For few minutes we sat in peaceful silence. I could see him smiling to himself time and again from the corner of my eyes. Apparently, his humor was feeding on my senseless rattle. I squirmed in my seat thinking about it.
Charming smile, seriously.
“Where did you go, Mongrel?”
“What do you mean?”
“You left Carlos for six years. Where did you go?”
“Oh. East Port.”
Then he was quiet. I stole a glance his way and saw that the smug expression was gone and he was pensively looking ahead at the road.
A little while later, he mumbled almost like a whisper, “What took you so long to come back?”
I saw him immediately bite his lower lip. The ride was starting to become awkward. I struggled to form an answer but only made out a row of stammering.
He cleared his throat and spoke, “Now that I have your number, expect my call anytime.”
I guessed clearing throat was his way of wiping off awkwardness. It wasn’t the first time he’d done it. Now, he was back to his usual smug self.
“Who gave you my number?”
“I have my way, Mongrel. Learn it,” he flashed his perfect set of teeth.
“Don’t come to pick me again,” I reminded him.
“Oh. I should’ve known that you were the Doctor’s daughter. How’d that slip my mind.”
“You know my father?!” I freaked out.
“Yup. We’d even talked like best friends few days back,” He grinned and flicked his brows proudly.
“Wh . . . When? Where?”
“The hospital. He tended Matt’s broken nose.”
Oh. That night. Damn. Dad knows he’d been in a fight. So the whole good-friends acting thing I did was totally useless. The damage was already done.
The remaining of the drive was a jumble of our squabbling, his teasing and my mockery. When he parked in the front yard, people standing nearby who saw me sulking inside his car gaped widely. The moment he turned off the engine, I stepped out before he did and marched off at full tilt without looking back.
Five seconds passed and I found myself reeling backwards as though gravity was now behind me and then, caged in the hold of a strong arm.
“Where do you think you’re going without me, darling,” he whispered in my ear as he tightened his hold around my neck and pulled me closer to his side.
By then, I had gotten so used to his daily roguishness that the different names he called me with bothered me no more although they were the least expected. Therefore today’s name ‘Darling’ made me slap his mouth instead of rendering me speechless. “Please, don’t choke me.”
He chuckled undertone, loosening his arm a bit but still tight enough for me to remain hostage.
I was totally fine until I felt the heat of his lips on my fingertips. It sent streaks of lightning, sparking down my spine. I would have slumped on the ground had I been not in his firm grip. After that, one came after the other in a row; the feel of his hand gripping my arm, the amazing smell of his Cologne, his seductive whisper, his warm breath, his hard chest, his...
Knock it off, Alana.
I struggled to wriggle out of his arm as every pair of eyes fell on us while we walked the yard to the main door. I noticed that some students actually rushed out to behold the spectacular sight. I kept my eyes to the ground through the ordeal, my cheeks burning.
First class of the day was Biology. This class was like a get-together. Kendra was here, Brittany, me and Connor along with my personally assigned traumatizer, Xavier. Hunt was here too.
When we entered the class, Hunt whistled from the corner where he was with other guys and smirked at us saying loud enough for all the staring pairs of eyes inside the class room to hear, “LOVE IS IN THE AIR.”
I quickly grabbed the seat in front of Brittany so that I wouldn’t have the demon behind me. He sat on the chair at my right side, forever like a misplaced King. Kendra and Connor’s smirking faces made me want to dig a hole and hibernate for the rest of my life.
One day, I will surely nail their heads together. I swear.
Mr. Grant, the bio teacher, came in bustling as usual.
“Okay folks, you’ll be getting assignments after assignments starting from this week so . . . Pair up!” he announced.
I winced at the immediate screeching sound of chairs and desks being pulled and the next thing I knew, Xavier was sitting right next to me. I looked around. Everybody was pairing up. Kendra was with Connor, obviously. A good looking blonde boy almost became Brittany’s partner had not Hunt been a second faster.
“Sorry, pretty boy. This place is taken. Shoo.” Hunt literally shooed the boy with his hands, and then he turned to Brittany, “He is so not good looking enough to take this place.”
