Fighting to keep this alive
constantly fighting to keep myself going

- Alvin Maker's Greensong - The Scene Aesthetic

Clay Akuji sat in the shadows of the restaurant, busy mesmerizing a group of investors with tales of his current year of college. His father and step-mother, Neil Akuji and Betty Tucker-Akuji, the people who were supposed to be talking to the investors, were missing in action. Clay, with a sour thought, guessed that they were probably still in their car, fornicating to some new age song. He tried not to think about it too much otherwise he believed he would lose his entire dinner in front of the investors.

But, as an intern of his father's architectural firm (and heir to the establishment), he had to learn the ropes of business somehow and he believed that the best way to learn was to plunge right in. So he was partially glad that his father was absent. As he talked, he was learning, slowly, about the business and finding ways to charismatically talk to others so that he could hold their attention.

It was then, out of the corner of his eye, that he caught a vision of someone he had known almost three (or was it four?) years ago. She was busy stomping her way through the restaurant with her arms crossed over her chest and her long, inky black hair trailing behind her. Her style, he noticed, had yet to change. She still wore old, baggy black clothes over her petite body and old shoes that looked as if it should have been thrown out months ago. Unlike most of the girls in the restaurant, she was the only one not wearing pounds of make up on her face, preferring a natural look. Because of that, her imperfections, such as freckles that were clearly visible could easily be seen.

Despite her quietness, her direct purpose filled walk attracted a lot of attention. Even the investors had turned away from Clay's story in order to see what this girl was doing. She, however, looked oblivious to the attention she was attracting. Clay knew better, though. Knowing her, she wanted every eye trained on her so they could see what she was about to do.

It was then that she stopped in front of a table with one handsome man and several Barbie-type girls surrounding him. She said something and the man seemed to stare at her as if she were some sort of loon. Then, he said something that caused the Barbie league to erupt in titters and squeals.

The corner of Clay's lips twitched upward. He felt a slight pang of remorse for the stupid bloke. The one thing that a person should never do, he remembered, was annoy Jordan Wynn. Her temper and tongue was legendary in the Akuji household. Slowly, he took a sip from his drink as his gray eyes watched the events unfold.

Jordan seemed to take the laughter in with a slow, calculated smile. She waited for it to die down before she made a slight remark that rang through the tiny restaurant. "What? Hurt me with all two inches of you?" Suddenly, the handsome man had become very pale. One of the girls looked as if she were about to defend the man when Jordan shot her a deadly look. Slowly, Jordan bent down and whispered something. As soon as she was done, she turned away and walked out of the restaurant.

Clay, as did the rest of the patrons in the place, had wondered what she had said. It was obviously powerful enough to have the man call for his check and leave the establishment as soon as possible.

So, Clay thought while the investors began to talk about the events that occurred, Jordan's back home. He, like everyone who had known Jordan, believed that she had chosen to stay in Florence, Italy after accepting a scholarship to attend one of the art schools there. Sure, she had sent letters back but the letters had been few and rare and it always came from different addresses. She never wrote about how she felt, or her current situations. That wasn't Jordan at all. She wasn't the type to reveal her feelings so easily because she saw that as a sign of weakness. She did, however, write about the sights and sounds of Europe, becoming overly descriptive about the structures of buildings or people that she would meet.

"So, what did we miss?" Neil Akuji asked as he held out a chair for his wife. He looked a little happier and had several lipstick smears across his neck and a bright purple hicky on his neck. Betty, on the other hand, was busy trying to re-arrange her hair so that it would settle into place.

Clay cringed then excused himself, trying his best not to dry heave in front of the investors. That would just generally look bad in front of all of them.

Grabbing his coat, he went outside, hoping for a bit of fresh air to settle his stomach. It was there that he noticed that Jordan stood by the curb, her back to him while she hugged herself to try and keep the cold away from her. Up close, she looked really thin and small; as if she were still that eighteen year old he had known and teased so long ago…as if time had stood still.

