The next evening, I was running all the way to David’s school because I was already late to pick him. His class was over like almost half an hour ago by now and my class just got over. Dad wasn’t picking us up because he had to do an emergency surgery in the hospital. I didn’t like the idea of having him wait for me alone in the schoolyard in a town alien to him. Over that, I took the bus to school because I hadn’t bought a car yet. So I ran.
Huffing and puffing, I reached the school, barely breathing, and as I skidded to a halt outside the school gate, panic shot right up to the top of my head like a dose of immunization you get when you’re in elementary school. The yard was empty and David was nowhere to be found. For some time, my eyes frantically searched for him. I strode about anywhere, hoping to find him in some corner but to no avail. I saw the janitor come out of the front door.
Running up the steps as though he was the finished line of some marathon I was running, I asked him breathlessly, “Hi, is there any kid still inside?”
I swallowed a very bitter lump of saliva.
“Are you sure?”
Stepping out of the gate, I pulled out my phone. Dammit! David doesn’t use this useful stuff. I scanned the highway, biting an index finger nervously.
Which way could he have gone?
David has a habit of wandering around and checking out new places. This wasn’t the first time.
My palms were starting to sweat. I wiped the rising sweat off my forehead with a palm and scuttled off towards the right, following my instincts, glancing continuously at both sides.
“David, David. Oh goddammit, David, where are you?!” I thought aloud as my pace began to pick up.
I stopped every now and then to scan the area and shops around the street for any sign of that boy, who was doing a very good job in squeezing the blood out of my wildly throbbing heart.
Maybe, I should call dad. Maybe he had picked him.
Just as I reached for the device in my jeans pocket, my eyes landed on a boy with cute black rimmed glasses, sitting on a bus stop, which was at a distance of approximately ten meters and on the other side of the road, smiling away luminously as if he was planning for a trip to Disneyland . . . with a certain someone who was sitting right next to him.
“David!!!” I shouted more than loud enough, attracting the attention of the people around me.
“Sorry,” I mumbled mostly to myself and then began racing on towards him.
“David!!” I called again as I crossed the street because no matter how loud I called earlier, he didn’t seem to hear me.
He was still talking to the perso . . . I practically face palmed myself.
God, please tell me it’s not Narcissist.
From then on, I slouched on my footsteps.
David jumped down from the seat and exclaimed excitedly, “You’re here! How’d you know I was here?”
I groaned when I reached them, “David, you picked the worst time to play hide and seek. Why didn’t you wait at the school yard? What are you doing here?” Elder sister mode on.
He shrugged, “It was boring inside so I came out.”
“You know you almost gave me a heart attack, right?”
“I’m sorry,” he said, adjusting his glasses.
Then I shifted my eyes to Ugly Narcissist who was still sitting and smirking away like a Diplomatic Smirker.
“So this is your sister.” He finally stood up.
“Yeah,” David answered.
“And how come you’re here?” I asked him.
“Let’s say we’re match made in heaven, Mongrel.” He flashed a wide grin, the kind of grin that I would be most pleasured to knock right out off his face.
“You know her?” David asked him with wide eyes.
“Yup, buddy.” He kept looking at me. “We know each other very well.”
“I don’t know you,” I reminded him.
“Yes, you do,” he replied, “All you have to do is a little remembering, Lancaster.”
“I won’t and it’s my privilege not to,” I murmured.
I knew it was rude but I couldn’t help it. I just didn’t like him. Seeing him was as sickening as getting the yellow from jaundice.
He said nothing more after that but just narrowed his eyes with a tint of amusement and deepened his gaze into mine. Our gazes locked. God, those eyes! I gulped.
I turned to David, trying to ignore Narcissist; more like his eyes, and chided David, “You’re new here. You should know that you’re not supposed to walk about alone in the street. You don’t know anything. Something bad could have happened to you!”
“Don’t worry. I know all the way. I learned it when dad drove me up,” he replied.
“No, you don’t.”
“Yes, I do.”
“No, you don’t.”
