It’s midnight, maybe. I stir hot water and ramen in a bowl with minimal interest. It takes me a minute to rip the small square seasoning packet, because my fingers tremble still. Geez, I need to get a hold of myself. I take a long breath, standing in the shared kitchen. No one is here. I don’t feel hungry anymore.
My organs have quitted, since Judah appeared. If anything, I’m in physical pain. Every word he’s said to me is loud and clear in my head. How am I supposed to function with him in my room? I have no idea who he is. Is it a coincidence that I’ve run into him so many times? All these questions drive me insane. I decide to stay down here to eat, instead of going back upstairs. I pull up a rusty chair. Someone has left their smelly soda can on another table. I play around with my food, refusing to eat it. I’m just too jittery to do anything, really. All I can do is think about big bad Judah. I wonder what made him hold my hand when we rode the train. I wonder what made him push me in the pool. I wonder why he put his hands around me... My thoughts run a rodeo.
“Is this seat taken?”
I look up and find Everest standing there. I frown and look away, wondering why he’s here now. He’s the last person I want to face, and I think he knows that. I push the bowl of ramen and drop my hands. He smiles like everything is okay. If the thing that happened never happened... then I wouldn’t be so opposed to him being a few feet away.
“You can’t sit there, either way,” I mutter.
“Can’t we just talk?” he asks.
I find strength to shake my head and say, “You never talked to me before, so...”
“I know—I’m such a jerk, huh?” he grins.
At least he knows, I think to myself. Then I remember that there’s a grown man up in my room. My mind makes a full circle. I lift myself to my feet and pick up my junk to throw away. I hate wasting food, especially when I don’t have much of it. I know better than to turn my back on Everest, though.
“I’m tired. I’m leaving,” I say dryly.
He stays where he is, thankfully. I take big steps towards my room. I slowly turn the doorknob and saunter inside. The lights are turned off, but I can still see clearly with moonlight shining through the blinds. Judah’s long body lies peacefully on my bed, though his feet dangle off the edge. His height is menacing all on its own. I stare at his back. He’s made use of all my pillows and my pink plush teddy bear. His eyes are closed. I tip toe over to my desk and sit on my chair. I wouldn’t want to disturb him, if he’s asleep. I think about how I’ll have to wash my sheets in the morning, because they’ll smell like burnt wood. I think about what he looks like when the sun is up. I lift my knees to my chest, knowing that I’ll have to sleep right here tonight. This stick chair is far from comfortable. I think about how I’ll explain this to Mara. It’s not easy hiding a six-foot something criminal. My eyes follow the dark lines that hug his arms. I might go to jail for this, I don’t know.
“Why are you over there?”
Judah’s deep voice alerts me. His eyelids are half closed, half tormented with insomnia. I stare at him for a while. Jesus, save me now.
“Uh...” I mumble, “I just—”
“Get over here,” he tells me with a groggy voice.
My brows lower and I grit my teeth. What? He can’t be serious. I hate that he believes he can just do whatever he wants and get whatever he asks for. I guess that’s just the type of person he is. I can’t get in bed with a guy—this guy! He’s a complete stranger and worse. I divert my eyes to all four walls.
“I don’t exactly know you...” I explain my hesitation.
His facial expression shows that he doesn’t take refusals well.
“You know me,” he says, “You just don’t trust me.”
“And that’s why I’ll stay away from you,” I agree.
He smirks in my pillow, “I said get over here.”
I frown harder, trying to seem serious and stubborn.
“No,” I snap.
It only takes him to lift his head to make me jump out of my chair. Who knows what he can do...
“Okay, okay, okay,” I quickly squeal, scurrying like a mouse.
I walk over to the bed that Judah has taken over. My heart thumps fiercely, as I lower myself onto the bed, squeezing between his warm body and the cold wall. I try convincing myself that this isn’t happening. But before I can say one more thing, he wraps his arms around my waist, pressing his fingers below my spine. I gasp a whole lot of air.
“W-what are you going to do to me?” I stupidly ask, shaking in his grasp.
Judah leans into my ear and whispers his hot breath on me.
“You should ask what I wouldn’t do to you.”
I squeeze my eyes shut and stretch, “Uh...”
