Going to lessons and actually sit in class with my “peers” was something I could never get used to and apparently they couldn’t either. Likewise, my teachers seemed pretty surprised once I walked inside the classroom, but didn’t say anything about it. It was crazy how even they forgot that I was a student too and that I should be treated like any other. They should be surprised about me not going to classes, not about me making an appearance after so long, as if they already expected me not to show up. I couldn’t complain though; I wasn’t exactly in hell. Despite everything, people still respected me and teachers didn’t expect much from me, just like it had always been. But even though things remained how I left them, it felt so different. When a teacher talked to me I was rather polite, and I wouldn’t demand a particular seat, I would just sit at a random spot, and I didn’t make fun of people when they answered a question wrongly or had a stupid doubt, because I was in the same boat, always have been.
Once the day was over and the lessons came to an end, I remembered something Summer and I had both forgotten: she had practise today, and I knew once she remembered it she wouldn’t miss it. That meant that I had more or less an hour and a half to kill until I could be with her.
As I walked back to my room, I dug into my pocket to grab my keys and unlocked the door. As soon as I opened it, I stepped on a yellowish envelope that was on the floor. I groaned as I picked it up and placed it on my desk. Hansen must have passed by in the morning to leave it there as he usually did at the end of each month. The envelope contained my monthly allowance, but I wouldn’t even bother opening it. It felt like the money he gave me was a way to tame me, or as a treat for not running away. Even though the quantity of money was quite reasonable and tempting, I had never used it, not even a cent. I was too proud for that.
As always, I knelt down on the floor next to my bed and pulled out a cardboard box from underneath it. Even though I would never use the money, I couldn’t simply toss it away. Hansen had been secretly delivering them to me since the very first month that he and my mum locked me away in Hudson. Only naturally, the box was filled with envelopes, not quite reaching the top. I placed the latest allowance inside and closed the box, but something in the back of my mind told me not to close it. I looked at the numerous envelopes in front of me, and curiosity pulled me to them. I reached for one of the many and opened it. There were two ten pound notes inside. Twenty pounds.
I stared at the pile in front of me. If I had twenty pounds in only one of the envelopes, how much money would I have in total? I started to count the number of envelopes, opening them every time to see if they had the same quantity, which they had. I had in total twenty-four envelopes, which meant I had four hundred and eighty pounds in total.
I let that sink in for a second. First of all, I was impressed that I actually did the maths, and second of all, I could not believe the amount of money I had. It was all mine, and I could use it for whatever I wanted.
No, my subconscious reminded me, you are not going to use Hansen’s stupid money.
I closed the carton box and placed in under my bed, not giving it a second glance and I sat down on my chair.
Four hundred and eighty pounds.
It was way too tempting. I had the money right there in front of me, and if it were any other guy I wouldn’t even think twice before using it. But I was a man of my word, and I swore that I would never use that dirty money. I knew that if I told Summer that I had that amount of money she would freak, saying that I was an idiot for not using it since she obviously had had difficulty with money, but I refused to use it, I was too proud.
That was when I had an idea: I could give Summer a present with that money, a decent present, a gift like no other, one that she never had. I could already see her face radiating joy like it did the last time I gave her that flower. Besides, I had been desperate to find a way to cheer her up, and that idea was the perfect solution.
It was still Hansen’s money after all, and even though I wasn’t going to use it for me like Hansen intended, I was still going to use it and that was against what I believed was correct.
I turned around and looked at my bed as if as was seeing through it, like an x-ray. What harm would it cause Harry? I thought to myself. I was not going to use all of it. More one hundred, less one hundred, what difference would it make?
After a long debate with myself, I swallowed my pride and I reached for a couple of envelopes in a quick motion since I was afraid I would place the money right back inside the box. But the image of Summer’s smile and her eyes shining was stronger than my reluctant feeling. In a matter of seconds, I was pulling out the notes from at least nine envelopes, making a total of one hundred and eighty pounds. That was more than enough money, although I had no idea what I was going to actually get her.
I placed the money inside the inner pocket of my blazer and left my room, locking it on my way out. As I did so, those couple of seconds were enough to make me doubt my choices. What if Tom was out there? What if he found me? If there was something I truly didn’t want was to get beaten and come back to school and have to face everyone with bruises and bloody knuckles, especially Summer. This time was entirely different from when I went with Summer in the Winter holidays; since no festivities were going on, fewer people would be on the streets, making me more vulnerable, and easy target.
That was when I heard Anthony’s voice at the end of the corridor. That asshole. Summer mainly talked about Anna and how she left her, but Anthony was also her friend and he abandoned her like the rest of her “friends”. To make it worse, I remembered that they went out together back when I was beaten by Tom, and I didn’t like him since that very day. Now that I had a valid reason to smash his face against a wall, the anger inside me was almost unmanageable to control. But I wouldn’t do anything; I promised that to myself and to Summer.
