Crawford Lane wasn’t just a beautiful suburban neighborhood on the outskirts of New York City, it was picturesque as well. Each house was built as a mark of fine architecture and painted in exotic shades of different colors. The front steps leading to the lovely porches were as white and glittery as snow. The well designed fences that bordered the houses were white too.
There was a breath-taking garden area right at the heart of the Lane where colorful and exquisite flowers blossomed among the shrubbery during the spring season. During Christmas, the garden is decorated like a bride. Besides that, every street and every house in the neighborhood was flanked by an elegant green cover of trees, bushes and grasses.
Crawford Lane also had a club with modern facilities for both indoor and outdoor sports like a soccer field, basketball court, a swimming pool area, table tennis, billiards and chess. The club also hosted a library that stacked books for both children and adults. So when Stef, Adam, Josh and I weren’t hanging out over table tennis, I came to the club to read in the library. Because unlike my friends, I was so not a sports enthusiast.
The boys loved basketball while Stef was into swimming. She considered a dip in the pool as the best form of exercise to keep herself fit and active so as to continue stealing Ferrero Rocher from my freezer.
So that afternoon, after a tiring day at school, Stef made a splash into the pool to relax herself while I rolled up my blue denims to my knees and sat at the edge dipping my feet into the cool waters. Stef swam like a pro in the pool wearing an orange swimsuit that suited her curvy body well. But she didn’t leave me alone to get bored as we also talked about life in general, school and also about our college plans which was a difficult topic to speak about.
“Do you think we’d remain best friends once we go our own separate ways after graduation?” Stef asked quietly.
“Ofcourse we will, no matter what!” I said without a doubt, “I know our choices of colleges are completely different. You’ve applied for schools in the East while I’ve applied for the West but I’m sure we will stay strong inspite of everything.”
Stef brightened up hearing that. “I’m so happy you said that, El!”
Right then, my phone beeped. I rolled my eyes seeing another ‘Sorry’ message from Luke. I didn’t bother to reply for I was still very pissed at what he did with me that day.
“Bravo, Eleanor! I’m so glad you didn’t respond to that boyfriend of yours,” remarked Stef, guessing who it was. “What did he do this time? Not that I’m having troubles guessing. He surely must have been an obnoxious shit like always.”
“I don’t wanna talk about it ya,” I said in a disturbed tone.
“Who’s even telling you to? Dump that guy already. End of story.”
I honestly didn’t want to get into that with her again. “Enough of discussing me,” I said. “Why don’t we ever talk about you as much as we talk about me?”
“That’s because it’s you who has a boyfriend, not I?”
“So why don’t you?” I returned, “You know right how much of a shy marshmallow Adam is? You & I have known him since Grade 1. He’ll never have the guts to confess his feelings to you. You being the feisty one should stop being like a fool in front of him and make a move.”
“It’s just that.....”
“Why do you look so anxious?” I asked in amusement. “Dating your best friend is the most amazing thing ever! You will be free to be yourself with him. Adam will make a very good boyfriend. And besides, he and you know each other very well.”
“That’s exactly what scares me, El,” she said, “There would be nothing new for us to know about each other. Also what if we’re not on the same page regarding out feelings? Otherwise too, what if things don’t work out and end up badly for us? No, I’m not willing to risk losing our beautiful friendship forever.”
“Relax Stef! Since when have you been thinking so much?”
“I have to ’cause it’s not only about Adam and me but also about Josh and you. Josh became our friend when he arrived at the Lane in the 8th Grade and since then, the four of us have been like rock. I don’t want one wrong move to break the amazing friendship that the four of us share.....Damn! Shouldn’t have gone on that fucking road trip!”
Stef, Adam, Josh and I had been on a short road trip during the vacations. It was during this one-week trip that Stef and Adam came to be attracted towards each other.
“All I can say is both of you really like each other and I’m positive that you guys will go strong together. Rest is up to both of you to decide.”
“I guess so...Anyways, I think I’ll change now.”
She stepped out of the swimming pool and headed straight towards the dressing room. I was sitting alone by the deserted poolside waiting for her when my phone beeped again. It was Luke and I ignored him this time too.
Next, I was receiving an incoming call from him.
“I’m really sorry for yesterday, baby...” Luke spoke from the other end when I answered him. “I know you’re upset...but don’t ignore me like this, it hurts so bad.....Please say that you’re not mad at me anymore..”
