. Luke looked at me with a nervous frown.
“Yes,” I said. “That... that's who I'm with and that's where I'm at.”
“Maya Jones,” Ronan said. “I'm only going to ask you once and if you're nervous to answer me because he's there, I want you to tell me. Did you actually pass out in the park?”
“Did Luke really bring you to Cohawk?”
“Did he bring you there without asking?”
I pinched my eyes shut. Luke couldn't hear the questions, but I'm sure he had an idea of what was going on. “Y-yes.”
Ronan sucked in a large gasp. “He took you,” he said lowly. “I saw him leave the park, but I didn't think... I'm on my way.”
“Ronan, wait!” I started to squeal but the phone disconnected until I had a chance to calm him. The anger in his voice was hard. I worried for Luke. “He... he's on his way,” I said.
“And what exactly did you tell him?”
“Only the truth,” I said, tucking my phone back into my pocket.
“And what was that?”
“That... that's my business,” I said. “You shouldn't have brought me here.”
“I had to talk to you—”
“But that doesn't mean I had to talk to you,” I said back. “He's on his way and after he picks me up, I don't want you to talk to me ever again. I don't want you to look at me. In fact, I want you to pretend that I don't exist. I don't want to have anything to do with you and I don't care about your weirdo father and his hate of his own race.” I shuddered.
“Prove you're not a monster by listing to a human for once in your life,” I said.
“I always have to listen to a human!” he said. “My stepfather—”
“Is your stepfather,” I said. “You should still listen to him.”
“You don't know him.”
“And I don't want to. And I don't want to know you, either.” I lowered my eyes. “I'm... I'm sorry, Luke, but that's how I want it to be. I won't report you to the No Hate Alliance, but I will if you ever touch or grab me again without asking. That's not just me, Luke. That's the law and you're not above it.”
“Maya, if you only knew the whole story...”
“Everything okay, here?” Viv appeared at the side of our booth like a giantess angel, here to take me away from this hell.
“We're fine,” Luke grumbled. “A friend of hers is picking her up.”
“Oh good!” she said. “Another human?” she looked over her shoulder. “Though it is getting a bit late...”
“No, it's a giant,” Luke said.
“Her father?” Viv tried. “I'd love to meet him. A father of a human daughter...”
“Her friend from school,” Luke said. “We're fine.” He started to wave her away but I ran to the edge of the table.
“Actually,” I said. “I wouldn't mind waiting for him at the front desk,” I said. “Do you mind? You work the register up front, right?”
She nodded hesitantly. “Uh... s-sure,” she said, looking over at Luke. “I can watch her until her friend comes. If that's okay with you, Mr. Walters.”
“It's not fine.”
“It's not your choice,” I said. “I don't want to spend another moment sitting at this table with you.” I turned up to Viv and tried to smile. “I'd like to wait for my friend up front, please.”
She nodded again. “Sure thing, lima bean,” she said. “Uh... how exactly do you want me to get you there? Don't tell me you intend to walk?”
“You may carry me,” I said, flashing a look at Luke. “Thank you for asking.”
He flinched and looked away with a red face. “Fine,” he grumbled. “Wait up front. But I'm not leaving until O' Connor actually shows up.”
“He will show up,” I said. “Don't bother.” I crawled into Viv's awaiting hand and she pulled me up slowly with a giggle.
“It's been a while since I've held a human,” she said. “Pardon me if I'm a bit jerky.”
“You're fine,” I said, smiling up at the kinder, older giantess. “Thank you.”
I didn't look at back at Luke as Viv walked to the front register and set me down so I was on immediate display for all giants who walked inside diner. Luke was probably pissed, but he stayed true to his promise and didn't leave. As the minutes passed, the diner started to get more and more filled with massive beings. Some looked at me and smiled. Some frowned. Others looked surprised. And a few looked downright disgusted.
“Try not to mind the older folk,” Viv said. “They're just not used to seeing you guys around here.”
“Nothing to worry about,” I said, though my voice trembled slightly. “R-right?”
“I don't think so,” Viv said with a shrug.
“You don't think so?” I croaked. I was beginning to wonder if sitting with Luke was a better option. He had said that he wouldn't let anyone bother me and hell... he did own the place. I checked my watch and wondered how long it would take a sixty foot giant to walk to a town one hour away in human standards. I saw the back of Luke's head in the booth. He remained in his booth, but he remained in the diner.
I hated that Luke's blond tuft of hair was the only reassuring thing I had as the minutes ticked by and the diner because fuller and louder.
I swallowed hard.
Hurry up, Ronan.