Chapter 10 - The Intruder
Not here, not here, not here! It’s not here?! Where the heck did it go?!
It’s been over an hour now and I’m still looking for my blue hanky. I already checked everywhere--the classrooms, the hallways, the bathrooms, the field and the gym. Where could I have left it?!
I remembered throwing it at Daniel’s face earlier but I already checked the field. It wasn’t there.
I released a frustrated sigh before continuing my search. A part of me knew it was already hopeless, but I’d still look for it anyway.
Wait… maybe the janitor picked it up, mistook it for trash and threw it away?!
I sprinted towards the back of the school, where all the trash sat waiting to be picked up by the garbage truck. Just meters away I could already smell the foul stench of the area, but that didn’t stop me at all.
I was about to dive into the trash bins when Ronnie, one our school janitors held my shoulder.
“Whoa there!” He said, smiling confused. “What’s the student council president doing here?”
“Ronnie!” I exclaimed. “I haven’t seen you in a while.”
He chuckled shortly before replying. “Well, you know. I’m busy dealing with mission impossible: making the whole school spotless. But never mind that, what are you doing here?”
I smiled at him. I’ve known Ronnie since I was a freshman, and he's one of the nicest people here. He’s in his mid-forties I think, but he looks a tad older because of work.
Nonetheless, he never complains and he always smiles. That’s why I easily get mad at the students carelessly throwing their junk everywhere without considering who has to clean up right after.
“I lost something important, and I thought maybe you or the other janitors picked it up and threw it away. Ah! Did you happen to see it by any chance?”
I think I talked a little too fast and sounded a little too excited.
“Slow down Tina! What’d you lose? I’m sure if it’s something important, I wouldn’t throw it away like that.”
“A blue handkerchief. The color’s a bit faded and old and it’s a bit small in size. Like a kid’s handkerchief.”
He looked up to think. “Where’d you last use it?”
“The field, while we were playing a game. I threw it at a zombie and I forgot to retrieve it. But I already looked, it wasn’t there anymore.”
Somehow, in the middle of my explanation, a foolish grin spread on his face, the wrinkles on the corners of his mouth appearing. I raised a brow at him but he just chuckled.
“You threw it at a zombie, huh?” I didn’t like the way he said that. I’m sensing this conversation is going somewhere stupid. “Is this zombie named Daniel, your rumored fiancé?”
My jaw dropped. “How’d you know that?”
He laughed one more time. Boy does he look like he’s in a good mood. “You can’t keep secrets in this school. Whatever the students know, the staff knows. Well, except for some teachers. Because they’re kill-joys.”
I snorted, agreeing with what he just said.
“Anyway, I need to find that thing before I go home and--"
I suddenly remembered what awaited me at home.
Ronnie smiled at me, looking like he knew what I was just thinking. He patted my head gently.
“You remind me of my daughter and her husband when they were still dating. The good ol’ days when I wanted to shoot the boy. He-he.”
Before I could reply, he pointed at the mass of trash bags behind us.
“I’m in charge of this area and I myself cleaned the field earlier, but I didn’t see a blue hanky. Sorry Tina.”
My shoulders sunk and I’m sure my face also fell because Ronnie looked a bit guilty, even though it wasn’t his fault. I smiled at him, showing how thankful I was for his help.
Well, it’s gone. I checked everywhere already. I might as well stop wasting my time and just go home.
“Thanks Ronnie!” I said, making my way back to the classroom to pick up my stuff. I gave him a big wave. “And I’ll smack those kids littering the school for you, so don’t worry!”
I sighed again. I can’t help feeling down. I lost it. The most important thing I’ve owned since I was a little girl. The handkerchief Daniel gave me when I scraped my knee when we were kids.
I don’t know why I treasured it so much up until now. I don’t usually hold onto stuff, but that was a different case. I drenched that thing with my tears when they left that day and every time I’d remember my very first best friend, I’d cry again and use it to wipe my eyes.
When I said my memories of Daniel were vague, it wasn’t a lie. Because the clearest memory I had was when he was in that car with his dad, disappearing from the streets, and me balling my eyes out every night after that.
Ha. Now I remember.
That was the time when I started hating flowery dresses, going to our garden and boys. Because they all reminded me of him.
They all reminded me how weak I was before.
This is so ridiculous and this is making me want to laugh. I was such a bitter kid. Now that I’ve realized it, I feel so horrible. I’m so horrible. I don’t deserve that handkerchief. That’s why, I give up looking for that precious item.
