I've always hated malls; they've always made me feel even worse about myself. To me, the mall was the perfect place to go to dwell in self-pity. And so far, it was definitely working.
Yet for some strange reason, I kept coming back.
It hurt to see so many teens so happy with their significant others. My entire life, I'd been feeling the repercussions of a broken heart. Over and over again, I found myself rejected to the point where I gave up altogether.
So now, here I was. A lonesome twenty year old, sitting by herself in a mall, finding herself extraordinarily jealous of high school students. I never knew that one day those words could be jumbled together to form a sentence with some sort of logic behind it.
Shopping was my own remedy to put me out of misery. The joys of spending an endless supply of cash always had a beneficial toll on me. Thank my parents for that. When they had discovered what an emotional mess I'd become over the past seven years, they gave me the only thing they could offer: money.
But the day my brother Dean died, everything took a turn for the worse. A freak accident, they said. He got caught in the middle of a crossfire. After that dreadful night exactly three months ago, my parents disappeared. No letter, no warning, nothing. The only thing they had left for me was everything. Their entire will had been made out to only me; so I had everything.
But it wasn't enough. I found myself closing off from everyone around me. My friends, teachers and relatives knew nothing. My parents didn't know it then; but neither did I. Only when it was too late did I know that I needed my family; I needed them here with me. They were the ones I knew would love me forever. Friends and lovers come and go, but my family was who I was stuck with forever.
Even if it was not intentional, such a rejection was the last straw. If my own family was willing to deprive me of love, I was a hopeless case.
Sighing, I carelessly tossed my bags over my shoulders and walked into my last stop; Finish Line. Sure, it wasn't what I usually went for, but they had bargains there to die for. I slumped down on the armchair situated in the corner, allowing my bags to fall to the ground.
I turned my head, quickly scanning the collection on sale today. "Hello miss." A friendly voice piped up. I turned to face the girl, but I immediately scowled in disgust. She must have seen my sudden chance in expression, for she faltered and took a step back. "How can I help you today?"
"By getting the fuck away from me." I snapped, picking at the loose material coming off the armchair. I looked up, frowning just to see her still standing there in shock. "What are you still doing here? I don't need your help; I don't need anyone's goddamn help!"
The girl merely nodded and ran away as fast as she could. Laughing to myself, I shook my head in disgust. What was it that caused the sudden coldness? Her eyes; it was that simple. A person hears a lot about reading another's eyes. It's something easier said than done, but after years of practice I must say I have it perfected. The employee's eyes were fake, empty and filled with boredom. But she thought she could cover up her lack of respect. Any normal person would go for it, but not I.
I sat there for a couple more minutes, staring at the sneaker next to me. By now, I could hear the other customer's scattered around the store whispering to themselves. It was quite obvious it was me they talked about; I could feel their eyes on me as I glanced away from them. To divert my own attention, I turned my attention back to the sneaker. It truly was a beauty, another masterpiece done by Nike. But no; their hushed whispers swirled around my head to the point where I couldn't take it anymore.
I quickly gathered my bags and shuffled my way out of the store, no longer able to stand their prying eyes. It was as if though they wanted to tear me apart and inspect every little detail of me. Visions of that very scene began flashing right before my eyes. I groaned softly, rubbing my temples in order to soothe myself.
I wanted to get out of here; I needed to. I could feel myself breaking down with every passing second. Again, picked up my bags and headed out, my head bowed down. I didn't get very far until I had managed to collide into another body, sending me sprawling on the ground.
People standing around began laughing as I desperately tried to gather my belongings. But just as quickly as it started, the laughter slowly began to diminish. "Go ahead guys." A guy spoke softly. "I'll catch up later." The people around started walking away, looking at me in a weird fashion. Trying to ignore the stares, I noted from the corner of my eye that he was helping to pick up the spilled contents of my bags. "Here." He handed me the bags. "I'm sorry."
I shook my head. "No, I'm sorry." I spoke quietly. "I should've watched where I was going." At that point, I decided to see this guy; to see if he was actually worth talking to, or if he was like that employee. But the moment I lifted my eyes, I came face to face with the most angelic face ever. Though his dark hair covered his eyes, I could still feel the presence of his dark green orbs drilling into me.
