4 - Omens
“Why are you standing so far away, Evangeline?”
“I hate the water...”
“I’ve seen you in plenty of pools.”
“Because they’re pools. What you’re standing in… is the ocean, Mellie...”
Mellie rolled her eyes and turned around to face Evangeline. “Come on, Evangeline. It won’t hurt you...”
Evangeline looked up at the brown-eyed woman a couple of feet away from her. She wore just her sheer nightgown, the hem and entire bottom half soaked by the waves of the ocean. Her curly brown hair whipped about her beautiful face. She extended her hand as an invitation with a warm smile on her face that made Evangeline’s heart flutter.
Before she knew it, Evangeline felt the sand between her toes as she walked onto the beach. The water splashed at her feet as she grabbed Mellie’s hand. Her eyes sparkled with the light of the moon above them.
“See? Not so bad, is it?” Mellie smiled.
“Only for you...” Evangeline smirked.
Kiara sat up in bed, rubbing her eyes. She squinted towards the window to see the sun just barely rising over the trees. She looked over at the clock on her nightstand. “5am... I clearly hate myself,” she groaned. She sat up in her bed for a moment and tried to think. “Why do I keep dreaming about Evangeline? Who is this other woman… Mellie?” She groaned as she plopped back down on her bed. She covered her head with her pillow, trying to force herself back to sleep. She didn’t have the energy or the time to decipher her enigmatic dreams.
It was but a few hours when Kiara officially got up. She showered and slipped on a pair of skinny jeans and a white cashmere off-the-shoulder sweater before grabbing her book bag and heading downstairs.
She stopped in the kitchen to see Elijah and Alexander already sitting at the table. “Good morning!” she said brightly.
“Good morning, Kiara,” Elijah smiled warmly. He had a book in one hand and a pen hovering over a pad in the other. Alexander silently followed her with his eyes. He watched her grab one of the many boxes of cereal they had bought her, a bowl, a spoon, and some milk from the packed fridge. She took a seat at the table across from Elijah and Alexander. She assumed that Cole already headed out for the day.
“Did you sleep well?” Elijah asked her.
“Yes! That bed is so soft and fluffy. Honestly, I wish I could just stay in bed all day,” she said, pouring the cereal and milk into her bowl. “I did have a couple of weird dreams that made me a little restless,” she said, munching. “Probably just my psyche adjusting to new surroundings.”
Elijah furrowed his brow, trying to read her. But she seemed completely unbothered as she ate her cereal. “Well... if you ever need anything from us, please do not hesitate to ask,” he said.
“Thanks, Elijah,” she smiled as she continued to eat. She glanced up at Alexander who had been staring at her the whole time, not saying a word. Alexander felt Elijah kick him under the table, snapping him out of it.
“W-would... would you like a ride to school?” Alexander said quickly.
She looked at him curiously. “I was just going to take the bus.”
“My car is parked just out front,” Alexander said.
Kiara smiled. “Well... if you don’t mind...”
“I don’t,” he said quickly. He could hear Elijah sighing next to him as Kiara finished up her breakfast. She got up from the seat and placed the dishes in the sink.
As she picked up her book bag, she looked at the two of them strangely. “Aren’t you guys going to eat?” she asked them.
“We’ve already eaten,” Elijah said.
“Oh, okay,” she said. “After school, I plan on running a few more tests on Evangeline. Hoping to have a clearer diagnosis by tonight.” Elijah nodded as he walked her and Alexander to the door. He gave Alexander a look of warning before shutting the door after them.
Kiara kept her eyes on the road as she sat in the passenger seat of Alexander’s car. He hadn’t said anything since they had gotten in the car. She wanted so badly to talk to him and learn more about him. But Alexander always seemed so closed off with his typical one-word answers. “So, since you’re an artist, does that mean you paint?” she asked.
“What do you like to paint?”
Alexander thought for a long moment before finally speaking. “Life.”