“I’m, Luke,” I said. “You had been away in Scotland for one whole month. I wanted to spend some time alone with just you and me. I wanted things to be special between us but guess you didn’t share my feelings.”
“I too wanted to spend time with you, baby,” Luke insisted, “I promise this will never happen again..”
“I don’t think you mean it. Your “promises” don’t last for a long time.”
“I really really mean it this time, sweetheart! You’re the sunshine of my life. If I don’t talk to you for a day, it-it kills me....You mean everything to me. You’re special and I know you will give me another chance to prove that to you.”
I took a deep grave breath. “Okay.”
“That-That’s great! So...are we good?”
I didn’t feel good after we hung up. But did it matter? No it didn’t. Because what I did was the right thing to do. I rose to my feet and had just started to walk towards the dressing room….
The mere sound of that unbelievably thick and surreal voice, so powerful and assertive, made my breaths jump onto my dry throat. I stopped short and turned sideways to see my new next-door neighbor, who had just arrived yesterday, stood with an undecipherable expression on his face. For a moment, I was intimidated to the depths of my skin finding his fiery gazes on me and his hands balled into tight fists at his sides as though trying to suppress a violent feeling. He was wearing a dark blue polo shirt with charcoal colored trousers which somehow accentuated his sharp looks and stiff demeanor.
“My name is Devon Parker and I heard you speak to that quarterback,” he spoke bluntly as though he didn’t find anything wrong in eavesdropping my private talks, “I’m unable to decide who is the bigger nitwit out of the two of us. You for taking that fucker back or I for silently witnessing you do that.”
I found his mannerisms appalling. “That would be you because you came out of nowhere and poked your nose into one of the most intimate matters of my life.”
I saw the edges of his lips curl into a sly smile, his demeanor was eerily calm now.
“Since I’ve already got my nose into your life, let me tell you that your life is one boring piece of nothing,” he said nonchalantly, “You live with an oldie in this absolutely dull and hopeless suburban lane with three loser best friends and an asshole boyfriend.”
I was shocked to the roots by his insolence and I got a bad feeling that he already knows a lot about me inspite of coming to live in his neighborhood just yesterday.
“You’ve no right to comment on my life,” I shot back bitterly, “This is called being a disgusting creep.”
“No, this is called getting to know your next-door neighbors,” he said calmly.
“You’re sick!” I spat, starting to walk away but he stretched out a long hand in front of me and blocked my path.
“Break-up with that pig, Eleanor,” he said, his voice touching a deeper chord as our gazes clashed, “Be done with him. Because there’s someone out there who wants you much more than you can ever imagine.”
“Get out of my way and don’t you dare try to get into it ever again,” I said coldly.
I was caught off guard when he stepped closer to me instead. I automatically backed off but he kept on inching closer to me staring at me through his dilated blue orbs.
“You’re in my private space!” I said critically as I continued to walk backwards as he advanced towards me.
“Not quite there. But soon.”
“Don’t you dare even try!”
“Didn’t you just say I was already there?”
I would have been rendered speechless by that sneer if, at that very moment, I wouldn’t have felt the ground under my feet suddenly vanishing…
Every particle constituting my body turned cold with horror as I realized I had walked backwards beyond the edge of the pool and now, I would be falling and drowning into the pool anytime soon...
I squeezed my eyes tight shut, my heart in my mouth, but suddenly I found my right hand in a tight hold. My eyes flew open and I realized I was hanging at the edge and if Devon lets go of my hand, I would suffer a violent slip into the pool.
But I refused to be scared.
“Leave my hand!” I ordered him.
“I cannot let you fall even if you want to fall,” said Devon, and pulled me back to my feet.
“I saved you from a nasty and embarrassing slip into the swimming pool. I deserve a little better than these stony looks from you,” he snorted. “A grammatically correct Thank You speech will do.”
“I didn’t need any saving ’cause I know how to get back to my feet on my own falling down,” I shot back.
“A little less than you.”
And he did the most unthinkable after that. Devon dropped to one knee in front of me which left me completely shocked to my wits end.
Devon looked up at me, his face sober and eyes intense. “I came here to talk about matters that mean the most not about matters that don’t,” he spoke, “Turns out coming to Crawford Lane wasn’t another of the many mindless decisions taken by my father like I thought it was. I like you, Eleanor. I ask you out for a date. I want to know you. More.”
