I didn’t know what came over me to suddenly pull Liam away from Paolo. What was I thinking? Bringing him to my room and all that. I just have this some sort of parental instinct to protect him from whatever harm. It annoyed me to see him being treated by that guy. To hell with childhood friends, f*ck him. That’s not how you treat a friend…ordering him around and hitting him like that. I’d known if it was a friendly banter just like how Stephanie and I do it, but Paolo treated Liam like he was…I don’t know, damn it. Whatever their relationship was, it goes beyond being childhood friends. I’m not blind not to see the sparks in Paolo’s eyes whenever he looks at Liam. I only met him twice and yet I already knew the feelings he’s holding for his so-called childhood friend.
It annoyed me that I have competition. I was stupid to even think that I could have Liam all to myself when he had a face like that. I’m sure lots of people flock over him because he’s just too good-looking. Those grey orbs could captivate anyone he wanted, and it’s unfair how tamed yet dangerous Liam was.
And not only does he looked and smelled exquisite, like a rare food that only the gods could feast on, but the air around him was also what attracted me to him. The mysterious persona he had that I wanted to unravel…I would have stripped him naked just to know every nook and cranny of his body and the secrets it holds.
I’m so in love with him, it’s ridiculous.
I didn’t even know how possessive I could get to someone I like. Never in my life did I expect I would want someone this badly, like my world would crumble down if he doesn’t reciprocate the feelings I had for him. I only met Liam a few times and yet I’m ready to protect him no matter what…it really is ridiculous.
I held my breath to stop myself from burning in fury. I’m annoyed as shit, but it’s wrong to blame Liam when he had nothing to do with Paolo’s attraction for him. One thing I know, this guy was oblivious to the people around him. He might not be as observant as I think he’d be, or maybe he knew but just didn’t care.
Would it be foolish of me to assume that it’s because he only had his eyes on me?
I ignored my heart leaping out of my chest in delight and finally spoke to Liam. He sat on the edge of my bed and was looking around the room as if he’s taking notes.
“Do you want to go back to your room?” I asked. I tried to hide the disappointment dripping in my voice as I didn’t want to let him go. But I’d understand since we both had classes later and we could only get a few hours of sleep considering what happened tonight.
I quickly erased that gorilla’s face from my mind. If I see him again, I swear to God I’m going to knock out his teeth. That’s the only thing that could compensate for what he did to me.
“No,” Liam answered almost too immediately, and once again, my heart jumped in jubilee. Yes! I get to spend more time with him. “I’m sure Paolo’s pissed and will be watching me like a hawk twenty-four seven if I come back.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. Now that he mentioned that asshole, the happiness I’d been feeling just a second ago disappeared. I could have asked him to stop talking about Paolo but a part of me wanted to know what Liam thought of him. “What’s the real deal between you and…” I wanted to say asshole, but I resisted out of respect for Liam. “…that guy?” I finished, silently congratulating myself for not losing it.
I really hated that Paolo guy even if he didn’t exactly do anything to me. Yet.
Liam panicked for a second, his eyes flashing worry. “I told you he’s just a friend,” he said, his voice slightly rising. I tried not to smile as I realized how adorable he could get when trying to defend himself about whatever relationship I’m assuming about him and Paolo. “Paolo and I have been friends for years.” I saw him avert his gaze off me, lowering his head as if he was ashamed. “His family works for my father. We lived in the same house when we were kids and…Paolo’s the only one who stuck with me until now.”
Okay, that infuriated me anymore. To know that they had a bond that I couldn’t possibly break, made me hate the guy even more.
“I see.” I didn’t even bother trying to hide the annoyance in my voice. I wanted Liam to know.
He looked at me, his eyebrows furrowed in worry. He was quiet for a second, pondering what to say next. After a minute, he looked up and forced a smile at me. “So, what did you do to attend North Vale?” he asked.
Liam’s really good at changing the subject. But instead of pushing him to tell me more about Paolo, I chose to answer his question. I feel like it’d be extremely childish of me to actually know more about them when Liam made it clear that he only thinks of Paolo as a friend.