Kiara frowned, feeling frustrated with his short responses. She knew there was more to Alexander than he was leading on. Other than the fact that he always stared at her, she felt that he seemed to be in a perpetual state of sadness. She had never seen him smile once from the moment she first met him. “Are you and your brothers close?” she asked, trying to break the silence again.
MY GOD! she screamed in her head. “Who’s the oldest of you and Cole?” she asked.
Alexander paused as he tried to gather his thoughts. “...it depends...”
She raised a curious brow. “On what? Emotional maturity? Cole does seem like he’s still got some maturing to do,” she laughed.
“...something like that...” he said.
3 WORDS! PROGRESS! she thought to herself. “Yea, I wish I had siblings,” she said. “But I did grow up with a lot of kids in the foster homes I went to. So, in a way, they were kinda like my siblings.”
There was something about him that made her feel drawn to him. The look he would give her sent shivers down her spine. Normally, she was good at talking to people. But, something about him made her forget herself. She knew she was attracted to him. She often had to stop herself from looking at his pink lips that never turned upward. Even now, as she glanced at him from the side, watching his toned arm maneuver the stick shift and his serious eyes stay on the road, her heart was beating a little faster.
“Alexander...” she said softly. “How come you don’t talk much?”
Alexander stayed silent for a brief moment as he pulled up to the university’s parking lot. He turned to her and plunged his blue eyes into her brown irises. “Please don’t take offense at my silence... I often get lost in my thoughts. Talking sometimes feels... trivial...”
“Talking helps us to learn more about each other,” she said.
“The less you know about me the better...” he said sadly.
She frowned, watching him look down as if he were arguing with himself. He had the saddest look on his face and it nearly broke her heart. “Life can’t be that bad, Alexander... You have to try and look at the bright side of things. That’s what I try to do.”
He looked up at her, struggling to open himself up to her just a little bit. She looked radiant. With all her naivety of this world unbeknownst to her, perhaps she could be that bright side. “I suppose you’re right...” he said softly.
The sudden tenderness in his voice shook her to her core. She felt herself start to sweat under his gaze. “Would you... maybe want to get lunch or something?” she asked.
He hesitated as he looked at her with surprise. “You... want to have lunch... with me?”
“Yea,” she said, smiling brightly. “I plan to look for some books in the library on rare diseases. Then, I have a break before Biochem. We could meet up, maybe... in the library?”
He wasn’t sure what to say to her. After Elijah’s warning and Cole’s taunting, Alexander had been trying to limit his time around her to keep himself in control. But the way she looked at him with those big brown eyes and that beautiful smile…
“I’d like that...” he said finally. A huge smile crossed Kiara’s face that made him want to melt on sight.
“Great!” she said excitedly. She opened the door and stepped out of the car. “See you at 1!” Alexander watched her bound up the stairs and disappear into the building. He caught a glimpse of a man with a thick red beard and tattoos all over his arms, leaning against his motorcycle. Alexander sucked his teeth as he got out of the car. He glared at the stranger until the man got back on his bike with a smirk before taking off.
“I actually got all of my books on time, praise the Lord, cause I’m not tryin’ to start the semester falling behind,” Kiara said. She stuffed some of her books into a locker.
“Oh, no… are you a bookworm, Kiara?” Rhea teased.
“Girl, whatchu mean ‘oh no’? Yes, I am a bookworm and proud. I’ve always been an intense student. I just can’t afford to not do well, you know?” Kiara said, closing her locker.
“I understand. But you gotta make sure you make time to have some fun and relax. Take time for yourself,” Rhea said.
“...But... science is fun...”
“Oh my gosh, Kiara, seriously!” Rhea laughed out loud.
“Wow, Rhea, you cackle like a damn witch. I could hear your loud mouth from across the hall.” Kiara and Rhea turned to the side to see a pretty, raven-haired girl looking at them smugly as an entourage of girls surrounded her.
“I’m sorry, bish, whet?” Kiara said, surprised.
“Jenny, nobody was even talking to you,” Rhea said annoyed.
“Who’s your little friend? Must be pretty pathetic to be hanging out with you,” Jenny smirked.
