5. The Way We Use To Be
Two days passed since I’d come home. Within those two days, Don hadn’t left my side at all much to my dismay. On the third day—today—something was different. He said Goliath would be my shadow and that was it. Not even a little insight to what was going on behind the scenes. Again, I didn’t ask because… well, why would I? If it wasn’t for his club, I would’ve avoided him at all cost. If it wasn’t for me, I’m pretty sure Don would wait in my bathroom while I was taking shower.
Apparently, that was how far his ‘bodyguard’ skills went. He needs to be close to me at all times my ass.
“It’s not like I haven’t seen you naked,” he said, as if trying to justify why he needed to ‘see me at all times’. Seen me naked or not, my shower time was my alone time and with everything thrown at me, I needed my alone time.
The day I planned to meet Nazanin, I waited for Goliath. For thirty minutes, he was a no show. Not wanting to cancel, I decided to leave without any notice.
Oh fuck if Don knew…
I wasn’t gonna let him know.
The diner wasn’t too far from my place. But that didn’t make the walk less daunting. I couldn’t help but scan my surroundings, searching for whatever danger hid in plain sight. When my breathing increased, so did my steps. Next thing I knew, I was outside the diner, hand on the door and ready to walk in.
There were only a few people in the building. None of them were Nazanin. Two were a cute old couple eating ice-cream by the far end of the area and I walked in their direction, taking the empty booth in front of them. A waiter came asking for my order; I smiled, shook my head and explained I was waiting for a friend.
My phone buzzed with a text. Pressing the bottom, the screen lit up and Alex’s name popped into my vision.
Alex: You’re a loser.
I laughed. What else would I expect? I knew he was joking with me because our interest couldn’t have been any further from each other. The only commonality we found with each was sex. I sent him a meme that I found hilarious and he didn’t. Personally, I thought he’d lost a few brain cells so hitting the gym too many times but, hey, not my business.
I was halfway through my reply when the front door dinged, indicating a new customer. Looking up, I caught sight of Nazanin heading my way. I took in her appearance.
Compared to the last time we met, she was different, in both personality and looks. She had this grunge aesthetic to her outfit and it suited her. Her hair was cut in a short wavy bob and her nose ring winked at me in greeting. Dark purple lips and heavy eye makeup compliment the entire aesthetic. I couldn’t help but frown but not in a bad way. I wasn’t expecting to meet this girl today. It seemed like college did her good, bringing her out of her shell and being more the Nazanin I knew she could be.
“Hey girl,” she said, leaning over to wrap me in a hug. “Long time no see.”
“Yeah, it’s been crazy,” I said as she slid into the booth across from me. “College’s been crazy.”
We fell into an awkward silence. It felt like forever since we last spoke. Longer since we saw each other. I tapped my fingers against the marble table, trying to fill the void that grown in our friendship. We didn’t end things in the best of terms but that didn’t mean we hated each other. Maybe after this, we could go back to the way we use to be.
From what I remembered, Naz decided to go out of state for college. Her parents weren’t too happy but her older sister was supportive. In the end, they got over it.
“So, how’s Austin and your great-aunt?”
“It’s cool, and hot. Although, nothing too different from Miami.”
“Yeah, well, New York is fucking cold. Living there during winter is, like, the North Pole to me.”
I snorted. “The North Pole?”
“It was the first cold place I could think off.”
Smiling, I searched through my brain for something else to talk about and then, I thought of Adam. “Well, I’ve got a friend coming around.”
She couldn’t hide her surprise. “Oh, really? What type of friend?”
I knew where she was going with this. The slight wiggles of her brows let me know she thought I had a boyfriend. Well, not really. It was more of a friends with benefits sort of situation but most of all, we were friends. That was the foundation of our relationship. If he decided to stare at another girl’s ass, I wasn’t going to freak out about it.
“A friend,” I said, laughing at her ridiculous expressions. “He’s coming down for Spring break. He’s never been in Miami at this time of year.”
“So is he cute or…?”
“Can we order?” I said, avoiding her question. Grabbing the menu, I searched through my options. One of the waiters came to our booth, asking for our orders. I decided to get some strawberry ice-cream while Naz decided for chocolate. When he was gone, things around us grew silent. I was going to say something but Nazanin beat me to it.