Brittany rolled her eyes and laughed.
Soon everyone was settled and there was nothing else I could do than just sigh at the fact that Xavier would be my assignment partner for a year. And also that he was smirking away contentedly as he lounged on his chair like a Lord.
“Why? Brad Pitt sitting here bothers you?” He leaned in and whispered to me.
I snarled, “I’ve told you that you’re ugly.”
He shifted his position, bringing his torso to face me, and looked straight into my eyes. I stared back at his gleaming brown eyes.
The corner of his mouth slowly curved into a killing smile, “I don’t think so, sweetheart. You mentioned only this morning that I have a charming smile.”
He scores again. Why can’t I beat him just once! Just once!!!
I crossed my arms over my chest and looked away.
During lunch break, he sat with me and my friends on the same table. Connor was also with us. In the beginning, Kendra and Brittany were quiet; finding hard to absorb that the different and dangerous Xavier was sitting with us for real. Xavier and Connor were cool. They’d always been friends though they rarely hung out together. But when Kendra finally talked, she took the lead role.
Soon, our table was flooded. Xavier’s three partner-in-crime pulled their chairs up and joined in. I noticed the scar on Matt’s nose. Brittany sat by quiet and reticent, smiling and giggling adorably time and again as the boys cracked jokes.
But Hunt got her to talk comfortably in no time. They started by negotiating on how they should do assignments together; on which Hunt volunteered to buy her boxes of pizza and drinks while she run marathons through the books. Lunch break was not so bad except for the part where I was preyed by my best friend and Narcissist. His friends were fun and jovial. I liked all of them.
Narcissist suddenly said to me, “Hang out with me Saturday night.”
And thus, the world became quiet. Xavier shot a look at his pals and they instantly resumed their conversations.
I tried not to choke, “I’m... I’m busy.”
“Really? On a Saturday night.”
He wasn’t buying it. Not that I expected him to yet I tried.
It was Jacob.
I had agreed to go out with him. Well, it was not that I would agree to go out with Xavier if I had not agreed to Jacob’s promised fun night.
“Kendra and I are planning to study together. You know, I’m lacking behind in Math,” I lied and glanced towards Kendra from under my eyelashes. She was staring back at me with some scary, unreadable expression.
Why couldn’t I just say I was going out with Jake?
Xavier stared into my eyes. I couldn’t look at him. He would see right through my thin lie. I was a very, very bad liar I guess he figured anyway. He smirked knowingly but didn’t induce me anymore.
Instead, he said, “I should buy you a guide book on how to lie.”
I wasn’t expecting this reaction from myself but I began to shake from my giggles. He chuckled along with me while all the others looked at us like were some crazy hyenas.
So lunch break was fun. We didn’t do anything fun in particular but it was fun. Getting to know his friends was fun. They could talk silly the whole time and make us laugh. I never thought Narcissist could also be funny. Kendra probably had forgotten that she once told me Xavier is dangerous. Maybe if I mention it to her one day, she might probably call me ridiculous.
It’s was a wonder how he doesn’t associate with others when he could be so much more than just different and dangerous. For now there was only one word in my mind; enigmatic. I knew, there was a lot more I had to learn about him; this dude who would be my assignment partner for a year.
“You idiot!” Kendra said with the kind of expression she would wear if I tell her I’ve lost four kilograms of gold.
I put a spoonful of vanilla ice cream inside my mouth.
“How could you do that?” she muttered.
“Why wouldn’t I do that?”
“How could you possibly turn him down when he treat all the other girls like crap! Duh. He’s likes you! What is so wrong with that?” She was almost wailing open mouth.
“He’s different. He’s dangerous,” I reminded her, pushing the two adjectives with extra emphasis.
“You’re ridiculous,” she leaned back on her chair.
That’s it! I can’t believe her.
Without second thought I would’ve poked her eyes out with the spoon in my hand if she wasn’t my best friend, if I didn’t love her.