“Oh wow! Are we in high school? Mean girls like you still exist in college? Girl, get your life,” Kiara said, rolling her eyes. She latched onto Rhea’s arm. “Come on, Rhea.” They quickly walked off before Jenny could get in another word.
“What a bitch,” Rhea said, fuming as they walked down the halls.
“Who the hell is she? And why did she come for you like that?” Kiara asked.
“Why else? Girls like her love to pick on anyone who’s different or ‘weird’,” Rhea said, rolling her eyes.
“What’s so ‘weird’ about you? You’re beautiful and kind and smart. I think she’s just jealous.”
Rhea blushed at Kiara’s compliment. “Oh, I’m pretty weird, Kiara,” Rhea chuckled.
“Girl, please. Hang out with me a little while longer. You haven’t seen weird yet,” Kiara nudged her playfully as they both laughed.
“Hey, Angel.” Kiara turned around to see Leo’s tall frame walking towards her with his book bag slung over his shoulder.
“Leo!” she said excitedly. She stood on her tiptoes to hug him. “I was wondering when I’d see you again.”
“Sorry, Angel. I meant to find you sooner,” he smiled at her. His hand clutched tightly around her waist as he softly stroked her side with a longing smile. When Rhea blatantly walked into his line of sight, she gave him a look and he quickly removed his hands from her body. “Hey, RiRi,” he said nervously.
“’Sup, Leo,” Rhea responded.
“Woah! Hold on!” Kiara said wide-eyed. “One, did you just give her Rihanna’s nickname? And two... you guys know each other?”
Leo chuckled. “In my defense, I didn’t know ‘RiRi’ was Rihanna’s nickname till after I had already gotten used to calling her that.”
“Are you a social pariah? How would you not know?!” Kiara said bewildered. “It’s Rihanna!”
Rhea laughed and looked at Leo. “Leo’s a bit outdated when it comes to anything media-related.”
“Okay, but... Rihanna. Leo, I’m gonna have to re-evaluate our entire friendship,” Kiara teased, poking him in the chest.
“Oh, come on, Angel,” he chuckled softly. He instinctively wrapped his large hands around her small waist yet again but more possessively. “If you’re willing to teach, I’m more than happy to learn,” he teased, subtly caressing her arms.
Rhea loudly cleared her throat and he abruptly let go of Kiara yet again. “Um, yeah... RiRi and I go way back... kinda. She knows my people, and I know her... people...” Leo said hesitantly.
Rhea rolled her eyes as she let out a frustrated sigh. “Our families know each other,” she said finally to Kiara.
“Oh! That’s cool! Leo, I don’t think I’ve ever met your family before. When we were kids, I only saw you at school,” she said to him.
“Yea... I hated that foster care kept you away from me so often, Angel... It was hard not being with you...” Leo said, searching her eyes. Her cheeks flushed under his gaze as she looked up at him rather shy.
“How about we catch up later, yea, Leo? I’m still showing Kiara around. We’ll see you later,” Rhea said abruptly. She grabbed Kiara’s arm protectively and led them away from him. Leo watched them walk off as Rhea shot him a look of warning. He rolled his eyes and walked away in the other direction.
Kiara parted ways with Rhea after she had given her a more detailed tour of the campus. She decided to visit Marshala to get book recommendations for her study. She could hear voices coming from inside Marshala’s office and cautiously knocked.
“Shal, don’t...” she heard a man’s deep voice say.
“Come in!” Marshala said loudly.
Kiara hesitated as she opened the door to see Marshala sitting behind her desk with her legs crossed and Professor Nick standing in her office, leaning against one of her bookcases. “Hi, Marshala... Professor Nick...” she said, looking at him apprehensively.
“Hello, Kiara,” he said with his deep, baritone voice.
“Kiara! I’m so glad you stopped by!” Marshala smiled.
Kiara glanced at Professor Nick who seemed to be irritated by something as evident by the expression on his face. “I’m sorry... Am I interrupting something?” Kiara asked.
