Then You Look At Me

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Take Me Home

~Just find a way to get home. There’s a space in my heart, open arms for you to run to. Baby close your eyes and take the leap, to make-believe in fairytales. I’ll meet you there, I’ll fall too~ Alessia Cara.

Chapter Theme Song: 'Stars' by Alessia Cara.

°°

Third Person POV

Jeff stands at the gate, checking his watch with an impatient scowl on his face. The sun will be setting soon, and he has still not seen any sign of Rainey. She knows he normally waits at the gate and he figures there is no way she could have passed by him without him spotting her. Yes, he may have been consumed in watching a few funny videos for a while, but he feels he can always sense her even with his head held down.

He grabs his cell and dials her number, cursing under his breath when it goes straight to voicemail.

“This fucking kid. I should teach her lesson.” He swears, deciding to shoot a quick text instead.

I am at the gate. Pick your damn phone up.

-Jeff.

He looks up just in time to see two girls heading in the direction of the parking lot. Olivia and Lisa are consumed in their chatter that they are unaware of Jeff's angry figure, moving toward them.

“Excuse me.”

His voice jolts them in surprise and they instantly exchange skeptic glances before looking back to the stranger wearing his 90′s shades.

Olivia points to herself, unsure she’s the one he’s referring to. Surely, she has never seen this individual in all her seventeen years of living. “Are you speaking to me?”

“Yeah.” He confirms, pulling his glasses off while taking a step toward them. They instinctively take a step back, and Jeff frowns at this.

“You don’t have to move away; I don’t have the Coronavirus. I just need to ask you both something. Do you know a girl by the name ‘Rainey’? Brown hair, short stature and wears black leather boots.”

Jeff watches as the girls exchange malicious gazes and instantly gets his answer.

“Great. Where is she?”

“Your daughter fractured my wrist,” Olivia reports, crossing her arms with a frown.

Jeff couldn’t care less about her broken wrist; he is more concerned with what made these girls think him to be Rainey’s father. He doesn’t think he’s that old and he has been paying extra attention to his built lately, hoping Rainey would notice his disdainful efforts.

“She’s not my daughter.” He makes clear. “Now tell me, where is she?”

Oliva scoffs, “Look, sir-”

“Do not call me sir, I am thirty-one.”

“My Dad is thirty-one and he looks a lot younger than you.” She smiles sweetly.

Jeff closes his eyes and tries to remain calm. He hates these girls and he doesn’t even know them.

“Just tell me where Rain is, that is all I ask.”

“How would we even know?” Oliva responds. “She keeps chasing behind my man so she’s probably at his part-time job or something. That little bitch...”

Jeff grunts at the thought of Rainey showing interest in a guy. He can feel the heat of his blood raging his veins as he clenches his teeth.

“Where is this ‘part-time’ job?”

“Crossview Café,” Lisa adds. “A café right down the street.”

He needs to hear no more. He turns away, cursing a series of profanities under his breath while he opens his car and gets in.

He speeds off and Oliva hisses at the dirt particles his wheels leave behind. She fans the specks of dust away, grimacing at his disappearing car. “You’re welcome. Asshole.”

°°

Rainey

I enter the cafe behind Ansel. Tim smiles at me from over the counter where he stands, grinding coffee beans into the portafilter. He's probably wondering what made me change my mind, but judging by the knowing smirk on his face, he can tell the reason is Ansel.

“Sam, this is Rainey. Rainey, Sam.” Ansel introduces, as I awkwardly find a seat across from the anonymous girl.

I am not good with new people; females especially and considering the weird feelings I am experiencing toward her possibly boyfriend, this position is quite uncomfortable to be in.

I was expecting a bad attitude and hair-flips so her bright smile and extended hand appear strange. I look at her slim fingers for a while.

“Hi, it’s nice to meet you, Rainey.”

“Nice to meet you too...” I take her hand in mine, giving it a quick shake before pulling it back into my lap.

