“Jesus, out of all the people you’re going to bump into, it’s Liam Torres-Shao.”
I ignored Leander’s hushed scream as he opened the door to the nurse’s office. It’s lucky that I found him walking back to the classroom while I carried an unconscious Liam behind my back.
How Leander even knew about Liam, I’m about to ask that later. What’s important was that we bring Liam to the clinic and get him fixed. I had no idea what happened to him, but I’ll be sure to find out who did this to him. And I swear I’m going to beat him so bad his face wouldn’t be recognized.
The anger building up in me vanished as soon as the woman, a heck lot taller than most men I had seen in my life stood in front of us. She was wearing a white lab coat, covering the revealing, red dress she had on. Her bright hazel-brown eyes landed on us, going up and down, from the top of our heads down to our feet as if she just scanned our whole being.
She was about to part her red-stained lips when she noticed who I was carrying. Gasping out loud, she asked, “what in the world happened to Liam now?”
The distress in her voice proved that this wasn’t the first time Liam was brought to the clinic. And I’m annoyed that I noticed that.
“I don’t know, he suddenly fainted and—” It was ridiculous how much my voice was shaking as I tried to explain what happened to Liam. Because quite frankly, I really didn’t know how he ended up like this. He looked like he had seen a ghost when we met in the corridor, something I didn’t expect as I imagined our meeting to be more…romantic and breathtaking.
“Follow me,” the nurse said, beckoning us to get inside the clinic to put Liam down on one of the beds.
Leander closed the door behind him, carefully stepping on the white tiled floor. He kept looking around as if he’s scared someone might mug him. “This isn’t a good idea, Isaiah. We’re late for our class. We’ll be punished!”
I wouldn’t have asked for Leander’s help if I didn’t know where the damn clinic was. “Then go,” I said through gritted teeth. Now that I’m here, I no longer needed his help. I also didn’t want him to be punished for what I’m doing right now but I had to make sure Liam’s going to be alright.
“Here, put him on the bed,” the nurse instructed after opening one of the many doors in a row. I did what I was told and entered the said room only to be astonished at how big it was. It’s almost as if we’re in some kind of private hospital suite that only the rich could afford.
The hospital bed was even bigger than I had back at home. I hurried towards it, gently laying Liam down on the bed. His face was still white as a sheet as the beads of sweat rolled down his cheeks. His lips were pale, and he appeared to be having trouble breathing. The bloodstain on his clothes was what worried me the most. How did he get those? Did someone beat him up? No, his face didn’t look busted. Unless the person who did this hit him in areas we couldn’t see…but still…the blood was on his hands.
Was it Liam who beat up someone?
I’m not an idiot. I wouldn’t deny this guy knew how to hurt someone. Behind those gentle smiles hides a monster that he’s been trying so hard to control. It was so damn obvious that he had demons he’s been hiding. Others might not know about it, but I could see it in those eyes. The loneliness and grief that he’s been enduring all this time—the carnage that he wanted to release just to keep his sanity, it’s all so obvious to me and it hurt to see him suffering like this.
Because I knew that underneath all those scars he’s carrying was a boy craving for love and attention. And if he allows me to give him that, I’d be more than willing to provide it as long as I could.
The nurse began to do her thing—taking Liam’s blood pressure, doing chest auscultation, and checking out if he got some wounds or bruises she needed to patch. Fortunately, there was none on Liam’s body. Even after she removed his dress shirt, aside from the many scars and tattoos on his tanned skin, Liam’s body was free of any signs of getting beaten up.
So, whose blood was it?
“For now, he will be fine,” the nurse announced, straightening her back as she brushed the locks of hair away from Liam’s face.
“What the hell happened to him?” I asked.
The lady faced me, her face bared from any emotions I was expecting her to show. I mean, this was a student who just fainted. Wouldn’t she show any concern for him? I’m sure she knew who Liam was.
“Anxiety attack,” she said, her voice cold and distant. “It’s a common occurrence for this kid.”
“And is that supposed to be normal?” I asked as sarcastic as I could. I’m aware I’m acting like a rude bitch but right now, I’m agitated that this happened to Liam.
“In his case, yes,” the nurse replied nonchalantly. “He’s Tyler’s favorite punching bag after all.”
“Tyler?” Who the f*ck was that?
The nurse stared at Liam’s face before answering. “Yeah, the student council president.”
“And why in the world is Liam his punching bag?” I asked.
“Look, kid, I don’t know much about their f*cked-up relationship, but one thing I know is that Liam’s so close to his breaking point, one more push and he’ll—” She stopped and heaved a long sigh. “Let’s just say this kid’s as fragile as a damn glass. Someone needs to take care of him before he disappears.”