Besides, who am I to oppose their friendship. I’m just a stranger at this point.
If only I could make Liam mine.
“It’s my father,” I said before sitting down on the floor. I feared I might push him back on the bed if I decided to sit beside him. That’d be a problem. “I’ve been causing too much trouble for him and he lost it and now I’m here.”
Liam smiled. “I think your father is just worried about you,” he whispered. “But…going here might be a big mistake.”
“You think I don’t know that?” I asked, rolling my eyes at him. “But…I’m glad I’m here now.” He blinked at me, confused. I grinned at him and said, “because I get to meet you.”
His jaw dropped and his eyes widened. “O-oh,” he stammered. He cleared his throat, his face tensed. “Yes, of course, I—our meeting was very brief when we were outside. I’m glad that you’re here too.”
That warmed me in an instant, enough to make me forget those f*ckers who interrupted my good night’s sleep. I hated admitting it but I’m a little bit thankful that went through their plan. I wouldn’t have met Liam if they didn’t.
Still, what they did was unforgivable. “Who were those anyway?” I asked, recalling the names Liam just said a while ago. “Keanne, right?” I’m assuming he was the gorilla.
“Yes. He’s one of the gang leaders in the senior high department,” he replied, nodding. “They have this weird tradition that they’d nab new students and,” he sighed before continuing, “you know what they were about to do.”
“And they’re allowed to do that? Shouldn’t we report them to the teachers?” I asked. It riled me that those idiots could do whatever they wanted just because they’re gang leaders. That’s bullshit.
Liam showed me a sad smile. “There’s no one who can possibly stop them if they’re being backed up by powerful people here in North Vale,” he explained to me.
“What? And who are those people?” I asked, crossing my arms. I was upset and Liam noticed it too.
He sighed. “I think it’ll be better if you don’t know, Isaiah.”
Liam eyed me, warning me that asking for more questions would only endanger my life. It’s obvious who were those powerful people he was talking about. Whoever Keanne and that other guy were, they definitely belonged to a wealthy family. It’s the only reason I could think of for them to do those kinds of appalling things.
I had no idea what kind of institution North Vale really was, but one thing I was sure of, this place was far from what the government had been advertising to the people. It’s not a reformation school, this was…hell.
I dreaded to start my new class, but I had no choice. If I wanted to survive, I had to work hard to get out.
I looked back at Liam. “Then what about you?” I asked.
“Why are you here?”
Liam’s lips tightened, his brows slightly furrowing. “It’s a long story, Isaiah. I don’t want you to get bored.”
I smirked at him. “Why? Are you in a hurry to come back to that Paolo guy?”
It was a dare, but I was blatantly teasing him too. It’s fun to see him get flustered. He’s usually so serious and composed, but he’d slip out of that and showed who the real Liam was.
I liked it.
“Of course not,” he said, pouting at me. My palms suddenly felt clammy as it twitched. I had this sudden urge to kiss those lips, damn. The sexual attraction I feel for this guy was incredibly strong, it amazed me. “I don’t want to bore you with my story, that’s all.”
“Trust me,” I said, grinning at him, “it will take a lot for you to bore me.”
Liam smiled shyly, appreciating what I just said. “Let’s just say I’m required to attend North Vale whether I like it or not.”
I furrowed my brows at him. “What? Why?”
“Because my family owns this place.”
If I could choke in my own saliva, I would have. “Excuse me? What?”
So, I was right. He really was a Torres-Shao. Then that means the man that I saw back in North Vale’s head office was his older brother—the one who looked like the spitting image of Liam.
“Woah, that’s…” I was speechless for a good minute. I did have a hunch that Liam was not your ordinary guy. Even if he was with Remus and Paolo, I knew just by staring at him that he was in another league. “…amazing,” I finally said, forcing out a laugh to ease the awkward tension that brewed between us.
Liam sighed. “Is it?” he asked. He wasn’t asking me though. He’s asking himself. “Anyway, it’s one of the reasons why I’m here in North Vale.”
“One of the reasons?”
