Prove Them Wrong
We arranged the table in the cottage when Olevia started serving dinner. She’s a cook at a school canteen so I bet these are good. I’m setting cutleries in each plate while Nikki was busy slicing the mangoes.
“Do you want some other fruits?” Olevia asked as she placed a huge plate of rice on the center of the table.
Nikki smiled at her. “This is plenty. You can go home now. Thank you for cooking.”
We smiled at Olevia as she headed to the corner to get her stuff. I tucked my hair behind my ear when the cold wind blew.
“What a feast!” Katrin murmured in excitement.
I headed to the back door to get a pitcher of cold water. When I stepped out holding the pitcher, my heart thumped as I caught a dark figure at a distance. My gaze stayed there as I squinted, trying to identify what exactly I am looking at. The figure slowly moved so I held my breath in surprise.
Through the moonlight, I saw a man in a black suit under the tree. His palm rested on the other as he held a cane. He was wearing a hat and the lamps in the cottage weren’t able to reach him so his face remained in the dark.
With a racing heart, I gripped onto the pitcher’s handle. In the air, I can hear a sound of humming, like a siren’s voice alluring the sailors. I tried to take a step forward but Katrin’s laugh from the cottage made me jump.
When I looked back at the tree, the man was gone. I shook my head and walked back to the table, with each step faster than the previous one. I sat beside Dwight while on his right was Katrin and in front of us were Nikki and Von. We started eating and in the middle of their conversation, my eyes just automatically landed on the hill. It was perfectly lit by the moon and it must be the mansion’s altitude that every leaf on its walls danced with the wind. It looks like a house being controlled by a wizard.
“Hey,” Nikki whispered. She’s sitting in front of me. “You okay?”
I smiled and pointed my fork at the tree where I saw the figure. “I think I saw someone over there.”
She glanced at it before facing me. “It could be Andres, he sleeps there sometimes.”
“The guy’s rich,” Katrin interrupted. “Why is he in an isolated place like this?”
I sighed in relief when I realized that I was not the only one curious about him. We all looked at Nikki waiting for an answer.
“I told you, no one knows,” she replied as she picked a chicken wing from the bowl. “That mansion was owned by a hotelier in Oakland. Then maybe Don bought it from him. That’s just a plain white house before, but he decorated it like that so I’m pretty sure that he did not come here to hide, despite his all-black outfit and mask thing.”
I couldn’t figure if the man that I saw was wearing a mask. But thinking about it, maybe I didn’t see his face because he was wearing one?
“It’s your birthday tomorrow, Nikki. Let’s give him some food?” I suggested.
She chuckled and shook her head. “That’s stupid.”
“Why not?” Von cut in. “Just for the challenge. I’m already bored, actually.”
“No. A lot of girls who have gone missing already. This town is so small that we already know each other, except him. So do you think he won’t pass as a serial killer?”
“You’re just being judgmental,” Dwight muttered.
Nikki rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Whatever. I said what I said. We are not stepping a foot on that hill, let alone knock on his door. If he takes an interest in Katrin? Goodluck with that.”
Dwight chuckled as he nestled against his seat. “You’re overreacting.”
“He had all those girls, I’m sure. All of them.”
I sighed and nodded in defeat. “It’s just an idea. Maybe no one knows him because no one wanted to. So I thought it’ll be a good idea to... get to know him?”
“You know what...” Katrin chuckled and pointed her fork at me. “You’re just insisting because you’re desperate to have a guy.”
“I don’t need a boyfriend just to be relevant.”
She glared at me. “Are you saying that I am dating just to be relevant?”
“Your words, not mine.”
“Are you stupid?!” she uttered, now with frustration.
“Enough.” Dwight interrupted before I could speak again. Then he threw Katrin a bored look. “Just because she’s curious, it doesn’t mean that she’s desperate. You gotta watch your words.”
I turned my gaze back to my plate but I lifted my head when Dwight’s palm caressed my thigh. “You, okay?” he whispered.
I quickly moved my thighs inward to get his hand off and nodded. “Yeah.”
I did the dishes after we ate. Olevia wanted to do it when she came back to check up on us but I insisted. I need to get that masked guy out of my head. Nikki and the others were playing UNO at the sala, so they were noisy as always.
“Need a hand?” Dwight came from a small hallway on my right, it’s where the common bathroom is.
I shook my head, not taking my eyes off the plates. From the corner of my eye, I saw him leaning on the edge of the dining table.
“I’m really sorry about Kat.”
“None taken,” I replied, my eyes still on the plates.
“She shouldn’t have said that. We know you’re not desperate.”
I pursed my lips and hastily shook the excess water off my hands before facing him. “Dwight, it’s fine. It’s done. I’m sure she didn’t mean it.” He just stared at me and didn’t say anything so I rolled my eyes. “What do you want?”
“That one chance, Ginny.”
Sweet mother of God. I stared at him in disbelief. “You have a girlfriend.”
“She’s Katrin. She’s never serious. She’ll break up with me once she’s satisfied.”
I turned to the sink and picked a plate. I am not having this conversation with him. A warm hand caressed my arm so I looked at him. My initial reaction was to step back because he’s too close.
“Stop touching me,” I warned.
“You still haven’t told me straight. Do you hate me?”
“Why are you even asking?”
“Just answer me, Ginny. Do you hate me?”
I leaned against the sink to keep a distance. “I don’t.”
“Do you like me, then?”
His mouth hung open. “Why didn’t you tell me before?”
