The smile dropped from my face the second I turned my back from the leery girl that stood apprehensively a few feet from me.
It was her.
I was undoubtedly sure that she was the one who I would be keeping a watchful eye on.
I’d be foolish not to recognize the deep brown eyes that were wide upon looking at me. The tense body language and the lack eye contact screamed that this girl was the beholder of many secrets.
Despite her bland clothing which consisted of a worn out sweater, loose jeans, and a pair of battered sneakers, all the arrows pointed straight to her.
She was the infamous Isabella Wright.
Daughter of drug lord, and felon, Rick Wright.
I scrunched my eyebrows in confusion at her behavior as I strode across the vast campus. For someone who is related to a criminal suspected of severe crimes, she appears to seem the exact opposite of someone like her father.
Her standoffish and reserved attitude slightly baffled me, but after working in the industry that dealt with all sorts of sociopaths and criminals that had committed unspeakable crimes, I knew better.
Looks are deceiving.
The one way to surely scout a potential threat is looking beyond the exterior layer.
Studying body language had the ability to provide more information than imagined.
Though her fidgeting language had caught my eye, one major thing that had stood out to me was her eyes.
They say the eyes are the window to the soul, yet hers resembled an abyss of emptiness.
Her eyes bore a distant look. One that told you that she was long gone from the real world, detached from the universe itself.
Despite my urge to continue studying her face, her dark locks curtained across her face, serving as a sheild from my hard gaze.
I ushered past heaps of students that lurked in every corner before my steps slowed to a steady pace as I approached the familiar brick building.
As I opened the glass door, a group of giggling girls filed out, bright smiles marring each of their faces.
Expressions that were the complete opposite of my own.
Stepping into the stuffy office, my eyes roamed around a few stray students that lazily stood around the office, no doubt trying to settle any last minute arrangements.
Craning my neck upward, I saw the frame of Mrs. Harris who stood behind the large front desk having a conversation with a teenage girl.
As I looked in her direction, she caught my gaze and moved her head towards the direction where her office was. Nodding in response, I pushed past the mini door blocking entry into the office area and made my way towards her room.
Upon entering, I was engulfed by the scent of cinnamon and apples.
A sense of De ja vu consumed me as I took a seat in front of the mahogany desk. As I waited, the scent of cinnamon and apple continuously invaded my senses, invoking all sorts of memories and emotions.
Images of home, and my family ravaged through my brain as I failed to block the train of thoughts.
This exact scent reminded me of the one place that I used to consider my safe haven.
My childhood home where my mother and sister still resided to this day.
The same home I couldn’t bear to spend longer a day in.
It used to be the one place that brought none other than joy and happiness, and now it brought a string of painful memories and immense grief.
The sound of heels clicking on the floor broke me out of my trance as Mrs.Williams shut the door and made her way into the office.
She let out a deep breath as she slumped into her large swirly chair and ran a hand through her hair. I let out a small chuckle as I studied her irritated expression that no undoubtedly emerged because of the many students outside.
“Those students out there will be the death of me.” She exclaimed as she pushed a stack of files towards the corner of her desk.
“Rough day?” I questioned, raising my eyebrow in amusement.
Leaning back against the hard chair, I watched her clear her desk of random items that were scattered all over.
“Absolutely.” She sighed as she ran a hand down her tired face. Before I could utter another word, she quickly began filing through the stacks of paper before coming to a stop and pulling out a manila folder. She read the front of the folder before sliding it across the table towards me.
‘Legal Documents- Mason Reed’ was written in bold lettering at the top as I grasped the folder in my hands.
“These are the files given by my boss correct?” I questioned as I sifted through the large pile of paperwork that went along with the previous stack from the last time I had come here.
She nodded in response before sitting back against her chair.
“I assume you are already aware of what is to be tolerated in this college and what is not, correct?” She questioned as a strict look coated her usually calm and friendly expression.
“Of course, I did attend this school after all.” I answered, flashing a smile to the middle aged woman that sat in front of me. Her lips twitched upward as she deserted the strict look she had attempted to paint on her face seconds ago.
“Good.” She smiled as she got up with the stack of papers and placed it onto the table in corner of the room. As I set down the manila folder onto the desk in front of me, my eyes latched onto a photo of a familiar young boy beaming widely, showcasing his missing front teeth.
“He asks about you all the time.” Mrs.Williams voiced from where she stood. A sad smile enclosed her face as she set down the folders she was filing into the cabinet. Making her way back to her desk, she took a seat before taking the picture into her hands and staring down at it.
“How is Nathanial doing?” I asked, staring into her emerald orbs that were filled with love and adoration as she looked at the photo of her young son.
“Great, though I have to say, he is quite mischievous.” She laughed as she traced the outline of her sons face. “He reminds me of you when you were a little boy.”
A pang of pain resounded in my chest at her comment as I thought of my childhood. Mrs. Williams, a longtime friend of my mother who had lived in my neighborhood had been there to witness most of my childhood as I grew up. Memories of a young carefree child along with his two siblings overwhelmed me as I gave a tight smile to Mrs. Williams who stared at me with a unknown look in her eye.
“You’re a good person, Mason. You don’t give yourself enough credit.” She softly said as she placed a hand over mine.
“I don’t deserve it.” I mumbled, running a hand through my hair in frustration. Mrs. Williams was one of the many people that had attempted to crack the walls I had laid out for myself since the day my life had fallen into shambles. Although her efforts along with the others were thoughtful, deep down I knew that there was no coming back.
I lost one of the most important people in my life that day.
And I had lost myself as well.
“You certainly do deserve it!” She protested as she leaned froward, a fiery look in her eyes. “I will never be able to fathom into words the amount of gratitude I hold towards you for saving my sons life on that god forsaken day. He is the light of my life, and during that time that he wasn’t with me, it was as if my world had gone black.” Tears leaked out of her eyes and down her cheeks as she choked out the words. I squeezed her hand as an attempt to comfort her as she struggled to contain her emotions.
“Nathanial is perfectly safe now, and he will remain that way as long as I am here.” I assured her as she smiled at me appreciatively. She was completely oblivious to the fact that her son was under the agency’s protection due to a request made by me.
“How are your mother and Adelyn doing? I haven’t had a chance to visit ever since we moved.” She questioned as she dabbed a tissue across her face to wipe any stray tears. Her curious eyes bore into mine as my steady heartbeat slightly increased.
“They’re alright.” I vaguely responded, diverting my gaze towards the wall behind her. I could sense the frown through her voice as she fixated her strong gaze on me.
“You haven’t gone back to visit since Nicks’ death anniversary have you.” She deadpanned as she furrowed her eyebrows. The expression on her face was grim as she shook her head at me, all whilst staring at me with a sorrowful look in her eyes.
I remained silent as she rubbed her temples before looking at me.
“Your mother and sister need you.” She calmly said. Her tone was motherly and understanding as I locked gazes with her.
“They’re better off without me.” I responded causing her anger to once again flare. She opened her mouth to protest before shutting her mouth and sitting back against the chair looking defeated.
“You will never truly know that until you face them.” She soothingly whispered as she squeezed my hand reassuringly. “But before you face them, you need to free yourself from this burden you have instilled upon yourself. And when that day comes, you’ll know it, because it will be the day you have finally set yourself free.”