Dresses, booze, and stupid men
***POV - Melaena
I run between the flowerbeds and up to the glass building where my class started ten minutes ago, wondering if it will be okay to rush in or if I should rather just miss it altogether.
My professor hates it when we’re late, and I wonder if she’ll understand if I explain that Jackson was released from the hospital this morning. He was lucky - the knife penetrated his lung - but because Ilkay and Deimos were there, he survived with only a small scar to show for his ordeal. The frustrating part is that we still don’t know who D is or why he wants revenge.
Jackson didn’t see the person sticking the knife between his ribs from behind, but he did manage to hit the man with his elbow. Axel and the police checked everybody at the party … but no one other than the paintball guys showed any marks on their bodies … which left us to believe that the attacker either escaped or he is one of the 20 or so guys that attended the paintball match. We’ve been going over the list, checking each name, but so far we couldn’t come up with anyone that looks suspicious.
And to top it up, Enrique is walking around like a wounded dinosaur, blaming himself since he found out he was the original target. He’s been watching Jackson’s back like a hawk, not leaving his side for a minute.
I run a little faster, clinging to my backpack like a madman, and then it happens. I miss a step and land with a hic on the ground, a burning sensation where my palms grazed on the concrete. Ug, what else can go wrong?
“Are you alright?” I look up from the ground and a beautiful creature picks up my bag, his bluer-than-blue eyes laughing at me, adding insult to injury. This guy can give Damion a run for his money in the handsome department … and that’s saying something.
For a moment I’m awestruck, but then I come to my senses. I jump up like a jackrabbit and quickly wipe my scraped hands on my pants.
“Eh, yes thanks,” I take my backpack from his grip and feel utterly ashamed about falling on my face in front of such a hunk, so I nod, smile, and stupidly run away.
“Hey, wait … “ I hear him shout but don’t look back until I reach my class.
I decide to use the door at the back of the studio and slip in as silently as a mouse - or at least a big rat - ducking and diving to the empty seat next to Lucinda. Thankfully, my professor is busy writing on the board, oblivious to my late entry. Phew.
“Melaena Blackburn, you’re late! Come see me after class please.”
I jolt up in my chair at the loud voice, and gape panic-struck to the front, expecting an angry face to scorn me … but she calmly continues her lesson on the board, not even looking back once. A lot of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ shoot up from my classmates. Ug, today is definitely not one of my best days.
“Sorry, Prof. Okay, Prof,” I mumble, a blush coloring my face and ears and I slide down, trying to hide in my chair. Anne Smit, my favorite professor, is a lady in her fifties with the humor of a 16-year-old and the scorn of Dolores Umbridge when you get on her wrong side. I’m sure she’s going to let me write out ‘I should not be late’ a hundred times with a magical feather and I rub my knuckles in anticipation.
Lucinda pushes her glasses back and smiles pitifully. She’s a very nice girl, dorky, overeager, and naïve, but sweet with dark bob hair and chocolate eyes.
After class, I push open the glass door of the office, but Prof Anne’s talking on the phone. She gestures for me to come in and I make myself comfortable on her pink leather couch.
“Yes, I will make sure to get the best teacher. You just keep your part of the bargain and send me that 12-year-old Macallan! I can do with a glass of expensive scotch every now and then.” She laughs, rolling her eyes at me. “Yes, we’re going to win. Tata.”
She puts down the phone and immediately looks at me, flipping open a file on her table.
“Mel, I’ve seen in your info file that you are quite an athlete and a pretty darn good horse rider. But what piqued my interest is your dancing abilities. You were champion more than once, right? Are you still dancing?”
“Eh, yes.” I’m a bit flabbergasted. This is not what I expected.
“Great. I have a little proposition for you.” I move to the edge of the sofa.
“My daughter’s dance school needs instructors that will take them to the top. We want them to compete in the Starbound National Talent Competition this year. And you have the skills to take them there. They need to win.”
