Class time is nearly over and I still struggle on the last question of my exam. My mind runs on that stranger from last weekend, even though I tell it not to. Why is his image popping in my head? In fact, I can’t stop thinking about him. I scratch my head, forcing my eyes to look at the paper. Who is he? That’s the question that I want answers to. Well, it doesn’t matter, because I’ll never see him again. I’ve decided to never go clubbing with Mara, though I haven’t’ told her what happened. It was the biggest disaster, really. I haven’t spoken to Everest, and I do everything in my power to avoid being anywhere near him. What a low life creep. I have a new hatred for boys like him.
The professor raises his short hand, signaling that time is up and that we must pass our papers to the front. I sigh heavily, feeling tormented. My mind can’t seem to drop it.
The other students get up and walk over. I slowly follow.
“Earth to Rose! Earth to Rose!” Mara finds her way towards me.
“I missed one question,” I admit, after laying my paper of the prof’s desk.
We exit the mundane premises and walk to the nearest coffee shop.
“Oh, that’s not so bad. What’s with the long face?” she asks me, squishing my face between her hands.
I shrug my lazy shoulders.
“Nothing,” I sigh.
It’s something, but it’s too complicated to explain to her. Also, she’ll jump and run with whatever I say. We walk in the coffee place and enter the line.
“I’ll have a soy mocha,” Mara orders her usual.
I add, “A caramel frap for me.”
Later, we sit at the table near the wall. There aren’t many people sticking around, thankfully. The only audible sound originates from the mounted television, which broadcasts dreary news.
“I got to tell you something,” I start.
Mara sets her cup down and looks at me. She has to listen to what I have to say. What are best friends for?
“Remember when we went clubbing on the weekend?” I ask. I take the straw and sip my drink for a while. “Everest was there... but he tried to force himself on me.”
Mara gasps in the most dramatic of ways.
“What? No! I’ll punch him in the face! Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Shh!” I try to fan the steam. “Chill out. I didn’t get hurt or anything. He was most likely drunk. I’m just disappointed.”
“I’d be livid. And I would make a complaint,” Mara slams the little circular table.
“To who?” I roll my eyes, drinking my sweetened coffee.
“To the freaking student council! I don’t know!” she throws her hands in the air now.
I take a deep breath, ready to brush it off.
“It’s not a big deal. Besides, I don’t think he’ll try something stupid again, because he probably wet his pants when this other guy saved me.”
Mara’s face contorts in confusion. I stir the straw around in my cup.
“A-another guy?” she demands, “Where was I?”
“You were also drunk, dancing away. Remember?”
Of course, she wouldn’t really remember. She frowns for a minute and then shines a nosy smile.
“Who’s the other guy?” she wriggles her brows at me.
I rest my head in my hand and say, “I don’t know. Some tough looking guy.”
Mara gulps down her own drink. My eyes move over to the TV. The red band under the CNN logo reads ‘The Brag and Police Corruption’. Last time that made the top news story was last year, when I was in high school. A handful of girls from my school went missing. There were investigations after investigations. It took my parents a lot of convincing to let me move all the way here to go to college. Now I think back on my midterm. I hope I did well enough.
The shop grows darker as soon as two tall males walk in. The bulky one wears a leather jacket, and half of his face is tatted with thick lines. The other one... I recognize right away. It’s the stranger from that night. He wears a black t-shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his shoulders and black jeans and black boots to match. The two conduct their way towards a fellow who was tranquilly sipping his expresso. The bulky man tosses the innocent man’s coffee, sending the mug flying towards the cashier. I clasp my hand on my mouth a turn my head, hoping not to be seen. I smack Mara’s arm to alert her. She glances back and forth.
I hurriedly whisper, “That’s him, that’s him, that’s him.”
“What are they doing?” she asks me in a hush tone.