Narcissist was winning over all the people I held beloved in my life! My brother had become so attached to him and I felt like their common enemy. Xavier used to be with David when I go to pick David from school and they always seem to be having great quality time together. I didn’t like it. I couldn’t help being jealous of that jerk for winning over my brother’s favor.
And what ’bout me? – ‘You’re bad! You’re bad! I like him. Girls are stupid. Just like you.’
Wow. Well done, Ugly Narcissist.
But that was not all. He manipulated even my best friend. Kendra just called me an idiot for turning down his offer to take me out Saturday night. Hello people! I have an appointment with the crush of my life Saturday night. Of course, I didn’t say that out loud. It was all in my mind. They knew nothing about it but what a thrill. Hah!
“It’s nothing like that, Kendra,” I said, biting my frustration, “He’s just being . . .”
“What? Being what?” Her voice was challenging.
I hated her persistence and being beaten. I was desperately in need of a word, one single word but having to face her towering persistence, all words fled. She sighed and leaned in on the table.
“Alana,” she called with softened tone.
Her face changed to something clandestine which did attracted my attention, even Brittany’s, who had been sitting silent as usual. The three of us were having spare class and we were having ice cream in a cafe not far from school.
Kendra lowered her voice just for me and Brittany to hear, “That pretty ass is worth a FORTUNE.”
At once, Brittany and I bolted on our chairs like we were turned on by a remote controller.
Worth a fortune?
I’m not a gold digger, Kendra!!!
I knew that that was not what she meant. She meant something else but that was how it sounded.
“Kendra?!” I gasped dumbfoundedly.
“I’m not talking ’bout his Entrepreneur father. I don’t even know how much he earns. I’m talking bout him,” she replied, “I mean look at him. He is the guy, the Xavier. And he cares about you.”
The guy, the Xavier, whatever. That has nothing to do with me and he absolutely doesn’t care about me the way Kendra see it. My relationship with him is not romantic, not friendly, something close to enemies but not so exactly that again. It’s a weird one, confusing. Wait, I got it. We’re strangers who happened to share a town, a school, few classes and few days of elementary school. That’s all.
“It’s not how you see it, Kendra.” I shook my head. “He doesn’t . . . he doesn’t care about . . . Me.” I ended in barely a whisper.
“You need to grow up a little bit more and open your eyes.” She blinked politely, warmly like she would do to a preschool. “The Sun and your eyes are there to help you out but you’re not using either of them.”
I shook my head vigorously and blinked away, avoiding her vigilant eyes.
She sighed, “Look, I know he picked on you everyday, even now. But don’t you find it adorable that he remembers every small thing that he did to you, even after six years?”
I didn’t answer anymore. She caught me off guard. I simply sat and looked at her, breathing. Resting back on her chair, she smirked at me and shook her head.
My mind didn’t feel healthy after listening to Kendra in the cafe. I felt like I was having a headache. Lazily, I dug for my stuffs for the next class in my locker. As I kept digging, Xavier came with Hunt and Scott, joking and laughing, punching one another’s arm lightly, sometimes hard.
I looked back to my locker at once, pretending like I didn’t see them; him. His presence disrupt the frame of my peaceful mind and all that I am; even more after listening to Kendra’s prattle. My hand began to shake and I fumbled with my books as I heard his significant voice getting closer.
Finally, I grabbed something, anything and slammed my locker shut. I swung back to leave but the moment I turned back, I found him reeling in towards me. I tottered back. The sound of the back of my head hitting the locker and the loud slam of his palms falling on the metal, caging me in between his arms in the spur of a moment, caused me to gasped.
His friends had playfully pushed him towards me and now here he was hovering above me and I was stuck in between his arms. In surprise, we stared at each other. Suddenly, the atmosphere around me became warm, thick and suffocating. My heartbeat skyrocketed. The scent that had unnerved me couple of times captured me again and my poor brain went numb. I gulped. But what unnerved me more was that he wasn’t looking smug. I saw him swallow and the muscles of his throat flexed.
