I pulled the jacket closet to my body and rubbed my hands together as an attempt for heat as I made my way towards the library.
It was a chilly morning, which was typical for Maryland, except it didn’t help that the only jacket I owned was an extremely thin fabric.
Mason and I had decided yesterday to meet up for the project when he unexpectedly showed up at breakfast. As soon as he left the table, Isla would not stop asking questions abut him, how we met, and everything about his life.
It wasn’t long before she began to mash our names together as her attempt of setting us up.
I successfully avoided her this morning and intended on completing as much of the project as I could before Rick or Roman showed up on campus searching for me.
Warmth immediately enveloped me upon stepping into the dimly lit library. Groups of students were littered all across the room and the aroma of coffee was fresh in the air. Making my way towards an empty table in the back, I sat down and pulled out a pen and my notebook. Luckily the desk had a computer right behind it, so I quickly placed my bag there and pulled out the assignment to look over before Mason arrived.
A couple minutes passed before a shadow loomed over my head. Alarmed, I turned around and let out an inaudible sigh of relief when I saw that it was just Mason and not Roman or any of Rick’s other goons.
“Morning.” He grinned as he held up two steaming cups of coffee in his hand. Placing the two cups down, he plopped down into his seat before sliding one of the cups over to me.
Taken aback by his kind gesture, I simply stared at him. His hair was as usual, messy but his eyes were warm and welcoming as he continued to smile at me. Usually I wouldn’t fret over a small gesture like this, but after not being exposed to any kindness or generosity all my life, any small instance, whether it be with Isla, Fletcher or even Mason shocked me but ultimately warmed my heart.
“Thank you.” I meekly said, taking the warm cup of coffee into my hands and taking a few sips. Setting the cup down, I looked towards Mason who was watching me closely with an unknown look in his eyes. At this moment he didn’t look like the usual sociable smiling mason, but instead he looked extremely serious and a bit intimidating.
He quickly snapped out of his thoughts when he saw me staring and pulled the assignment paper closer to read it. He furrowed his eyebrows as he read the words before tossing the paper to the side.
“I don’t like school.” He simply said, causing a small giggle to bubble out of my chest. Setting my coffee cup down on the table, I picked the sheet of paper up and scanned through the assignment. We were supposed to research two pieces of literature that were similar, but from different time frames.
Letting out a deep sigh, I turned to move into the seat in front of the computer to begin research. I watched from the corner of my eye as Mason pulled up a chair beside me, moving our bags and papers along with him.
“I’ll go get some history books.” He informed after a couple minutes of watching me sign into the computer. I watched as he disappeared into the long line of bookshelves before turning to face the computer to let out a loud breath.
Something about Mason was unnerving and intimidating.
I couldn’t help but feel that despite his friendly exterior, he had some dark secrets of his own that he concealed from the outside world.
But then again, didn’t we all?
I watched the pinwheel on the computer screen slowly spin for a couple of minutes before the screen eventually opened up to the desktop. Upon opening internet explorer, Mason remerged from the bookshelves with a hand full of textbooks. Stacking them onto the desk behind us, he pulled one of the books onto his lap and began reading through it.
I watched as his gaze remained strictly on the book as he intently scanned the pages. Snapping out of the trance I was in, I looked away from him and scooted forward in my seat to begin searching up different works of literature from different time periods.
A significant amount of time had passed when I finally glanced up at the clock resting above us. Mason and I had both found the pieces of literature we needed and mapped out the basics of the project in the hours we had spent in the library.
The clock read 5:46 when we finally began packing our things to head home for the day. I slowly placed my books inside my bag, mentally praying that Mason would leave before I did to avoid having any of Rick’s men see us.
Despite living away from Rick, there was always a nagging fear in the back of my mind that warned me against various things, and my friendship with Mason was a prominent red flag. If Rick ever found out about any relations I had made, whether it be friends or acquaintances, he would pull me from the college immediately and punish me in inhumane ways.
I could feel the numerous memories of lonely nights following harsh beatings inching its way into my mind causing me to pinch my eyes shut.
Regardless of enduring the harsh treatment all my life, I couldn’t bring myself to think of the lengthy nights I had spent crying myself to sleep because the pain had been so unbearable.
“Hey, everything okay?” A gentle voice questioned, as a hand softly touched my shoulder. I slightly flinched upon contact and inwardly cursed at myself for reacting in such a way.
It was in my best interest to fit the role of an average college student that didn’t live a double life as her own fathers slave and punching bag. Despite not being able to help it. flinching and randomly shutting my eyes was something I needed to work on concealing.
Plastering a fake smile on my face, I looked up at Mason whose eyes shone with genuine concern.
“I’m okay, just a slight cramp in my foot.” I brushed him off, while letting out a small laugh. His eyes wandered down to my foot before reaching my eyes once again. He flashed me a slight smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes before slinging his backpack over his shoulder.
“Well, I hope it feels better. I’ll see you tomorrow in class so we can figure out when to finish the rest of the project.” He said, pushing his hands into the pockets of his jeans. Pulling my bag closer to my chest, I gave him a slight smile and nod before looking back down to continue packing my things.
He stood there for a couple more seconds before silently turning and making his way towards the exit. I watched as his figured faded in the distance before brushing a lock of hair out of my face and continued packing my things.
I had just finished placing the last of my things into my bag when I felt a figure loom over me. Peering up, my eyes met the familiar cold ones of Roman. He was dressed in his usual dark attire and had a strict look plastering on his face as he stared up ahead, his gaze not quite reaching my eyes.
“Hello.” I greeted as he leaned against the table. His eyes flickered over to me for a split second before returning straight ahead into the distance once again.
“You know you aren’t supposed to be conversing with anyone.” He lowly said as his gaze remained firmly above my head. His face was impassive, however the slight furrow of his eyebrow told me that there was something on his mind.
Something deep and significant that had been swimming through his thoughts for too long.
“I know. Its only for a project.” I softly responded as fear grew within me.
Would he tell Rick?
Of course he would, he worked for him.
It was his job.
I could feel any and all hope of freedom slip between my fingers as visions of Rick’s reaction ran through my mind.
He wouldn’t spare me.
“Finish the project and don’t let it happen again.” He concluded, his statement laced with authority and finality. I simply nodded and opened my mouth to ask what he needed me for when a familiar voice spoke.
“I accidentally took this.” Mason said as he gripped a textbook in his hand. His eyes flashed back and forth between Roman and I before a friendly smile remerged on his face.
“Mason.” He introduced, while holding his hand out to Roman who stood with a blank look on his face. Taking Mason’s hand, Roman gave it a slight shake and uttered his name before he continued looking around the library.
If Mason noticed Roman’s standoffish behavior he must’ve ignored it because he simply smiled before turning to me. “I’m going to go return this. I’ll see you in class tomorrow.” He said before making his way towards the back of the library where the bookshelves are.
I turned to look at Roman who had been relatively silent the whole time but just as I turned to face him, I was met with an empty space. Glancing up ahead, my eyes barely caught a glimpse of his dark t-shirt fading in the distance with the masses of students bustling throughout campus.
Grabbing my bag, I let out a tired sigh before exiting the library and making my way towards the dorms to bring an end to a busy day.