Shraddha - Chapter 1
I really needed an alarm.
When I first started college, my roommate and best friend, Angoor, had suggested that I buy myself an alarm clock to be on time for classes. Being the stupid, denial freshman that I was, I didn’t heed his subtle warning and proceeded to continue to decorate my side of the room to however I pleased.
It was my first time away from home, and while I was a bit upset to leave Graham and Cassie, I promised them that I’d visit every break, so they were satisfied. They didn’t want to let me go at first. They wanted me to stay home and do online college instead, but Angoor found a way to convince them otherwise. He was the one who helped me apply to different places and pack my bags when the time came.
Angoor was a year older than me, even though we were now both seniors in college. I don’t remember how long we had been friends, but I do know that he was my best friend. Without a doubt, I could trust Angoor with anything and everything. He helped me through every block in my life, and if he hadn’t been with me, then I probably wouldn’t be where I was now.
Usually, whenever it came to school and advice, I would always go to Angoor, and I would always heed his words. He had experienced freshman year of college twice. He knew the dos and don’ts of young adult freedom.
And buying an alarm clock was most definitely a do.
I found out the hard way on the last week of our senior year semester, when I woke to a bucket of cold water plummeting on my head, only for the water to splash on my sheets and the bottom of the bucket to land directly on my face...
What a perfect wake up call.
I shot up, hacking and shouting. Somewhere beside me, I could hear Angoor cackling. Well, there was my perpetrator.
Once I managed to wipe the excess water from my eyes and toss the bucket off my bed, I ripped the warm covers from my body, the chill of the air slicing through me.
“What the hell, Angoor?” I snapped, leveling a glare at my friend. Well, as threatening as a glare could be from a hazel-eyed, round-faced Indian girl.
Angoor smirked, his lips curling into a wolfish smile. “What? I told you to get an alarm, didn’t I? Well, guess what? Now you’re going to be late for school if you don’t get your ass up and get ready.”
“What?!” I jumped out of bed, indifferent whether or not if the covers fell from the mattress. I dashed to the bathroom Angoor and I shared, trying to get ready as fast as I could.
Angoor chuckled. “Yeah. It’s almost eight.” He leaned by my bed. “Still regret not buying that clock as I told you to?”
“No,” I managed between breaths. “I regret deciding to room with you for four years of my fucking life.”
Angoor laughed loudly, and I couldn’t help but laugh with him as I brushed my hair. I decided to let it loose, the magenta strands coiling just underneath my breasts.
“I still can’t believe that you were born with magenta hair,” Angoor said after a few moments, studying me as I smoothed my shirt.
“What’s so weird about that?” I asked, brushing my bangs to the side and tugging my jeans up on my hips. Angoor tossed me my sneakers, smiling.
“There’s nothing weird about it. It’s just...interesting. Nobody’s ever been born with hair color like yours,” he corrected.
I shrugged. “I guess I’m just different,” I said.
“Different is a good thing, though,” Angoor said. “it means that you’re unique. That you’re one of a kind.”
Giggling, I pushed his shoulder playfully. “I know, dork. I’m just saying. I don’t mind being different. I like it.” I grabbed my books. “It makes me feel like a superhero.”
“You are a hero, in my eyes, at least,” Angoor said, following me out our dorm door with his own books. “You’ve always been my hero ever since you stood up for me.”
“They were bullying you for something that you weren’t at fault for,” I said firmly. “You don’t choose who you fall in love with, Angoor, you just do. I don’t blame you for it.”
“Yeah, but Jace was an asshole,” Angoor mumbled. “I’m over him though. I’ve got my eyes on someone else.”
“Really?” I sighed as the teasing warm hands of summer caressed my face. “Who?”
Angoor grinned, looking like a mischievous schoolgirl. “Cameron.”
“Cameron?!” I did a double-take. “Like, Finnegan Kazar’s best friend? Popular, jock Cameron?”
“Since when is he gay?” I asked, still a bit shocked. “I thought he was dating Reese?”
“He was,” Angoor agreed. “Until Reese cheated on him with Jaime. He’s single now. And when you’re single, you should be ready to mingle, right?”