I give up.
“May I come in?” I knocked on the door. I was currently outside the faculty room. I have to drop off the monthly report of the student council before going home.
It seemed like there was nobody inside so I decided to let myself in. I was allowed to enter as long as it was for reasons like this anyway.
Before I even get to twist the knob, somebody on the other side of the door twisted it.
“The teachers are out on a meeting now, but you can leave a message,” a familiar voice spoke before completely opening the door. I recognized that accent.
When I looked up to see who it was, my eyes widened in surprise. It was the boy I bumped into earlier. The walking brick wall.
“Oh it’s you!” He laughed, saying ‘you’ as if we were old acquaintances.
“What are you doing here?” I asked suspiciously. I forcefully opened the door and entered as if it was my own room. “This office is off-limits to students. Uh… You’re a student here right? Who are you again?” I placed the monthly report on the Principal’s desk before returning my attention to the stranger.
“Me? You seriously don’t know me?” He grinned, a bit cockily if I may add. I’m annoyed, because he reminds me of a certain butthead.
“If I already knew who you were, do you think I’d still be asking?” Maybe I came off a little too rude, but I didn’t care. I wasn’t in the mood.
He looked like he didn’t believe me one bit. He changed the topic quickly and folded his arms, studying my appearance from head to foot. He looked like he knew something I didn’t. And I hated that look the most. “Oh, but I know who you are, Ms. President.”
“Really,” I glared at him, challenged. He winked at me. Ugh.
“Yep. My cousin just adores you.”
Cousin? Who? “Look, I don’t have time for games--"
When my eyes landed on the wall clock, I cut my conversation with him and ran off. It’s already this late?! My mom is gonna kill me! “Then bye!”
He looked like he wanted to say more, but I already left the office. I’ll deal with him tomorrow.
“Mom? I’m home!” I yelled as soon as I entered the living room. Unlike some kids my age, I still had curfew, and my mom was rather strict about it. She was just leaving the kitchen when she saw me. I was getting myself ready for an earful.
“Sweety!” She ran towards me with a wide grin.
Or maybe not..?
“Why’re you so late? Where have you been?” She asked. Usually, the tone she’d use while saying that was similar to a woman on her period, but this time, she sounded so gentle and happy.
“Sorry, I was stuck doing the monthly report,” I reasoned. I can’t tell her about the hanky. She’ll tease me and it’s annoying when she teases me.
She nodded her head and hugged me. She hugged me. Another sign that something’s wrong.
“What? What?” I asked, getting more confused by the second. “What’s going on? Why’re you in such a good mood?”
My mom just giggled. “Oh nothing! I’m just OH SO HAPPY!”
Now I’m suspicious. I know Daniel’s here, that’s one thing that’d make her happy, but other than that, I feel like there’s something else going on.
I studied her appearance-- she was wearing a purple dress along with her favorite jewelry. She also fixed her hair.
“What’s the occasion?”
“Oh it’s just an adult thing,” she waved an airy hand.
“What’d you do this time?”
She laughed and shuffled my hair before skipping back to the kitchen, humming a cheery tune.
I don’t trust this woman.
I undid the braid Ella did for me earlier and brushed my soft locks with my fingers as they fell down near my hips. My hair got this long already, I should cut it when I get the time. I also untied my ribbon, rolled up my sleeves and undid the two upper-buttons from my blouse.
I’m exhausted. I just want to go to bed.
I followed my mom into the kitchen and I halted in my steps when I found a demon casually sitting down on our table, devouring a delicious looking piece of chocolate cake.
I scoffed at him as soon as he noticed my presence. He just shrugged his shoulders.
Did my mom know about our stupid ‘master and slave’ contract? Did he tell her about the dumb punishment game?
Well whatever. As long as my parents are here, I’m safe from his clutches.
“Liz?” Uncle Jonathan suddenly appeared. “You ready? We’re gonna be late.”
Or maybe not.
“I’m ready, I’m ready!” She said.
“For what? Where are you guys going?” I just had to ask.
“A dinner party.” He smiled at me. “Jake’s already waiting in the car, Lizzy.”
She kissed my forehead and pinched Daniel’s cheek before going with Uncle John. “We’re gonna be late so I asked Danny to babysit you until we come back. You guys can watch a movie in the living room or something.”
“Babysit me?! But can’t I go with you guys?” I’d rather get stuck in a boring dinner party than here alone with the devil.
