My nose scrunched in annoyance when the alarm went off noisily. I groaned and buried my head under the blanket, rolling left and right to dissipate its presence beside me. I should just turn it off, I know. But I have to be a little dramatic in the morning.
All these years and this habit of mine has not changed.
Throwing the blanket off, I turned and glared at the black colored hell-bell which was ringing non-stop. I slammed my palm on it and sighed in relief when the shrilly noise was cut short. I breathed multiple times while staring at my white ceiling. I could have gotten it painted like my walls. I don’t know why I left it bland. Not that I was a fan of brightness and colors, it just look boring at times to look at.
“Get up Zoe. You won’t want to be late for Harper’s class.” I got out of bed and headed straight for bathroom to face another day of my twenty-one years long life. My face scrunched up once again when my eyes landed on the bird nest on top of my head.
Aka, my auburn hair.
They were seriously untamed in every way. They annoy me so much every morning that I sometimes feel compelled to leave them as it is. But since I don’t want to become a laughing stock throughout university, I dedicate fifteen minutes daily to their care against my will.
I love my doe-eyes the most throughout my appearance. It’s not that I am bad looking. I just don’t feel pretty enough if I have to take my parents in account. But I am pretty contented. Everything is survivable.
“I should just chop them short” I muttered while getting the last knot undone. “And mom will chop me to pieces later. Damn! I can’t have it easy. After I was done taming them, I quickly got done with daily rituals and headed downstairs after getting dressed. It doesn’t take much of time as I prefer to put on just clothes and shoes. No extra hassle and trouble added, all thanks to my naturally blessed skin.
Generosity of my mother’s genetics.
I lived alone in this two bedroom house. My parents insisted on having it instead of living in dorm room or renting a small apartment. I seriously don’t get my parents at times. Why would I need a place bigger than my needs? A caretaker was hired. She come twice in a week for cleaning. I barely see the woman. But, she is doing the job alright so, I have no problem.
I left my bag on the counter-top and turned on the stove to make myself a cup of coffee. Throwing two slices in toast-maker, I sat by the stool and surfed through my phone. There was nothing special in my feed. Just the usual drama of college students with their ever so dramatic life. I don’t understand how they manage to fit everything among piles of assignments, tests and presentation. It’s admirable but only to look at. Unlike them, I can only deal with one thing.
I got up and served myself toasty warm toasts with yummy peanut butter on top and a cup of steaming hot coffee. I ate in complete silence. I enjoyed it. These peaceful meals all by myself. Once I was done, I washed the dishes and checked the time.
I still had an hour.
On my way out, my eyes landed on the calendar by the entrance wall. I watched it for a minute long and left.
“You can do this Zoe.” I cheered myself. “But I really don’t want to leave my car and go inside.” I whined. It was a matter of my GPA and I can’t afford to lose any points. “You have been doing it for past years and you can do it for one more year.” I was failing miserably. “And a quarter. I don’t want to go.” I slammed my head on the wheel in misery. “But mom and dad will kill me. Why God? Why are you so cruel to me?” I sat up straight and rebuked myself multiple times for being so bratty.
It was my choice and my dream to study Journalism. Only I knew how much fight I had to put up with my dad who wanted me to follow in his steps and become a cardio-thoracic surgeon. But medicine was out of my league. I was not a dull student but I definitely didn’t have the stomach to stomach all that.
I always wanted to become a journalist. I loved writing more than anything and everything media related always fascinated me. I was glad mom stood on my side in this decision and dad had to bow out but not without giving me a warning. He knew of my social awkwardness and this discipline demands a lot of it. I told him I will get by but I was so wrong. The moment I stepped foot in my new world, I regretted my decision.
Being socially confident and interactive was not my cup of tea and I jumped in the whole burning pot.
There were multiple times I thought of running back but the words of my dad were like a non-stop alarm in my head. So, I prevailed but as the ending was coming near, I was becoming restless.
I don’t know what is wrong with me.
My grades were excellent, my GPA was good and I was keeping up with being a good student who was never late for any class. There were no complaints against me and I did participate in many writing competitions to earn myself extra awards and credentials. I have one friend as well which means I was not going to die alone out there in some hole.
Life was good but I still felt this lassitude.
My phone pinged and I answered without checking the i.d. Only one person called me at this time. Daily.
“Hey Oli!” I got out after gathering my stuff. “I am in parking. Just coming in five.” I locked my car and went towards my department. A crease appeared between my brows when I saw the decorations and banner around the place. It’s that time of the year again.
“You paused longer than necessary. You forgot again, didn’t you?” I rolled my eyes at her giggles. “Really Zoe? I mean for being a straight A student, you sure are deft.”