“Maybe,” I murmured. “But be careful, okay? Not only are you guys from two different leagues, but he’s also just out of a relationship that broke. I would be wary of his heart.”
Angoor rolled his eyes. “Got it, got it. Geez, you really should write poetry one day.”
I grinned. “Nah. I prefer drawing. Writing is fun, but I think drawing is way better.”
“Tell that to J.K. Rowling,” Angoor scoffed.
I smiled, but let our conversation die with Angoor’s words, taking in the view of the campus instead. It wasn’t very large, but that was only because it was difficult to get in.
It was mostly square-shaped, trees, and benches making up the inner part of the square. The classrooms and other fraternizing areas filled the building, but I had never been on the second floor. All of the classes that I was taking were on the first floor, and teachers always had their supplies before class, so I had no need to go.
“What do you think of Finnegan?” Angoor asked after a few beats of silence.
“Finnegan? Or Cameron?”
“Why? Do you think that he’s cute too?” I teased, nudging Angoor’s shoulder.
He blushed, turning away. “Nah. Finnegan’s straight, anyway. I’m all in for Cameron. But what do you think of him?”
I bit my lip, gazing at the clear blue ocean above me. “Well, I don’t really know Finnegan much to make a judgment on him. We’ve only ever talked during short-term projects, but he seems like a nice guy. He’s very friendly, if not, a bit intimidating at times.”
“He is tall,” Angoor mused.
I nodded. “Yeah. I guess he’s every girl’s dream guy, physically wise.”
“No. I’d have to get to know his personality before I say so,” I said. “He may be good looking, but if Finnegan and I ever become something more than acquaintances, then he’d better not be a jackass.”
“He’s a nice guy when you get to know him, Shraddha,” Angoor assured. “Think of him like...an Alpha...yeah, an Alpha.”
“Alpha?” I questioned. “Like, the letter? Or the werewolf?”
Angoor rolled his eyes. “Werewolf, duh. Wait...” he glanced at me again. “How did you know about Alphas?”
I chuckled, tapping his head gently. “Uh, Twilight, duh,” I repeated playfully. “Why? Was I not supposed to know?”
Angoor’s chest dropped, and he shook his head, licking his lips. “No, no, it’s fine. It’s just—Look! It’s Cameron!”
A laugh escaped my lips at the comical expression passing over Angoor’s face when he saw his crush, who was speaking to Finnegan on the sidelines. If they noticed us, they didn’t say anything, or at least, they didn’t show it.
“Should I go over?” Angoor whispered to me, peering at the boys from over my shoulder.
I smirked, shrugging. “I don’t know. Do you want me to ask Cameron out for you?”
Angoor scowled at me, and I broke down laughing again. “I don’t know, Angoor! Do what you want to do!”
“But I don’t know what I want to do!” Angoor complained.
I regarded the boys again, both of them laughing and chattering as though there was no school today, which made me briefly wonder if there was even class, before shaking the feeling away. “Why don’t you go talk to him then. Cameron can’t fall in love with a rock, after all.”
Angoor whimpered, and I sighed, glancing at my watch. We had fifteen minutes anyway.
“What if I come with you?” I suggested, hoping I wouldn’t regret playing third-wheel again. Jace was bad enough...
Angoor’s eyes lit up. “Really?! Thank you so much, Shraddha!”
He threw his arms around me, and I staggered to hold his weight before I could return his hug, beaming.
Now pumped and full of energy, Angoor puffed up his chest, walking (more like waddling) towards Finnegan and Cameron, two of the jocks and part of the unofficial popular group.
Just my luck.
As we made our way towards them, I didn’t notice Angoor slide his foot in my path (or the smirk as he did so.) Flailing, a short scream made it’s way out of my mouth before I took a tumble, falling into something sturdy and warm—
And something that definitely wasn’t the ground.
I looked up, catching the dark orbs of Finnegan Kazar in mine as the sun’s bright rays flashed between us. His dark blue hair formed a canopy around his face and his eyes widened. Something rumbled from his throat, and carefully, he lifted me back to my feet, bending down to give me my backpack.
“Are you okay?” He asked, his voice deep and rough. Had his voice always been that deep? Or was it just that I didn’t pay attention to him when he spoke?
