A Single Touch

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The Questionable Case

I woke up, blinking a few times to take in my surroundings. Right, I was back in my dorm. I heard rhythmic breathing beside me, glancing over to see that Ellie had taken my arm hostage and was cuddling against me. Skin against skin, I thought, the feel unfamiliar.

Months ago, when I had first met Ellie, she was skeptical when I didn’t want to shake hands. She kept a wary eye on me all day, and finally when we arrived in our shared dorm for the first time, she cornered me.

“What’s your deal?” she had said. “You refuse to touch anyone, whether it’s a handshake or a graze of the finger! Are you some sort of germaphobe?”

“U-Uh...” I backed against the wall. “N-No, it’s just...I c-can’t say...”

“You can’t say? Come on, enough bull!”

“I really can’t...I’m sorry.”

“Tell me!” She narrowed her eyes, and swiftly pulled off my glove. “Hey!” I exclaimed.

“No. You’re gonna have to get over this, okay? I’ll help you through it. It’s for your own good.” Then she grabbed my hand with hers.

Skin on skin. Her memories all flashing through my head in a daze, circling, stifling, suffocating. I could only stand there and let it happen. A while later, I woke up. Ellie was leaning over me, a worried look in her eyes. “Jesus Christ! Are you okay?!” She had offered a hand, but quickly withdrew it. I blinked, but smiled, and took her hand. Nothing appeared.

“I need to tell you something.” I had said.

I flashed back to reality, Ellie’s grip on my arm lighter than imagined. I slipped out of her grasp quietly, not daring to wake her. Glancing at the time, I saw it was five minutes before my alarm would have gone off. God dammit. I walked over to a mirror, conveniently located beside our dresser. What a bedhead, as per usual. I grabbed my brush from atop the dresser, my eyes catching onto Ellie’s wallet.

I hesitated, and glanced at her. She wouldn’t know the difference, would she? No, I smiled. She wouldn’t. I pulled open a drawer, and searched until I found my wallet. Digging around, I pulled out two twenty dollar bills and placed them inside Ellie’s wallet. Thanks, but you need it more than I do. I gingerly put her wallet back where I found it, and went back to combing the knots out of my hair just in time to hear the beeping of the alarm startle Ellie awake.

“I’m awake!” she announced, shooting out of bed. I laughed. “Relax, it’s the first alarm. You have plenty of time until class to get ready.”

She breathed a sigh of relief. “Good. For a second I thought I slept in again. What day is it again?”


She made a face.

“I have English first thing? My schedule is bogus.”

“Nobody says bogus any more.”

“I do. Can you pass me my pit stick?”

“Why do you call it that?”

“Just pass it to me. Please.” I rolled my eyes, grabbing her deodorant and throwing it at her. It landed on her chest, causing her to make an “Oomph!” noise, but she accepted it all the same. “What do you have first again?”

“Law.” I glanced over at my textbook, a whopping seven hundred pounds to throw around.

“Oh, yeah. How is law anyway? I’ve been considering switching.”

“It’s not you, I’ll say that much.” I smiled. “You really don’t have a plan, do you?”

Ellie glanced to the side. “Maybe. What about you, Miss Lawyer?”

I giggled. “Well, it’s precisely that. You already know I’m going to be a lawyer. Why ask again?”

“I don’t want to be an engineer.”

“Then don’t. You’re only in the basic courses, aren’t you? You can still switch to whatever come next semester.”

“Do you think I’d make it as a Designer?”

“Like a fashion one?”

“No, an Interior Designer. Or an Architect. I love that crap.”

“So go for it.” I checked my watch. “Shoot, gotta go. We’ll continue this conversation later.” I felt bad for cutting it short, but had to get to my classroom sooner rather than later.

“Hakuna Matata, amigo.”

I slipped into my regular seat, in the middle of everything. Not too close to the front, but not too far at the same time. I like this spot, it made me feel blended in enough with the rest of the crowd to not freak out about trivial things.

“Ah, we meet again.” The voice made me freeze in my spot, halting all attempts to set up my laptop and looking to my left to see him.