“I am not deft. It’s just unnecessary for me.” I watched girls squeal over the posters. “This party happens every year and yet the excitement never dies. Why?”
“Because it’s the only time all departments gather and have fun. Except your old soul who prefer to curl up in a blanket by her fireplace and read a book.”
“Watch a movie or eat pizza too.” Olivia scoffed at this. “Well! I am not against it. It’s just such things are not for me. Anyway! I am halfway to the class. I’ll see you.”
“Get me soda, will you?”
There she goes again.
I don’t understand her fetish with high sugar carbonated drinks. And the funny part is Olivia doesn’t even put on any weight after consuming them like oxygen.
“I am seriously envious of you” I whined taking a detour towards the vending machine to get her drink. “How come you don’t gain anything after drinking so much sugar. I gain an extra pound just by looking at them. Not fair.”
“It’s nothing like that girl. You have an amazing body. Curvy and healthy. You should be thanking god for blessing your soul, not cussing at it.”
“Easy for you to say” I dug in my bag to get a coin and waited for the person standing before me to get done. “Hold up, will you? Let me-”
“Fuck” I jumped back, startled when that guy kicked the machine hard. His outburst made many heads turn but not in a weird way. They were gawking at him in a scoop-ish kind of way. Girls were giggling and squealing. Guys were...well being guys.
I frowned at his broad back and tall height. He was at least seven inches taller than me and very muscular.
Wow Zoe. Way to go.
I shook my head and stepped ahead when he walked out of the way. I had just put the coin in when my phone buzzed again.
“I am comi-Hey! What do you think you are doing?” The said guy who was assaulting the poor machine seconds ago stopped but didn’t turn. Arrogant ass. “That’s my soda. Get your own if you want one, not steal others.” I shifted my weight from one leg to other and waited patiently for him to turn and return my can with an apology. The asshole was standing like a statue. He is going to make me late for my class. And like hell I was going to leave my drink.
It was my coin.
“If you didn’t pay attention, it was my coin before yours.” My words turned to dust when he turned abruptly. “So basically, this drink belongs to me.” I only blinked like a doll in response to his remark. It has to be Isaac King of all people. The notorious bad-boy of our university or probably throughout the world.
I don’t know much but Oli told me Kings were one of the richest and most powerful family of America. They migrated from Italy almost five decades back and were now the natives and probably the runner of New York. His family business was armament manufacturing and they sponsored military as well.
And Isaac was their only heir.
It means, he was given every right to do however he pleased because his family was one of the biggest sponsor of our university as well. I should have known it was him when I saw his black jacket. But no, I had to be stupid and dig my own grave.
“What?” His deep voice laced with annoyance and anger jerked me out of my thoughts. I looked at the can in his hand that legally belonged to me and then at his face. His coal black eyes literally turned blacker with anger.
Was that coin and this can really worth my life?
“You can have it...Jerk.” His brow shot up when I added the insult after much hesitation. I am going to run and never look back. Not that he will know or knew who I was. I lived low-key. Perks of being socially withdrawn. They really come handy at times.
“You-” I dashed past him and stopped when I was at safe distance. Surprisingly, he was still looking at me with mild interest that was even visible from the distance I was standing at.
“I curse this drink on you. You damn drink thief ass-jerk.” I ran as fast as I could without looking back. What did I wish on so early in the morning that I had to have such an ugly start? Well, not physically ugly. He was so good looking. Totally above average. But his personality was ugly. So, yup. He was ugly. I just hope I don’t turn up dead by tomorrow or tonight.
I huffed when I reached outside my lecture hall. I was saved by a stroke of luck. Harper wasn’t here. Puffing one last time, I entered and went straight to my seat next to Oli.
“Where is my drink?” Her brows scrunched when she found my hands empty. An angry pout appeared on her face. “You want to tell me you came this late and still forgot to bring my drink?”
“It’s because of you I had a brush with death” I waved the pencil in her face. “You should be praising lord that I am sitting next to you here. Right now.”
“Why?” She raised her hands in surrender at my narrowed eyes. “What happened?” I just shook my head when Harper entered but Oli kept pestering me. I knew what telling her about my encounter with Isaac could lead to but I also knew she won’t stop until she got every word out of me.
“I ran into Isaac and I cursed him with the drink because he took it from me by force.” I let the whole sentence out in one go and sat up straight. Oli stayed in the same position with her mouth hung open and eyes wide.
For last two years, I had never seen the guy. He was student of business administration and was in Shanghai for initial two semesters. But I knew the sick reputation he bore. Isaac was famous for every illegal activity one could do. But worse were his races and knock-out fights.
I don’t get how he was able to come number one in his academics.
“I am damn sure they feed money to alumni.” I muttered under my breath and nodded later. There could be no other reason. The guy seriously looked like a gang leader. “I am sure he has one as well.” I nodded again with narrowed eyes.