“Don’t worry dear, we’ll be home before midnight. And if anything happens, Daniel’s there. He’s a reliable fella despite his looks.” Uncle John reassured me.
It was not reassuring at all. If anything happens, it’s because Daniel’s here.
“You’re gonna be alone with that cute guy for a few hours,” mom whispered. “Tell me everything when we get back home!” She squealed a little too enthusiastically. I groaned out loud.
So this was why my mom was so excited. She’s leaving me and the zombie alone. Is this what a sane parent should be doing to their child?!
Ugh whatever I don’t care anymore. I’ll just ignore him for the rest of the evening.
It was half an hour since our parents left. Poopy was still staring into space in the living room. Did she hate being alone with me that much?
I slid my hands under my pockets and casually sat beside her on the sofa. No reaction. Did something happen to her today? Maybe she’s sulking because I went home first and didn’t give her a ride?
Before I opened my mouth to speak, she took a deep breath and sighed.
Her hair was a mess. Her two upper-buttons were loose. Her sleeves were rolled up her elbows. Her eyes looked so dull and lifeless. Her lips were in a tight line.
She’s obviously worn out. Yet why does she still look gorgeous?
I awkwardly coughed, shaking off my thoughts. Stop thinking. Stop looking at her like that.
“You look zombie-er than me today,” my stupid mouth found its way back into the spotlight.
There was still no reaction.
What was she thinking so deeply about?
“Hey stinky.” I tried using another nickname on her. Usually she’d clobber me right? This was so weird, not getting hit by her. “You stink.”
No she doesn’t. She smells like vanilla or something sweet like that and you know you like it.
Aaah the voice in my head finally made its reappearance. Shoo, shoo.
Tsk. Kid. Grow up.
I feel so sad.
I shifted closer to her and began playing with her hair. It looked curlier than usual, probably because of the braid. It was so soft. And it smelled nice. “What kind of hair is this? It’s like my dad’s armpit hair. Go brush it or something.”
Why stupid mouth? Why?
I winced a bit, expecting a comeback, but there was none. What the hell is going on?
“Please stop ignoring me,” I mumbled, sounding like a total sissy. I didn't expect to say that out loud.
I waved my hand in front of her face, but her eyes were too focused on something else. She looked lost in her thoughts. Does she even realize I’m right next to her?
I don’t know why I felt sulky all of a sudden. She isn’t paying any attention to me at all.
A bright idea lit up my head. Guess it’ll have to do to have her get mad at me. Her getting mad at me was better than nothing at all.
I held her chin and kissed the corner of her lip.
I’m not counting that kiss in our deal.
I guess my plan worked, because her eyes snapped open, and she turned to look at me with a wild glare. Her face was pinkish and her nose crinkled up.
“WHAT DO YOU WANT?”
“I want my slave back,” I grinned. Finally, she’s snapped out of her thoughts.
We continued our little stare-down, but in between stares, I started to notice her hard stare getting softer and softer. She sighed defeatedly and pushed the strands of hair framing her face up. “Whatever.”
“What’s wrong with you today?” I blurted out. Ah… Was that a mistake?
She glared at me again, probably mad because I didn’t mind my own business, but shortly after, she looked at the ground with a guilty expression. “Nothing that matters.”
Nothing that matters huh?
“C’mon tell me,” I insisted. I can’t help it. I want to know. And to help, somehow. “It’s an order.”
What am I doing, using that as an excuse?
It was a few seconds until she finally replied. It sounded a bit reluctant too. Now I feel bad for asking. “I lost something at school. But whatever, it’s gone.”
Oh. So that's why.
“Was it that important?”
“Would I look this depressed if it weren’t?”
“Sorry, that was a stupid question.” I quickly apologized. I just don’t know what to say. What did she lose anyway, to make her act like this? Her phone? Her notebook? Her-–
No way. Was it that handkerchief, maybe?
I don’t know why I feel so excited all of a sudden.
“It’s not your fault, sorry I sounded rude,” she sighed again. How many times did she sigh today? “It’s my fault for losing it.”
I slowly nodded my head, squeezing the handkerchief inside my pocket. Will I get killed if I ask her?
“Can I um…” I wasn’t sure about this. But here goes nothing. “Can I ask what you lost? Maybe I can help you find it.”
She scanned my face a bit suspiciously, but she smiled right after. “Thank you, but I already looked everywhere. It’s gone.”
Why was she so pessimistic about this? Usually she’d get all fired up.
She bit her lip and looked away. Did she blush?
“My uh… hanky. The one I threw at you earlier.”