Before anyone could bat an eye, the two beat up the man bloody. The manager comes in and asks them to get out. But soon, the bulky one pulls out a gun. We all freeze. The menace chuckles and decides he’s done enough damage. I nearly die the minute the stranger and I make eye contact. I didn’t realize how long I was staring at him. He only sends me a smirk and heads out the door with his partner in crime. Oh, no... This is bad. Someone tries to help the beaten up person from the floor. I look across the table. Mara crawls from under it. I frown at her.
“Why didn’t you duck for cover?” she points.
I simply shake my head, “Let’s get out of here.”
Everything happened so fast that I could have missed it. My heart is pounding out of anxiety. Is that stranger a criminal or something? Why did they just beat up that guy? Who is he? Questions pile up in my head. Mara hooks onto my arm.
“You were saying that was him?” she questions.
“Uh,” I stammer, “No, I was mistaken.”
“Good!” she says in relief, “Because I would have gone crazy.”
There’s no mistake. He saw me. What’s worse is that he had the audacity to smile at me, as if what he was doing to the poor customer was any good. I try to shake his face out of my head. But nothing helps. A little shaken up, we head straight to our dorms.
My calculus book fries my brain. So, I close it and drop my head on the desk. Mara sits across from me, flipping pages of a gossip magazine.
“I can’t take functions anymore,” I blurt, exhausted.
Mara raises her brows, “I hope tomorrow’s class is cancelled.”
My phone rings in my pocket. I pull it out and answer it. I’m told that my book order came in the store today and I can pick it up. I get up and pull on my shoes and grab my wallet.
“Where are you off to?” Mara asks, popping popcorn in her mouth.
I stare at my jeans jacket, wondering if I’ll need the extra layer.
“I reserved a book at Chapters. I got to go get it.”
“Isn’t that downtown?” she asks.
“I know,” I pout, “I don’t really want to go that way, right now.”
“Be extra careful,” she advises.
I nod quickly and head out her dorm. I jog down the spiralling stairs. I find Everest walking up. I avoid looking at him. He then calls me.
“Hey, can we talk?” he asks me.
“I’m sort of in a hurry,” I try to say, aiming for the door.
“Just wait a minute,” he stops me.
I sigh heavily and stop in my tracks. I turn around and face him.
“Look, I know what I did at the club was stupid,” he starts.
“It’s—it’s fine,” I tell him.
He puts on a flashy smile, “We’re cool, right?”
I reply flatly, “Yeah.”
“Promise you won’t tell anyone.”
Just when I thought this was a genuine apology. He’s just looking out for himself. Of course. Why did I think anything different? I roll my eyes. I already told Mara.
“Whatever,” I brush.
I head back towards the door and walk out. Now I have to go on with my day, remembering how clueless I was. The sun is setting somewhat. People walk round after a hard day at work. I spot some students drinking coffee and browsing the internet on their laptops.
In a few minutes, I reach the subway station and hop on the express train. I pull out my phone to check the time. It’s after 7pm. I take a seat at the lonesome cart, twiddling my fingers. In a few stops, busy people come in and out. But my eyes are drawn to the dark aura that belongs to the familiar delinquent. I shortly gasp, hoping he won’t spot me. I turn my head in hiding. A gust of burnt rubber and strong mint cuffs my nose. I’ve lost all faith.
I sigh, looking up. The strange, yet familiar, man sits right next to me. His grey eyes stare me down. He’s got on a hugging black T and washed-out black denim. Again, his crushed leather boots are not making use of its laces efficiently. His saturated tattoos swirl around his muscular arms down to his knuckles. My eyes stare at the pair of beauty marks siting on his sharp jawline. I’m unsure why a guy like him thinks he should sit next to me. I’m exhausted just looking at him. Under the bright train lights, I can see his face much clearer. He’s beyond handsome. He could easily be a super model on those magazines Mara always reads.
“You’re pretty bold, staring at me like that,” he says.
A bit shocked that he caught me, I quickly look away. He grins, and I feel his breath land on my shoulder. He then pulls my chin with his index, forcing me to face him.
“It’s okay, sweet cheeks. I don’t mind,” he tells me.
