A loud shuffle occurred above his head in the trees, and suddenly something fell to the ground.
He peered closer with a raised brow- it was a small chickadee. He bent down to touch it’s feathers with his fingertips and it's rib cage cage heaved heavily. The bird's wild beady eye stared at him hesitantly before it closed. The sound of heels stopped beside him and he turned.
“What are you doing?” A female stood above him, frowning, clutching a briefcase. Despite her discouraging look, she was breathtaking to Blake.
Her eyes were so blue they pierced him to the core and he felt his heart flutter.
He stood to his feet and brushed off his pants.
"Oh hey, sorry to get in your way Winter."
She raised her eyebrow when he said her name and then she noticed the bird. "Well at least give it a proper funeral. . I'll help." She set her brief case aside and moved to the sidewalk to dig up some dirt. "Oh hey you don't have to do that .. ." Blake uttered before accepting it, he then picked up a cloth from his pocket and wrapped the bird in it carefully before placing it in the hole.
Winter pushed the dirt back in and clapped her hands to free the dirt.
"There. . .all better." She smiled and reached down to pick up her bag again. Blake followed her inside.
"It's been a while since I've met someone I didn't know. What's your name?"
“Blake” he uttered and rubbed the back of his head nervously.
“What are you going for Blake?” She pulled her jacket from her shoulders and cradled it within her arms.
"Nursing. . . you might have seen me play baseball. . . if you watch the games?" He asked curiously and then shrugged his shoulders. "The season just ended yesterday- we took third overall."
She laughed and raised her briefcase in the air. “I don't go to the games, no, I don't have any time for that- not in my degree."
Blake smirked and shrugged his shoulders. "You're not missing too much."
"Blade?" He shook his head "Ah, Blake"
"Now I'll never forget your name." Winter joked
Her dazzling eyes seemed to catch him again as their eyes met. They stood in awkward silence for a moment before she cleared her throat.
“I have to go to class, but I’ll see you later!” She promised with a smile and stepped back. Blake nodded his head as Winter turned the corner to disappear from his sight. The light smell of her perfume trailed behind her as her footsteps became inaudible on the stone.
He pressed his hand to his heart to feel it beat heavily within his chest. Although it moved rapidly, he felt that it had slowed when she left. With a final glance toward the doors behind him, Blake went to go find his classroom.
"Hey man what's up." Blake nodded his head toward another man that appeared down the hallway. He immediately noticed his bright green eyes. The man turned his head away without another word. Blake shrugged his shoulders and carried on.
The man glared at him as he left "He really doesn't know. . .does he?" he growled to himself. "What a perfect opportunity".
“Blake!” Several voices chorused when he entered the room. He nodded his head toward them as he took his seat."Sorry about the fight this morning" Simon apologized once Blake sat down. Blake noticed a heavy bruise was beginning to form on Simon's neck.
“So about the game tonight, are you going?” Randy urged and nudged Blake's arm with his elbow.
“Powder puff basketball, last game of the year.” Simon announced and wiggled his eyebrows. Simon tapped his pencil against the table. His brown eyes turned up slightly at an angle to reflect his Asian heritage. Simon wore just a plain white shirt over his black sweat pants. "Shut up Silky." Randy snapped toward Simon. Blake glanced over to Randy and noticed he had a rather large bump forming on the side of his face. Simon must him.
"Shut up Silky." Simon mocked, Randy's growl shut him up.
Obviously, Simon and Randy had come to school casually to celebrate the last day. He glanced down at his own dress clothes for his interview after school. He felt over dressed. Maybe that's why Winter was treating him so weird.
“Come with me. . .or I'll be stuck with this loser.” Randy dramatically breathed and bounced his knee up and down against the floor. Randy scratched at his curly black locks with his left hand as he continued to urge Blake to join them. With a breath of relief class soon started, and he was able to think to himself for a few moments.
“I have an interview and then I have to work tonight.” He stated and glanced in Randy’s direction. Randy was very playful, and was always looking for another challenge. They had been friends for all his life. In the same sports, same classes, and finally at the same college. A lot had changed between the two of them, but they still hung true to each other, and Simon mixed in just fine with the pair.
“This class and finals and we’re out of this joint forever-r-r.” Simon muttered under his breath and scribbled in his book, it was labeled with the wide signature of the College of Illinois. The teacher continued to ramble about biochemistry as the three boys glanced at each other. Simon looked behind him to see a few girls anxiously staring at Blake to get his attention. Simon made a hissing sound under his breath, and something that sounded like a hawk being strangled.
