Strange Eyes

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I remember the first day I saw them. The pack.

That’s what everyone called them. A group of about seven. They all looked similar; dark hair, brooding eyes. Some had tattoos that looked tribal, snaking up the side of tanned arms, obscured by cut off sleeves. Cigarette packs were tucked into their back pockets. Toothpicks in their teeth. Everyone assumed they came out of Warm Springs, the local reservation. But none of them looked pure Native American, except for one. He looked older than the rest. He had long dark hair that was usually swept away in a low ponytail, his eyes constantly stirring. Watching.

Monica and I passed them on the street in town one summer day. It was unusually hot for Oregon. Everyone was out, sipping on cold drinks and walking barefoot along the concrete. We saw them sitting along a park bench in deep conversation. Stares followed them. They had become an enigma- the mysterious bad boys that were only around in the summer.

We didn’t say anything, just walked right past. But I couldn’t help but turn my head to look one more time.

No one ever saw them at school. I would definitely have seen them- North Marion had about a hundred students, if that. No sign. Only on rare summer days would I catch a glimpse. “Weird.” Monica said one day, her lipstick shiny as she stared at them curiously. I didn’t say anything. One of the guys, the older one with the ponytail, looked my way. Eye contact remained. Searing. It was almost painful. His gaze was piercing, his eyes dark like pitch. The sun shone on his skin, making it gleam - defining the shadows of his muscled arms. I shivered and looked away.

I had always known something was strange about them. I kept my distance. But I guess no matter how hard I tried, I could never have prevented the inevitable.

One of them came to me on another summer day. I was alone, browsing the shelves of an old library in town. I loved going there – it smelled of old books and flowers. Open windows brought in warm air. I was engrossed in a chapter of Sense and Sensibility when his voice came from behind me, deep and startling.

“What’s your name?” I looked up quickly and was instantly flustered. It was one of the younger ones, his dimples caving in and his too-handsome face tan with the sun. His dark eyebrows raised with amusement as he grinned. “Jane.” I got out. “I’m Les.” He shook my hand. His grip was strong. “Hi Les.” I got out. After that, he made small conversation with me. Asked me if I had any siblings, what my favorite past times were. He could probably tell I was uncomfortable. I couldn’t even tell you why. There was just something strange about the group of them that made me want to stay as far away as possible.

I liked Les. He was friendly and smiled a lot - quite the contrast from the stern look of the elder one. But even still, I got the sense even as I was talking to him that I was doing something that I wasn’t supposed to be doing.

We talked for a while; I had to politely excuse myself after it had gone on for longer than I would have liked. A bell chimed as I walked out of the store. I looked back once I had gotten far enough away. All of them stood outside, some smoking cigarettes. Les was among them. He looked more serious with them than he had with me. Deep in conversation, his eyebrows set deep with concern. Shivers.

Again they approached me.

One of the others, Hunter, walked right up to Monica and me at a fast food chain. I had ketchup in the corner of my mouth and grease on my fingers. He made me nervous- he was handsome like the rest of them. Too handsome. He spoke to me for a little while – not as smiley as Les had been. I stuttered and stammered. The conversation was short and quick; more small talk. Monica looked spooked, which made me even more uncomfortable than I already was. Eventually he excused himself and went back out where he had come, shooting a few pointed looks in my direction. Monica thought the whole thing was odd. She had asked me a lot of questions about how Hunter even knew who I was.

“I don’t know.” I had said. She looked like she didn’t believe a word I said, smoothing her hands through her silky hair with an eyebrow raised in my direction.

“Huh.” She was silent. “Well if I were you I would stay the hell away from that crowd. They give me the creeps.” I wanted to tell her ‘you don’t think I’m trying?’ It was like they were following me around everywhere I went. It never ceased. And sure enough, as soon as Monica and I left out the front door, they were standing there. The older one looked at me for a solid two seconds. I didn’t know how to look away. He seemed to want to tell me something, but I quickly averted my eyes, walking close by Monica on the way back to my car.

“Seriously, Jane. This is too weird.” She looked away from the road.

“I know. Whatever.” I brushed it off, but in reality I was trying not to panic. Something about the confrontations I’d had with them seemed…necessary. Like they were fulfilling some duty by speaking to me.

Like they were watching me. Waiting.

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