It had been a few days since Charlie last saw Rilah, and he only had two days left before he went to London. He had to make his feelings known to Rilah before that, but he wasn't sure how she would receive these news. He was scared that Rilah would reject him, because he was pretty sure that she'd always known how he felt. Would she be apprehensive about starting a long distance relationship with him? Would it even work? He wasn't sure.
Frustrated, he ran his fingers through his hair, messing it up. He ran up the stairs to his friend's house and knocked on the door. There was shuffling inside, a painful groan and the door opened. Vincent, a blond blue-eyed guy, gestured for Charlie to get in.
For a twenty years old male, Vince was too stocky and immature but his build fit his personality; with square rimmed glasses and a freckled face, he was the perfect picture of a nerd. His immaturity, on the other hand, was clearly displayed as Charlie meandered his way around piles of rubbish scattered around the living room.
"Sorry about the mess." He shoved a bunch of books from the couch onto the floor. "Late night reading and searching for misplaced papers."
"Yeah, I can see that." Charlie sat tentatively on the couch. He plucked an empty snacks packet from behind him, "Late night movies and snacks too, huh?" Vince shrugged and sat cross-legged on the floor, dragging the bin towards him and tossing rubbish into it. He started sorting through the books, stacking them while talking to Charlie.
"Did you get everything you need?"
"Yeah, I did. Thanks", Charlie slid a USB stick across the table towards Vince.
"You ready to go to London? What about your girl, Riley, right?"
"Rilah. She's not my girl," Charlie said, put his elbows on the table, and cupped his face.
"Why not? You two are always together, and no one's seen her with anyone else."
"I don't know. She's not dated anyone ever since I've known her. I think she knows how I feel about her but she's kind of friend zoned me."
"Maybe she's planning on becoming a nun", Vince said helpfully.
Charlie shook his head. "Rilah will never be a nun. She's waiting for something. Or someone", he added grudgingly.
Vince shrugged dismissively. "Anyway, how is she? Kara told me she was beat up pretty bad." Noticing Charlie's shocked face, Vince paused. "Oh, you didnt know."
"When?" Charlie demanded.
"A few days ago. Kara told me that she was all black eye, swollen face and bruises. She says it was so bad that the teachers sent her back home and gave her a week off. Kara says that she overhead Cynthia saying that her goons were gonna get rewarded handsomely for their work.
"Hey, are you okay? You don't look so good. I'll get us some drinks."
Vincent went to the kitchen, opened the fridge and grabbed two Coke cans. When he went back to the living room, he found the door gaping open, and watched as Charlie's car roared away.
* * *
Charlie stopped outside Cynthia's home, got out of the car, and slammed the door closed. It took all his self-control to not storm off to Cynthia, grab her by the neck and choke the life out of her. Cynthia was sitting on the porch with a friend, and she stood up as Charlie walked up to her
"Charlie, what are you doing here?", she asked breathlessly, tucking a strand of her honey blond hair behind her ear.
Charlie avoided eye contact with her, and looked at the girl still on the porch. "You", he flicked his head. "Go". The girl looked affronted and looked up to Cynthia, questioning her.
"It's okay, Portia. We'll talk later." Portia got up, went into the house and came out with her handbag. She went away, walking down the driveway.
"Are you fine, Charlie? You look angry." She put on a concerned look and put her hand on Charlie's bicep. Charlie looked at her hand with disgust, and snatched his arm away.
"Let's talk inside", Charlie said. Cynthia masked her disappointment and led Charlie into the house. Charlie closed the door, and helped himself to a chair.
"Do you want a drink? Water, juice, a beer?"
"No thanks. Let's just go straight to the matter at hand. I warned you to leave Rilah alone, and yet here I am, just after hearing that she was beat up by your goons."
Cynthia looked shocked, and offended. "You think I did that? Charlie, why would I do that? Sure, I've bullied Rilah before but I wouldn't hurt her like that. I'm actually offended."
"Don't mess with me, Cynthia. I'm not some stupid jackass that you can fool. Rilah is off limits, I've told you that before", he told her in a deathly calm voice.
"Oh, spare me the lovey dovey story. What does she have that I don't? What do you see in her? She's always in rags, she looks like shit. I'm so much better than her, heck, anyone is better than her." Cynthia watched as Charlie scrolled through something on his phone and handed it to her.
Charlie watched Cynthia's face change from surprised, to outraged and settle on fearful.
"Where did you get this?" She whispered.
"Let's just say there are a lot of people who don't like you, and I have ears everywhere. Now you will do me a service; you will apologize to Rilah, and you will strive to make her life at school very comfortable. Or else this gritty video will end up on mommy's and daddy's phones."
"You wouldn't" she said incredulously.
"Trust me, I would. I would even send it while smiling. Don't even think of deleting it, I have copies." He leaned into her, took the phone from her hand and said, "I can make your life very difficult Cynthia; you don't wanna know how far I'd go. Besides, even if I don't, you have a cousin who would love to ruin your life.
"Imagine what mommy would say when she tells her that you are dating a man more than twice your age, and that you are planning to elope with him as soon as you graduate. Daddy dearest, on the other hand, will cut you off and disown you." Charlie shook his head. "Now that's what I call family drama. And your cousin, she's so determined to climb up the family hierarchy, she'd sell you out in the blink of an eye. She's a practical fish, can't keep her mouth closed . . ."
"Okay, okay!" Cynthia said, crying. "I promise I'll apologize to Rilah, and I won't ever bully her again."
"And you'll make her life comfortable at school."
"I'll make her life comfortable at school", Cynthia agreed.
"Then I'm done here." He walked to the door. "Remember Cynthia, you don't want to mess with me. Even if I'm an ocean away, I can make your life hell." He closed the door and drove away.