As I thought about it, my anger towards Anthony made me remember why I wanted to surprise Summer, and with no further due, I walked past him without a glance and left the building.
As I entered the taxi, I asked the driver to take me downtown. I arrived in less than ten minutes and walked towards the area where there were more stores. There was a fair amount of people walking in those streets, making me feel safer. The cars specially made me feel more comfortable, knowing that everything was moving fast, that people had an objective, like I did.
As I walked down the streets looking at the shop-windows, I realised I had no idea of what to give her. What could I give her? What would make her forget her problems? Was there such a thing? Probably not, but there had to be something that would make her smile so brightly as I had imagined in my head. She didn’t have much, and as I looked around, anything really would do, but I couldn’t just give her some meaningless object that she could dispose of when it was already used.
Just when I thought this was a bad idea and I should go back to school, losing all confidence and faith that I would surprise her, a store called my attention. The awnings that protected the front of the store were being retrieved, the large window that let the customers look inside the store was being closed by what looked like a metal gate or protection. The store was about to close.
I walked closer to it and noticed that bicycles were being taken inside by two men. I instantly understood that the store was selling them, and something inside me clicked.
That was it, the perfect present.
“Excuse me Sir-” I said to one of the men, a bald middle-aged guy with a few extra pounds.
“Sorry, we’re closed,” He said, not even bothering to look at me.
I looked at the bikes that were still outside. My eyes fell on a Spartan-crimson red one that even had a front basket and a metal seat above the back wheel. It was absolutely perfect.
“How much is that one?” I asked as I pointed to the shiny bicycle.
“I said we’re closed,” he said once again “We will open tomorrow at eight.”
“No Sir, you don’t understand. I have to buy it right now,” I tried to explain, but the rude man cut me off shortly.
“And I have to close the store right now,” he responded, clearly not amused. “Come back tomorrow son.”
I sighed in frustration. I had to have that bike, I would not leave without it. I really didn’t want to share my personal life with a stranger, but maybe if I told him what was going on he would make an exception.
“Look, there is this girl I really like that I want to surprise okay? And that bicycle is perfect, and I’m sorry to tell you but I’m not leaving until you sell it to me.”
The man stopped what he was doing and looked me up and down slowly. The young man that was retrieving the awnings stepped off of his small ladder and said:
“C’mon boss, it won’t hurt to make one more sale.”
I internally thanked the young man as he looked at his boss with pleading eyes.
“Yeah, the guy looks pretty desperate,” he said and averted his attention to me “Okay son, but only this one time. You said that red one right? It’s one hundred and sixty.”
My eyes lit up as I reached into my pocket to take out the money as the man gestured the employee to go and unchain the bike. I handed him the wad of notes, not caring that I was paying more than the actual price.
“Keep the change, and thank you,” I simply said and walked towards the bike. The tires were full and the brakes were functioning well; the bike was ready to use.
Not caring that the bicycle had a feminine style, I sat on the dark-wood coloured saddle and pedalled as fast as I could. I obviously couldn’t take a taxi since the bicycle wouldn’t fit inside it, so I had to pedal the long way to the school. I looked down at my watch; I still had ten minutes until Summer’s practice came to an end, but she still had to shower and whatnot that took girls an eternity to get ready. I was confident that I was going to arrive on time so she wouldn’t suspect of anything. I knew that she was going to fall in love with it as soon as she saw it.
I headed to the changing room as soon as the practice ended and locked myself in a shower stall, taking my sweaty clothes off and opening the tap of the cold water. Finally, Friday. I would not only have Harry all for myself for two whole days, but I could also stay away for as long as I wanted from everyone. We could go to the forest and stay there for hours if we wanted to, we could go to the city if we pleased, we could hide in the music room like we usually did for as long as we liked. It felt like my life was a never ending cycle to make it till the weekend, knowing that when it ended I would go back to hell.
As soon as I was clean, I grabbed a towel and wrapped it around my body. I left the stall and got dressed as fast as I could. I walked to the mirror to make my tie (although I knew it was a lost cause) and to blow dry my hair. Once I was ready, I grabbed my things and left the changing room with intention to go to my dorm to leave my stuff and go meet Harry at our usual metting spot; the vacant music room.
I walked through the fields of bright green grass. The remains of winter were melting away, and spring was fighting to blossom. The leaves on the trees were slowly growing, the flower beds looked like empty cribs, but the snow that once covered them was nowhere to be seen. January was coming to an end, it was still too soon until spring time, but I couldn’t wait. The winter was too cold and I had had enough of it.
I reached Hall A and quickly went up the stairs to my dorm. It was empty as I suspected, but I somehow wished it wasn’t. I placed my bag on my bed and walked towards the mirror. On the table below it, numerous beauty items were scattered on top of it. I knew they were mainly Amanda’s, and memories of the day when she helped me choose the outfit I wore when I went on my first date with Anthony flash in my mind. I smiled stupidly, but I still felt a slight sting in my heart.