“Teach dance? Win?” I’m still a bit confused, “So you’re not going to punish me … “
Ann frowns. “Punish … no, I want my kid to win the competition.”
“Okay,” I pull out the word, trying to rebuff my bearings.
“Great!” her face lights up.
“Can I bring my friend? She’s also a great dancer.”
She nods and smiles at me as if we share the secret of eternal youth between us. I’m just glad I don’t have to write out anything. My phone vibrates silently in my hand and I peek at the screen.
D: Digging the dancing queen!
It’s my crazy-ass killer stalker. How the hell does he know about it so soon? This guy is starting to get on my nerves. I look around. There are two doors … the glass door I entered through and a wooden door, but I don’t see anybody in close proximity that could eavesdrop on us. But somehow this creep seems to know exactly what I’m doing all the time. He’s sending more and more messages and continues to leave parcels at my house, things like chocolates, flowers, and perfume.
And he even stalks me here on campus … where you need a student id to enter … making me wonder if he’s also a student here.
Two days ago, I got another ‘Mayday’ message from him, saying that a little girl got grabbed. I immediately warned everybody … and that night when Kiara came back from a late class, a man in a balaclava followed her, but being on her guard because of the message, she managed to run to safety. I shiver thinking about what could have happened if she hadn’t. This is getting out of hand. We need to find this lunatic and fast.
Anne talks a bit about training, but after the third time she has to try and grab my attention, she dismisses me saying I must go. I almost run out of her office and back to my car, heart pounding in my chest like a pig being led to slaughter.
I hit the steering wheel a few times with my palms, yelling out loudly, attracting a few glares in my direction from passers-by. I drop my forehead against the steering wheel and close my eyes. I just need a moment or two to calm myself down.
Startled, my head shoots up when somebody knocks on my window.
“You okay?” Lucinda is standing next to my car, peeping in. I open the window while my heartbeat drops to a normal rhythm.
“Yes, thanks. Are you going home now?” She nods, saying she’s finished for today.
“Can I give you a lift?” A big smile spreads across her face and she gets into the passenger seat. My phone alerts me of another message and I take it anxiously, letting out a sigh when I see who it’s from.
Kiara: I’m late. Meet you at our coffee shop in half an hour.
I look at the message again and then it strikes me. I’m supposed to meet Kiara to go dress hunting for the freshman ball coming up. We’ve been planning this for months now and I totally forgot. Kiara will never forgive me if I don’t show up. Maybe it will distract me from my annoying stalker.
“Do you want to go shopping with me and my friend? We need to get new dresses for the ball.” It seems as if Lucinda just won the lottery and I take it as a yes.
Mel: I’m bringing a friend. C u.
“This is so lit.” Lucinda’s dark hair bob around her head and her glasses keep slipping off her nose. Why doesn’t she just get better-fitting ones? I pull out of the parking area and head to my favorite mall in San Jose.
When we enter the fifth shop without finding anything, I pray that we’ll find something my demanding friend would deem appropriate in this little boutique. A very thin guy in a grey suit welcomes us with a fake smile, gesturing with slow feminine hand movements for us to take a seat on a fancy black leather couch.
“So how can I help you ladies today?” He asks a little warmer, his voice higher-pitched than expected and his posture upright, prim-and-proper.
“We need sexy dresses for a ball! We need to look dope.” Kiara is on a high and the guy suppresses a real smile while looking us up and down.
“More like something out of this world.” I goggle to myself.
“With your looks, it won’t be too difficult.” He looks from me to Kiara, and I notice Lucinda looking away for a moment as if she needs to regain herself.
He grabs onto his chin, contemplating. “Just wait here for one second.”
Lucinda squeals and shifts excitedly around on the sofa. The man walks to the back and comes back with some gowns. He hands one to each of us. Mine’s a beautiful violet plum dress and the material is silky and smooth. I put it to my cheek to feel the softness and it’s just incredible, like hugging a cloud.
