CHAPTER 1 - A SACRIFICE FOR A GREATER CAUSE?
Monday morning. Gone is my weekend. Gone are the moments of being a radical teenager without a single day’s worry of the outside world and now back to reality. Reality, you ask? Yes, every eighteen year old’s nightmare: college. Now that all is said and done, I began my first term with one goal in mind: pass and become a free girl! I still have no idea what I want to do after college, but as they say: ’one step at a time.’
I have to admit that the history class had gained more pupils due to its new lecturer, Professor Eden, who had joined Axel College after our previous lecturer, Mrs Martins retired.
The irony was that Miss Eden seemed a lot older than Mrs Martins. Not your typical wrinkly stereotype old lady, but more eccentric and younger at heart sort of way. In fact, it was her age that seemed more of a mystery, for she seemed timeless. Her hair was platinum white with striking sea-green eyes. She wasn’t hunched over but held a rather regal posture. Her movements too, were curiously graceful for someone her age.
Her students would hang on to her every word. She could literally bring history back to life. You could hear a pin drop in her classroom, that was how glued the students were. For me, the only thing that dropped was my head whenever I dozed off. Give the lady her due. She had spunk, but in a couple of rows in front of me sat Troy.
“Troy, oh Troy!” I fantasised. “Wherefore art thou Troy? Deny this class and refuse--” before I could get to the part where he kisses me in my daydream, Miss Eden had the audacity to break my moment and was forced back to reality.
“Huh? What? Excuse me, Professor?”
“I asked you a question,” Miss Eden smiled.
“Sorry, what was it again?” That was when I noticed all eyes were on me, including Troy’s. Normally, I enjoyed being the centre of attention, but it was best to keep a low profile when it came to fruitless questions.
“I asked, which country was Adolf Hitler born?” Miss Eden smiled.
I had to wrack my brain around that one. Eventually, it came to me. What kind of mother would give her son such a name? That would be my question.
“Austria,” I announced.
“That’s correct! Well done, Miss O’ Doyle!” I gave her half a smile. If I had a name like that, I’d probably land up having serious anger management issues, too. I wanted to return to my little dream world, but thanks to Miss Eden, the moment was gone. I landed up with nothing else to do but partially listen about a seriously warped, psychotic man, although I had a small fraction of respect for him when I heard how much he loved his German shepherd named Blondi.
As an animal lover myself, I thought, “he couldn’t be all that bad if he loved animals?” But that respect ended quickly when Miss Eden told the class that Hitler shot Blondi before turning the gun on himself when the allied forces were closing in. I felt sick after hearing about Blondi. That was information I didn’t need to know.
After the bell rang, I packed up and got ready to go home. Our timetable showed that History was our last subject for the day. As I was about to leave the classroom, Miss Eden gave me an amusing smile, which kind of unsettled me. Her eyes didn’t leave me until I was out the classroom.
Heading towards the bus stop, someone came and walked beside me. I didn’t take much notice until the person said, “Hi!” I nearly had whiplash turning in his direction. It was Troy! I did the most amazing thing. I dropped my bag, and just for the kicks of it, all my textbooks spilled out. I forgot to close my bag, as I wanted to get out of that classroom as fast as possible. You would too if you had a bizarre professor looking at you with those piercing eyes.
“Oh! Troy! Um, what’s up?” Tucking a strand of my brown hair behind my ear and straightening my jacket. I tried to act cool, but my mind was racing.
“Here, let me help you with that.” Troy bent down and picked up my textbooks while I was busy fussing with my hair. After my bag was packed, we stood together for an awkward minute or so, and found it hard to look into his eyes. I was sure I had been blushing too.
“I was wondering. Would you like to get a milkshake with me?” My eyes met his. I then looked behind me to make sure he wasn’t addressing someone else.
“You want to have a milkshake? With me?” I asked.
“Yeah. If, of course, you have other plans this afternoon,” Troy said in a sheepish voice.
“Oh? Uh, no, actually I don’t.”
“Great! How does 4 o’clock sound?”
“Cool. We can go to that café that’s on the corner of Antin Street.”
My heart dropped like an anchor into the sea. Shiver Milkshake’s Café was the last place I would ever want to set my foot in again. It was famous for its amazing milkshakes, frozen yoghurts and ice-creams, but for me, it only served bad memories, but I couldn’t let this opportunity go.
“Yeah, sure, why not?”
Troy could see my sudden change in mood. “Would you rather want to go to the mall? I know women love malls!”
“Nah, it’s ok. I’ll meet you there at 4 o’clock.”
“Great! Have to go. My bus is here! See you later. Bye!”
He raced off towards the bus stop. I let out a great sigh. Another sacrifice. First, choosing a subject that wasn’t on my Bucket List and second, a café I thought I’d never set my foot in again. The things we do for others.
While I was walking towards my bus, I felt a slight tremor. I didn’t take much notice of it until it got to the point where I struggled to hold my ground. The noise became deafening. The clear, blue sky above began to form with clouds so thick and dark that no one would believe it was a hot, summer’s day. The roaring thunder made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and the sound was deafening. Eventually, I dropped my bag and clung to the college’s entrance gate as if my life depended on it.