For the first time in years, I was the one to feel uncomfortable in the presence of a male. I shot up, catching him off guard, but before I could say a word, he was already looking down at me. I looked away from him to the ground; anywhere but at him. I felt as if every time I stared him in the eye, I exposed more of myself to him. "I'm sorry." I whispered, shifting under the weight of the bags. "I have to go."
"No, wait." He said, grabbing my wrist gently as I began to walk past. He took in a deep breath and stared at me. "Sit down with me?"
I bit my lip, not exactly sure what to do. No guy had spoken to me besides my friends who have tried miserably to talk to me. But what I truly hated was how vulnerable and lost I felt around this man. I felt that I needed him to watch over me. Not just for now, but forever.
Before my brain could comprehend my actions, I was sitting down next to him. "Alex." He started, completely shocking me. I scooted further away from him on the bench. How had he known that?
Noting my startled expression, he laughed quietly to himself, playing with the cuffs on his wrist. "Don't worry, that's all I know about you. When you came to the mall about three months ago, I saw you blow off all your friends. They literally chased you through the mall. It's hard to forget that kind of thing."
I closed my eyes, trying to forget what happened three months ago. That was when I realized everyone I loved couldn't stand to be with me. That's when I knew I was borderline insane. I shut myself from everyone ever since that day.
"You know, I see you every Saturday in this mall." He sighed, looking around the building. "Before that huge argument with your friends, you actually looked energized. But now, when I see you; you act as if though life isn't worth living. You act like there's nothing out there in the world for you."
He knew too much. I couldn't let that happen. I stood up, looking down at him. "I don't know who the hell you are, but you better get away from me right now." I hissed, trying to ignore the chills shooting down my spine as he kept his gaze on me.
"I'm Jared Felix; age twenty-one. I'm starting my last year at Rutgers University. That should be good for starters." I stared at him in shock.
"If you go to college in Rutgers, why the hell are you in North Carolina?" I asked.
Jared merely shrugged. "Sit down." He said, staring at me with those green eyes. Every time I made eye contact with him, I felt as if I was under his trance. I did as he said quite unwillingly and looked down at my fingers. "Alex, look at me." I made no move to look up. His hands came into view, grasping mine tightly. For the first time, I felt a spark shoot through my veins the second our hands made contact.
Slowly, I looked up towards Jared, the shock still running through my body. "I've seen you for months; I'm surprised you've never seen me before." With my body still numb from his touch, I began to search through my memory for any signs of remembrance concerning Jared. I may be a lonely, depressed shopper on the outside; but I paid attention to everyone around me. I had a keen eye, able to tell a lot about any person from merely the way they acted. But now, I was finding myself having difficulty reading Jared.
Suddenly, I remembered. It was three months ago, the same time Jared had noticed me. After my public confrontation, I could feel everyone's eyes lingering on me. Through all that pressure, there was one stare that I could truly feel. I had spun around countless times, the world spinning around me before I caught the eye of one man. His green eyes seemed to penetrate through my soul, reading my life story as if though it was an open book on display.
It had been Jared.
"I saw you a long time ago. Three months ago." I said, my voice fading into a whisper. "I could feel you, like you were right here besides me."
Jared nodded. "I've been watching you ever since then." I gulped, shutting my eyes tightly. I knew someone had been watching me, as if they were my guardian. And now I knew it had been Jared this entire time. "I've seen how upset you were everyday. It truly hurt me to see you like that."
That second, I snapped. I knew Jared had already sensed it, for he tightened his grip on my wrist. "You don't think it hurt me?" I spat, tears threatening to spill. "Why do you think I am this way? Because I enjoy it?"
"No, it's because you're too fucking scared to do anything about it." Jared snapped, completely catching me off guard. When I flew into a temper tantrum, people usually backed off, tried to calm me down or reason with me. Needless to say, none of those ever worked. But never had anyone retorted with words as harsh as my own. "You're scared of yourself, you're scared of everyone around you. You're scared that everyone around you is going to disappear and leave you in the dust. Just open your fucking eyes for once in your life. Do you think every person in this world would do that to you?"
