The day had not been going well for Rosa.
First, the proprietor came knocking on her door as early as 5 am to remind her that her rent was due in a few days. He warned her to pay him early so he was aware she was still interested in living there, or she leaves at the end of the month. He made it clear to her that he was running a business not a charity, much to her annoyance.
Rosa did not forget to inform him that she was leaving at the end of the month.
The rent had gone up to the extent that she could no longer afford it. Even though, the apartment was beautiful, she knew she had to let it go. The three jobs she was joggling-to pay the rent-was weighing on her and her studies.
Lately, schoolwork had swamped her. Making it impossible for her to keep up with her jobs. Moreover, she could not risk ignoring schoolwork because she had a GPA of 3.5 to maintain or, she would lose her scholarship. Therefore, she had made up her mind to quit one of her waiting jobs. This would give her enough time to tackle schoolwork and search for a new apartment.
After the proprietor’s visit, Rosa had quickly showered and left to school. Today, she had just one lecture and then she would be free for the rest of the day.
Rosa got into the Literature class and sat at the back as usual. She liked to keep to herself and stay out of everyone’s way. College kids could be brutal sometimes and she’d rather have her nose stuck between the pages of a book than get mixed up with people’s drama.
As usual, the lecturer came in and they discussed a few things from the book they were studying. Things had been going well, until he announced groupings for assignments.
Rosa almost screamed in frustration.
Why? Because she disliked group assignments.
Why did he have to put them in groups? She would rather work alone than getting stuck with people who were non-serious. They would always leave all the work for her and a few others to do and then later, they would chase her to get their names and index numbers on the paper before submission. Moreover, they would never show up whenever they set a time and place for discussion of the assignment. Later, they would call to give all sorts of excuses; from I was busy with other assignments to, I could not locate the venue of the meeting.
In short, she hated group assignments.
Rosa was a bit relieved when the lecturer announced there would be two people in one group. Even though, it was not what she was hoping for but she would manage with it. Her relief was however, short-lived when she heard Austin Whyte would be her partner.
Gosh, why him? She had thought. Why Austin Whyte?
Rosa had prayed never to cross paths with him, because Austin was the baddest boy one could find on campus. His family was filthy rich and he flaunted it with the lavish cars he drove to school every day. Not to mention the extravagant parties he threw every weekend at his penthouse. Talk about a waste of money.
Because of his lavish ways, girls threw themselves at him. They willingly gave themselves out to him to use as he pleased and then when he was done with them, he disposes them like a tissue. Gosh, the guy was a prick!
Rose did not even see what was so special about him. Yeah, yeah, he was handsome and hot. But so what?
After everything that had, happened to her today, her boss at Barley’s called her to come to work. Today was her day off, why was the man calling for her?
Apparently, a client wanted his friend to see her perform, as a birthday gift to him. He paid a lot of money. Therefore, she had to come to work.
Rosa knew she could not miss this one. Because one, half of the amount paid by that client would be added to her pay check at the end of the month. Two, her boss would kill her if she did not show up. Like literally.
She got to Barley’s an hour early to warm up before her performance. Boss Barley, as she liked to call him, told her the song she would be dancing too and she instantly knew she would enjoy performing tonight. Alley Brooke’s low key had always been a song she personally enjoyed and dancing to it would be the best thing that ever happened to her today.
After her electrifying performance, Rosa was sure nothing would ruin this day again until a knock sounded on her door. Stepping away from the mirror, she quickly opened the door, forgetting that her mask was off. What she saw made her eyes bulge.
Rosa was speechless, shocked, terrified. What was Austin Whyte doing, standing outside her changing room? Their gazes clashed, both of them looking shocked.
Then there was silence.
And more silence.
“Hey!” A voice boomed and Austin averted his gaze. “What are you doing in here?” The voice came back.
Taking one last look at her, Austin dashed away before the guard got to him. Rosa quickly shut her door and leaned against it. With trembling hands, she locked the door and slid to the floor.
I am screwed! She thought, bitterly. Definitely screwed!
Rosa’s mind went into a frenzy. She tried to think of how Austin got to her. She could understand the fact that this was a club and he probably came to party. However, how did he get passed the guard? Only staff could pass through that door, so why did the guard let him through? How did he even know her room? Perhaps did he bribe someone to help him get to her?
Trembling, Rosa wrapped her hands around herself and rubbed away the Goosebumps that formed on her arms. What am I going to do now? She thought to herself. There was no escaping him. Austin was in the same class as her and to top things off; they were partners for the Literature assignment!
This day was one of the worst days of her life.
Getting off the floor, she quickly dressed up. Taking the backdoor, she left the club and rode the bus home. That night Rosa went to bed, dreading what would happen the next day in school.
Rosa woke the following morning, contemplating whether to stay home or go to school. Today was Friday. She had two lectures; Linguistics and African studies. Those courses were not too difficult, so skipping them for one day would not hurt, right? Yes, she would skip class so as not to face Austin.
She could not face him. No, not today.
