“You showed up today.” Mason’s surprised voice said from beside me. Keeping my head down I tried to pinched my eyes shut, hoping my shaking hands weren’t visible to him. It felt like the excuse I had been rehearsing for the past half hour had completely fled my brain, leaving me blank minded.
It had been a week since I attended class. Hell, it had been a week since I had properly been back at school. The wounds on my face and body had been too prominent, and there was no doubt that Isla and Mason would have seen it if I had returned any sooner.
Rick and his men had been out of town all week long, and Roman generously allowed me to stay in his home while my wounds healed. I returned back to the dorms briefly to grab the few belongings I had, and to leave a note for Isla explaining my whereabouts.
Forcing a smile onto my face, I slowly turned around and faced Mason. I could see a mix of shock and relief as he examined me slowly. I could see the questions at the tip of his tongue, threatening to escape, but he luckily held them back as a smile enveloped his face.
My wounds hadn’t fully healed, but I used whatever makeup I could find from the drugstore to cover up any bruising. I purposely allowed my hair to curtain over my face to avoid Mason from looking too closely.
“I’m sorry for missing class last week, I caught the flu and didn’t want to get anyone else sick.” I finally answered as he fell into the seat beside me. I briefly flashed him a small smile while continuing to randomly doodle on my paper. I could feel Mason’s eyes burning into the side of my head, but I refused to meet eyes, fearing that he could see through the lies I was spewing.
I silently prayed that he wouldn’t ask anymore questions, and let out a sigh of relief as he nodded his head, “I’m glad you’re better, Bella.”
I momentarily stopped doodling on my paper as the nickname registered in my head. It had been so long since I had heard someone call me Bella, and I couldn’t help but get a fluttery feeling in my heart at the sound of it.
The name reminded me of my childhood. It was bittersweet hearing the name my mother and brother used to call me.
“You don’t mind me calling you that, right?” Mason asked, after a long pause between the two of us.
Turning to him, I gave him a small smile and nodded my head. There wasn’t much conversation for the remainder of class. Mason would occasionally lean over and clarify anything the professor had gone over the week before. At the end of class, our professor announced that our project was due in a few weeks time, before dismissing us. Packing my stuff into my bag, I followed Mason out of class. I couldn’t help but feel guilty for leaving Mason to do the project by himself all week, so before we could move any farther from the classroom, I spoke up.
“I can catch up on the project and finish up anything we need to do. It’s the least I can do after missing class all week.” I offered as Mason pulled his phone out of his pocket and glanced down at the screen. I watched as he typed something on his phone, before shoving it back into his pocket and looking back up at me. “I was supposed to meet a friend for lunch today, but there’s no need for you to finish the project alone. We’re almost done anyways, and we can go work on any last minute improvements today if you aren’t busy?” He offered with a smile on his face. I couldn’t help but be shocked at the fact that Mason wasn’t angry at all. Any other student would have certainly contacted the professor with a complaint. It was foreign feeling for someone to show generosity.
Normally, I would have declined in fear of Rick finding out, but everyone besides Roman had gone on a trip out of town. They wouldn’t return for another few days, and I didn’t want to bail on Mason again. Despite the small voice in the back of my mind advising me against it, I didn’t protest when Mason grabbed my hand and began pulling me in the direction of the parking lot.
“Come on, I found this great study spot. There’s a lake right beside it where we can work on the project.” Mason said as I loosely held onto his hand. My voice died in my mouth as I quietly followed him while discreetly glancing around us. Rick’s men had all gone out of town with him, but I didn’t want to risk it.
I couldn’t help the sigh of relief that escaped my lips as we reached Mason’s car. I watched in surprise as he walked me over to the passenger side before opening the door and allowing me to enter. A meek ‘thank you’ left my mouth as he nodded his head before rounding the car over to the drivers seat. The faint sound of the radio occupied the car as Mason made his way towards the highway.
For some reason, I felt weirdly comfortable around Mason. His warm and gentle demeanor had made me slowly warm up to him, and I couldn’t help but feel safe around him.
We sat in silence for a few minutes before Mason spoke up, “So, I can’t remember if I asked you this before, but where are you from?” Mason casually asked as he kept his eyes on the highway ahead of us. I could feel my heartbeat accelerate as I wiped my clammy hands on my pants. it was a simple question, yet my throat always dried up anytime anybody asked me about my personal life.
“Wainsworth, its about an hour drive from school .” I lied, as I stared straight ahead. I I could see Mason nodding his head in response. To keep an awkward silence from filling the car, I returned his question.
“How about you?” I asked, genuinely curious to know more about him. Although Mason was more talkative than me, it felt like the topic of conversation was never about him.He seemed to keep his personal life to himself, and would only ever ask about me.
“I’m originally from a small city in Oregon, but my family and I relocated here a couple years back.” He answered after a brief pause. I could tell from his face that speaking about his family was a sore topic. The smile that was on his face earlier was replaced by a frown, and I could see that his mind had drifted elsewhere.
The remainder of the car ride was relatively silent, but I didn’t mind it. It wasn’t long before Mason pulled into the parking lot of the lake. Many people were wandering around the lake. Some were taking walks, while others were seated on benches that were scattered across the lake. The lake itself was breathtaking. The deep blue water peacefully laid still while evergreen trees surrounded the area. The view seemed surreal, and reminded me of photos that could be found on the internet.