“Have you seen Don since you’ve come back?”
I let out a small chuckle. “Yes, not like I had a choice since he’d ambushed me in my own home.”
“What?” Naz said a little too loudly, drawing the attention of others around us. She ducked her head, mouthing a silent ‘sorry’ to the curious observers. I failed to contain my laugh and she pushed my shoulder. “What do you mean he ambushed you? Why?”
Before I could respond, the waiter came back with our ice-cream. I ate one scoop before answering her question.
“Things are different,” I said, playing with the whipped cream with my spoon before taking a bite. “I don’t know, I came home and the next thing I know, the entire club is riding with us.”
Naz frowned. “What’s happening?”
I shrugged. “That’s the thing, I don’t know. Whenever I try to figure things out, Don always says ‘nothing you need to know’,” I said, imitating his deep voice. “I have a shadow today. I thought he’d follow me today but I don’t think he’s here. So, I just walked on my own.”
Naz paused, her spoonful of chocolate ice-cream suspended mid-air. Her frown deepened, so much so it could’ve been mistaken for a scowl, and her eyes darted to the window. I followed her gaze, scanned the area and found nothing.
“What are you looking at?” I asked, returning my eyes to her.
“There’s your shadow,” I said, using the spoon to point out the window. “He’s trying to be discreet but it’s not working.”
Once again, I followed her gaze. This time, I found him—Goliath. He was straddling his bike, helmet off with his dreads hanging around his shoulders. He wore shades so I couldn’t tell if he was looking at me or observing his surroundings, checking for any threats. Subconsciously, I did the same.
“Who is he?” Nazanin asked, still watching him curiously. I blinked, suddenly remembering she never met him. Don, yes, but not the other club members.
“Goliath,” I said, taking another spoonful of my ice-cream. She snorted, trying to contain a laugh.
“Well, no shit. He looks huge!”
Smirking, I took another scoop of my ice-cream and we continued talking about our year apart. We didn’t stay too long, only an hour, before we got up and paid for our orders. As I gathered my things, I glanced out the window again. This time he was on his phone. Was he texting Don? Was he letting him know I left without him?
Please don’t let him go. God, I’d never hear the end of it.
Stepping out of the diner, my eyes zoomed to Goliath as he walked his bike out of the alley. He brought the engine to life and rode the short distance between us. I stood by the edge of the curb, waiting until his bike was parallel tome. He cut off the engine, I looked at me.
“I didn’t see you earlier,” I said, gripping the strap of my bag. Nazanin was quiet.
“You didn’t have to,” He said, resting his forearms along the handles of his bike. “You don’t gotta worry, I was watching you. Didn’t want to impose.”
Slowly, I nodded and glanced at Naz for a second. I don’t know, I may be crazy but I’d always felt like Goliath hated me. Hate may be a bit too strong; maybe dislike. Annoyance suited his demeanour towards in that moment. I tried to recall whether or not I did anything to him but I couldn’t come up with anything. Mostly because we hardly ever talked. I wasn’t the type of person to care whether or not someone liked me but if I was gonna be with Don…
Hold up! Back track. Be with Don?
Where the hell did that thought come from?
“Okay, well, I’m heading home now so I’ll be out of your hair.”
Jerking his chin in acknowledgement, he put on his helmet. Turning to Naz, I walked ahead of her and eventually, she caught up to my stride, walking right along next to me. My gaze was glued to the ground, my thoughts swirling through my head like a hurricane. I didn’t know how long I’d been out of it but Naz’s voice dragged me back to the present.
“I’m surprised you haven’t figured out why you’re being watched,” Nazanin said, hands shoved into her pockets. I blinked and blinked again as I tried to understand her words.
“I’m being watched because of what happened last year,” I said, nodding my head to confirm my theory. “Marcus wasn’t their only target. Well, they’re not sure. It could’ve been only him or it could’ve been the both of us. They’re just being cautious.”
“Oh sweet summer child,” Naz said, sighing with a knowing smile. “You have no idea do you?”
Looking at her from the corner of my eyes, I waited for her to continue. When she didn’t say anything, I urged her with my question. “Why?”
She searched my face. When she saw I really didn’t understand what she meant, she answered my question.
“It’s been pretty damn obvious that the man is in love with you. Vanessa, you’re his weakness. That’s the problem.”
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