I walked around, wandering aimlessly, feeling myself relax the more I was out and about. I wasn’t really sure where I was going exactly. Sometimes I liked to get myself lost in a new place. It was the easiest way for me to learn to navigate everything. A cloud blocked the sun and I rubbed my arms as a small breeze forced a shudder out of me, making me wish I had brought along my hoodie. I found myself in a familiar part of town, Kayla’s neighborhood. How did I end up here? I wished I had texted or called her before showing up, but since I was here, I might as well knock on the door right? Maybe she could hang out or something. I rapped sharply three times on the door, hoping against hope that she was here. As the door creaked open, I looked up, expecting to see Kayla. Instead, I saw a very large man.
“Can I help you?” he asked in a gruff voice, narrowing his eyes at me as he looked me over from head to toe, already judging me.
“Yes, sir. I was wondering if Kayla was around? We go to school together and I wanted to see if she was busy,” I said softly, shoving my hands deep into my front pockets.
He arched an eyebrow and rubbed his chin, still eyeing me speculatively, “She’s at work right now. What did you say your name was?”
“Shoot! I forgot to introduce myself, great move jerk-off!” I shouted internally at myself for being stupid.
“Kai. My name is Kai, sir.” I gnawed at the inside of my cheek, the pain keeping the anxiety attack I was about to have at bay. “Do you know when you’ll be expecting her?”
“I expect to see her when her shift is over,” he replied, quite rudely I might add.
I desperately wanted to ask where she worked, but didn’t dare, “Fair enough, thanks. Could you please just let her know I stopped by?”
“Yeah, I’ll let her know,” he agreed, licking his lips.
“Okay. Great, thanks. It was nice meeting you, sir,” I said respectfully, trying not to piss myself because his huge, lurking figure was so intimidating.
“You too. Take care now,” he said with a brief wave and a menacing look.
“Thanks, you too,” I said with a nod before turning around on my heel and walking back the way I came.
I decided to head to the mall. My homework was done and I didn’t have anything better to do. Kayla’s dad wasn’t very explanatory on when she would be back. I figured maybe it did look weird, though. Some strange boy he had never met before coming up to their house and asking to talk to his daughter. I probably would have been rude too, if I were him. I shot a text off to Kayla, asking if she wanted to hang out after her job, not really expecting an answer since she was working.
Sounds good, Kai.
I didn’t dare message her back after that, not wanting to be the reason she got into trouble at work. As I entered the mall, I checked out the map to see what stores were where. The map sat on a pedestal next to a wishing fountain. It was surrounded by stone benches and pitiful little bushes that looked amazingly real, but were made of cheap plastic. The prickly hairs on the back of my neck stood up and the feeling of someone watching me percolated in my brain. That’s when I saw him leaning up against a wall on the other side of the fountain. Seeing him outside of school was inevitable, but still it came as a slight shock, nevertheless. His eyes were darker, brooding as he smiled at me and crossed his arms.
“Hey...you,” I said tentatively, taking a slow step towards him, “How are you?”
His cerulean eyes twinkled and his mouth formed a smirk, “Hello. I’m doing okay and yourself?”
“Good, I’m good. Everything’s good…” I chuckled.
His smile widened even further and he uncrossed his arms, “Well, I suppose that’s good, then.”
“Yeah,” I said, sitting down on the stone bench, feeling extremely tongue tied.
“I don’t think I ever introduced myself properly. Sorry about that. Sometimes I forget basic manners,” he said, his beautiful lips curling into a grin.
“Uh no, you didn’t. I told you my name though, didn’t I?” I asked, my eyebrows puckering as I tried to recall that particular memory.
“Yes, it’s Kai, correct? I’m Jude,” he said, arching one beautiful eyebrow at me.
“Right. Hey,” I said with a shy smile, my cheeks pinkening.
He chuckled, “Hello.”
He sat beside me, his khaki pants brushing my leg. His skin was so beautiful up close; pale, light freckles, nearly translucent. I don’t think I ever had even so much as a thought about another person’s skin, unless they had a pimple or something. I knew I was being sort of obsessive, but I couldn’t help it. He had an amazingly strange, glowing complexion. I realized he was still wearing the same outfit. I guess it had been a week since I had seen him, maybe he didn’t have very many clothes or something. Or maybe it was his favorite ensemble. I wanted to ask, but I also didn’t want to embarrass him.
“So, I haven’t seen you for a few days. You been alright?”
“Yes, I had to take some time to… Recharge,” he said with a small smirk and a twinkle in his eyes.
“Recharge, huh? What the heck is that supposed to mean?” I shook my head at him and swung my arms out, almost hitting him. I was such a nervous spaz around him.
“Well, I can’t be near you sometimes. It’s nothing personal and it’s hard for me to explain,” he bit his lip and shrugged apologetically.
“Yeah, not cryptic at all, but okay,” I said, raising an eyebrow, unsure whether I should feel flattered or insulted,. “So, you have to take time off of school because of me, but you can’t or won’t explain it?”
He grimaced, taking a deep breath before going on, “Something like that, yes. Can we drop it?”
“Sure, that’s fine. Next time, though, maybe keep the cryptic remarks to yourself if you’re not going to talk about it, alright?” I joked to mask the annoyance I had with him. He was giving me an eye twitch. I mean, it’s such an odd thing to say to someone he didn’t even know.