I narrowed my eyes at her. Looking back at Liam, I closed my hands into a fist. Hearing someone talk about Liam like this hurt so damn bad. We’re the same age and yet he had scars that no kid should have.
What the hell happened to you before we met, Liam?
“Anyway, he needed a nap and good rest before he can go back to his class,” the nurse said. “I’ll take care of him. You two go back to your classrooms.”
I glared at her. “No, I’ll stay here.”
I heard Leander gasp. “What? You can’t do that, Isaiah. We’ll be sent to detention and they’ll punish us!”
The nurse smirked. “Your friend is right. Missing a class is a grave sin here in North Vale. Not that the students care,” she added the last part in a small voice.
“I’m staying here,” I said, my shoulders tensed. I’m ready to fight these two but no one would be able to tear me apart from Liam, not when he’s in this condition. The nurse did say she’s going to take care of him, but I wanted to make sure he’d be fine.
And I wanted to know why this happened to him.
Who was this Tyler and what relationship did he have with Liam?
The more I get close with Liam, the more I desire to know what he’s hiding. And I knew at the back of my head that digging deeper into Liam’s world would bring nothing but danger. Yet even if I’m aware of how scary it could get for me, I couldn’t stop myself from getting close to him.
“Please…please just let me stay,” I begged. I hated hearing my voice sounding so desperate but if I had to beg, then so be it.
The nurse narrowed her eyes at me. I thought she’d try and push me out of the clinic but to my surprise, she shrugged her shoulders and said, “fine, whatever. It’ll take some time for Liam to wake up but you can stay as long as you want. Just remember that it’s not my fault that you’re going to detention.”
She walked past me and Leander, closing the door and leaving the two of us with Liam.
“This isn’t really a good idea, Isaiah,” Leander said, panicking over the fact that we’re cutting classes. Even if I pick up fights and acts like a gangster, I don’t think I ever cut classes. Stephanie and I took our studies so seriously that escaping classes during school hours never passed our minds.
“I told you to go back to class, Leander. But I’m staying here.” I pulled the sofa chair, placing it next to the bed to watch Liam. The slow rising and falling of his chest as he slept without a care of the world calmed me down a little.
“Ugh, damn it.” Leander plopped down on the couch across from where the bed was, crossing his arms while sporting a defeated scowl.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Staying here. It’s already too late to go back to class,” he said. “Besides, you agreed to come with me to the canteen to eat together. This is to show my gratitude for that.”
I scoffed, giving him a relieved grin. “Thanks. You don’t like owing people anything, huh?” I commented.
“No, not really,” Leander said, looking away.
We were quiet for a few minutes before I finally decided to ask him how he knew about Liam. “I guess this guy is famous or something, huh?” I said, acting as if I didn’t know Liam personally. I didn’t want Leander to know that we had some kind of budding relationship.
“Yes, of course, he’s famous. He’s a Torres-Shao. His family owns this place,” he said in a matter-of-fact. “And yes, I also know him because almost every girl in our class has a crush on him.”
That’s something I didn’t want to know. But I wouldn’t be surprised, my Liam’s a really good-looking guy. He’s quite soft-spoken for someone who attends a rehabilitation school and I’m sure the girls liked how much of a gentleman he was. Most boys our age tends to be an asshole. Yet Liam still holds a domineering aura that makes them fall over and over again.
“Then do you know who this Tyler guy is?”
I saw fear flashed on Leander’s face, his eyes going wide and his lips forming a straight line. His jaws tensed before he could answer. “Tyler Torres-Shao. He’s the current student council president and that guy…he’s feared by everyone in the school.”
“And why is that?” I asked with a raised brow.
Leander scoffed. “Because he can kill you? The Torres-Shao is involved in a lot of things and they’re infamous for being drug lords.” I blinked at him, wondering how he knew all these things. I did know about the Torres-Shao’s other questionable businesses, but Leander talked about it like he’s certain they’re into illegal stuff. “And yes, they also kill people for money.”
“What?” I asked, horrified.
“If someone tries to double-cross the Torres-Shao, you better confess all your sins and beg for forgiveness because they’re going to hunt you down, to the ends of the world just to you and the people you love and care about a lesson.” Leander’s eyes turned serious, dropping down his naïve façade. “The Torres-Shao brothers, including Liam, belongs to a Chinese syndicate operating here in the Philippines. And from what they said, they’re affiliated with various Mafia groups not only here in Asia but outside as well.”
I stared at him in disbelief. How did he know all this? Sure, some people might say that the Torres-Shao was Mafia, but there hadn’t been any proof of that. It was all rumors, after all, and even if they were real, the government was doing a good job of protecting them. I guess Liam’s family pays them a great amount of money to hush things down.