I swallowed, nibbling on my lip. “I’m okay, thanks. I should apologize, though. I didn’t mean to fall on you.”
“Oh, you didn’t,” Finn commented airily. “I moved in front of you so that you wouldn’t fall on the ground. Um...” he looked away, scratching the back of his neck. “I-I hope that was okay?”
“Okay?” I repeated. “You saved me from a trip to the nurse’s office. Of course, it’s okay!”
His dark eyes met mine again, and was it just me, or did they seem darker than usual? Not like the night sky. More like emeralds in the dark.
“Well, that’s good then,” he agreed. We both glanced at our friends. They didn’t meet our eyes, casually chatting as if we didn’t exist.
Finnegan gave a huffing laugh, turning back to me. “I really want to say something, but to be honest, ever since Reese, I’ve been hoping for Cameron to find someone better.”
I smiled. “And you think Angoor is better than Reese?”
Finnegan nodded. “Definitely. He’s more grounded than Reese ever was.” He fingered his collar. “Um, we have History together, right?”
“Yeah. You sit behind me, Finnegan,” I deadpanned. He chuckled, the sound rumbling deep from his toned chest.
Damn it! Stop that, Shraddha! I scolded myself, waiting for Finn to finish his statement. You don’t even know him! Yes, he may be good looking, but...
“You don’t have to call me by my full name, Shraddha,” Finnegan said, and it made my heart leap knowing that he knew my name. It sounded even better coming from his mouth, though. “You can call me Finn. Finnegan is too tedious to say.”
“I like that name,” I blurted before I could stop and think about what I was saying. “I think it suits you.”
Finn smiled. “Thank you. I think your name suits you too.”
I cocked my head to the side, frowning. “You know what my name means?”
He nodded. “I can speak Hindi, among other languages.”
I giggled. “That’s cool! Wish I could do that, but no, I’m not lucky, at all.”
Frowning, he stepped closer to me. “What do you mean?”
My breath hitched in my throat at our proximity, blocking any other voices except for Finn’s deep baritone. “My life hasn’t been the best. With everything going on, I’m anything but lucky.”
“I wouldn’t say that,” Finn murmured. “But I’m lucky.”
“Because I’ve been meaning to talk to you for so long. I’ve never gotten the chance to, though,” he admitted, biting his lip.
God damn you, Finn, I cursed internally. “Really? I’ve been meaning to talk to you too, but I didn’t think you’d want to talk to someone like me.”
“What do you mean?” The smile fell from Finn’s face, and immediately, I felt terrible. “Why wouldn’t I want to talk to you? You’re sweet, smart, amazing!” He sighed. “Of course, I wanted to talk to you!”
“Well, we’re speaking now, so...” I trailed off, smiling awkwardly. “Um...sorry again about the fall thing.”
Finn waved my words aside, stepping even closer to me. His coffee scent wafted to my nose, intoxicating. I couldn’t help but sniff him.
“Don’t worry about it, Shraddha,” he said again, this time, with finality in his tone. “I didn’t want you to get hurt, and...” he caught my gaze. “It felt good.”
My words suddenly felt heavy. “What did?” I found myself whispering.
Finn leaned closer, his lips brushing my ear, his muscled chest pressing against mine. His words were calm, soft, but also hard, as if he were holding back from something.
“I’m—What?” I looked up from the textbook that I was studying, pinching my eyebrows at Angoor’s singsong voice.
“Your cheeks are red and you haven’t stopped shaking ever since you talked to Finn,” he explained.
I rolled my eyes, turning back to the book that I clasped in my fingers. “No, I’m not blushing,” I replied a bit harshly.
“Mhm,” Angoor hummed, disbelieving. He took a seat beside me, since Mr. Smyth never assigned seats for us. He believed it discouraged us from socializing.
Then again, he also taught 8th grade for ten years.
“...You don’t believe me, do you?” I asked after a tense moment of silence passed through us.
“Nope,” Angoor said, popping his lips. They were glossy, probably from the lip-gloss I gave him—the one that I never used.
“Why not? You can’t date someone you just met,” I asked, bending down to pick up the pencil that I had dropped. From the gaps of my desk, I could see Finn approaching, Cameron and another girl close behind.