My speech is cut short the minute I feel his hand slip beneath my top. He continues to trespass boundaries when his other hand seizes my butt. I freeze, embarrassed to death.
“Quit it,” I push his hand away quickly.
He sighs, “Alright, but you’ll regret it.”
And I do. He lets my body go, although his arm lounges on my waist. I know for a fact that my face has turned scarlet just by reading the smirk on his lips. It’s quiet. I suddenly crave his intrusive touch. I listen to his long deep breaths. My eyes look at his chest. I stare at his tattoo that peeks through the neckline of his black shirt. I like the warm feeling he gives me—I can’t deny it. When I gaze into his mysterious grey eyes for another instance, everything inside me melts.
I don’t know this man, yet I’m lying down next to him. I can’t explain why this is happening, but it is. His plump lips are so enticing. I want to touch them. I want to kiss them. I’ve never kissed a boy. I’m really going insane. I shouldn’t be thinking about kissing this guy. He knows the devil too well. My mom always told me to stay away from those who do the devil’s deeds. How did I get so close to one? Everything about Judah is so tempting. How senseless can I be for coming over here?
“You’re not even trying to sleep...” I say in a hush. He doesn’t reply. I can’t find the reasons why he’d want to stay. “Stop staring at me...”
I find myself falling asleep. I doubt my ears when I hear Judah say my name.
My phone rings loudly, blasting me awake. I leap towards my desk, despite my legs getting caught up in my sheets. The screen reads ‘Home’. God is punishing me. Why else would mom be calling me? I cautiously swipe my finger across to answer it.
“Hello?” I chew my lip, nervously.
“Rosalie!” mom’s voice shouts over the airwaves.
“Yes?” I pull my feet out the tangled bed sheets.
“Why haven’t you called all week?” she concerns herself by asking hard hitting questions. “Do you know how worried I was? I’ve been calling, calling, calling! Your voicemail is not my daughter!”
“Uh,” I start my lie, “I’ve been studying. Sorry.”
I don’t even think she heard me, as she continues talking.
“Last night, I was watching the news and they said two college girls have gone missing! I nearly lost my hair! Make sure you stay inside! Don’t go out at night!”
My head drops to the side and I sigh. I can even hear dad giving his two cents in the background.
“Are you eating properly? Don’t eat junk food! Dress warm! It’s not summer anymore!”
“I know,” I say.
“Don’t say ‘I know, I know’, and then don’t do what I say! And then you call me—crying how you’re sick.”
“Okay,” I get up.
She goes on, but I direct my attention to my empty bed. Not a single sign of Judah... I wonder if he ever did sleep. I try to stop thinking about him, in case my mom has telepathic powers.
Then I tell her, “I have class soon and I need to get ready. I promise to call next time.”
“Don’t drink coffee!”
“Don’t talk to boys!”
I hang up and set the phone down. I don’t usually brush off my parents, even though it’s the same record playing over and over. Soon, my phone beeps with a couple of parental text messages. Feeling annoyed, I turn the screen down. Why are my hands so sweaty? Perhaps because Judah sleeping in my bed was a reality last night—one that I don’t think will ever vacate my brain.
I pause to think that I was probably dreaming the whole thing. But taking one whiff of my bed spread affirms that he was here and he’s real and I’m crazy. I quickly make up my bed and stack my books in order. My room looks half decent, when I decide to hit the shower. I grab my toothbrush and toothpaste, wasting no time. I can’t walk around smelling heavily like a man, otherwise I’ll gain unwanted attention from Mara.
I scrub myself clean and get dressed in the fastest way possible. I have yet to look at the hour, but I’m sure I’m late for whatever I ought to be doing. In the next minute, I grab my bag and phone. I head down the spiralling stairs. I remember that I have Judah’s number. Should I call him? No, Rosalie! That’s crazy talk! What am I supposed to say, anyway? ‘Hello, how are you?’ Ugh. I knock the thought out my head just as fast. I’m so sure that Judah is notorious for sleeping in all the girls’ beds. I’m also sure those girls are very willing to entertain him... The best thing for me is to stop seeing him.
“I think her name is Lisa.”
Mara and I walk out from our last class of the day. We’re talking about the girls who’ve been declared missing. Everyone is talking about it. We speak with low voices, since we pass by other classes that are still in session.