“Not at all. Professor Nicholas Volkov was just leaving...” Marshala said, glancing up at him from behind her desk. Professor Nick gave her a disappointed look as he moved towards the door. Kiara stepped to the side, moving further into the office and out of his way. He stopped at the door and looked down at her. She felt tense that this intimidating man seemed to be boring into her as if trying to read her mind.
“How’s that assignment going?” he asked her.
Kiara let out a quick breath. “Great! I decided to write on the alicorn and the phoenix.”
Marshala looked at her surprised. “The phoenix?”
“Yea... It fascinates me. I think I’m kind of drawn to the fact that it symbolizes eternal life,” Kiara said.
“It doesn’t just represent eternal life, its very essence is... immortality,” Marshala said to her. “The phoenix creates its own funeral pyre before allowing itself to be consumed by flames. Completely reduced to ash only for a new one to rise again to begin its life on Earth. Interesting you would choose that one. The transition of the phoenix is a perfect example of keeping life balanced.”
Kiara looked at her startled. “Have you taken Professor Nick’s class?” Kiara joked.
Marshala grinned. “I just know a thing or two about mythical creatures... right, Nicholas?” she said, looking up at him.
Kiara looked over at Professor Nick to see him staring at Marshala... almost longingly. There was a tenderness in his eyes that took Kiara by surprise. “I can only imagine what that transition looks like,” Kiara said after he didn’t answer. “It’s probably breathtakingly beautiful.”
“Yes... she is...” Professor Nick said suddenly.
Kiara’s eyes widened in shock as Marshala looked back at him sharply. She readjusted herself in her seat. “Kiara, we should probably talk before your next class. Nicholas... do you mind?” Marshala said a bit tensely.
He looked at Marshala regretfully, slight pain in his eyes before putting on a more stoic expression. “Of course,” he said, clearing his throat. “I’ll see you in class, Kiara.”
Kiara waited for him to close the door before she looked back at Marshala with an ‘oh snap’ face. “Don’t you start,” Marshala laughed.
“Oh my gosh! He’s totally in love with you!” Kiara squealed.
Marshala deeply exhaled as she pretended to busy herself with her papers. “It’s not like that, Kiara. Nicholas and I are just colleagues.”
“So, let’s talk about you,” Marshala said, cutting her off. “How is everything going?”
Kiara frowned, wanting the opportunity to play matchmaker but decided to drop it. “Things are going better than I expected. Classes are in full swing.”
“And your home-stay family?” Marshala asked. “Are they treating you well?”
“They’re a little weird, but they’re cool peoples. Elijah is sweet. Peter is adorable. Cole is kinda annoying. Alexander is... quiet. I’m still trying to learn about them... and Evangeline.”
“Have you noticed anything different since meeting Evangeline?” Marshala asked quickly.
Kiara looked at her confused. “Different?”
“Just... about yourself... anything at all?” Marshala prodded.
Kiara furrowed her brow. Dreams were just dreams and not worth mentioning. “Not that I can think of...” Marshala nodded and sat back in her seat pensively. “Anyway... I wanted to check out the library for some more books for my research and also... possibly get approved for more equipment?”
Marshala pondered before turning to her computer to type. “There are a few books in the library I know of that you can check out. I’ll get approval from the head of the program to get you more equipment.”
“Are you my guardian angel or something?” Kiara laughed.
“I’m only looking out for you, Kiara. I want to see you succeed,” Marshala smiled.
Kiara looked upon her with admiration and gratitude. “Thank you, Marshala. That means more to me than you can possibly know.”
Kiara roamed the aisles of the quiet library, looking for the books on Marshala’s list. All of Marshala’s recommended books were in the basement of the library where no one else was present. She had already picked up quite a few in addition to some others she wanted to read for herself. She hummed to herself, feeling light and airy. Truth be told, the library was one of Kiara’s favorite places to be. It was heaven for a bookworm such as herself.
She read the binding of one book in particular when she heard the floor creak next to her. She glanced over her shoulder but saw there was no one there. There was hardly anyone in the library as-is. Too early in the semester. She shrugged and continued to read the binding until she heard the creak again.