Something sparked inside of me at seeing another girl by his side, something that was a bit difficult to control. It was burning, and angry.
Jealousy, I thought. I felt disgusted. I had just moved to friendly terms with Finn and here I was, feeling jealous over a girl that had been at his side for so long.
“That would be Finn’s cousin, Anne,” Angoor drawled, as if sensing my feelings.
I shot up to glare at him, and he chuckled. “Well, it was a bit obvious.”
“I shouldn’t be feeling this,” I hissed to myself, clenching my jaw. The fire was abrupt, sudden. I wasn’t expecting it—
And I hated it.
“Hey,” Finn’s voice drew me out of my thoughts, and out of the corner of my eye, I could see Angoor snickering.
“Hi...again,” I mumbled, sucking on my bottom lip. Finn’s eyes darkened, but that was probably because Mr. Smyth pulled the blinds down.
“Are you ready for class?” He asked, setting his books on his desk. I tried not to get distracted by his muscles flexing through his shirt and nodded.
“Uh, yeah. I-I am ready.” I smiled. “History has always been my favorite subject.”
“Really? I thought you liked writing?” Finn asked.
“I do. I just like History and Art more,” I said, sighing. “One day, I want to be a children’s author. That way, I can both write and illustrate books for children.”
“Do you like children?”
“I do,” I admitted. “I want one of my own one day, but I also volunteer at the YMCA as my day job,” I explained. “It’s how I pay my college fees.”
“Your parents don’t help you?”
I faltered. “Um, no, no, they don’t,” I mumbled.
Finn faltered. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”
“You didn’t make me uncomfortable, don’t worry,” I said, smiling at him. He smiled back at me, then he laughed.
“What’s so funny?” I asked, feeling Anne take a seat behind me. I didn’t get a good look at her, though, and probably wouldn’t be able to until later in the day.
“Nothing—It’s just...” Finn reached over our desks, his fingers brushing against my jaw and sending a flurry of tingles down my spine. “You look exceptionally cute when you’re excited.”
My mouth parted. “I-I do?” I asked, unsure as to where my voice disappeared.
Finn chuckled, his thumb brushing over my bottom lip. “Yes, you most certainly do,” he affirmed, pulling away.
I could hear a small whimper leave my mouth, and immediately, I covered it. I hoped Finn didn’t hear it, but if he did, he didn’t show it. His lips remained clamped, his beautiful, plush pink lips.
Very kissable lips.
Fuck! What’s your problem, Shraddha?! I scolded myself, aware of Mr. Smyth taking his place at the center of the class. Stop feeling like this! Finn is just a friend, just a friend, just a friend...
More than a friend...
“Shit,” I heard Finn curse under his breath. I regarded him from underneath the folds of my hands, noticing his eyes darting from what seemed to be me.
Was he looking at me? I thought. Excitement sparked in me. What did he see, though? If he was even looking at me.
“Good morning, everybody,” Mr. Smyth greeted cheerfully, beaming at all of our dead expressions. Deep down, I felt kind of sorry for Mr. Smyth. He tried his hardest to make class exciting and fun, and all we did in return was make faces and groan.
Well, most of us, at least.
“What are we doing today, Mr. Smyth?” Anne asked, her voice loud and boisterous, nothing like Finn’s soft, seductive voice with an underlay of power. No, hers was impulsive, brash.
“Today, I have a project for you all,” Mr. Smyth said, reaching behind his desk. He pulled out a clipboard and a pile of packets, setting the papers on his desk.
“For your final grade, you and a partner will be working on a history project,” he continued. “You and your partner will draw a battle from the Revolutionary War and write an essay on what you drew and why you drew it. The rest of the directions will be in the packet. At the end of the week, you will present your work to the class.”
“Does it have to be partner work?” Cameron asked.
“Yes, Cameron. I believe that working with someone else will help strengthen your bonds, especially since you will be out of school soon,” Mr. Smyth replied.
“Do we get to pick our partners?” A girl, Rhea, asked.
“No, Rhea. I have already assigned you partners that I think you will work best with for this project,” Mr. Smyth said. “Now, to start off, Shraddha and—!”
Please don’t be Finn. Please don’t be Finn! I begged silently, knowing that my heart would burst if we were partnered up.