“How come you know so much about the Torres-Shao?” I asked.
Suddenly, Leander gasped as if I asked him a million-peso question. “I-it’s a well-known fact, you know!” he said, laughing nervously at me. “The Torres-Shao is a very famous family, and a lot of people are curious about them.”
That sounded like an excuse but whatever. I eyed Liam in worry, resisting the urge to hold his hand. I would have done it if it wasn’t for Leander being in the same room.
“Are you friends with Liam Torres-Shao?” he asked out of nowhere.
I bit my lip. I do want to be his friend, get to know him first before thinking of anything else. But what about Liam? What does he think of me? Was he just interested because I’m different from other people?
I wanted to know what he thinks of me.
“He’s my friend,” I said. Taking my eyes off Liam to look at Leander, I smiled a genuine one. “I think he’s not as bad as others say he is.”
Leander’s brows furrowed. He didn’t like what I said about Liam and I didn’t need to ask why he looked as if he was disgusted at what I said. This guy believed he knew everything there was to know about Liam just because of some rumors. But he didn’t know Liam as I do. Sure, we only talked for a couple of hours and it’s not enough for me to defend someone I barely know, but still, I knew in my heart that Liam was good.
“Just a little warning, Isaiah,” Leander said. “Liam’s a dangerous guy. He and his family.”
Leander decided to attend the last class. He told me he’d explain to the homeroom teacher why we didn’t attend the afternoon class. He was confident we’d let us go as he’s going to use Liam’s name and influence to save us from detention.
I stayed with Liam. He woke up at around four in the afternoon, his eyelids fluttering open. I smiled in relief as soon as I saw him getting up, confused as to where he was.
“What happened?” he asked while running a hand through his tousled hair.
“You fainted and I brought you to the clinic,” I said. “And may I add, you scared the shit out of me too.”
“I…what?” His grey eyes reflected fear after realizing what just happened to him. “No, Paolo. Where is he?” he asked, panicking.
“I don’t know. He wasn’t with you when you passed out.” I was irritated that the person he’s looking for was that prick.
Liam covered his face with his hands and groaned. “Damn it, where’s Lorraine?” he asked.
“Yes, the nurse.”
“She’s outside. She said she’d take care of you, but she hasn’t come in for like hours,” I said. And I didn’t bother calling her as Liam was sleeping too soundly. I didn’t want her to interrupt his rest.
“She’s probably being f*cked again,” he whispered.
“Excuse me?” I asked, appalled at what just came out of his mouth.
Liam turned to look at me, a scowl playing on his lips. “What are you doing here, Isaiah?”
My eyebrows creased in anger. Did this idiot just ask why I’m still here? Wasn’t my concern for him not obvious? “I don’t know, maybe because you fainted when we met and I’m just too kind not to leave you unconscious on the floor? You know, like what a normal human being with a heart will do if he sees someone who needs help?” I answered as sassily as I could. I wanted Liam to notice that I didn’t like this attitude he’s showing me.
“You shouldn’t have done that,” he said exasperatedly.
“So, you’re saying the right thing to do is leave you there?”
“F*ck that,” I snapped all of a sudden. I stood up from the couch and glared at him. “I’m so sorry I saved you. Clearly, that was a mistake. I would have thanked me if I were you, but you do you.”
I was about to storm out of the room, but a hand stopped me from going. I looked back and saw Liam pouting, his eyes cast low as if he’s guilty of what he just did. His hand tightened around mine and with a small voice, he said, “I’m sorry.”
My heart melted in an instant. This apology sounded so sincere that I sat back down in defeat. He didn’t need to explain why he’s acting like a total bitch, his apology was more than enough for me to forgive him.
“I just…a lot happened, and I don’t want to involve you with my…shit,” he said as careful as he could, as if he was talking to a child to make him understand why he said those things. I didn’t give a damn if he’s insulting my IQ right now, I’m sure he didn’t mean it.
“A little thank you would be nice too,” I added, smirking at him.
Liam’s cheeks turned red and he averted his gaze off me, turning away to hide his embarrassment. “I-I’m sorry too. For everything. I’m sure I caused you trouble.”
“Sure, you did. I cut class for you. That’s the very first time I did that too,” I said as I snickered.
“What?” Turning his head back to look at me, his eyes widened in shock. “Is it really your first time?”
“Yes. I might not look like it but I’m a very studious guy,” I said as I grinned at him. “Not because I like studying. I just don’t want to fail any of my subjects.”