“You’re mad,” he stated simply, with a frown.
I sighed, running my fingers through my hair, “I’m not mad exactly. I just-”
“Kai?” Came a familiar voice behind me.
“Hey Kayla. What are you doing here? Your dad said you were working,” I said, swiveling around to face her.
“My dad? You went to my house?” She pursed her lips, flashing a worried expression and shoved her hands in her pockets.
“Uh, yeah. I did. He’s a character,” I started, but I could tell that she didn’t want to discuss him by her demeanor, so I didn’t press any further. “So, you were working?”
“Oh, yeah I was. I just got off now. I work over at Hot Topic,” she said pointing to the left and grinning, “So, what are you doing here? Shopping?”
“Not really. I was bored and trying to kill time until we could hang out, to be perfectly honest,” I laughed.
“Nice! Well we can walk around some more if you want. Have you been here before?” She raised her eyebrows expectantly.
“Sure, sounds fun. No it’s my first time. Hey by the way, this is…” I turned towards Jude to introduce him to Kayla, only to discover he was gone again. I stood up and looked around, trying to figure out where he could have gone in such a short time.
“Hey...you okay there, buddy?” Kayla asked with a cross between amusement and concern in her voice.
“Uh...yeah. I was….” I scratched my head and turned back to her with a shrug and an edge of frustration creeping into my voice. “I was talking to someone before you got here and then he just...he vanished again. I don’t why how he keeps doing that!”
“Oooh intrigue. You’re talking about the mystery guy again, right?”
I nodded, “Yeah. I don’t know where he went. I was gonna introduce you guys, but he’s gone again, sorry.”
“It’s cool. What’s he wearing? Maybe I can help you find this guy. I’ve been dying to get a good look at him,” she admitted with a big grin, putting her hands in her back pockets.
“Uh okay, he’s got on a peach colored button down shirt and khaki pants. He has dirty blonde hair slicked over to one side and really blue eyes,” I said, listing off the things I knew about him.
“A button down shirt and khaki pants? He sounds kind of preppy. Really? That’s the type of guy you go for?” she teased, shoving my bad shoulder accidentally.
“Jesus,” I said, hissing in pain and grabbing my shoulder. It throbbed in general for the most part, but this was just torture.
“Oh my god, I’m so sorry. Are you okay? I totally forgot. Oh my god!” she said reaching out to me and then pulling back, her eyes tearing up.
I held up my index finger, waiting for the black spots and dizziness to subside. I gasped as the intense shooting pains ebbed away into a dull ache and a burning fiery sensation.
“Shoot, dude. That hurt like a mother,” I groaned, clutching my stomach as a wave of nausea hit me.
“You look so pale, I’m so sorry. I’m such a klutz. You okay?” Kayla said, a worried frown creasing her flawless face.
“Bathroom. Nauseous,” I muttered, closing my eyes and concentrating on my breathing to fight back the urge to puke.
“What? Um it’s over here. You think you can make it okay?” She said helping me up, wrapping her arm around my waist.
“Hope so,” I grunted, trying not to move too fast as I shuffled along beside her.
We made it to the bathroom and I went to splash cold water on my face. I put a wet paper towel on the back of my neck to try to fight back the bile rising in my throat. I closed my eyes again and breathed deep until I felt normal again. When I opened my eyes and looked myself in the mirror, I agreed with Kayla. I looked wan. My steely gray eyes looked dulled as well. As I splashed more water on my face, in the midst of it all, I caught a glimpse of someone’s dark shadow on the wall behind me. I turned around, thinking I would see someone lurking, but there was no one. I shook my head and dried my hands with a paper towel. Was I going crazy? I wondered as I exited the bathroom.
“You feeling better?” Kayla asked, pushing off the wall she had been leaning against directly beside the bathrooms, startling me.
“A little…” I admitted, still trying to shake the image of the shadowy figure I had seen in the bathroom.
“Whew, I’m glad to hear it. I’m so sorry,” she said biting her lip and knitting her brows together.
“I know, it’s OK. It was an accident,” I said, pulling her close by her shoulders into a side hug.
“Still up for walking around?”
“Yeah. Let’s do this. I might pick up some applications, too. I need to make some cash,” I said, not wanting to admit my family was having money troubles.
“Well, good. Maybe we’ll get to see each other more,” she said sounding hopeful. She tucked a piece of hair behind her ear and led the way around, pointing out different stores as we passed them.
“I figured it was about time I started paying for some stuff myself. Stop being a lazy moocher and all,” I laughed, dropping my arms and letting them sway at my sides.
She joined in the laughter, hoisting her black, skull laden messenger bag across her shoulders. I picked up a few applications from places that said they were hiring. If I wanted to help my mom out, I couldn’t afford to be picky. My having a job probably wouldn’t be much help, but I could at least help lighten the financial burden on my mom. I kept my eyes peeled for Jude, but had no further sightings or run-ins with him. Maybe my mom was right and he really was shy. After a couple of hours of walking around, Kayla and I got lunch at a Chinese place in the food court. While we were eating, she suddenly froze mid bite, spotting something over my shoulder.