I walk to the dressing rooms where Kiara is already halfway tucked into a bottle-green dress. She fastens the zipper on the side and I give her a thumbs up. She turns a few more times, looking at herself in the mirror. The dress is a slim fit with two slits, one for each leg and the top is see-through lace with material only covering the breast area like bra-cups, showing off the roundings of her body.
“Wow. Now all I need is a date.” She poses for us.
“You could always ask one of the dickheads.” She stares at me, scolding me with an unrecognizable mumble.
My dress also fits as if it was made especially for me – hugging my petite body and showing off my cleavage with thin straps over my shoulders. The back is cut very low and the dress falls softly to the ground from my hips. It also has two slits that run up all the way to stop just before being indecent – only just - they’re that high.
“YES!!!” Kiara yells. Lucinda pulls in her breath and gives a thumbs-up.
“O, la-la! You all look DE-VINE.” The man squicks, swinging his index finger around. He comes back with some shoes and accessories to finish our outfits. It all fits perfectly together and I wonder how he seems to know exactly what size we wear. We pay for everything, ecstatic with our outfits.
“Want to grab some food and drinks at the club?” I ask Lucinda and she eagerly agrees. I know Kiara has a date and would probably be home late and I’m not in the mood to be alone right now.
A neon sign lights up above us. INFERNO. I drive around the building and park at the back, knowing that there’s always paparazzi lurking in the front. Enrique and Logan are both famous and the reporters just love to hang out at their club, to write about their spicy social lives. And with Damion and Jackson also being here most of the time, this is a paparazzi paradise.
Lucinda’s eyes grow big with astonishment. “We’re going in there?” She points to the club, pushing back her glasses again, and I nod my head. She types a message on her phone and puts it back in her handbag.
“It’s my brothers’ club, so we can eat for free.” Her eyes grow even wider.
“I didn’t know you have a brother.” She’s almost prancing with excitement next to me.
“Actually, I have four.” Her mouth drops open and then she just shakes her head. The guard opens the back door for us without a word. I take Lucinda by the arm as she’s almost frozen with amazement and we walk up the stairs to the VIP area.
“Mel, what are you doing here?” I recognize my brother’s voice, but before I can answer, I’m swept off my feet and swinging through the air.
“And who’s this lovely lady?” Enrique puts me down and pulls out his charms, kissing Lucinda on her hand. I introduce them. She blushes beet-red and I swear her eyes are going to stay that big forever. I know Enrique won’t try anything with Lucinda, as she’s not his type. He’s into slutty models, not nerdy students – but being Enrique, he’s always the charmer.
“You are not here for the company, so I guess you need some food? It’s the only reason my sister ever comes to my club.” I notice he looks dashing as usual and he then pushes a strand of dark blonde hair behind his ear. Enrique has a unique look, his hairstyle changing continuously depending on what’s needed for his job, but it’s his eyes that make him stand out. He has Heterochromia and one eye is bright blue, while the other one is hazel. Combine this with those thick eyebrows and you have the inexplicability of a storybook stare.
“No way, and here I thought you tech students work your asses off!” Jackson’s voice springs up from the bottom of the stairs, seemingly in a good mood. Unlike his twin, he doesn’t flirt with Lucinda. Hell, he barely looks at her.
“Even nerds need to eat!” I scold him as he pulls me into a hug. I introduce Lucinda to him and he shakes her hand. I swear this girl is having a seizure and I’ll have to explain to Professor Anne how my brothers broke her shy student-body-president. Jackson looks just like Enrique, duh they’re identical twins, but his hair is shorter and both his eyes are blue – or rather a combination of hazel and blue – but bluer.
Lucinda’s mouth opens and closes again, like a fish out of water, when Ilkay comes into view, her eyes now big as saucers. I bump her with my elbow and slowly see the light returning to her hazed orbs. I guess seeing 3 hunks looking something like superhero actors in fitting jeans will rattle any girl. Hell, if they weren’t my brothers I probably would be rattled. I look at my brothers and pout my mouth.