“Harpies at eleven o’clock.” He explained, after the three of them had finished chuckling under their breaths.
"What the hell was that Barnes?" Randy choked out, and cleared his throat as the teacher turned around.
“Mr. Barns, do you have something you would like to say to the class?” The teacher snapped and glared toward him with a frown. “Ma'am the prep team is going to win tonight, Ma'am!” Simon responded and sat straight up. Everyone snickered around them.
“The final is tomorrow, so you’d best be prepared so you pass the class.” The teacher announced to all of them, but then focused on Simon. "Especially you Mr. Barnes."
“Yes ma’am.” He answered again, and she continued her lecture. When she turned her back he made the harpie sound again, and the entire class broke into giggles (except for the girls in the back that glared in his direction).
Blake figured they just wanted a date for the end of the year fling. The girls were always hyped for that type of thing at this time of year.
His phone buzzed on the desk and he glanced at it. It was an email from the hiring manager. His interview for today had been canceled due to the employers finding the ‘perfect candidate’ for the job. Perhaps that was why he was feeling so uneasy today. With a sigh he closed his eyes and brushed the feeling from his mind. He tucked his phone into his pocket in defeat and pressed his chin within his hands as he stared at the board.
He remembered the feeling of Winter's fingertips brushing through his hair and he began to feel calm (despite how awkward their conversation was). Simon studied him curiously, it wasn’t like Blake to zone out during class or to miss a game. With a frown and a squint of his eyes, Randy stared blankly at the board with him. It was clear both Simon and Randy were concerned for their friend at his peculiar behaviors.
After the class had finally finished, Simon and Randy burst out the front doors leaping with joy. Ecstatic that they would finally be free to an endless night of video games in the dorm room. Blake already detected it would be a sleepless night for the three of them, and that there would be no studying for finals tomorrow.
“It’s almost over! And then graduation!” Randy hollered and chest bumped Simon, nearly falling upon the gravel that lay on the ground. Blake laughed as Randy head locked Simon again to re-do their fight earlier, and he was forced to break it up.
“Have fun at the game guys.” He laughed and slapped Randy on the back. Randy sighed and crossed his arms. “Why have you been acting so weird, man?” He accused and made a cringey face when Simon pinched his sides.
Blake watched the pair fool around before shrugging his shoulders in response.
“I just want to go to work, that’s all.”
“Blake.” Simon smirked. “There’s more, we know you better than that.”
Randy laughed and pointed at him. “You work at six man, not five, ev-er-y-day!”
He stared at them and then looked at the ground once more. His lips moved for a moment before he was able to let the words come out. “Well my interview was canceled.” He sighed and then glanced at them again "And I finally talked to Winter today."
“Woah, finally?” Simon smirked "she's a nice girl."
“I think I might ask her to hang out tonight.” Blake uttered before Simon slapped him on the back. “You’ve liked her since like grade school.” Simon shook his head and glanced at Randy as he spoke.
"You have no problem talking to any other girl, just act normal." Blake's face continued to drop at those words.
Simon's eyes seemed to narrow at his friend's sadness as though trying to see through him.
“I know.” He uttered and forcefully smiled “I should be happy, but I feel like this is going to be a train wreck.”
They grew quiet questioningly and Blake turned his back to the pair to walk toward his car. He could tell no one, not even Simon and Randy. The only one he could trust was Mr. Hendricks, and even then he was suspicious of the old man's traveling tongue.
He paused for a moment before saying the only thing he could disclose about Winter to his friends.
“Her grandpa is my new resident, and according to him, he is the last relative she has, I just don't want her to think I feel pity for her or something.”
Simon scowled and kicked some rocks with his foot. He called out to Blake as he opened his car door. Blake stared anxiously across the street toward Simon.
“Does she know you’re taking care of him?”
He lightly smiled and shook his head. “I don’t want her to, it would just make things even weirder if something was to happen.” He hesitated and stared toward Randy.
"Just don't tell her or anyone else, please?"
Blake stepped into his car and shut the door in response.
Blake rested his head against the back of the seat with a sigh. Did he really want to get involved with Winter Vandelann more than he already had?
He rolled his keys between his fingertips and glanced at the clock. He groaned under his breath and got out of the car. Simon and Randy were already heading out to their cars. With a strong breath of air to fill his lungs, Blake trotted toward the building.
“Oye! He’s going for it!” Simon shouted.
“Go get’er Blake, get that date!” "You da Man!" Randy howled and the pair laughed. But they glanced at each other with obvious concern. Blake had never been so flustered before.