“You’re responsible then, I respect that,” Liam said, smiling shyly at me. “I’m sorry for making you miss your class. I can tell your teacher what happened and—”
“Already did that,” I said, stopping him from taking his phone out to call the teacher like it’s an ordinary thing to do. Sure, just call them like they’re your friends, it astonished me that he even had a teacher’s number on his phone. Or maybe he’s going to call his asshole of a brother to ask him a favor.
I don’t want that.
“My friend Leander is going to explain why we missed class,” I answered proudly.
“Yes, he’s a classmate. And he helped me bring you here.”
Liam nodded. “Then I owe him an apology. And a thanks too.”
“You do. But I want to know what happened to you, Liam.” I erased my playful smile as I stared at him.
“Nothing happened. I was just…exhausted. It was a long night last night, I didn’t get much sleep.”
“Sure, but is being deprived of sleep needs your knuckles to be covered in blood?” I asked.
Liam gasped, quickly looking at his already cleaned hands only to see the skin on his knuckles peeling off. He hid it under the sheet and smiled nervously at me. “No…I don’t remember much what happened. Sorry.”
“You are so lying.”
He froze and looked at me in disbelief. “I’m not lying.”
I scoffed. “Yes, you are, and you just did it again.”
We stared for the longest time before he finally sighed, defeated by my exceptional observation. “You’re really something, Isaiah. I like that about you.”
My heart skipped a beat. I decided to ignore it as I was more concerned about what happened to Liam than what he just said. We could talk about that more in the future, but this was far more important. Well, at least for now. “So, tell me what happened. I heard from the nurse that this was your brother’s work. Was it?”
Liam’s jaws clenched as he looked at everything except me. “Yes, my brother. He’s…eccentric.”
“Why? Because he forces you to beat someone up?” I asked.
Liam laughed. “Are you some sort of wizard that you can see what happened in the past?” he asked jokingly.
“No, that’ll be amazing if I am but I’m not.” Staring at his injured knuckles, I sighed. “It’s not that hard to tell what happened…I just want to know why.”
He was quiet for a second. “My brother Tyler, he…he wants me to be someone who I’m not.”
“And he does these things because of that?” I asked.
“Yes.” Liam smiled bitterly. “I told you I have three older brothers, two of them are managing their own business, the other one, Tyler…he’s the one who…he’s my guardian.” I narrowed my eyes at him but let him continue explaining the absurd relationship he had with his brother. “Tyler is very strict. He and my father have high expectations of me to take over the family business.”
“Business…as in the drug business?” I wasn’t afraid to ask difficult and dangerous questions to the guy himself. Yes, asking about what kind of family business they had was not what an ordinary person would do—no one wanted to get involved with the syndicate or Mafia or whatever crime organization Liam belonged to.
Liam slowly nodded his head. “I won’t lie. Everyone in North Vale knows who we are and what we do. Soon, you’ll know too.” He smiled in agony and I felt the pain in the words he was about to say next, “you’ll come to despise me too if you knew about what we do. What I do.”
He was looking away, afraid of what I’m going to say to him. Was he expecting I’d castigate him for something he didn’t have control over? “But you’re not like your family, right?”
Liam stared at me for a long, hard time. Finally, he shook his head as he bit his lip to stop himself from crying. “No, of course not. I want a normal life. Not the same life my father and brother want for me. I just want…” He stopped and let out a wistful sigh. “I don’t know what I even want. I spend my whole life taking orders from dad and Tyler…I‘m not even sure who I am anymore.”
I listened closely to every word he’s saying. I was right about the loneliness he’s covering up. I would have been turned off by all the drama and shit he’s burdened with, but I couldn’t help but fall for him even more. The cloud of despair that hangs around him attracted me, a broken soul that needed mending.
Slowly, I reached out for his hand and held it. It felt so cold and stiff. He was about to pull away, but I held it tighter. Grinning, I said, “you’re too young to be having an identity crisis, Liam.”
We both stifled a laugh that immediately lifted the grim mood between us. “I understand that your family matter is very complicated now. And I didn’t get that from the first time we met.” Back at the fast-food restaurant that I considered our first date, at least to me.
“Are you regretting that you’ve met me?” he asked.
I looked at Liam before replying. “I’m still here.”
That put a smile on his face. “Thanks. That…you don’t know how much that means to me.”
He squeezed my hand tight, the coldness of his skin thawing thanks to my warmth. I really wanted to kiss him, but I held back. I didn’t want to scare Liam away. What he needed right now was a friend who would understand his situation, not another opportunistic slut that would take advantage of his weakness.
I wanted Liam to trust me.
“Now, tell me where I can find your brother.”
He raised his head to look at me, confused. “Why?”
I smirked at him. “Because I’m going to teach him a lesson.”
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