I was lost for words. I don’t know why we are talking about this. He confessed to me last semester and I told him that I don’t know what to say. I didn’t reject him, but our relationship did not grow closer either. We didn’t talk about it again so I thought he had eventually forgotten.
“I don’t know, Dwight,” I replied with my hands gripping on the edge of the sink. “When you confessed, I didn’t really see myself as your girlfriend.”
“Then why did you come here?”
My jaw dropped as I stared at him. What the fuck?
“I came here because I am part of this circle,” I snapped.
I heard Katrin’s laugh from a distance so I pushed Dwight and made my way to the back door. When I got out, I placed my palm on the door, focusing on their voices.
“What took you so long? Where’s Ginny?”
When it was silent, I finally managed to breathe properly. The moon was shining bright in the corner of my eye so I cocked my head to the sky. It’s so bright that I can clearly see its real texture. I leaned against the door and sighed.
In our circle, I’m usually left out because I’m not fond of travelling, but I don’t take it against them because they always invite me, I just usually refuse. Now that I chose to come along, Katrin is bitching on me and Dwight... nevermind.
I was about to open the door but my eyes caught something on the wall. I’ve seen this earlier. It’s a trilby pinned on an old dart board. I took the trilby off the board and stroked the fabric with my thumb. This looks expensive.
“Pin it back, hija. That’s Don’s.”
I jolted when I heard Olevia’s voice behind me. Her long skirt swayed as she held a lamp and a basket.
“This trilby is Don’s?”
“Andres watched him stroll in the woods riding his horse then he saw that hat on the grass. We don’t really go up the hill so he just pinned it there so Don can get it when he wanders here.”
I slowly nodded. “Is that so.”
She pointed at the door. “You should go back in. It’s cold out here.”
“Oh.” I cleared my throat and smiled. “Yes. Goodnight, Olevia.”
She smiled at me before walking away. When she’s out of my sight, I stared at the trilby in my hand. That familiar sound started lurking again; enticing me to do something. I gripped on the collar of my wrap dress as I stared at the hill.
I took a few slow steps until I decided to walk the distance to the woods. The sound of the crickets echoed as my gladiators brushed against the grass. The man’s figure beside the treet came into my mind as I went out of the woods.
Strolling on the road, my eyes have never left the mansion, trying to see every detail. I’m not sure if the lights were on because the glass of the windows were tinted, which only reflected the green surroundings. When I reached the opening of the driveway, I held tight on the trilby and stepped on the concrete.
I’ve heard bad stories about him through Nikki but I didn’t feel any fear as I pranced on the driveway. The diamond-shaped lamps look nicer now, even the posts have vines crawling around it. I’m getting closer to the mansion but I still can’t figure why I am here. To return a stranger’s trilby? Why do I even care?
Despite questioning my decision to come here, I kept walking like what a weird person would do. Goodness gracious.
When I reached the end of the driveway, I stopped walking and admired the lawn surrounded by various flowers. The mansion looks more enchanting now despite its dark porch. I think I really am seeing an old castle. Even the pillars of the porch were surrounded with vines and flowers.
In a blink of an eye, the lights on the porch went on. I gasped in shock when a man’s figure ambled the distance from the door to the pillar on his left. He stood there proudly as he held onto his cane.
He really is in an all-black outfit, but unlike what I saw earlier, he’s wearing a pair of black socks and a pair of slacks, gloves, a knitted turtle-neck sweater and a black mask. He also sported a black belt with a wolf insignia. I can tell from here that he’s damn tall and despite the sweater covering his body, his shoulders are clearly broader than the average.
I can’t see his face but maybe this is the reason why there’s a part of me that wants to take his mask off just to fill my curiosity. I can’t believe this. Why am I bothering a stranger?
Instead of running, my curiosity just won the internal battle. I took small, careful steps on the concrete pathway of the lawn until we’re only separated by the porch’s steps.
Only a few have seen him and I’m one of them?
The porch has two steps so I arched my head a little upward. I slowly showed him the trilby as the cold wind sent me shivers and blew my hair on one side.
I can’t feel anything but calm and there’s got to be an explanation for this. It’s impossible that my feet took me here for nothing.
“I believe... this is yours,” I whispered.
He tilted his head like he didn’t believe what I just said but he eventually laid his gloved palm to accept the trilby. I stared at his eyes, they are so steady that it felt like he’s seeing right through me.
“Hoy! What are you doing here!?”
I was stunned when someone shouted behind me. Then I saw a man probably in his 50s as well. He must be Pablo. He looks like a Filipino, but he could pass as a Spanish local, which is understandable.
He strode towards me and bowed his head to Don. ”Pasensya. She’s a tourist, she doesn’t know—”
“I know,” I declared.
The man was taken aback by my interruption. I cleared my throat and faced Don. “My first day here is mostly about stories of your terrorism in this area. They said you abduct girls?”
Pablo grabbed me on my arm and I winced when his nails pierced on my skin. “Are you insane? Stay away from here!” he yelled.
He started dragging me away so I threw another look at Don. “Prove them wrong.”
Slowly, I feel like I’ve been woken up from a dream. I didn’t know why I said that. This is impossible. Why am I even here? He’s a possible serial killer and I’m here?!
When Pablo let go of me, I voluntarily walked down the driveway. My heart was racing and that’s when I realized that I haven’t breathed properly since I walked on that lawn.
With a heavy heart, I ran my fingers through my hair and looked at the mansion once more. This is dangerous. I need to find out why exactly I am so intrigued, because I realized just now, something about him is so familiar.