Khalil couldn’t believe he had forgotten Chris’s face, forgotten his participation in the last three years of his life, forgotten the way he had ruled over his every action without question, forgotten everything. He had spent so much of his life trying to ignore the time he spent in juvenile detention that, upon first glance, Chris’s face had blended into the sea of other students at Palm Valley who couldn’t stand the sight of his face, the only difference was Chris wasn’t just another student. He was a nightmare reincarnate.
As the night wore on, Khalil found himself growing uneasier and uneasier at the thought of his newfound realization, and though he tried desperately to distance himself from Chris’s grim stares, he found his cold dark eyes following him wherever he and Mina went. The kitchen, the basement, upstairs, everywhere he looked Chris’s face seemed to gravitate towards him. Chris knew, that was the only explanation Khalil could think of to justify the actions of his new stalker. He must have figured it out when he had and, if his assumptions were right, he would have no hesitation telling everyone else at the party what he knew. Khalil couldn’t let him spread more rumors about him, couldn’t reveal his true identity, his life would become even worse over night. Everyone would look at him different. She would look at him different. Chris couldn’t be allowed to divulge what he knew.
Chris, still standing in another dark corner, had his eyes glued to Khalil’s figure, still clinging tightly to the crowd around him in a makeshift field of protection. Khalil couldn’t hide forever, sooner or later he would have to face him, sooner or later he would have to take care of the situation.
“Hey?” Khalil jumped at the sudden physical contact, though he could see Chris standing across the room he still found himself searching around the gigantic body-filled room for the rest of the bulky lacrosse team, afraid if Chris didn’t take care of him himself he would send his friends to ruin him instead.
“Hey” the soft voice spoke again, and Khalil finally looked down to realize that it was just Mina. Her voice was soft and sorrowful, full of curious angst, but curiosity was dangerous and Khalil couldn’t put her in danger. “It’s just me.” she tried to comfort him, he hand gently caressing over his arm in, what was supposed to be, a reassuring manner, but it only filled him with more anxiety. He wondered if this was the last time she would ever touch him like this, if it was the last time she would ever look at him with her soft eyes.
“Are you ok?”
No. He wasn’t ok, and he felt like if he opened his mouth to talk he would start vomiting profusely, so instead he nodded his head silently, hoping that Mina would assume it was just the alcohol coursing through his veins that had made him pale.
“Do you want to go outside?” she shouted over the crowd. “Get some fresh air?” A tight lipped smile was all the confirmation she needed, but just as they reached the sliding patio doors, Khalil suddenly became aware of the pair of eyes that refused to let him out of his sight. Chris was standing, like a sentinel soldier, guarding the glass doors unwavering. Khalil hoped that no one could hear the percussion of his heart starting to beat out of his chest.
“Move Chris.” Mina spoke first, Khali afraid of the leverage that Chris now held over him to divulge his own feelings, but in his head he had already pummeled him until he was lying on the floor in a bloody heap. Chris smiled at the pair of them, unfazed by Mina’s attitude, or the look of pure agitation written across Khalil’s face.
“I need to talk to you” he spoke with a distinct smirk, his eyes boring through Khalil like lasers.
“I don’t want to talk to you.” Mina shook her head, trying to maneuver around Chris’s towering figure, only to have him block her small body in seconds. She let out a loud and exasperated scoff, her eyes growing the size of slits.
“I doubt it.” she laughed sarcastically. Khalil still sat silently watching the exchange between the two of them nervously. He wanted so badly to bulldoze through Chris’s body, slam him through the sliding doors with ease, and take Mina outside effortlessly, but instead he sat without opinion watching Mina fight his battles yet again.
“It’s about your new ‘boy toy’ here.” Khalil froze, and so did Mina beside him. She glanced over at him quickly searching his sweating face before her eyes returned to the grinning boy in front of her.
“I don’t want to hear any more of your ridiculous rumors Chris, go find somebody else to gossip with.”
“Aren’t you curious to know more about him? Why he came in the middle of the year?”
“He moved.” Mina explained without hesitation, shrugging her shoulders unbothered.
“From Oklahoma, but what was he doing there in the first place?”
“Do you know how stupid you sound right now?” Mina threw her hands in the air, clearly at the end of her patience.
“Mina” Chris was pleading now, his plan going unaccordingly, he was practically begging for attention and Khalil’s anxiety was slowly beginning to subside as he realized that Chris wasn’t going to get a chance to ruin his relationship with Mina after all. She hated him to much to believe a word that came out of his mouth. Khalil was doing his best to hide a small smile of his own.
“Just give it a rest already.” Mina sighed and, much to Khalil’s relief, she gestured for him to follow her as she turned around and attempted to make her way back through the crowd, but before either of them could take a step Chris’s voice halted them in their tracks, his voice screaming over the loud music and laughs reverberating through the room.
“Tell her the truth!” He was talking to Khalil this time. He prayed Mina would keep walking, that she wouldn’t buy into his charade. They were so close to freedom, so close.