"Ya think he'll be alright?" Randy asked Simon and pressed his forearms against the truck door. The sun dipped behind the clouds and cast a slight shadow over the parking lot- as though the shadows were chasing after Blake. Simon sighed and glanced toward Randy. "He'll be fine. . .besides we have a party to plan!"
Randy frowned "Blake said no parties on finals night. . and I've been written up a couple times Simon. Don't want to go to jail for some stupid underage shit."
Simon sighed "it's fine. . .it's our last day to celebrate let's just do it." Randy rolled his eyes and opened up the door to the truck. "OK, fine, fine."
“Blake! What are you doing here!” She smiled awkwardly and glanced around. He felt his nerves creep back in.
“You’re just in time for the meeting to start! We’re discussing the end of the year fling, it's kinda late for you to join the club. . but we'll take any help we can get!” .
“Sit anywhere Blake.” She whispered to him and approached the front of the room.
She clasped her hands together and held them in front of her lips. “So, what type of fundraiser should we do for next year. . .this year's funded but for the freshmen we should leave a decent account behind for them. . so what do you think?”
Blake took it upon himself to take the the front seat, and glanced to everyone around him. They all seemed surprised he was here, and frankly, so was he. The room itself was small, but big enough to hold the fifteen or so people within it. The walls were covered with bright posters and scrap paper with ideas written all over them in a messy scrawl. He appeared to be the only male in the classroom.
He noticed a girl with long black hair playing with some type of springy pen that looked like a syringe. She glanced toward him and immediately he looked away. Blake could feel her eyes on the back of his head and he frowned.
“What do you think Blake?” Winter tilted her head and he raised a brow.
“I’m sorry what?” He was zoning out and refocused on her when he heard his name.
Winter sighed “were you even listening?”
“Funding. . .yeah, um don’t girls usually do a bake sale?”
"I was going to say that." A small brunette in the back whined to her friend.
"I've got no problem with that" the girl behind him uttered and crossed her legs.
“Then a bake sale it is!” She clapped her hands together as everyone began to pack up their things.
“Next week same time we'll have everything ready for the sale, I'll send an email! Sign up for the dance set up is outside the door!” She shouted and soon approached Blake’s side again once the other members had left. They all said hi to him before leaving, and he nodded his head quietly in response to each greeting.
"I'm surprised to see you someplace like this. . .what's the catch?"
Blake glanced down to her and looked away soon after shyly.
"I had some time before work, and . . .I may have known you were the activities club president.”He bit his lip and glanced up toward the ceiling. "I really came here to ask you out on a date. . .I know it's sudden but It just feels right."
Winter’s cheeks flushed a light pink and she shuffled around him to pick up some of the balloons and shove them into a nearby closet. He followed suit, and picked up a blue balloon for her and then a red one. With the last balloon, he made sure to rub it against her hair. She squealed in surprise and threw her hands above her head to dance away from him.
"So is that a squeal for yes?" He laughed and held up a balloon in combat.
She hurriedly flattened her hands against her head to smooth her hair, and raised her hands in a chopping motion.
“You touch me with that balloon again and you’ll lose your arm!” She threatened, but soon burst out laughing when Blake actually took her seriously and covered his head with his arms. With a snort, she forced the balloons into the closet and closed the door.
"A squeal for maybe" She answered and reached down to get her keys. "Com'mon lets get out of here"
He bit his lip and then reached out to calm some more of the static hairs that flew loosely on the back of her head.
“So where would the balloon queen like to go out to?” He whispered to her as she tossed her jacket around her shoulders.
“I can't believe Winter is interested in me. . .” He spoke out loud and flicked on the radio. He swung his car into reverse and shook his head. “Unbelievable, the old man's going to give me hell.” Blake glanced downwards toward the glove box where a piece of black fabric hung. Blake stared at it for a few moments before opening the box and pulling out the cloth to examine it.
The cloth had been in the car since he had bought it. But this time, in addition to the black material, there now hung a golden metal. It was encrusted with several gem stones. Blake ran his fingertips across it, and a thin spark of energy appeared within his fingertips. "Holy shit." He yelped. He glanced both ways to look around him.
How had this ended up in his car?
"Forget about it. . .we'll deal with this later." He whispered while he was driving. His memory seemed foggy the more he thought about Winter. He bit his lip. Someone must have been pranking him or perhaps stolen it and placed it within his car.
When driving out, he noticed that both Simon’s and Randy’s trucks had already left- back to the dorms to party he supposed. He snorted under his breath and turned left onto the main road. "Meadow Arches" was just ahead and he pulled slowly into the parking lot.