“Pip,” I said. “What are you doing here?”

“Same as you. I’m here to learn.”

I stifled a laugh, returning to unzipping my bag and booting up my laptop. “Really? You, of all people?”

“Would you believe me if I told you I’m getting a Bachelor of Arts?”

“Somewhat. I’ve never seen you here before, though. Explain that.”

“I always sit in the back corner. Plus, I’m not always this early.” He chuckled softly.

“Hm, I’m not entirely sure about that story. It’s a little suspicious. I’ll choose to believe you for now, though.”

“I’m honoured.” He leaned back in his chair. I glanced at the front to see the teacher about to start his lesson.

“Get ready to learn.” I smirked at him, my hands already poised to begin typing at a moments notice. Pip stayed the way he was through the whole lecture, not bothering to take any notes. I found myself wondering why he even bothered to show up if he couldn’t make an effort to learn the material. I shook the thought away, telling myself to focus on the matter at hand.

The lecture finished almost as quickly as it had started. I did a quick scroll through my notes, three pages full of text. Oh, boy. That would be a monster to study. Shrugging, I closed the lid of my laptop and squished it in my bag.

“Catch you later,” Pip said, waving as he walked out of the room. I still didn’t understand what his interest was with me. It was a theory for another day, I suppose.

I strolled out of the room, my mind beginning to wander. It had to be around lunch time...my eyes spotted a vending machine and I made a beeline for it. Reaching into the side pocket of my bag, I pulled out my wallet. Black, standard, and not really much to it. I sighed. Maybe I should get one of those key chains or something, I thought. I put in some of my spare change, hitting the buttons C-4 and watching as my delicious bag of chips slowly unraveled from the metal coil.

With a satisfying plop I went to claim my prize, some sweet Dill Pickle flavoured potato chips. I pulled the crinkly package open, slightly self-conscious that everyone was staring at me, and dug in. I got about three chips down when I heard my phone ring.

We built this city!

We built this city on rock and roooooll, oooohhhh!

I hummed along with it for a second, pressing the talk button and pressing the cool metal against my ear.

“Hello?” I said.

“Riles,” a man said. I recognized it as one of the people I knew from court.

“What’s up, Marcus?”

“I’ve found a new case for ya. Woman and children killed in a fire, husband the only one left alive, police think he started the fire, standard crap.”

I sighed. “Boring, but I’ll take it. Where’s the guy being held up at?” The faint sound of Marcus ruffling through papers and I got my answer.

“Detention Center. You remember where that one is, right?”

“’Course. I’ll be there asap. Guess I’ll see you around, then.”

“Bye.” I hung up the phone, sticking it back into my pocket. Did I have any other classes today? There was Psychology at three-thirty, so I have plenty of time to head over there. I crunched on the last of the chips, crinkling up the bag and throwing it in the trash. Next stop: Detention Center.

It was always a dreary place, the Detention Center. It always made me feel as though there was some sort of impending doom that would strike this building, and this building only. Then again, those who were convicted here probably felt the same. As soon as I walked in the door, the stubbly, tired eyes of Marcus met mine.

“Hey! You made it.” He hurriedly walked towards me, giving me a quick briefing of who we were dealing with. “His name’s William Foreson, a mill worker, father, etcetera. While the police are pinning this one on him, he keeps on pleading that he’s innocent. You can clear this one up, right?” Marcus spoke rather quickly, but it was a trait I was very well accustomed to by now.

“Sounds simple enough. Can I talk to him?”

“Yep. I’ve gotten the okay from the lady at the desk. He’ll come to this spot right here.” He guided her to the spot in question, which was as far away from other people as they could get. There was a thick wall of glass that separated the two rooms, and a phone for talking. I sat down patiently, and in a couple minutes a man approached the cubicle, nervously fiddling with his fingers. We both picked up the receivers.

“Hello,” I began.

“Hi,” he said hesitantly, his voice obviously exhausted and beaten down. He didn’t look too good either. His blonde hair was matted and tangled, the shadow of a beard already thickly growing in, his aqua eyes hiding a tale of sadness that I couldn’t decipher.