My cell rings and I slip it from my skirt to see Jeff's number on the caller ID. Though his number isn't saved in my cell, I memorized it so I can avoid his calls. I ignore it and place it back into my pocket.

“Okay, so I am going to get you your coffee, Rain. Sam would you like something as well?”

She nods at him, laying her chin on her entwined fingers. “Yeah, coffee is fine. Thanks, An.”

An?

He walks off and my eyes follow him, my thoughts occupied with the nickname she just used. Though I am inexperienced in the area of relationships, I know one when I see one. She just used a nickname, and someone can only do that when they’re close to another, right?

“Rainey?” She gently taps her scarlet red nails on the table to grab my attention. I slightly jolt, bringing my eyes back to her.

She chuckles, her perfect rows of teeth on display. “Are you back to earth?”

I smile a little, but I can hardly ignore the weird knot in my stomach. An. She just called him An. She has got to be his girlfriend.

“I was asking if you both share the same classes?”

“Oh.” I shift awkwardly, trying my hardest not to wear my emotions on my sleeves. I am not one to show how I am genuinely feeling. “We share the same Homeroom, Math, and Gym so far.”

“Oh.” She nods, a genuine smile shaping her glossy lips. “Ansel’s a nice guy, isn’t he?” She turns her eyes to him, and I do the same, grateful for the excuse she provided for me to regard his perfect structure. He’s laughing and talking with Tim over the counter while he brews the coffee.

“Yeah...he is.”

“Mm. Do you like him?”

The question almost makes me choke on air. My throat goes dry as I turn blinking eyes to her. My mouth opening and closing like I am suddenly mute.

She laughs at the reaction, her eyes narrowing. “Why do you have that expression? Did I touch a sore spot?”

I shake my head quickly, “No. No, I don’t like him that way. He’s just my classmate.”

Why is she asking me this when it appears they are more than likely dating? Is she trying to test me? I don’t think I can handle any more jealous females for the day.

She smiles. “The way you look at him tells a lot. If you don’t want him knowing how you feel, try to keep those cute blushes off your face. Ansel is quite observant, he sees everything.”

I lower my eyes. “I am not blushing. And I told you, I don’t like him that way…”

“Mm. Okay, if you say so.” She titters a little.

Ansel returns with two cups of coffee and two muffins on a small tray.

“What are you two girls talking about?” He questions as he rests a cup of coffee and cutlery of muffin in front of us each.

I look at Sam and she smiles, crossing a leg over the other. “Girls stuff.”

Ansel just laughs as he finds a seat beside me. I pull my focus to the cup in Sam’s hand and realize that he made her the same coffee he made me last time and this time. His special. I can’t ignore the strange feeling it gives me. I thought I was special.

My hold on my cup tightens as I blow over my coffee to get it cool.

“An, I’ll be coming by later after I pick Anthony up from my sister’s.” She begins, taking a modest slurp of her coffee. “So, make sure to tell Alaric.”

“Oh yeah, you should. I miss my little man.”

She chuckles. “Yeah, he misses you too, keeps saying he wants to be like you when he grows up. Like what does a five-year-old know?”

Five-year-old? And now, the craziest thought invades my mind. Do they have a child together?

The notion is so scary that I take a huge slurp of the scorching liquid. It burns my tongue and scorches my throat so painfully that I wince audibly, causing Ansel to shift his focus to me with a worried expression. “Rain, you okay?”

I stick my tongue out, fanning my hand over the burnt spot. “The coffee…” I manage to get out.

Sam smiles a little as Ansel shifts to me. “Let me see.” His brows furrow in concern as he grips the side of my face. He scrutinizes my tongue, his face so close to mine our breaths mingle. His palm feels so soft on my face and his touch is way too gentle as if I am fragile and will easily break. Now, this is hard for me and Sam can probably tell since she’s trying to hide her smile by sipping her coffee.

“It’s red,” Ansel says.

Does he mean my face?

“Your tongue is red. I’m going to get you some water, okay?”