“Tell her about your time in Juvie Khalil!” Mina turned at these words in seconds.
No. No. No. This wasn’t happening. Not here. Not now. Not in front of all these people.
Khalil’s back was still to the shouting boy behind him, but Mina’s eyes were flitting back and forth between the pair of them, her eyes searching his, but he was at a lost for words again. He couldn’t think of anything he could say that wouldn’t stir more questions, his entire existence was built on a mound of lies and it was to late to right past wrongs now.
“Tell her about what you did to your inmate!” He shouted again though his voice was lower this time full of malicious intent. Though Khalil wasn’t facing him, he could practically hear the wide grin that was playing on the edges of his lips as he watched Khalil writhe uncomfortably at the destruction he had created.
There was dead silence between the three of them and Khalil was suddenly wary of the faces Mina was making beside him, but his anxiety quickly subsided at the reassuring sound of a laugh emanating through the air and Khalil suddenly let out a breath he hadn’t even noticed he had been holding in.
“You’re drunk” she shook her head, disbelieving of Chris’s announcement, but even as she said it Khalil could still hear the audible crack in her voice, her tone wavering as if she was still trying to decide who to believe. “Me” Khalil though in his head. “Believe me” He tried to convey the message in just a look, his eyes pleading with her to walk away without another word.
“If you don’t believe me-” he laughed aloud, catching the attention of a few stray straggling dancers who looked to intoxicated to understand the capacity of the situation unfolding in front of them. “ask your friend. Maybe he won’t lie to you this time.”
Mina looked as if she had a thousand questions for him, and a thousand new lies began to formulate in the back of Khalil’s head, no matter what happened tonight Mina could never know the truth about him. Never. Much to Khalil’s relief, Mina only rolled her eyes excessively, muttering something inaudible under her breath before grabbing Khalil’s wrist like a child, once more pulling him behind her away from Chris, through the crowd of warm bodies and out the front door of the raging house. He was thankful for the quick escape, but yet he had no desire to be alone with Mina after she had just listened to the stories foaming from Chris’s mouth. He wondered if she believed him. He prayed that she didn’t believe him.
“Mina” he managed to sputter out her name without stuttering, but he was quickly silenced once more at the mere gesture of her head shaking back and forth in rapid disbelief.
“He was lying, right.” Her arms were crossed tightly across her chest matter-of-factly as she spoke, her words coming out exasperated. It wasn’t a question, she just wanted confirmation that she couldn’t trust a word that came out of Chris’s mouth and Khalil didn’t hesitate to nod his head at her assumption. Khalil felt his shoulders deflate as he finally began to let the cool night air into his lungs once more, his initial terror at the situation gone and instead replaced with an unwavering anger that seemed to take over his entire personality. He was no longer scared at the prospect of his secrets getting out, but instead angry at the sheer audacity of Chris’s threats in themselves. He was furious at the way he had made fun of him, furious at the way he spread rumors about him, and furious at the way he had tried to eliminate him from Mina’s life entirely. Khalil was fed up, and suddenly his recently calmed breathing became haphazard, his chest heaving up and down as he struggled to contain his new emotion, curling his nails into his palm until they shape of his nails were etched in the red and inflamed skin.
“I’m really sorry about him” Mina began to apologize for Chris’s predictable behavior, holding her face in her hands aggravatedly, but even the sight of Mina’s pouting face wasn’t enough to stifle his rising indignation. “I don’t know why he insists on spreading lies about you everywhere he goes. I can’t promise you that he’ll stop bother you, but I can promise that I’ll try and talk to him. You shouldn’t have to deal with this everywhere you go.”
He shouldn’t, but as long as Chris was around he would never stop trying to tell everyone who he really was. If it was Mina, he would find anyone else who would listen , and as much as Khalil appreciated her protection, Khalil knew that Mina couldn’t shield him from everyone forever. With Chis’s big mouth and superior attitude, everyone would know by the morning. Khalil couldn’t let people find out.
“Huh?” He was in his head, vaguely aware of Mina’s lips moving in front of him, but unable to hear any noise falling from them. It seemed as if she were always in a constant state of pity around him, but Khalil couldn’t say he minded the attention.
“Khalil.” she called again, and this time he was responsive, though on the inside he was still seething with thoughts of Chris’s figure towering through the crowd of partygoers, whispering his secret to anyone who would give him the time of day.
“Mhmm” he hummed in response, though his eyes were scanning through the glass behind Mina’s head, in search of a certain dark haired fiend.
“Are you ok?” she eyed him, her hand gently brushing against the bare skin of his arm, and he almost lost focus. Almost.
“I’m fine.” he replied indifferently, pulling his arm away from Mina’s touch. He couldn’t afford to be distracted at the moment when Chris was freely roaming the party, ill intent and alcohol the only things on his mind and, as if by a bout of luck, Khalil spotted Chris in the middle of the dance floor. His lips were moving rapidly in conversation with a short blonde haired girl he didn’t recognize. She let out a loud laugh that shook her small frame, her hands drifting to Chris’s arms as she attempted to discreetly flirt with him, but the humor that had once bestowed his features was rapidly replaced with a sinister and mischievous grin. Chris had spotted him through the window. Keeping his eyes glued to Khalil’s presence he tapped the girl on the shoulder, stopping her mid-sentence and bent down, swiftly pressing his lips to her ear.