And he began reciting our way back using houses and stores and electric posts, almost anything as landmark points and the worst thing was that he was correct about everything and was even more detailed than my knowledge. In two days, he had learned the way all too well. I was not as smart as he was when I was his age. That made me feel so jealous and so damn proud of him.
“See?” he grinned proudly.
“It still doesn’t mean you’re allowed to wander about.”
“It’s okay. I’m fine. Where’s dad?” David asked.
I smiled at him sheepishly. “He’s not picking us up today. We’re taking the bus.”
“Ah . . .” he threw his head back and groaned.
“Come on. I’ll give you guys a ride,” Narcissist gestured with his head.
“Really!” David’s eyes lit up.
“Great!” David stepped up to his side happily.
The two began making their way out of the bus stand.
Oh no, no, no! I don’t want him to know my place.
Kendra’s word ‘He’s different. He’s dangerous’ echoed in my mind. So far he hadn’t appeared as dangerous as Kendra described him but I should keep my distance.
“No!” I shot an arm out towards them, responding with a shock of expression.
The two boys screwed back their eyes at me questioningly, eyeing my arm which did look a trifle too dramatic and reactive.
I awkwardly dropped it, having felt like some drama queen and stated, “We’re taking the bus.”
“I’m not gonna kidnap you. Well, not for now.” Narcissist smirked at me cockily.
I narrowed my eyes to a very, very scary dead glare. Only that it didn’t work on him. He winked instead and I rolled my eyes.
“David’s already rooting for me and I root for myself. You’re alone. Majority wins so I’m dropping you guys home,” Narcissist said, tilting the side of his lips wittily.
I rolled my eyes and refused and persisted for a while but I was becoming far more than ridiculous doing that. In the end, the two boys won.
He led us to a gleaming black ‘Dodge Charger Srt8 Hellcat’ which was parked at the side of the street. My eyes widened so very widely. I was like - Holy batman, he drives that?!!
David wouldn’t hide his wonder.
He gasped, “Whoa!”
He hadn’t yet learned how to differentiate cars but he fell for this one. Narcissist opened the front seat and David jumped in. Next he opened the backseat.
I stepped up and asked him, “How did you happen to be with my brother?”
David answered from his seat, “He helped me cross the road.”
“Oh,” I softened, feeling glad.
“Not to mention, I thought of kidnapping your dear brother.”
“Yeah. Yeah. I’m sure you did,” I rolled my eyes and got into the seat that was waiting for me.
He rounded the car to the driver’s seat. Settling in, he buckled David’s seatbelt and for a split second, I thought he was being sweet until he adjusted the rearview mirror for a perfectly twisted purpose. Yeah, to see me. I glared at him in the mirror and he winked. Not realizing how it happened, I found myself smirking to myself when he looked away.
This is so wrong, Alana.
He pulled up at the end of our driveway after ten minutes drive. David thanked him before jumping off the car.
To which he replied, “Anytime, buddy.”
David raced inside the house saying he was starving. Narcissist came to open the door for me but I had already gotten out.
“Thanks,” I said as I pushed back the door.
“Anything for you, Mongrel,” he replied and looked towards my house.
I watched him lean back on his car sliding his hands inside his Jean pockets and stare at my house in silence, his expression serious and thoughtful but giving nothing away.
Should I be scared?
“What are you staring at?”
“You’re back at your house,” he stated without looking at me.
He knew not only just who I was but even where I lived. But when David was directing him the way here to proof to me that he knew the way, Narcissist didn’t say a thing.
This guy is weird, I thought.
“How do you know where I lived?”
He answered not looking at me, “This isn’t my first time here.”
Did he? I really don’t remember, let alone remembering him coming to my house. Hell. I don’t even remember who the heck he is.
“When did you . . .” I began but he interrupted me.
“Wait, you and your mother share the same birthday? The other day was your birthday right?” He looked me.
God! This is a mental torture. How the Britney Spears does he know everything about me?!
This guy literally knew my whole life.
