‘Pain, being hurt, emotionally drained, all are part of life. But remember, suffering is a choice.’
~ Ashish Jain
Asher just stared at her, not knowing what to say. He glanced around to see the drunkards groaning in pain and brought his eyes back to the icy cold ones, which were mirroring his expression. He noticed the blood on her neck and her arms, making him suck in a breath. He immediately ran to her side, pulling her to him.
“Are you alright?” He mentally slapped himself as soon as the words escaped his mouth. Of course, she was not alright. He noticed one of the beaten-up retards trying to get up and he could not control the rage that filled him. He took a step towards him, to break his bones but was stopped by a tug of his shirt.
“Don’t”, she muttered under her breath. She slowly made her way to her bag on the ground, picked it up and turned around to face him.
“Thanks for helping me out.”
“I didn’t do anything.”
“Oh, you did. Let’s just it would not have ended well for me if you had not come this way.” She ignored his questioning gaze and started to walk off in the other direction towards her home.
“Where are you going?” He could not help but feel speechless that she was just going to walk away from him as if nothing happened.
" Um, home?” It came out as question more than an answer.
“Are you joking right now?” He sounded amazed and angry at the same time. Before she could reply, he grabbed her arm, being careful not to be too tight and pulled her towards his car. “And don’t you dare say anything right now.”
He opened the passenger door and gently but firmly pushed her in. He ran to the driver’s side and got in.
“We should call the police.” His hand reached for his phone but she slapped it away.
“Because I don’t want to.” She wanted nothing more than to see them all behind the bars, but it only meant more attention on her. The better-not-argue-with-me look on her face made him shut up.
“Where do you live? I will drop you off. And I am not taking no for an answer.”
This reminded her of their encounter on her way home and she could not help but smirk.
“That one.” She pointed at a random house a few yards away from where they were.
He sighed at her reply and took that moment to properly look at her face. He took in her piercing blue eyes framed with dark lashes, her pale skin, her soft ruby lips, the way her head was completely covered by her hoodie. It was as if he was in a trance.
“Keep doing that and I will gauge your eyes out.” This made him look away.
“Come on, seriously, where do you live?”
“Why would I tell you that? How am I supposed to know you are not like them?” She motioned her head outside.
“You know me. We go to the same school.” He sounded exasperated already.
“Well, you might be into drug dealing or a mafia gang as a hobby. Who knows.” She was rather enjoying this. Getting under people’s nerves was like second nature to her.
“Astrid please. You are hurt. You need medical attention.”
She glanced at her wounds and shrugged.
“There are just normal cuts. No big deal.”
He was done with her at that point.
“Listen. I will give you two options. One, you tell me where your house and I will drop you off. Two, I am taking you to the hospital.”
“Three, you can just mind your own business and pretend you never saw all this.” She tried to open the door only to realize that it was locked. She suddenly felt suffocated. And angry. This reminded her of certain things. Things that she wanted to forget.
“Open the goddamn door, Starr. Don’t test me. I am really not in the mood right now.”
She raised her fist and was about to bash his face in when her phone rang. She lowered her hand and glowered at him. He smirked at her and motioned her to answer her phone. She glanced at the caller id and saw that it was her aunt calling.
“What is the time right now?” she asked Asher panicking, without answering her phone.
He was taken aback by the colourful words that left her mouth. She quickly answered her phone.
“Where are you right now?” The panic and anger in her tone did not escape Astrid’s ears.
“I am sorry. I am at a friend’s house right now. For a project. I forgot to tell you.” Even she was surprised at how smoothly the lie came from her mouth. Asher cocked his head in confusion at what she said.
Astrid knew, from the hesitation in her aunt’s tone, that she wanted to ask more questions and was not convinced but knew better than to ask.
“If you say so. When will you come home?”
“Tomorrow. It is a Saturday.” How convenient, she thought.
“Okay then. Just don’t do this again. You have no idea how scared I was. I thought someone kidnapped you.” Tina laughed at a little at the end. Astrid also wanted to join her, considering the irony for the statement.“Take care.” She hung up.
“A project? Seriously?” Asher asked.
“Shut up.” she grumbled. “Open the door.”
“Why did you lie to you mom? And don’t you dare tell me it is none of my business.” She did not bother correcting him. It was not like she was going to speak to him again after this night.
“I did not want them to see me like this. They will ground me.” Lies. Again. She was a walking lie spewer.
“Where are you going to stay then?”
“I will find a way. Now open the door.”
Instead of opening the door, he took out his phone and quickly clicked a picture of her.
“What the hell are you doing?” Before she could reach for it, he put it away safely in his jean pocket, knowing that she would not dare touch him there.
“Now, if you complain about anything, I am showing that picture to your mom,” he said, grinning like an idiot. Astrid knew she had lost this round. And she was too exhausted to fight. She sighed and placed her head against the cool window. He put on his seatbelt and started the car. He looked at her and reached over her. She quickly held up her fist, making him recoil back into his seat.
“Seatbelt,” he muttered at her. “Damn woman, no need to be so violent.”
Astrid swore at him and flipped him off before putting on her seatbelt.
“Where are you taking me? If you think you can just sell me off or something, you have another thing coming for you, buddy. Or if you are going to kill me and dump my body in a trash can or something, just make it quick.”
He chuckled at her words. “I am taking you to my home.”
“Woah, hold it. What makes you think I am going to let you do that?”
He simply pulled his phone out and waved it at her, making sure to put it back before she could reach for it. She simply spewed profanities at him.
“Your vocabulary is amazing”, he laughed.
“Don’t think you can hold that over my head for long, Starr. I will get my revenge. Just you wait.” The promise in her words made a chill run down his spine. “And don’t you dare cross the speed limit.”
Her eyes were starting to droop close but she fought to keep it open. Asher, noticing her struggle, said ” You can just sleep, you know. I won’t try anything.”
But that was not why she did not want to go to sleep. It was her nightmares that were stopping her. She did not want to have one of her episodes in front of him.
“You won’t live to see tomorrow if you do.” His deep laugh was all that she heard before she succumbed into the arms of sleep.
Do share your opinions on the chapter. What do you think of their interactions? Are they moving too fast?
Question of the chapter: If you can be one fictional character, who would it be?
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