The lunch lady ladled the soup into a bowl and placed a Styrofoam plate with the grilled cheese next to the bowl on her tray. “Anything else?”
“That’s it, thanks.” Chase smiled.
The Asian kid behind her asked for a salad. She caught a glimpse of him out of the corner of her eye as he got his plate of food. He was wearing white skinny jeans, navy sneakers, and a sort of silky gray T-shirt that definitely looked designer. They shuffled along in line until finally it was her turn to pay. Chase handed the thin student cashier her card. He looked at the debit card briefly before handing it back to her. “You need your student card.”
Chase took the card, suddenly nervous. “My what?”
The student had dark blond hair and kind features, but his look of exasperation told her he was thoroughly fed up with answering this question. “Your student ID card. You pay for lunch with it. You can’t get lunch any other way.”
“What, seriously?” Chase looked down at her tray. Her stomach gurgled. “So I have to get my card and then come back?”
She swallowed. “My mom didn’t say anything about a student ID card.” The cashier gave her a blank look of disbelief, so she added, “She works in registration.”
“Okay. Well, sorry, but you need a student ID.”
Someone sighed behind her. She was holding up the line.
“Excuse me,” a low voice said from behind her. Chase looked over her shoulder and found the guy with the designer shirt leaning toward her. He held out a student ID card, and reaching over her, handed it to the cashier. “Just pay for both.”
Chase turned to face him, her eyes widening. “Oh . . . ah, wait . . .”
The cashier hesitated.
“No, don’t do that,” Chase insisted. No, no, no! Don’t do that! I don’t like owing a complete stranger, thanks very much.
The guy gave the cashier a nod so full of confidence, Chase was pretty sure anyone would have obeyed an order from him. The cashier swiped the card.
Chase realized she was staring. For one thing, this guy was otherworldly beautiful. He had high cheekbones and warm brown eyes that tilted up at an exotic angle. His chin sloped down to a square point from his razor-like jawline. She almost couldn’t find words to respond to him. And besides that, he held himself like he owned the school.
His eyes flitted to her. “You can go now.”
“Oh.” Direct. And people thought she was made of stone. “Thanks. Sorry.”
“It’s fine.” He had an accent, but it was barely detectable.
She scurried forward with her tray, her face hot and her calm ruffled.
She whirled around to face him but miscalculated the motion by a mile. She collided with the generous stranger, her tray flying off to the side. Tomato soup splattered all over the floor, washing over both their shoes in a torrent of scalding liquid.
The guy jumped back and then looked up from his shoes to her face, his scowl a mixture of incredulity and shock.
The racket in the cafeteria quieted almost instantly. All eyes turned to them. Chase stood there like an idiot with tomato soup trickling down her leg and seeping between her toes. She couldn’t seem to find her voice with the entire cafeteria staring at her.