Khalil gripped the cold metal pendent hanging around his neck, trying to access any self-restraint he had left, but when the girls terrified eyes met his through the window, he gave up hope of trying to remain calm.
“I have to go to the bathroom ” he blurted in Mina’s face. She seemed confused, as if she had a thousand thoughts swirling through her mind, but the only word that came out of her mouth was “Ok”
“Do yo- do you want to go ahead to the patio, I’ll meet you out there?” She nodded her head silently. “Ok and-” but before she could finish her thought, Khalil was dashing back through the front door of the house and pushing his way through the bumbling crowd. He had to find him. He had to find him before it was too late. As if by a miracle, Khalil spotted Chris’s dark hair bobbing feet above him as he ascended the stairs in the side of the room. Khalil wasted no time in scurrying behind him, earning him a few yells and curses as he pushed through a hundred different people in his pursuit. The second floor of the house was less crowd and the music, though still earsplitting, had grown noticeably quieter. A few people were strung along the walls hear and there, some glued to bottle or cups of obscure liquid in their hands, others interested in activities that required a little less talking, all of them obviously intoxicated out of their minds.
“I had a feeling you would come looking for me.”
Khalil turned around to find Chris’s obnoxious, smirking face behind him, leaned against the doorway of a gated balcony. The doors were open, and a cool breeze was blowing through the hall, ruffling the short curls atop Chris’s head. “Couldn’t have me spreading all your dirty little secrets around huh?”
Khalil couldn’t stop himself from powering towards Chris’s figure, only stopping when he could feel Chris’s breath against his face. He wanted nothing more than to wipe the smug look from his face with a sharp punch.
“What the fuck is your problem?” Khalil practically growled in his face, though the only emotion Chris could muster was amusement, no trace of fear in his reflection. Khalil could change that. Khalil wanted to change that.
“You” He shoved a finger hard into Khalil’s chest and Khalil mustered all the will he could find to keep himself from lunging for the throat of the boy in front of him. “You are my fucking problem.” he spat, his finger still pushing hard against Khalil’s chest. He wanted to break it. “You’re a lier.” Chris continued. “You lied about your parents, you lied about your past, and you just lied to Mina. All you do is lie.”
Khalil shook his head, taking a step backwards to limit the contact Chris had with him and Chris’s hand once again fell to his side, though his hands were clenched into identical fists just like Khalil’s. “And that gives you permission to go spreading the details of my life.”
“When they concern my friends and put them in danger, yeah...I do!” Chris exclaimed, once again growing closer to Khalil’s figure. They were standing in the hallway now, the door frame of the balcony in the distance behind Chris. “So do me a favor, and stay the hell away from MJ” he threatened. “She doesn’t need to be dragged into your-” he paused, mid-sentence.
“Mess” he finally finished after a moment of silence, throwing his hands in the air around him, but Khalil only shook his head, letting out an exaggerated scoff.
“Mina?” he laughed. “I wouldn’t hurt Mina.”
Chris raised his eyebrows, his lips pursed in a line as his eyes glittered with an emotion Khalil couldn’t identify, but was suddenly making him uneasy. He took another step back, putting even more distance between them and the open balcony. “Funny, you said the same thing about your inmate in juvie...and he ended up dead.”
“What the fuck did you just say to me?” Though the breeze was steadily blowing through the hall, Khalil suddenly found himself growing hotter by the second, and he was afraid if spent any more time up stairs he might burst into flame.
Chris shrugged indifferently. “You were the last person to see him alive, hell you were the last person to talk to him alive!”
“I didn’t kill him.” Khalil interrupted, his voice low and controlled as he tried not to lose himself, but Chris plowed on, ignoring him as if a word hadn’t been uttered.
“But somehow, after one short conversation with you, he finds himself face down in the showers, suffocating in his own blood.” Chris was backing him down the hallway now.
“I didn’t kill him.” Khalil repeated, his voice was little louder this time.
“And all because he didn’t want to help you get the revenge that you’re obsessed with.” Chris’s shoulders moved up and down as his entire body shook with vengeful sarcastic laughter. “What happens when MJ finds out why you’re really here, why you’re really so interested in being her ‘friend’.”
“I did-I didn’t-” Khalil was losing his train of thought now, his voice coming out strained. He couldn’t even make coherent sentences. The heat had become unbearable.
“Are you going to kill her too Khalil? Are you going to kill MJ”
Khalil couldn’t take it anymore. He had tried to deny Chris the satisfaction of getting to him, but the truth was that he had hit a nerve and before Khalil could untangle the knots in his brain and stop himself from doing something he might regret, his vision became blurred with red and he was throwing himself in Chris’s direction.