He remained silent, gazing at my eyes. I knew he was waiting; waiting for an answer. Throughout my life, everyone had abandoned me to fend for myself. My mind was screaming yes in response to his question, but deep inside I knew he'd come up with more theories that depicted my standards of life.
"You pushed them away. It wasn't them, it was you. Your friends; look at them. They were willing to make idiots out of themselves by running after you through an entire fucking mall, for God's sake! They tried to patch it up, you refused. You were too scared to go to them for reconciliation. You thought they'd run away from you the day you needed them. Well guess what. You need them now and you have no one."
God, I hated how Jared was right. Everything Jared had just said hit me straight in the heart. I found myself crying, crying tears I had so long kept inside me. Now the truth was staring me straight in the face, and I couldn't stand it.
"Oh God." I whispered, staring up at the ceiling. "How do you do this to me?"
Either Jared hadn't heard me, or he chose to ignore me. He merely pulled me against him, wrapping his arms around my body. "Alex." He whispered in my ear. "You should know that people you've never met are capable of a lot. You can feel their presence; you can feel them watching you. But you don't know who they are. They can change your life completely."
And what he said was completely true. Here I was in the arms of a man I'd never had the chance to know. Yet I felt a sense of security, comfort and trust as he tightened his hold on me.
"Jared." I whispered, hoping he would never let me go. There was this connection between us, I could feel it. He was capable of reading me so easily, he made me feel wanted. It just felt so right in so many ways. "Promise me one thing."
"Anything." Jared responded, turning me around to face him.
At that moment, my strong dislike for malls diminished. After all, it had brought me to the stranger who flipped my entire beliefs in a matter of twenty minutes. All my life, I never imagined anyone would be capable of accomplishing that, but Jared did. "Never leave me. Never. Stay with me forever." I said, leaning my forehead against his.
Jared didn't blink or
move, he only kept his eyes on me. Slowly, I felt his hands move from
my shoulders and drift down to my hips. "I promise." He
whispered, causing my breath to hitch. For the first time in years, a
slow smile slipped on my face.
His lips touched mine lightly, causing my entire body to burn with pleasure. His simple touch made me crave for more as he pulled back. I looked at him deeply, attempting to read his eyes as quickly as he had done to me. But his eyes clouded over just as fast as he leaned in again.
At that moment, I knew my life would never be the same again. I had found someone who made me feel complete, someone who made me feel like I was on top of the world. Someone who I hoped would love me for who I was; flaws and all.
But sometimes, things were just too perfect to be true. The second I felt the meaning of true bliss in his arms, Jared pulled away lightly. "I have to go." He whispered against my lips as he gently placed me in the seat next to him. "Good-bye."
"No… wait." I said, trying to reach out for him, but it was too late. He had walked away, his hands stuffed into his jean pockets as he disappeared into the crowd of shoppers. I watched his retreating back, any feelings of comfort I just had walking away with him. People around me cast looks of disgust, as they shook their heads, talking amongst themselves.
I couldn't take their looks anymore, I knew I couldn't be here any longer. So I did what I should've done a long time ago, I left. I shouldn't have agreed to stay with Jared; but I lacked the self-control. I knew I needed him, but look where that got me.
Twenty steps back from where I was twenty minutes ago.
God, how I hate what I do to myself.
As I drove the lonely miles back to my lonesome abode, the rain began pelting down. I hated the rain, just as much as I now hated the mall. Never again was I going to set foot in that building.
Running through the rain, I made it into my home, slightly wet. The soft glow of my computer screen caught my eye. Hadn't my computer been shut off before I went out? I was pretty sure of that; considering how I never have it on unless it was for school purposes.
And school was done two weeks ago.
A feeling of discomfort ran through me as I stepped closer to the screen. Looking at it, I saw the internet browser had been turned on to the page of Google. And in the search bar sat the name Jared Felix. I shut my eyes, still remembering every feature of his face.
But something made me open my eyes again, and even to this day I wish I didn't. Someone, or something must've pressed enter, for the next thing I knew, search results were appearing on the page. At that moment, everything fit together. The odd looks, the laughter, the whispers, the sudden disappearance. That was the day I knew I had to get away.
Jared Felix, age 18, died on October 13, 2002 from a heroine overdose.
Just a small one-shot I wrote for a contest. I changed the ending though to something more 'oy.'