“So you’re William Foreson?” I inquired, pulling out a notebook and pen. He seemed to take on an even more ghastly look.

“You’re not one of those reporters, are you?” His voice sounded defeated.

“Wha- of course not!” I objected. “Forgive me, I should have introduced myself. I’m Riley Rhea, a becoming lawyer. I’m here to help you.”

“A becoming lawyer?” William questioned.

“I’m...still in school,” I admitted sheepishly. “But I have special...expertise that lets me take on cases. I’ve already helped solve a handful of other cases, and now I’m here to help you. Is that alright?” William nodded glumly. I couldn’t tell if he simply didn’t care or if he truly understood. Seeing as the glass between us was a problem, I couldn’t just peer into his memories just yet. I suppose it was time to use what I had learned in school to my advantage.

“So, I understand that you have recently experienced a great tragedy, William.” I decided to start right into it, but not too harshly.

“Call me Will,” he insisted. “I should’ve expected that was why you came to see me. Please, just know that from the bottom of my heart...I’m innocent.”

“I’m not here to convict you, Will,” I assured him. “I want to prove your innocence. But, to do that, I need you to answer some questions. Are you willing to cooperate?” He nodded, his eyes boring into me still with that undefined sadness. I figured it must be from losing his family all at once - it would send anyone into a shock. I spent a good hour talking as much out of him as I could. It was a simple story, but a complex problem. According to Will’s alibi, he was sleeping next to his wife when the fire started. He tried to save her as well as his two kids, but ultimately couldn’t. One of the kids died shortly after getting to the hospital, and the other two within the burning building itself. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to visit the building, but I’d have to do it later; my Psych class was approaching quickly.

The evening air was sweet and cool to the senses. I walked across campus, having just finished putting my supplies back in my room, and sought to grab something small to eat. Normally I wouldn’t eat out so often - two nights in a row was unheard of - but I felt no obligation to cook tonight, either. I had quite a bit of money to spare, as well, so I could afford another night.

“Where to, Riley?” I almost shouted, but quickly composed myself. “Oops, made ya jump.” Pip bounced beside me, an eager smile playing his lips.

“What do you want?” I sighed.

“I’m just tagging along. Where to?” he asked again.

“I’m going to get something to eat.” I wasn’t quite sure why I told him the truth.

“Two nights in a row? You’re going to be broke, and probably gain some weight while you’re at it.”

“Shut up!” I shot him a look. He seemed more pleased than anything.

“But, I came here to ask you something.” He stopped walking. So did I.

“Out with it, then.” I looked him in the eye. He had very deep, entrancing green eyes, and I found it difficult to stop looking once my gazed was fixed upon him.

“Would you like to come on a picnic with me? I’ll supply the food.” He had a playful smile across his lips.

“A picnic?” I questioned. “Surely people don’t go on picnics anymore in this day and age.”

“So then let’s take a trip to the past.” He took a step closer to me. “I’ll make sure that nobody will make fun of us or anything, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“N-No, that’s not it.” I pondered the thought for a moment. “A picnic, then? Sure, I have nothing to lose. When?”

“Tomorrow at noonish. I’ll meet you on top of the hill behind the science building, okay?”

“Okay.” I smiled, opening my mouth to say goodbye.

“It’s a date, then.” Pip grinned, dashing away before I could say anything. As soon as the words sunk in I had to stop myself from yelling after him. A date? He couldn’t be that foolish. Then again, I was the one who accepted...I shook the phrase from my head. Date or not, I needed to get some food in me now if I ever wanted to make it to tomorrow. I continued on my way, trying to decide on what I’d have for dinner instead.

A-A new chapter? Of a story I haven’t updated in a while?! Without warning?! Yeah, actually. I have good plans for this story as well as the others I’ve been working on, and I figured now would be a good time to update it. Why? I dunno, ask the author. ...wait. Er, anyway, I don’t think I’ll be updating this story that much in the near future, but I haven’t forgotten about Riley and the gang. So here’s an unexpected update for you all. Y’all.

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