I nod, and he gets up quickly and hurries to the counter. In no time, he returns with a jar of cool water and a glass. He pours me some, and hand it to me.

“This should help.”

“Thanks.” I take a sip, the cool liquid travels down my throat, easing the pain caused by the coffee. “That’s better.”

Ansel smiles. “Let me have a look now.”

I stick my tongue out and after a glance, he nods. “Looks a little better.”

I smile a little, but he doesn’t move away just yet, he sits staring at me for longer than necessary, his smile unchanging. His eyes are deeper than an ocean and they hold so many frequencies and mystery. I can’t read them and it’s not fair, seeing how easily he reads mine. Sam looks between us both inquisitively.

The dinging bell on the café doors breaks the awkward eye-contact and I look up to see my most hated person storming into the café.

Jeff prowls over to us, anger in his every step as his eyes rake over the table, landing on Ansel for a while as they become visibly darker.

“Wh-what are you doing here?”

“Get your ass up!” He demands, painfully gripping my wrist and yanking me to my feet.

I almost twist my ankle as I pull my hand from his rough grasp, stepping back. “I said DO NOT touch me!”

Heads snap in our direction, as customers wonder what the sudden commotion is all about. Sam is confused and she looks at Ansel to seek answers, but his eyes are narrowed as he takes in the scene unfolding.

Jeff scoffs, stepping up close to me and pointing his finger to my face. “You’re really fucking passing your place with me little girl, I ought to teach you a lesson, huh? Don’t make me have to. Be a good girl and get your unruly ass in the car right now.” He shifts his finger to the car outside, parked by the curb.

“I said no. Leave me alone.” I gesture to sit back down when he firmly grabs a hold of my arm. I wince and Ansel bolts up, his chair falling back as he grabs onto Jeff’s bicep.

“Let her go.” He demands.

I look at Ansel. He’s still managing to maintain his composure but judging by his clenched temples and hard countenance, he probably won’t last long.

Jeff laughs like a madman as he releases me, shifting his body to Ansel and yanking his bicep from his hold. He jams his hands in his pocket as he steps up to him.

“I don’t recall speaking to you, kid.”

“Leave. She doesn’t want to go with you so stop being a pest and stop ruining the civil atmosphere of the café. Leave.”

Jeff glares at him, and I recall the last guy who stepped up into Ansel’s face. He got beaten to a pulp.

“I don’t think you know who you’re messing with. So, I suggest you step back, let me take her with me or you won’t like what happen next.”

“I’m not coming with you.” I make clear. “I won’t ride in that car with you. Can you please just leave me alone?”

“Shut up,” Jeff warns, reaching out to grab me but Ansel slides into his path, blocking him as he pulls me gently behind him.

Jeff raises his eyes heavenward with a sinister cackle. He pinches the bridge of his nose, then places his hands on his waists. “Move, Kid.”

Ansel holds his ground.

Jeff curses under his breath. “I knew from the minute I saw you; I was going to hate your meddling ass. I should have punctured your fucking heart instead of your tyres.”

My brows bump together in a frown as realization dawns on me. “You did that to his bike?!”

Ansel jams his palms inside his pockets as he glares at Jeff, his words not surprising him, neither phasing him. “You see Jeff, a lion hates to see another lion in his territory. Why? Because they are dominant creatures. So, I understand your need to ‘rule’, but the probing question is, you’re not her dad, so why exactly are putting out this much effort?”

Jeff tenses and a strong look of guilt surfaces his face. His confident countenance wavers.

Ansel studies his expression then he smiles. “There is only one reason for that. Should I say it here?” He looks around, a jeering smirk on his face.

I rub my arm as I step back, the discussion bringing back traumatic, flashy memories of those nights. I close my eyes, blowing out my cheeks. Jeff needs to leave now, and this conversation needs to end. Sam is watching me, a curious look on her face.

“I have no idea what the hell you’re talking about.” Jeff denies, his face twitching in anger.