All three of his friends cleared their throats intentionally. Xavier dropped his arms, took a step back and scratch the back of his head, biting his lower lip. He looked rather lost and... Shy. His friends snickered.
“Sorry,” he said.
“Umm... That’s okay,” I replied rather surprised that he apologised instead of being cocky.
When I finally strode off, flushing in embarrassment, I caught a scene of him punching Hunt’s arm consistently as Hunt and Scott cackled like ducks.
The remaining of the day was awkward. Xavier sat beside me but he didn’t talk much as usual. But our eyes would meet occasionally in the wrong timings, obviously indicating that we were both stealing glances of each other. Sometimes he would smirk to himself as he stared ahead.
There’s a lot of things I don’t like and I don’t like this either.
After class as I was putting back and at the same time taking back some of my stuffs from my locker, I asked Kendra to drive me back. I came earlier with Xavier but now I didn’t feel like returning home with him anymore. I’d had enough awkwardness to last a week.
“Ready to go?”
I started... Again.
“At least say something before you say anything,” I said.
He shrugged. Of course, it was him, Xavier, who else.
“Kendra’s driving me back today,” I told him though Kendra hadn’t answered my request.
He furrowed his eyebrows a bit and looked at Kendra who rolled her eyes at me.
“You wouldn’t mind if I steal her for today, right?” He asked Kendra.
Kendra simply shrugged.
Then he grabbed my wrist and dragged me out of the building, leaving Kendra behind. People on the way watched us in the same way they did this morning.
“Hey, stop. Let go of me,” I protested as we scurried down the steps.
He didn’t answer nor did he look back neither did he seem bothered by people staring. Well that didn’t surprise me. Apparently, he had people staring and drooling over him all his life.
When we reached his car, he simply opened the front seat door for me and directed with authority, “Get in.”
I puffed. Who was he to order me around like I was his pet hamster. I scowled but he wasn’t batting an eyelid for it. Mostly when I scowled at him, he used to respond me with a smirk or something funny but right now... He surely wasn’t looking funny. He fixed his eyes on me without blinking for long.
Man, is he angry? He has never looked so harsh.
‘He’s different. He’s dangerous.’ echoed in my mind at once almost like a strike of Zeus’ Lighting Bolt. Beautiful as they were, his eyes were murderous as well. Should I run screaming for help? Sounds pretty absurd but it’s not. I could by now see myself being knocked down by a single Almighty Xavier Arquette blow... and profiting a heavily blackened eye.
Yet I tried to be unbudged. I snapped, “What is wrong with you?” And yanked my hand free.
Stuffing his hands in his pockets, he eyed me like I was a worm assigned to him by Mr. Grant to study and said, “I picked you this morning. You came with me. You go back with me.”
I scoffed and rolled my eyes, “Who made that rule?”
“It’s not a rule, Mongrel. It’s how I do it.”
I crossed my arms and challenged him, “What if I don’t care what you do?”
“Hah,” he scoffed devilishly with a smoking hot crooked smile; pure evil.
Sometimes I wonder if he was Lucifer in disguise; that devilish smile and that beautiful face. I raised an eyebrow at him, reminding him of my challenge.
“You won’t dare to if I say what I’ll do,” he said.
“Oh, really? Hahahah. That sounds funny.” I gave a fake laugh.
The devilish crooked smile appeared again and we held each other’s eyes for sometimes, challenging one another.
He bent in and whispered over my ear, “I’ll kiss the life out of you.”
My mouth instantly fell open on its own and at the same time, I tottered a step back and goggled at him completely taken aback. That was out of my broad expectations and sky high imaginations. But wow... Who would’ve ever imagined that such a murderous sentence could turn out to be so seductive. No humor in his expression and yet so sexy.
“Right here.” He assured with a nod.
I opened the car door on my own and stepped in promptly without waiting another moment. I took my place and slammed the door shut behind me. His lips twitched in amusement and then he rounded the front of the car in the same way he did this morning, leaving me to wonder whether he was doing it intentionally to flaunt his flawlessness and have me going gaga over him.
Well, what do I say to that?