I scowl, turning my face away from his. Feeling embarrassed, I fold my arms across my chest. Why does he keep calling me that? I don’t even know this guy. It falls quiet, as soon as he drops his head back and snoozes. It feels like this train can’t go any slower. I take a cautious glance back to the man sitting peacefully next to me. I’m glad he’s not causing me any more grief. But I can’t help but stare at him. I’m not quick to judge people, but he looks like a bad guy who enjoys doing bad things. I’m frightened to the point where I can’t think straight.
“My car got towed,” he suddenly speaks.
His deep voice startles me, only because I thought he was actually asleep.
“Uh,” I voice a sigh.
He then opens his eyes and adds, “I have to go clear it.”
He then stands up, grabbing my hand in the process. The train stops and the doors open. He drags me to his side, as we exit. This isn’t my stop. What on earth is he doing?
“W-wait!” I scowl.
But he doesn’t. He just keeps on walking ahead. I look down at our intertwined hands. I can feel his strong pulse beating against my palm. His lengthy steps make it difficult to keep up.
I stare at his back, wondering what he’s thinking. The pit of my belly grows nervous, as if there are butterflies on steroids swarming in it.
“W-what does y-your car,” I try to speak up, “Have to do with me?”
He shrugs, “Keep me company.”
He leads me to the escalators that brings us above ground. He still holds my hand. I don’t know why, but I like the feeling. His skin is warm. Standing next to him shouldn’t feel so natural... I frown and shake my head frantically.
“Is that kid still bothering you?” he asks me.
I pause and return his stare. What? Does he mean Everest? I wonder where his concern stems from, because as far as I know, we are not acquainted.
“N-no,” I answer. I hesitate, before asking anything else. “Why?”
“I’d hate to have to break his face,” he reveals, as his lips form a smirk.
My eyes pop open. Break his face? Why is this guy so violent? I really shouldn’t be near him, if I want to see tomorrow. I get concerned about the time. The store is going to close and I’ll return to my dorm with nothing.
After a harsh walk, we turn into a garage. Scattered cars sit in the lot. We walk into an office. The walls have a blue wash and a bunch of pinned papers. There’s a plastic ceiling fan that spins slowly over our heads. I sigh, hoping that this guy will set me free. I walk over to his side now. A round-bellied man behind the desk goes through a cluster of folders, asking for the strange guy’s name and ID.
I watch him pull out his driver’s licence.
“Judah,” he answers.
I look over at him. So that’s his name, huh. Judah.
I purse my lips. Of course, I think to myself. He definitely looks like someone who’d betray Jesus. Hm, or was that Judas? I didn’t pay attention in catholic school. His rugged attitude, angular build, his grungy attire, his taunting smirk... makes him look like he can’t be trusted. I shake my head, trying to snap out of it. I shouldn’t look at him a second longer. I’ll hurt myself. But why must he be so good looking and darkly suave? I can’t wrap my mind around it. Furthermore, why is he with me?
“I need to go,” I mumble to him.
He goes on, like he doesn’t hear me. I groan and roll my eyes. Is there absolutely nothing I can do to get out of this mess? I anxiously pull out my phone to check the time again. It’s 8:30pm. I wouldn’t make it to the store, even if I were to teleport myself there. I begin texting Mara. Maybe she can save me. Suddenly, my phone is snatched away from my hands. I squeal, clawing after it. This Judah person dangles it in front of me and raises it out of my reach.
“Please give it back,” I plead, “I want to go. I don’t know why you brought me here.”
He lifts a brow and asks, “Are you in a rush?”
I pout, “Yes.”
He breathes out, acting disappointed.
“That’s too bad,” he says, tucking my phone in his back pocket. I feel uncomfortable, especially under his sinister stare. “Too bad that I don’t care.”
He takes me by the hand, forcing me to follow him to his car.
“L-listen, you!” I say, irritated. “I don’t know who you are—or what you want from me—”
He pauses in his tracks for a second and looks back at me with a wide smirk. And it only took a second... for him to intoxicate me. My mind races with fear. But his expression gets me under the influence, adding a twinge of thrill in the mix.
“You’ll find out,” he says.