Just when she made up her mind, her phone dinged and she checked it. It was a message from the class WhatsApp page. The course rep just posted a message that they would be taking a quiz on Linguistics during today’s lecture. Groaning, she flung the phone and sat up in bed.
So, there was no escaping it. She thought.
Rosa took her shower, ate leftover food from last night and got dressed. Packing her books into her school bag, she locked up the apartment and left. The bus ride to school took thirty minutes, as usual.
Rosa moved through campus, looking over her shoulder. Today, she intends to avoid crossing paths with Austin Whyte. Even though, they were offering the same course and attended lectures at the same time, she knew she could avoid him. After all, she never crossed paths with him for the two years she had been in this school. What more, today? She was going to act like nothing happened and she would ignore him if he should ask her about last night. That is, if he sees her in class.
At exactly 8 am, Rosa slipped into the lecture hall. Just a few students were yet in. Scanning the room, she released a breath when she noticed that he was not yet in class. She quickly moved to the back, to her usual position and sat down. Rosa dug into her bag and brought out her textbook, notebook and some stationary.
Slowly, people filtered into the class. Rosa kept her eye on the lookout for Austin Whyte.
No, she was not waiting for him to arrive. Instead, she was only looking out to make sure he did not come in. She hoped it would stay that way. Austin should stay home and not attend lectures today. That would be the best for both of them.
Speak of the devil, Austin suddenly walked in with his friends. There was Ramon, the other hottie among the group. The girls loved him too, because of his Spanish accent. Then there was Jake, the vice chancellor’s son. Finally, there was Caleb. His father owned a multi-million dollar company just like Austin’s dad.
Rosa quickly picked up her textbook, opened it and pretended to read something from it. Her heart started pounding in her chest. Her palms and forehead sweated profusely and her hands trembled. It was as if she was caught stealing meat from the pot, but this feeling, this dreadful feeling that suddenly engulfed her was even worse.
Rose slowly peeked over the top of the book at him. Almost instantly, he turned her way-their gazes clashing for a split second. Rose quickly averted her gaze, heart pounding wildly in her chest. She could hear her heartbeat in her ears. She could feel her blood pressure rising.
Oh, dear Lord!
“Settle down,” Dr Joana, the linguistics lecturer’s voice echoed.
Rosa lowered her book, her gaze shifting back to Austin. He was picking up his bag from his usual place and then he threw her a look.
“Settle down, we have a lot to do today.” Dr Joana said.
Rosa averted her gaze from Austin and stared blankly at the board. From her peripheral view, she saw him approaching her.
No, don’t come sit next to me!
Don’t come sit next to me!
Don’t! She panicked internally.
Shifting uncomfortably in her seat, Rosa wished she could disappear from the class. Without wanting to, she glanced at him just as he took the seat beside her.
The smell of his cologne hit her first. It was wild, lovely and intoxicating. Next, were his eyes. Those delicate baby-blue orbs looked as adorable as they looked threatening. His lips twisted into a smile and then he asked.
“What’s up Rosa?”
In the background, Dr Joana continued to speak but it did not register to Rosa as she was taking in the handsome boy sitting beside her. For two years, she had known Austin was handsome from seeing him from afar. However, seeing him for the first time up-close, handsome does not even begin to describe how he looked.
Austin had a round-shaped face with well-defined cheekbones. His brows were so perfect, one would think he sat long hours in front of the mirror to get them right. Or did he really? His nose was long and curved at the tip. The last thing she noticed, were his lips. They were full, pink and looked inviting. His mouth suddenly twisted into a smirk and Rosa quickly looked away.
Soon, the lecture started. Rosa fixed her gaze to the screen, watching the slides flip away. Dr Joana lectured on the types of Syllables in English Language, gave examples and yet, Rosa did not hear a thing. All because, Austin who was sitting beside her distracted her. No matter how hard she tried, her mind always brought her back to the issue at hand.
Austin freaking Whyte and the secret that he discovered about her.
What was he going to do with it? Would he tell everyone that she was Leslie, the dancer from Barley’s? What if, he had already told his friends. Her stomach flipped at the thought and she cursed under her breath.
After three long hours, the lecture finally ended, with Dr Joana giving them an assignment. As soon as the lecturer left, Rosa started packing up her books. She did not even spare Austin a glance, though she felt his gaze burning the side of her face. She stuffed the stationary back into her bag and made to stand up. Austin’s hand instantly clasped around her wrist, stopping her.
“Where are you going..." he waited for effect before adding dramatically "...Leslie?”
Rosa’s heart skipped a beat at his words. Slowly, her gaze met his. She saw the smirk on his face, saw the mischief in his eyes and whispered something obscene under her breath. Drawing in a sharp breath, she decided to act dumb.
“I don’t know what you are talking about.”
Austin chuckled. “Pretending that last night never happened is not a good choice, Leslie.”
“That is not my name!” She hissed, snatching her arm away.
A few people turned to look at them and then she quickly pretended to smile.
“Oh but it is.” He took her hand, locking gazes with her. “You are Leslie, the dancer from Barley’s.”
“What do you want?” Rosa frowned.
Austin smirked. His answer was simple.