“It’s scary to think about,” I sigh.
Mara nods, “I heard her parents were in sky high debt. That’s why she was working night shifts.”
We push through the big exit and reach outside. The sun and sky are pink and sleepy. Staying out another hour might result in a similar fate for anyone walking in and out of campus. There are a ton of rumors going around about the girls. I don’t feel like listening to them.
“Mara, I got to tell you—”
My phone rings, cutting my speech in half. I dig for it in my bag.
“Who is it?” Mara pokes in.
I look at the screen. Judah.
I nearly drop my phone. Seeing my drastic expression, Mara steals my phone. I panic and whip my hand to get it back. I curse her fast reflexes.
“Who’s Judah?” she probes, after scanning the caller ID.
“Nobody!” I yell. She eyes me, while we fight for my phone. I’m desperate. There is one more ring left, before it’ll shift to voicemail. “Ugh! I’ll explain later—Just give me the phone!”
So she does. I swipe my finger and answer it.
“H-hello?” I stammer.
Mara leans her head to listen in, but I keep backing up.
“Where are you now?” Judah’s deep voice comes.
I take a slow breath, feeling my heartbeat’s sudden speed. Mara claws at me, dying to know who I’m talking to. Judah is a boy. She knows I don’t talk to boys.
“I-I’m at school... Why?”
What follows is a long pause of silence, as if I mustn’t ask why—as if I mustn’t ask anything. Then I hear Judah again.
“I’ll pick you up.”
He hangs up, before I can protest. My mouth stays open. I frown at the world.
“Who is Judah?!” Mara screams at me, “Who is Judah?”
My bothered look solidifies. I was going to tell her a few seconds ago... So why am I so hesitant now?
“Just... the guy who helped me... at the club,” I say.
“What?” she jumps, “And you’ve exchanged numbers? What’s next—apply for a joint bank account?”
“Stop freaking out, okay? It’s nothing,” I wave off her excitement.
I quicken my pace. Is it really nothing? I’m not sure. All I know is that my heart bounces in my chest.
“So when can I meet him?” she sings.
I shake my head, looking to the side of the road, “He’s not exactly a person... you want to meet.”
“I thought I had to wait for the next life to see you get a boyfriend,” Mara discredits with a quick laugh.
“Mara!” I scold right away. I even smack her shoulder for good measure. “He’s not my boyfriend. Far from it. I don’t even want to be around this guy.”
My best friend looks over my shoulder and pauses.
“You mean that guy?” she gawks.
I frown and spin around. Judah pulls up in a flashy black sports car with the windows down. I sigh. Yes, that guy. He continues to pop up in my life, which makes it very difficult for me to make important decisions. Others nearby can’t help but be flabbergasted by the expensive car sitting on the curb. Some have to look twice. I hear Judah’s voice.
Mara squeezes my arm and whispers, “Isn’t he from the coffee shop?”
I nod, “I know.”
“But—” she looks at me concernedly.
“I’ll call you later,” I say to her and step towards Judah’s vehicle.
He waits coolly for me, staring beyond the dashboard. He rubs his jaw. I sit in the passenger seat and buckle my seatbelt with nervous fingers. When I look up, my eyes lock with his.
“Hey,” he smiles.
“Hi,” I reply quietly, “Why did you come for me?”
“I was thinking about you, today,” he says to me. His hand steers the car back into motion. I notice fresh scars over his knuckles. “More than once.”
I look away with red hot cheeks. That’s got to be one big lie, I think to myself. Trees and brick buildings pass by quite quickly. I forget why I came in his car.
“Does it hurt?” I turn back to look at his flawless face. “Your hands?”
He focuses his gaze on the street, instead of giving me an answer.
I get curious and ask, “Did you get into a fight?”
He doesn’t say anything to me. I’m unsure whether I prefer it that way. I might not like to be reminded of the types of activities he might participate in during the day. I should be thinking about the number of articles I have to read tonight. But I get distracted by Judah’s intoxicating presence.
“Where are you taking me?” I ask, impatient to hear his voice again.
He smirks all over again. It makes me uncomfortable all over again. My knees shake a bit. Thoughts overflow my buzzing brain. He might as well take me to the edge of the Earth—that’s just what being beside him feels like.
“Places, sweet cheeks.”