What is he? Or did I get into an accident and lost my memory and no one dared to tell me about it like what happened in the movie Fifty First Dates?
“Yeah! How did you . . . How did you know?” I frowned at him in shock, crossing my arms over my chest demandingly.
“You left town on the your birthday, if you don’t remember.”
“Right,” I mumbled, remembering that sad day.
Leaving Los Carlos, leaving Kendra, leaving Jacob, leaving School, no birthday, no mom, was not at all great; the second saddest day of my life. First was the day I lost mom.
“And you came back again on your birthday after six years.” He smiled softly.
“Yeah, right.” I looked at him in disbelief. “But how come you remember all this? My birthday, when I left . . .”
He shrugged, “I was thinking ’bout you last night . . . ” he paused and stole a look my way from the corner of his eyes then quickly added, “About how annoying you were and just remembered somehow.”
Huh. As if he was not more annoying.
“But seriously, who are you? I’ve been away from town for six years. How come you remember all these?”
If only Hart would call out names in homeroom, I’d know his name at least.
“You really don’t remember me, do you,” he stated and I caught the hint of seriousness in his tone.
I shook my head guiltily. “No.”
He laughed at the ground as his foot lightly kicked a pebble. It was a good view, I admit. And it didn’t really mean anything more than that to me. I swear.
“I think I’ve given you enough clue, Alana,” he bit his lower lip as he smiled at me.
And if I heard him right, he just called me Alana for the first time. And I somehow liked the way it sounded in his deep, resonant voice.
Without bothering to reply, I kept gazing at the way he was biting his lip. There was something so good about the way he did it. It looked so manly and relishing. When his teeth left his lip, the part where he bit glistened in the Sun and I swallowed my spit.
He straightened up from leaning on his car, faced me directly with a smug expression on his face and tilted his head to the side, smirking. I blinked furiously, feeling my face heat up. This was something that never happened with me except when around Jacob. My nerves were starting to stray.
I asked, stuttering a bit, “What . . . What kind of . . . clue are you talking ’bout?”
He ran a hand through his hair and groaned, “Alana, you’re driving me crazy.”
Thank God he didn’t tease me, I thought. I was pretty sure that if he had teased I would have nothing to say. I felt more than glad at the moment that he let the predicament slip.
I replied, “You’re the one driving me crazy. Why don’t you just tell me who you are, although I don’t really care, and give me peace.”
“Peace?” He pulled his brows together and teased, “I’ve become the reason for your peace?”
“Hell yeah. If you’d just stop irritating me every once in a while, my life would be perfectly as peaceful as death.”
I started walking away but he suddenly grabbed my wrist, holding on to me. I looked back.
“Happy belated birthday, Mongrel,” he said with a warm smile. Then, he leaned in and whispered to me, “And don’t forget to bring starburst with you tomorrow.”
Starburst? Why Starburst now?
I stood by dumbstruck, watching him get back in his car and start the engine.
He leaned his torso towards my side of the window and added with great spirit, “My dog’s been missing it a lot!”
He smiled and drove off. I was left to stared at the Charger for a while and then realization hit me.
I remember him!
He was none other than Xavier Arquette; the one particular boy who used to steal starbursts from me, in fifth grade in Los Carlos, just to feed it to his dog!!!
And he kept kicking my feet under the table.
We spent only about half a month together and it was a surprise that he remembered me, everything, to be precise. He was new in town and I left Los Carlos just soon after. And he never came to my house. That I was sure.
The only possibility of having him at my house is exclusively on birthdays but that did not happen in that half a month of my stay in Los Carlos because I left on my birthday.
Somehow, I felt bad that I couldn’t remember him even after having been given the obvious clues when he could remember. But that entirely wasn’t my problem. There was no resemblance.
The Xavier I used to know was lanky and kind of scrawny. But this one was a well-built hunk who was too aware of his charm and handsomeness. Lanky Xavier and Ugly Narcissist were two different pictures . . . until now.
It’s been six years.
He’d indeed changed a lot.