After leaving Hall A and entering the main building I went to the underground floor to the music room. Harry wasn’t there, so I just sat on the carpeted floor and patiently waited for him. After ten minutes of waiting, I got up and started walking around the room. He was for sure late for some reason. He could be stomping down those spiral stairs that announced his arrival any second.
Almost twenty minutes had gone by and I had circled the room at least one hundred times. Where was he? Did he get in trouble? Did he get into a fight?
That was when the door came flying open.
“Summer,” Harry said between breaths, his hand over his heart as his chest rose and fell quickly.
“Harry, did something happen? Why are you late?” I immediately asked, but the smile on his face told me nothing was wrong. “Why were you running?”
“You need to come with me,” he said, holding my hand and pulling me towards the door.
“Wait, where are you taking me?” I couldn’t resist smiling. For sure he was up to something.
He held my hand as we walked up the spiral staircase, only letting it go when we reached the top.
“You’ll see,” he looked back “Now follow me and please don’t ask questions.”
“But nothing,” And that was all he said. I walked by his side during the entire walk, not caring that people were staring at us as he took me outside in the direction of the woods. His smile stretched from one side of his face to the other, his eyes were brighter than the sun as it came down, creating marvellous shades of red and orange all around us.
“Okay, now you need to close your eyes,” he said with a childish, yet devilish smile.
“Harry,” I stated in a warning voice “What is going on?” I asked as he moved behind me and cover my eye with his warm palms.
“It’s a surprise!” He said, an excited squeal leaving his lip, making me laugh. It was all very strange; I had never seen Harry act that way before.
I took each step cautiously since I had no sight. I held on to Harry’s firm arm as he led me to wherever he planned to.
“Okay, I’m going to count to three,” he said once we came to a stop.
The anticipation was building in, making it almost impossible to stand still.
“One, two, three!” he said and his hand moved from my face, my eyes opening instantly.
I recognised where we were; it was where we first kissed, where I told him my secret. I remembered the bench and the lamp post that were nearby. My jaw fell on the floor once I took in what was in front of me.
A brand new red bike.
A gasp fell from my lips and my hands instantly moved to cover my mouth. I looked back at Harry who was standing there like an idiot as he took in my reaction.
“Surprise!” He said gleefully.
“What? Why?... How-” I didn’t know what to say. I was utterly speechless; it didn’t seem real. “Is this for me?!”
“Of course it is, what kind of question is that?” he said, sarcasm evident in his voice as he walked closer to me. I gave him the tightest hug I possibly could. It felt like I was tackling him rather than hugging him, but I couldn’t conceal my excitement.
“Go on, check it out,” Harry said, nudging me to do so.
I circled the bike, taking a closer look at it “It must have cost a fortune!”
“It was nothing really...” He said.
“No one has ever given me such an expensive gift,” I said with sincerity. I was not ashamed to admit it, at least not to him. It was such a strange feeling, to have something entirely new, that had never been used by someone else or that was broken. I was even afraid to touch it. It was more than perfect.
“You didn’t have to,” I added. Even though I was euphoric, Harry just spent a load of money on me, and I’d rather prefer if he used it for himself instead.
“I knew you were going to say that, and yes, I did have to,” he said “You were feeling so down, I just thought that a little surprise would cheer you up.”
“Little surprise?! Are you kidding me?!” How is a bicycle a ‘little surprise’? Harry, you’re insane.”
“That’s because you drive me crazy,” he said, a smirk sketched on his flawless face. He walked closer to me and lifted my chin up “You deserve it. Also, don’t think too much about the money okay? It’s just money after all, and I have a shit load of it. I prefer using it on you than on me.”
I couldn’t help myself by crashing my lips on his. God, how I loved that boy. He was so sweet and kind and gentle and thoughtful and I could tell he loved me as much as I loved him.
“Thank you so much,” I said, pulling back just enough so I could speak “Now if you excuse me, I have a new bike I need to try.”
He chuckled and went to sit on the bench as I rode my new bicycle. The wheels crunched the leaves as I passed at great speed over them. The sound was fantastic as it moulded with my laughter. I couldn’t remember a time I had been happier, and the feeling was marvellous.
“No more walking between buildings for meee!” I said, lifting one of my hands in the air.
“I know babe, I know,” I heard Harry say as he watched me in adoration. His state made him look a little younger, his sharp features were relaxed as he looked at me and my new red bike.
I had no idea how I was going to thank him, but I had to. This was the best gift I had ever received, and I knew the reasons behind why he bought it. I still had to ask him more details, like when did he bought it and if it was spontaneous or if he had planned on giving it to me long before, but in that moment I couldn’t care less about those things. All I could think about was my precious new bike and how happy I felt.