Following Mason out of the car, we headed over towards an empty table. Taking a seat across from one another, I set my bag down beside me before turning to my right and taking in the view once again. It was relatively chilly out, but it was bearable.
Turning back towards Mason who had been quiet, I found him watching the lake with a faraway look in his eyes. I could see that he was in deep thought once again, and before I could stop myself, the words spilled out.
“Is something on your mind?” I said, instantly regretting it as his head shot towards me. I could see a look of surprise on his face, probably at the fact that I had actually asked him a question for once.
“I’m sorry, you don’t need to answer that.” I quickly said as I turned away from him. I was embarrassed at coming off as nosy, but I couldn’t help but be curious.
“No, it’s fine. I was just thinking about how my family and I would come here when I was younger. This place holds a lot of memories.” He said with a fond look on his face. I nodded in response, and refrained from asking anymore questions. Pulling my materials out of my bag, I waited for Mason to finish pulling the project materials before speaking up again.
“What should I finish up?” I asked as Mason shuffled through some papers in his folder. I watched as he scratched his head and whispered something to himself before looking up at me sheepishly.
“If I’m being totally honest, I already finished the project. I just used this as an excuse to spend time with you.” He said with a sheepish grin on his face as I stared at him in surprise. I could feel my cheeks turning red as I realized what was going on.
Was he flirting with me?
That was impossible. Half the time I looked homeless, there was no way Mason saw something in me. Not to mention, he barely knew me.
“You’re quiet now, I didn’t scare you off, did I?” Mason asked, pulling me out of the trance I was in. Shaking my head in response, I smiled back at Mason before putting my stuff back into my bag. I wasn’t sure what exactly to do next. My lack of human contact the past few years had turned me into a shy and awkward person, and I didn’t really know how to have a conversation with Mason when it wasn’t about school.
“Come on, lets go sit down by the dock.” Mason suggested as he stood up from his seat. Following in suite, I picked up my bag and headed towards to the left where the dock stood. Setting down our things on the wooden floor, we took a seat on the ledge, our feet dangling in front of us.
“It’s beautiful.” I softly said as I stared ahead at the glistening water, The sun had briefly come out, and was illuminating beautifully on the lake.
“Yeah, it is.” Mason agreed in response, his eyes glued ahead at the lake. “My siblings and I would come and lay out here on the dock after being in the water all day long. It’s especially beautiful when the sun is close to setting. The sky turns orange, and it reflects on the lake water, creating this unique mix of colors.” He explained as I envisioned the scenario in my head.
Though I was envious hearing of Mason’s great childhood, it was refreshing to hear about how other people had grown up. Despite my inability to relate, I was enjoying hearing about Mason’s personal life.
“Did you ever have any traditions with your family?” Mason asked after a short silence. I kept my face neutral as I briefly glanced over at him. I didn’t want to create some random lie because eventually I’d be swarmed in them, but I also couldn’t tell him the truth.
“My parents weren’t too fond of going out too much. They’re a bit on the stricter side, so I spent most of my days hanging around my neighborhood.” I stated, hoping that Mason didn’t pick up on the slight shake in my voice.
In a way, what I had said wasn’t necessarily a lie. Whenever I had the chance to sneak out, I would always take walks around my neighborhood, or head to the park nearby my house. It wasn’t anything special, but those brief moments to myself were the most liberated I had felt in ages.
“That’s understandable. How about your siblings?” He followed up as I shook my head in response.
“Just me.” I lied through my teeth. I didn’t want to mention my brother because technically, I hadn’t seen him in years, and had lost hope at ever seeing them again. I hated how pessimistic I had become over the span of a couple years, but it was easier than holding onto false hope.
Mason didn’t say anything after that, and silence loomed over us. We were both lost within our own heads, but I didn’t mind, and he didn’t seem to either.
“Come on, I want to show you something.” Mason said, breaking the silence we had been sitting in for the past ten minutes. The dull look that was previously on his face was now replaced with an excited grin as he stood up. Holding his hand out to me, he helped me up as I picked up my bag before following him.
“Where are we going?” I asked, causing Mason to turn to me with a smile before leading me into a small opening surrounded my trees. We were on the other end of the lake, where we were secluded from anyone else. I watched in awe as Mason grabbed my hand before pulling me towards the scene. It was a smaller portion of the lake that was surrounded by rocks and large trees. Crouching down beside Mason, I watched with wide eyes as various fish, different colors and sizes swam around the body of water. The dark blue water was now a beautiful green shade as the sun reflected on it.
“Amazing right?” Mason commented as I continued staring at the water in disbelief. It was fascinating to me that a location like this existed, it seemed like it was something out of a movie.
Turning to Mason, I flashed him a massive smile as I nodded my head. He returned my smile with one of his own, before taking a seat beside me. There was a fluttery feeling in my chest as Mason and I admired the view, while conversing about random things.
Despite my initial reluctance to allow anyone into my life, Mason didn’t seem so bad. Surprisingly, our relationship felt natural, and I was grateful to have a friend in my life.
I could only hope that it wasn’t temporary.
I appreciate all the comments and messages I received from you all after my last update. I truly am grateful to have understanding readers who do not hold it against me when I don’t update as frequently.
Since it’s summer, I plan to write more often, however, if I do fall behind just remember that I do work full time, and am also enrolled in summer classes :)
Thanks again for the support!
Love you all!