What the fuck?!
“Firstly you speak shit about my life and then dare to ridicule me further?! I’m not a fool!” I fired, agitated by his audacity.
“Trust me, this wasn’t how I wanted to begin a conversation with you. That quarterback guy pisses me off. And I cannot control my temper.”
“I don’t care what you thought!” I retorted indignantly, “Just get out of my way. As a matter of fact, you already know what you should know about me. So find someone else to play these cheap tricks on.”
Devon rose to his feet. His gazes were towards the floor and when he looked again at me, his irises were darker and dangerous than before.
“That little piece of information about your relationship status doesn’t bother me at all,” he said darkly.
“That “little” piece of information of my being in a committed relationship with Luke is the only and the most important thing you should know about me,” I said, my gazes clashing with his fiery ones.
I started to leave when I felt his grip around my wrist from behind. That pissed me off so bad. I turned around to give him a piece of my mind but found his face very close to mine. His rugged breaths burnt the skin of my face and the intensity swirling in the sea of his blur orbs was overwhelming.
“I’m not interested in you, Devon,” I heard myself say but it sounded more of an assurance to myself than the real truth.
“You might want to guard your heart, Eleanor,” he spoke, almost in a dark menacing voice, “for I will achieve the very thing that you’re afraid of watching me attain.”
Devon stepped back from me at once and left from there. I was reeling from his words when I felt a hand on my shoulder which made me jump in fright. But it was only Stef.
“Hey, what’s wrong?!” she asked shocked seeing me pale.
“N-Nothing I’m fine,” I assured her with a smile.
“Sorry for scaring you and for taking this long,” Stef looked apologetic, “Got talking to my cousin Edward over the phone.”
“It’s--It’s okay,” I said.
“Shall we leave then? You know what, I’m so happy that you’re not talking to Luke!” she exclaimed as we walked out of the pool area.
“Actually...he called me up after you left and I....” I trailed off.
“Oh God, not again!” she groaned in frustration, “Don’t tell me he sweet-talked you and you melted just like always.”
“But I know this time he really means it and I want to believe him,” I said meaningfully.
Stef exhaled a grave breath but she didn’t say anything.
It would be an understatement if I say it was by far the most terrible day in school. The whole school was talking about Devon. All the girls had gone crazy about him. Wherever he walked, people looked at him. He had made quite an impression within a very short span of time. The constant talks about him in every nook and corner of the school was hell irritating to my ears.
“Damn this has to stop,” grumbled Josh when the four of us sat at the canteen during break time.
“I know right,” I groaned, holding my head between my hands.
“You guys should see this,” said Stef, taking out a piece of folded paper from her bag and placing it at the center of the table, “The girl sitting ahead of me was writing it during the English class.”
“What is it?” said Adam, reaching out for the paper. He unfolded it and began reading the contents to us, ” Devon has those intense looks and persona that could make a girl want to taste sin. His intoxicating blue eyes, the jet black hair, the seductive curve of his lips, his killer smile, his beyond perfect nose, cheekbones and jawline, his swoon-worthy biceps and I’m sure he must have got a Greek God body under that polo shirt---”
Josh looked as though he could howl in anger. Adam looked all the more amused as he continued reading further, “Devon’s voice! His voice is so thick, so deep, so intense and has a raw sensual edge to it. In short his voice is pure sex.”
Adam burst out laughing. “This girl is insane!”
I so agree with him. Stef did too.
“The world needs therapy,” huffed Josh. “I mean, anyone should be able to tell that I look way way waaaaaay better than that Parker guy.”
Now Stef was the one to laugh out loud.
Josh’s grew grumpier as he shot her an icy look. His swollen face looked so funny that I had a hard time controlling my laughter. But that was only until I spotted Devon walk in the canteen and every hint of smile on my face vanished in thin air.
I tightened my fists on my lap under the table as our gazes collided. I hate the fact that my heart rate was slowing down. I watched in contempt as his lips curl into a smirk. I hated the fact that I was looking at him even after his eyes left mine and he went his way.
I will not let him in and destroy me. I will be on my guard for he was a stranger, an unknown you can never know enough. He wasn’t to be trusted. And he wasn’t to be feared too.