When it stopped, I let out a shaky breath and took in my surroundings. Everyone was carrying on as if nothing were out of the ordinary. I thought the trees would fall over and the building’s walls would crack from such a tremor, but nothing showed that something out of the ordinary had just taken place.
Why didn’t anyone else feel it?
Troy had just gotten onto his bus when the tremor started, and I saw he was holding onto its doors, his knuckles turning white. When the tremor subsided and the clouds dispersed, he too looked around for anyone else who might have noticed. Then we locked eyes. Somehow, we knew that whatever it was, we were the only ones who experienced it. He shrugged and got onto the bus, the doors closing behind him.
When I got home, I dropped my bag on the couch and announced, “Dad! I’m home!” I only do that because I know he’s not home. He’s always working late, and now that he landed up with this million-dollar case, he’s been more in court than I’m at college, and that’s saying a lot!
I went to my room to wash up and change. I tried to keep myself busy by doing homework just to kill time. But my heart wasn’t in it. My mind was racing. Troy? Or Shiver Milkshake’s Café? It had been three years since I was last there. From that day onwards, my dad spent more time pouring himself into his work than relaxing at home. When he did try and take it easy, his mind would return to that fateful day, and the guilt and anger would flare up all over again. Eventually, I got ready and walked towards Antin Street.
It was a popular street that had many shops, and everyone knew everyone. I paused outside the café’s doors. My palms were getting sweaty, and I was beginning to feel lightheaded.
“I can’t do this,” I decided to go home but the doors swung open and Troy came out.
“Hey! I thought I saw you. Why didn’t you come inside? I kept a seat for us by the window!”
“Sorry, my mind was somewhere else,” I then took in a deep breath, forcing a smile. “Let’s go in, shall we?”
We sat by the window, and I was watching the activities outside. The café hadn’t changed much since I was here last. The only thing that did change was my life.
“How about that tremor today, huh?” Troy inquired.
I shot a look at Troy. “You felt it too?”
“Sure did. I’ve decided that I should hit the gym. It took all my strength to keep me from falling out the bus!” Troy laughed at his own joke, but my mind was racing.
“Why didn’t the other kids feel it?” I asked after a long pause.
Troy shrugged. I don’t know. What really got me was not only the darkness, but also how cold the atmosphere became. What was even more bizarre was how everything returned to normal, as if nature decided to play a trick on us.”
“But why us?” I insisted. Troy didn’t say anything. He didn’t have to. We both didn’t know the cause or why we only felt it.
I didn’t notice my mind had wandered off until Troy spoke, “Um, Tristan. Your frozen yoghurt is turning into a milkshake.” I looked down, and sure enough, the only way to finish it was through a straw.
“Sorry,” I muttered.
“What’s wrong?” Troy asked. His voice was gentle. “Since when does Tristan O’ Doyle use the word ‘sorry’ so many times in one day?”
I managed a smile. “I haven’t been here in three years. Even though it’s been a while, it still feels as if it happened only yesterday.” Troy kept looking at me as if he wanted me to continue, but I could see he didn’t want to push me. I decided to be fair with him. After all, he did take me out to enjoy an afternoon together.
I took a deep breath. “Troy, three years ago, my mom and I came here one evening. We’d always come here, as it was our favourite place to hang out. Anyway, one afternoon, my mom and dad fought, and she needed space from him. She decided to treat me to a milkshake and for her to get out of the house.
“Before we could order our usual, a fight broke out between two teenagers over a silly matter of the one guy’s girlfriend caught kissing some other guy, and my mom, who was still pumped with adrenaline after the fight with my dad, rushed towards the boys and tried to break up the fight.
“No one saw it coming - it happened so fast - but one of the guys’ pulled out a knife and stabbed my mother during the struggle and confusion. The guys were apprehended, and I ran to her side. She looked at me and asked if I was OK. Typical of a mom, huh?! When she saw I wasn’t hurt, she dropped to the floor. I tried to hold her up, but I couldn’t. She was pronounced dead by the time the ambulance came.”
Troy sat there with his eyes closed and lowered his head. “I’m so, so sorry, Tristan. If I had known, I wouldn’t have asked you to come here.”
“How could you have known? No one ever knows when these things happen. And besides, now look who’s the one saying sorry!” Troy gave half a smile, but I knew he was feeling bad for me.
“What did your dad do?” He asked.
“He went on a rampage. To this day, he still wishes he could turn back time to that fateful day. He felt terrible about the fight and wished he could’ve been there. If he had, my mom wouldn’t have run up to those guys.”
“But your dad didn’t know. No one could’ve predicted what would happen.”
“Yeah, well, it’s in the past now, and I have to move on.”
Troy gently took my hand. It felt warm, and I felt I was unable to breathe. “You move on, in your time. No one can tell you to move on until you are ready. And if anyone says otherwise, I’ll get hold of them, and they will be the ones saying sorry!”
We both burst out laughing. I ordered another frozen yoghurt, and this time round, no straw was needed.