“I’m not exactly a good guy, Isaiah,” Liam said, smiling wistfully at me. “No one in this school is good.” He stood up and shrugged his shoulders. “But not you, right?”
I narrowed my eyes at him. I didn’t exactly do anything illegal to be sent here. “What have you done anyway?” I asked. “For you to say you’re not a good guy.”
Liam’s smile didn’t falter as he looked me in the eye. “I’d rather not tell you.” He walked past me, but I grabbed his arm to stop him from going.
“Wait, what are you doing?” I asked. Don’t tell me he’s planning to go back to that guy. Didn’t he say he’d be locked up if he did?
“I need to go back. My brother’s going to look for me.”
I remembered Liam telling me about his family, and that one of his brothers attended the same school as he does.
“I’ll see you later, Isaiah.”
I couldn’t stop Liam from going. As much as I wanted him to stay until the sun rises, I couldn’t. What right did I have to stop him anyway? I’m just one of the many people he knew, and I just so happen to catch his attention. It’s not like he actually reciprocates my feelings for him, he doesn’t even know about it. If only I could just march up to him and tell him how whipped I am for him, I would have done it in a heartbeat.
But I’m scared of being rejected. No matter how attracted I am to Liam, his whole character remains a mystery to me. I didn’t know about the Torres-Shao and what bad things he had done to earn his keep here in North Vale. What if those bad things were actually crimes? What if he’s the same as those immoral assholes that thought they owned the world just because they had the money. It’s hard to imagine Liam could be a part of it, but the Torres-Shao didn’t exactly have the best reputation in the country. They did help out a lot to improve the country’s economy and solved one of its leading problems about the juveniles. It earned them the people’s trust hence why my father chose to send me here.
But what do I really know about them? The nasty comments I heard about the Torres-Shao were all just rumors. Even the video I saw with Stephanie might have been fabricated. There’s no telling what’s the truth unless I ask Liam about it myself. Though I reckoned he wouldn’t say much. I could tell he’s very evasive about him and his family. He will just change the subject if I try to talk about it.
I didn’t even realize it was already five in the morning. I didn’t sleep a damn wink. I kept thinking about Liam, Paolo, and the Torres-Shao family. North Vale obviously had its own secrets and the students here were no better than the criminals outside. The only difference was that they could do anything they wanted in this school as long as they have money and power. Keanne was the sole proof of that.
Liam made it clear that I couldn’t go against them even if I wanted to. It’s not just a matter of who’s stronger and who’d win in a fight. They had other means to take me down and I’m sure they wouldn’t hesitate to put a bullet in between my eyes just to get rid of me.
I had to play my cards right but knowing my temper and how much I hated oppression, I really believe I couldn’t keep my mouth shut even if I had to.
I’m just that kind of guy and I had no one to blame but my mom. She was the reason why I had this strong sense of justice. To use my strength to protect people who couldn’t. They said chivalry was dead and yet here I am getting in trouble because of it.
The door creaked open and I immediately got up thinking it was Liam who came back to explain things and spend more time with me. But unfortunately, it wasn’t. It’s just my roommate.
Leander was surprised to see me still awake. “Oh, hi,” he greeted awkwardly. “You woke up early, huh?”
“I’ve been awake this whole time,” I said before rolling my eyes at him. He closed the door behind him and walked to his bed. “Where the hell have you been?”
“I just visited someone I know in the dorm,” he answered.
“And that’s allowed?” I asked. I didn’t exactly know what the dorm rules were but I’m certain sneaking out of your room in the middle of the night was prohibited. But then I remembered Keanne and his shenanigans and thought it wasn’t the case.
“Yes, well, I had to see them no matter what,” Leander murmured.
I watched him arrange his bed. I wanted to ask him where he really was but decided not to as it wasn’t my business to know what he’s been doing. Besides, we only knew each other for like…hours.
“What class are you in?” Leander asked, turning around to show me that grin that he had back when we attended the entrance exam. It’s comical that he suddenly changed his mood. Suspicious, huh?
“Class 2-A,” I answered after recalling the details that were given to me by that creepy woman in North Vale’s head office.