“You ran into Isaac?” Oli finally snapped out of her temporary paralysis and jerked my shoulder roughly. I hissed at her while watching Harper. Thank goodness, the old soul was busy with the slides. “You mean to say, the Isaac King?”
“Do you know any other Isaac on our campus because all I ever heard from you is about that asshole.” Oli squealed lowly. “Oli!” I clamped her mouth shut. She was going to get us out of this class. “Shut it.” She was not listening. She was practically dancing in her seat with stars in her eyes.
A brief knock on the door and we turned to look at the late-comer like rest of the class. Wuck the Fhat? Oli squealed again and I clamped her mouth hard to avoid gaining any unnecessary attention. My heart was thundering in my chest. I lowered in my seat to avoid being caught by his scrutinizing black eyes that were surveying the whole room.
“Mr. King? What brings you here?” Harper seemed as much surprised as the rest of students. But her surprise was more towards apprehension than excitement. She doesn’t like it when her lectures get interrupted.
Even by the so-called owner of the campus.
“I’m looking for Zoe” I am dead. “Zoe Bradshaw” I am definitely going to die. I lowered further in my seat when every head turned towards my direction with hushed murmurs. Don’t give him my address, you idiots. But he already saw me. A dangerous smirk appeared on his lips when our eyes connected. I love you mom, dad. “Can I have a moment with her?”
“You are interrupting the class Mr. King-”
“You can proceed” Isaac interrupted her rudely which made the girls of our class ‘oooh’ dreamily. “I am sure she can catch up. After all” his eyes found their way back to me. “She is your brightest student.”
“Whom I would like to refrain from associating with the likes of you. Zoe!” I got up with bowed head. Oli was cheering me and I wanted to smack her hard for landing me in such trouble. Everyone was either giving me stink eye, watching me with sympathy or envy as I made my way towards the gates of hell. I mean the entrance of our class. “I don’t know but it should be first and last time.” Harper looked at Isaac coldly. He was standing all tall and proud while looking down at her.
“Yes Professor and I’m sorry” She just nodded and closed the door after we stepped out. I couldn’t find the courage to face him. My eyes went around the empty hallways and I cursed inwardly.
“I am standing right here” I flinched at his acrid tone. No point. Sucking in a breath of courage, I finally turned and looked at him. “It’s the first time I have seen you around.”
“Look! I didn’t mean to be mean in the morning but you kind of asked for it. I mean your coin got stuck, it doesn’t mean you should go and stake claim on others. That machine refused to grant you that drink. And you took mine. It was not fair. And this world should be fair. I mean we are talking about balance of things. But how would you know of it? You were born on the wrong side. You know my ears are still hurting from the whining they had to bear because of your cold act. I-”
“Shut up” I was stunned when he pressed the cold coin to my lips. I blinked multiples times and breathed continuously through my nose. His fingers pressing the coin to my lips were controlling their movement and my words. “You really chose the right discipline. Look how you didn’t even let me finish.” I just shrugged and blinked, much to his amusement. “Interesting” Isaac hummed and stepped closer to me.
Invading my personal space which I don’t like.
I tried to speak but he pressed the coin hard against my lips. The metal was digging in my skin and it was really painful.
“You cursed me and I didn’t like that” He murmured huskily and bent his head to match my height. Why does I have to be five-five? It seemed so unfair in the moment. “I would like you to lift it off.”
How am I supposed to? That was not even a real curse. Idiot arrogant piece of ass-jerk.
“Stop cursing me Zoe. I don’t like it.” My eyes went wide when he answered another one of my thoughts. Stupid facial expressions. “Now back to business.”
“Bu-” I had just parted my lips slightly and not even a full word came out when he shut it back.
By pressing his lips to mine. Through the coin.
Did he just...kissed me through the coin? My kiss? My first kiss.
Isaac pulled away and stood straight with a victorious smirk. I, on the other hand was mimicking statue of liberty.
“Now we are even” He grabbed my hand and placed the coin in it. “It is going to bring you so much luck.” Luck my ass. I am going to kill him with the same coin. “Later.” I watched him walk away from me with confident strides. I blinked once, twice and touched my tingly lips.
“Eww!” I rubbed them furiously in disgust. “Eww! Eww! Eww! Bloody germs of a germongous.” I wanted to scream so badly. I never lost my cool but that guy made me want to rip my head off. He was so arrogant and infuriating.
What was the big deal about what happened? How dare he insult me like this?
My eyes burnt with tears but I refused to be weak and show defeat. Another wave of anger hit me hard when I saw the coin in my palm. I stormed inside the class while cursing him mentally.
Isaac King! Damn you.