“Hello?” she said out loud, but she received no response. She tensed up a little while continuing to read the books.
She spun around to the voice that called her name. But again, nothing. She was starting to think it was all in her head again. Her imagination getting the best of her. She ran her hands through her hair, trying to calm herself down when she heard the voice yet again.
“Listen! Whatever game you’re trying to play with me, it isn’t funny!” she said irritably with apprehension in her voice. Still, she was met with silence. Suddenly, she saw a shadow move behind one of the shelves. “Okay. No way. I’m outta here.” She picked up her books and headed towards the exit. Just as she was about to reach the stairs a hulking figure with red eyes emerged from one of the aisles and blocked her path.
She widened her eyes in horror as she dropped her books to the floor. It looked exactly like the creature from the night she was attacked. Only this one was entirely pitch black and no features could be distinguished. She heard it let out a bloodcurdling growl that made her jump. She turned on her heels and ran the other direction. She could hear the creature running after her as she quickly turned down one aisle and then another.
Finding no exit, she slid between two shelves and underneath a blocked table. She trembled violently and tried covering her mouth as she heard the creature stomping about looking for her. When she thought she heard it leave, she quickly crawled out and ran as fast as she could for the exit when she felt something grab her from behind. She immediately started screaming at the top of her lungs and hitting as hard as she could whatever had grabbed her.
“Kiara! Kiara, calm down!”
She opened her eyes to see Alexander looking at her with worry-filled deep blue eyes. “Alexander?!” She frantically jumped on him, wrapping her arms around his neck and hugging him tightly.
Alexander froze, not knowing what to do. He could feel her body trembling uncontrollably against him. The softness of her chest against his awoke rare feelings in him as he found himself wrapping his arms around her body to comfort her. He stayed silent, waiting for her to calm down as she sobbed against his chest.
“Kiara... are you okay?” he asked when she had finally stopped crying.
She sniffled, rubbing her nose and eyes before looking up at him. “Th-there w-was... this... th-thing,” she stammered, trying to regain some sort of composure. He looked at her strangely, not knowing what she meant. “D-did... did y-you see it?” she said, looking up at him.
He furrowed his brow in confusion. “I didn’t see or hear anything except you screaming and running down the aisle.”
Kiara immediately started laughing through her tears. “Oh gosh! I must have looked like a raving lunatic,” she chuckled as she tried to wipe her face.
Alexander kept his arms wrapped around her. He realized he didn’t want to let go. She felt good in his arms. He had craved touching her again since that time he saved her in the hospital parking lot. At that time there was an actual creature. He and Cole had killed the feral quickly. But this time there was nothing. He wondered what she saw.
“God, what is happening to me? I must be losing my mind or something,” she said, shaking her head. “I’m sorry. I just-”
“You don’t have to apologize...” he said, holding her tighter.
Kiara nestled against his oddly cold chest as she slowed her breathing. Her eyes widened when she realized what she was doing. She quickly pulled away from him as a deep red tint came to her dark cheeks. “I... sorry...” she said flustered. Alexander frowned slightly once her warmth was removed from his cold body. “What were you doing down here anyway?” she asked.
“You said you wanted to get lunch... Did you change your mind?” he asked hesitantly.
“No! No, not at all! I think I just got so wrapped up in looking for books that I totally forgot. Sorry!” she said, wiping her sweaty hands on her jeans. “What would you like to eat?” she asked as she picked up her books from the floor.
“I’m actually not too hungry,” he said, stuffing his hands into his pockets. “But I don’t mind keeping you company.”
“You’re gonna watch me eat,” she snorted. “That’s not weird at all...” she teased.
“I mean... we don’t have to you if you don’-”
“I’m just kidding, Alexander,” she chuckled. She held her books in her arms and gave him a smile so warm it set his loins on fire.
Alexander watched Kiara scarf down some Spanish rice. They were sitting in one of the university’s cafeterias talking. Well... Kiara talked, Alexander listened.