“We’re in the same class!” he piqued, his eyes smiling in delight. “We’re classmates, Isaiah.”
I smiled back. “Great. At least I know someone in class or else I’ll get bullied for sure.”
“Come on, with a guy like you, I don’t think anyone will even dare,” Leander commented. I narrowed my eyes at him, confused as to why he said that. And based on his mouth dropping in utter shock, it seemed like he also asked himself why he blurted something like that to me. “I-I just think you’re a very strong guy!” he said and forced a horrible laugh that resembled a hyena, it’s creepy.
“What are you hi—” Before I could even finish what I had to say, Leander marched to the bathroom to escape my interrogation.
“I’ll take a bath first! Let’s go to class together, okay?!”
I was exhausted.
I didn’t even get to have a decent sleep. Attending classes would be impossible. I wasn’t in the mood to talk to people and investigate what kind of school North Vale really was. I’m sure they had secrets they wanted to keep hidden and one wrong move would thwart everything they worked for to establish such a place like this.
It’s funny how I’m already thinking this place was hell when I only get to spend two days here. The only redeeming part of North Vale was that Liam was here.
Now that I’m thinking about that magnificent creature that I had fallen in love with, I wondered what class he belonged to. From what I was told in the orientation, North Vale had two departments—the behavioral correction program and the juvenile rehabilitation program. They both had separate buildings, far away from each other as the other one was focused on correcting teenagers who had committed crimes.
Does Liam belong to that program? It’s hard to believe that he had committed something illegal but then again, appearance could be deceiving. He could have the most angelic face and voice in the world but would be hiding a devil dressed in a sheep’s clothing.
I had to mentally slap myself for thinking that Liam could be like that. I believed he was good—far better than anyone here in this damned place.
Leander and I were introduced in class and to say that we were ignored was an understatement. The teacher didn’t even bother to try as he announced to the class what our names were and where we came from. Everyone was either talking loudly to each other, scattered in groups like the delinquents that they were, or were busy with the expensive phones and iPads.
“You can sit in the vacant desks,” the teacher said before turning his back on us.
Leander raised a brow but shrugged his shoulders. He was about to walk to his desk but stopped when he saw me tapping the teacher’s shoulder. “We don’t even know your name, sir.”
“Don’t bother,” someone said. I looked behind me and it was a girl with bright blonde hair and heavy make-up that made her look ten times older than she originally was. “Our little pet has much more important things to do than to say his name. Just sit down and relax, kids.”
I raised a brow at her. Did she just say little pet?
The teacher’s shoulders tensed but remained quiet. What the—? Why’s he letting her talk to him like that? The girl smirked at me, her red painted lips curling. “Isaiah, right?” she asked, smugly.
“Yeah, and you?”
She giggled. “Does it even matter? I don’t think you’ll last a week here.”
The girl she was sitting beside laughed out loud. “I’ll bet it’ll take three days!”
“That’s long. The other guy disappeared in just a day. What a loser!”
They laughed like the villains that they were, and I only rolled my eyes. I was wrong to think this place wasn’t that bad. This was the breeding ground for bullies and the worst pieces of shit in society—rehabilitation my ass. Yeah, right.
The blonde girl turned to me and smiled. “Welcome to class 2-A, bitch.”
Ah, shit. How cliché could this even get, huh?
I walked past her and almost gagged when I smelled that putrid scent coming from her. Whatever perfume she’s wearing, she needed to change it.
I sat in the back, far from everyone who watched every move I make. Leander followed me and sat beside me.
“You already made enemies on your first day, Isaiah. That’s amazing,” he whispered. I wasn’t even sure if he was just saying that because he’s concerned or that he was pissing me off purposely.
“Why am I not surprised?” I replied sarcastically.
I stared at blondie. If glares could kill, she’d already be dead. The teacher began his lecture but no one in the room even paid attention to what he was saying. But he didn’t care. He was just yapping away, explaining the history of the Americans who colonized the Philippines like it hadn’t been discussed in every History classes in the past.
I held in a sigh as I dreaded the hours I had to wait ’til recess.
Damn it all.
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