“And why was I not invited to this get-together?”
“Well, it’s supposed to be a guy’s night, and last time I looked you had tits and no penis, so stop sulking.” Jackson winks at me.
“And they’re pretty nice tits, thank you very much!” I grab my boobies in my hands, pushing them up, loving the way my brothers’ faces turn sour. I know exactly how to piss them off and it feels GOOD. The last thing they want to know about is my body parts, especially the feminine ones.
“I agree!” A very familiar voice softly whispers in my ear. Damion! I quickly remove my hands from my jugs and suddenly I’m the fish out of the fudging water.
I haven’t seen him since his party ’cause he left soon after to go racing in France. And since the party, the media has been speculating about a secret forbidden romance between us, and how we’re the perfect couple and crap like that.
Photos of us were splattered all over the internet – one where he was lying on top of me, wiping my cheek. Another I was in his arms, his eyes closed and his chin leaning on my head. Then one of him protecting me against Chloe’s shots. And so on and so on – you get the drift. With each photo came some questions – Is she the one? Is this true love? Can the badboy be tamed? Will he give up his playboy ways? Will he break the rules?
And the worst one was of us dancing, lost in each other’s eyes where they had a field day speculating about the song choice and why he selected it. But I know pretty well what it was about - he was teasing me after our discussion in the truck. Typical Damion style.
I must admit that we do seem to be deeply in love in each photo - if you don’t know the story behind them. And to make matters worse, they added a love square by mixing Ren and Chloe into the whole thing. Ren finally gave me an ultimatum - taking our relationship to the next level. I told him I had to think about it, but there’s no way I’m having sex with him just to prove a point. I just hope the whole Damion thing will blow over soon. I don’t like being associated with the likes of him in every news post.
He slides into the booth, sitting next to me and Axel moves in next to Lucinda. She is for sure having a seizure now and I can already see Anne grinding my bones into her morning coffee. She stares openly at Damion, and then at Axel, and I don’t think she’s breathing. I look around for my youngest brother and notice Logan’s pretty baby face behind the bar.
“She okay?” Ilkay asks looking worriedly at Lucinda. I kick her shin under the table to get her out of her trans.
“Yep, she’s good, just not used to seeing such a bunch of cocky testosterone douchebags in one group. The people we study with are nice and friendly.”
Damion puts his hand on my leg as if it’s supposed to be there and I eye him with an angry face. Hell, he hasn’t even been here for 5 seconds and I’m already pissed off. And I haven’t forgiven him for forcing me to dance with him to that song at the party. He put me on a spot, knowing I couldn’t refuse in front of everybody. And because of him, my face is on every front page – something I try desperately to avoid. He used the song to tease and humiliate me after what I told him in the truck about wanting something real.
Typical Damion move. He’s not right in his mind, this guy.
And mostly I’m mad at myself, cause I want the song to mean something. Stupid, I know. I take his hand in a tight grip and move it over to his leg forcefully. But when I try to release his hand, he grabs it back and holds on tight, lacing his fingers through mine, giving me a winning smile. I’m doomed now, cause if I struggle to get it free, the whole table will notice, and that’s the last thing I need right now. It will just raise my brothers’ suspicions even more. Yep, they were also not too happy about the photos … asking all kinds of difficult questions I didn’t want to answer.
“Sounds boring.” Enrique pulls a face at me. Uh, what’s boring? Think Mel! Oh, the guys studying with us.
“Ug, you guys are the human version of a headache.” I get up and go to the bathroom to spat some water on my face and to pray for better brothers with better friends. When I get out of the bathroom, Lucinda is standing in front of the door talking on her phone in a whispering voice, as if she doesn’t want anybody to hear the conversation. I wait for her to finish before we go back to our table. She looks rattled again and her eyes move all over the place not to look at me.
“Sorry, it was my dad. He’s a bit … “ She pauses, probably looking for the right word, and then goes with “… intense.” I can relate to that. My whole damn family is intense.