“I didn’t realize how hungry I was,” she said, wiping her face. “I must have looked like an anime character just now. You probably think I’m crazy,” she laughed.
“Not at all. It’s cute,” he said with a smirk.
It was the first time Kiara had ever seen his face make anything remotely close to a smile. And boy, did he look devilishly handsome when he did. His dimples became so prominent it made her want to melt on sight. “Are you sure you don’t want any?” she offered. “I always feel bad eating in front of you and you’re just sitting there like ‘I’m too cool to eat’,” she teased him.
He shook his head with a smirk. “I’m okay.”
She glanced behind him and saw Rhea approaching. “Hi Rhea!” she said, beckoning her over. Rhea’s face brightened at seeing Kiara and immediately headed over. But then she stopped dead in her tracks when she saw who she was sitting with.
“I just... realized I forgot a book in my locker. I’ll see you in class,” Rhea said. She did a 180 and quickly headed for the exit.
“What the heck...” Kiara said, confused. Alexander knew why Rhea didn’t want to be around him. He didn’t want to be around her either. He was glad she turned around and walked the other way. At least he could have Kiara all to himself.
“So, when will I get to see any of your work?” she asked him.
“Yea. I want to see all the masterpieces you’ve created.”
“I wouldn’t call them masterpieces...” he said.
“I’ll be the judge of that,” she teased, tapping the table. “Do you paint at school? Or at home?”
“I paint wherever and whenever I feel the desire to,” he said to her.
“What, are you just carrying around paintbrushes with you?” she chuckled.
“I have a pack in my car,” he said to her.
She looked at him surprised. “Oh! You weren’t kidding!” She laughed at her own embarrassment and for the second time that day his lips turned upward, but this time it was a genuine smile. “Oh my goodness! Success!” she blurted, startling him.
“I made you smile! I’m a wizard!” she joked. He let out a soft laugh that surprised even himself. “So come on! When do I get to see you paint?” she asked.
“Well... the art department is hosting a teaching class... Though I doubt anyone would come… especially with homecoming happening the same day...”
“I’ll come!” she perked up.
He looked at her rather surprised. “You don’t have to...”
“I want to. You can teach me all of your master skills,” she teased with a huge smile. He returned a small smile and nodded just as her phone went off, alerting her of her next class. “Catch you later?” she said, standing up from the table. He nodded again and watched her run off.
Kiara waited with the other students outside the classroom for Mythical Beings in History. Another class was finishing up in the lecture hall. She heard deep familiar voices from around the corner and poked her head around the side to see Leo talking to Professor Nick. They looked to be in a pretty heated discussion as they stood at the same height, toe-to-toe.
“Find a way to fucking control it, Leo! I can’t keep cleaning up after your shit!” Professor Nick said with an edge in his voice.
“I’ll just... ask Levi how he does it...” Leo said tensely. He averted his gaze, refusing to look Professor Nick in the eye.
“See that you do! And until then, stay the fuck away from her! I won’t say it again!” Professor Nick growled at him. He headed in Kiara’s direction. She quickly straightened up when he caught her watching him. “Kiara...” he said apprehensively. “...will I see you in class?” he said, returning to his stoic demeanor.
“Yes, sir...” she said quietly.
Professor Nick glanced back at Leo and then at her before heading inside of his classroom. She jogged over to Leo who leaned back against the wall, anxiously running his fingers through his short dirty-blonde hair. “Leo? Are you okay?” she said, stepping in front of him. His eyes were closed and she could see a throbbing vein in his temple. He looked as if he were trying to keep down a bridling rage. “Leo?” she called him again.
His eyes popped open as they landed on her. “Hey, Angel... Sorry... yea, I’m fine,” he sighed.
“What was that all about? Professors shouldn’t be talking to students like that!” she said, getting upset.
Leo chuckled ironically as he ran his fingers through his already ruffled hair. “They can when they’re your older brother,” he said snidely.
Kiara’s eyes widened in shock. “PROFESSOR NICK IS YOUR BROTHER?!”