"Hopeless," he muttered loudly, so that she could hear.

"You better be talking about your own life because right now, I don't really want to hear it, you little bas--" Jordan turned her head at that moment and her back eyes widened slightly, betraying her surprise, "—tard?"

"Hello to you, too," Clay responded with a half smile.

Neither one of them moved, as his sharp, blue-gray eyes, peered directly into her black ones. Clay could only imagine what Jordan was thinking as he stood before her, wearing an Armani suit. His semi-long brownish hair, which had been messy as a teenager, was now slicked back and styled so that he looked older than his twenty-two years of age. Instead of the patchy chin hair he had before, he now sported a five o'clock shadow. Those were the only drastic changes in his appearance. His body was still in peek physical condition since he still went swimming and played other sports with his college buddies.

"Like what you see?" he asked.

"About as much as I like a root canal," she frowned at him. Turning back to the street, she searched for any cabs.

Taking a step toward her, he dug his hands into his pockets and tried to act as casual as possible, if only to infuriate her. "So, you disappear for three years or so in a foreign country only to return in the middle of nowhere, dressed, I assume, in your finest, and threaten some stranger in the middle of a crowded, five star restaurant," he commented dryly.

There was a slight pause as he watched Jordan's lip twitch into a smirk from the corner of his eye. "Your point?" she asked.

"Well, other than the usual, 'What brought that on?' and 'What happened to you?' I thought I'd ask how you are."

Another cab passed by, but it ignored all of Jordan's flailing arms. "That's such a cliché question."

"I'm feeling in a cliché kind of mood," he replied.

"Then I shall answer with a cliché answer: I'm fine."

"A lie if I ever heard one," Clay remarked while he watched her, intently. When she didn't move for a few seconds, he felt as if he had overstepped his boundaries. Still, he did let the statement hang over them, waiting to see what her response would be.

"Just leave it, Akuji," she replied hesitantly.

He shrugged. For now, he would respect her need to keep whatever was bothering her secret. Later, he would bring it up again. "So, where are you going?"

"Turning into a stalker, I see," Jordan laughed.

"Call it a creepy past time," he responded with his own laugh. "But seriously, where are you going?"

She seemed hesitant about answering him. He noticed the way her eyes flickered before she responded with, "Back."

"And where would back be?"

There was a strained smile on her face as she glanced at him. "I'm staying with Gabby and Paul."

Clay almost physically winced when he heard that. Almost four years ago, Jordan had fallen in love with her best friend, Paul who had basically rejected her for another girl who was Jordan's other best friend, Gabby, and Clay's step sister. "Is there no other place you can go?" he asked.

Jordan shrugged. "Seriously, it doesn't bug me." Even though she said that, he could feel the tension shrouding her, like another layer of clothing. "Besides, I have nowhere else to go," she remarked.

"You could always stay with me," he replied.

"I'd rather shoot myself in the face," was her automatic reply.

"So piercing your heart every single time you go home is better than staying with me?" he asked, referring to Paul and Gabby. He could sense her hesitation so he tried to be more persuasive. "Come on, Wynn, it'll only be for a day or so until you do whatever it is you need to do."

After a few moments, she finally asked, "Where do you live?"

He tried not to smile in victory but it was awfully hard. "Near the university at the local apartments with two other guys…my roommate just moved out so you could sleep in his bed--"

"In the same room with you--"

"Don't worry. You're virtue…or whatever you have…is safe with me," he replied tauntingly. Turning to the street, he saw another cab rounding the corner. He gave a piercing whistle and the cab stopped in front of them. Opening the door for her, he dug into his pocket and handed her a key while she got in. "It's on the fifth level, room 529."

Before she could protest, he shut the door in her face then opened the front door. He told the cab driver where to go then paid him.

Stepping back, he watched as the cab drive away.

Jordan Wynn…what in the world happened to you?

Shaking his head, he went back into the restaurant.

End Chapter