Ansel shrugs. “But I know exactly what I am talking about. And deep down, you do too.”

“You’re testing me,” Jeff says, stepping up to him. I take a leap forward, tugging at Ansel’s hand. “It’s okay, Ansel. Let it go.”

Jeff’s eyes dip to my hand on Ansel’s bicep and his muscles tighten. He folds his hand in a fist and grabs a hold of Ansel’s collar. The look in Ansel’s eyes instantly switches to venom, a scary glint that I haven’t seen before, but the back door of the café bursts open and Tim stomps over with a stern look on his face.

“What is going on here?” He asks.

“I will kill you,” Jeff says to Ansel.

“No, you will not, anyone dying will be you if you don’t get your uncivilized ass out of my café,” Tim warns, stepping up to Jeff. “Let him go.”

Ansel slaps Jeff’s hand off his collar seethingly and Jeff gestures to swing a fist but Tim is already behind his raging figure, grabbing a hold of his arms and locking them behind him.

“Let me go!” Jeff demands, attempting to free himself but Tim just twists his arms more painfully as he begins to push him forcefully toward the exit. “Ansel, get the door.”

He readily moves over to the café doors and holds it open. Jeff tries to put up a fight, but Tim effortlessly manages to push his muscular figure through the doors of the café. Jeff stumbles, almost falling onto his face, but steady his weight as he clenches his jaw.

“I don’t want to see you here again,” Tim warns him dominantly.

Jeff points at him, a dastard look on his face. “You will see me again, best believe that.” His eyes shift to me, bearing an iniquitous promise before he turns away and moves to his car.

Everyone gets back to what they were doing, mumbling and chatting among themselves about what just took place.

“Who was that asshole, Rainey?” Tim questions, as he returns over to us.

“My Mom’s boyfriend,” I mutter.

He looks confused, but just nods, deciding not to meddle further. “Oh, he’s banned from my café from today onwards. You alright?”

I shrug a little and he just pats my shoulder, nods to Ansel and walks back to his counter.

I sit back down, and Ansel does as well. Sam has a questioning look, but Ansel doesn’t solve her curiosity. His eyes are just focused on me.

“I don’t know how your Mom found someone like that.” He says softly.

Instantly, my cell dings from my pockets. I slide it out and as soon as I see who the message is from, I roll my eyes skyward.

You never cease to disgust me, Rainey Slate! Jeff just called me and told me what you did! You better not come home tonight! Not until you have reflected on your actions. I don’t want to see you on my porch steps!

-Mother.

“Is everything okay?” Ansel asks.

I nod a little, stuffing my cell in my pocket while sighing.

“Are you sure?” Sam prods, genuine concern on her face.

I nod. “Yeah, I am fine.”

She sighs. “Oh. Uh, I must go now, to pick Anthony up from his aunt’s. I’ll see you another time Rainey.” Sam smiles and I offer a weak one back. “Bye, Ansel.”

He nods, “See you later, Sam.”

She gets up and leaves the café. By now, the night has fallen and the promised rain from earlier has begun its light sprinkles on the rooftop of the small building.

Ansel looks through the transparent walls, then back at me, concern on his face. “Would you like me to walk you home when it stops raining?”

“My Mom says I can’t come home,” I mutter.

Ansel narrows his eyes. “What?”

“Jeff told her something and I know it isn’t the true story, but it doesn’t matter because she will believe him either way.”

He sighs. “Your mother is quite messed up.”

I look down, shrugging my shoulders. “It’s a usual punishment for her. But it was better at my old home because I would just go by Riley’s for the night. But now she’s far away and…I know no-one here.”

There is a brief silence, only the sound of the vintage jukebox, the rain and the grinding sound of Tim brewing coffee. I look up to see Ansel with a distraught look all over his face.

Pity. I hate Pity.

I shake my head. “No, don’t look at me like that…”

“Rain…” He shifts closer to me on his chair and I bring my eyes to look at him.

“Do you want to come home with me?”

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