It was my turn to look away.
I covered my mouth with my hand and took a deep breath. Oh man. I’d be dead if she catches me grinning so widely. I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it.
I’m so happy I might cry.
“Oh, you mean the blue one?” I asked, forcing myself to sound nonchalant but not too suspicious. She nodded her head.
“Yeah. Did you see it after the game?” She asked, though she looked like she already knew the answer. I just gave her a sympathetic smile.
I didn’t want to lie to her. Though even if I didn’t say anything, that smile of mine was still a lie anyway. I decided to play safe in this one.
“It was just a handkerchief. Did it have any sentimental value? Did your mom give it to you?” I’m such a douche asking what I already know. But a guy’s gotta make sure right?
“No…” She mumbled. “It was given by… someone else.”
The topic was getting a bit uncomfortable for us both so I decided to let my stupid mouth run the rest of the show. “Well, no point getting depressed at what’s already gone. Go make me some food.”
I’ll just play along until the end of the evening. I’ll give her the handkerchief before going home.
Yeah, yeah I know. I’m an insensitive jerk.
That insensitive jerk.
I stood up from the couch and looked at the zombie still sitting down. “Butthead.”
At least we got out of that awkward topic. I didn’t want to say anything else. If he finds out it’s his handkerchief I’m feeling down about, I won’t hear the end of it. And I’ll be mortified.
“When are you gonna make dinner? I’m hungry.” He asked, making himself comfortable on the couch.
“Didn’t mom leave you anything in the fridge? Go buy your own food, freeloader.”
I honestly don’t want to deal with him right now. I just want to sulk and eat and sleep.
“She did give me some cake, but I want real food. And she said to leave the cooking to you.”
If my mother told this guy to leave the cooking to me, then there’s only one reasonable explanation.
She wants Daniel to die a horrible death.
I don’t know how to make a single dish! The only thing I know how to make are omelets! And they’re not even that good!
“Whatever,” I mumbled. I think I already overused that word for today.
I left him there in the living room. I just need to change out my uniform. He called me stinky. Did I really stink? I didn’t sweat or anything.
In the middle of climbing the stairs, I noticed him following behind me.
“What do you think you’re doing following me up here?” I resisted the urge to kick his face.
“Your mom told me to keep an eye on you at all times.” He replied with bored eyes. This is so annoying.
I narrowed my eyes at him. “I’m going to change.”
“Then I hope you put on a good show.”
Does he ever run out of things to say?! He’s fooling everybody, making them think he’s quiet or something!
“Oh shut up!” I quickly changed course and went down the stairs. “And don’t you dare follow me!”
Of course, he didn’t listen to a single word I said. He walked down the stairs and followed me into the kitchen like a lost puppy.
“I thought you were gonna change clothes?”
“I’ll do that later,” I opened the fridge and searched for something safe for even me to heat up. I’ve got to get rid of him somehow. “I’ll just prepare dinner in the mean time. There must be some leftovers here somewhere…”
He was just standing quietly behind me, making me feel a bit anxious. Is he a kid or what?
"Found it!" I took the soup from two nights ago and closed the fridge. "I'll just heat this up and dinner will be ready in a jiffy."
I took a large bowl from the cabinet and turned on the stove. Heating this up should be easier than making something from scratch. "While I'm working on this, you go watch TV or go outside or something."
"Fine," Daniel yawned and walked out the kitchen.
I waited for a few minutes until I could no longer sense his presence. I checked the living room but he wasn’t there. He must’ve gone outside. I couldn’t help chuckling.
Now that that jerk’s nowhere near me, I’ll run upstairs and quickly change. That way, he won’t catch up.
I’m such a genius.
After a few more minutes, I left the soup heating inside the pot and tiptoed my way up the stairs. I felt like a robber, getting so conscious of my surroundings by looking left and right every second until I got to my destination.
I finally arrived in my room. I gently closed the door and locked it. I stood there for a few seconds before I sighed in relief. What an accomplishment! I feel so proud of myself. At least something good happened to me today.
I laughed to myself. “I finally outsmarted the devil!”
“Who’s the devil?”
I screamed at the top of my lungs when I heard his voice. Damn it did he have to scare me like that?!
I quickly turned around just to see him sitting on my bed, playing with the stuffed animals I won at a shooting gallery sometime ago.
“YOU EVIL, EVIL PERSON! HOW DID YOU-– “
“Don’t you think you’re a bit too old for these kinds of toys?” He smirked.