My friends looked back at me in surprise, their eyes widened in disbelief. It would have been amusing, had they not been looking at me. After a moment's silence, I sighed loudly. "Can someone please say something?"
The three of them shared a look, before Sam volunteered herself to speak. "Well. That's a surprise."
"No, especially when I've been proclaiming my hatred for him for the last five years." I muttered, completely deadpan.
Riley rolled her eyes good humouredly. "What do you expect us to be like?" She glanced at the other two before looking back at me. "I mean, I think it's really great that you've finally decided not to resist those hormones of yours."
"And you couldn't have chosen a better person to like," Laura added, a wistful smile on her face. "It's Riordan, as in the Catch of the School."
I raised a single eyebrow. "You make him sound like a fish."
Sam snorted. "At least you're not sighing away like the other three hundred odd girls at this school." She gave Laura a significant look.
Laura sniffed before grinning. "What?" She lifted her arms disarmingly. "It's normal to check out hot men."
There was a flash of blonde hair from the side. My eyes narrowed as I realised it was Jenna. Riley grinned impishly. "Say Eve, on a scale of one to ten, just how much are you jealous of Jenna right now?"
"Try fifteen," Laura interjected, laughing. "If Jenna passes by within a two metre radius of Eve, her head will be ripped off."
"Or scorched." Sam added with amusement in her voice.
I couldn't help but laugh. "You wouldn't believe this, but I had one hell of a time imagining her hair alight the other day."
Silence greeted my remark. I stared at my three friends, wondering what on earth the reason was as to why they fell silent for the second time within ten minutes. Finally, Riley spoke. "Sorry to tell you this Eve, but you've got it bad."
"Yes, but it's too late now." My gaze flittered somewhere else. "He won't be turning back."
As soon as the sibilant bell rang signaling the end of the day, I dashed towards my locker as I was going to work. I was covering for someone today, with university students taking leave for study. The green leaves of summer had faded to the rich golden orange, littering the paths that wove around the school buildings. Bare branches, bronze in the sunlight stretched above in the sun kissed sky. It was deceptively still. A lull, as if the storm that had just passed had not quite abated, holding its breath for more to come.
Shrugging off the feeling of unease, I opened my locker and hurriedly threw the books that I didn't need for the weekend into the back and took out the textbooks that I did. I was looking forward to a weekend where I would throw myself into my books and try to forget everything that I had ever learnt about Riordan; those green blue eyes that stared intensely into my own, his warm strong hands, that smirk he would use which curled his lips.
Those lips. Well.
There was also the slight issue of having to go out to dinner with Karl. Earlier, he had stopped me in the corridor and told me that he would come by at six to pick me up. I shook my head. There was nothing wrong with his offer. I had gone out to dinner with Riordan and certainly one with Karl wouldn't hurt either. It was after all, simply a dinner between friends. Nothing more and nothing less. But strangely, that invitation had slipped my mind when I was talking to my friends. Somehow, an invitation from Karl to go out to dinner wasn't something I was desperate to share. It had quite left my mind.
Glancing at my watch, I started, realising that I had been standing at my locker for ten minutes lost in my reverie. As I ran out of the building frantically closing my school bag, I sighed. My very own wits had left me as well.
I ran into the library, puffing and panting as if I had just taken a drag on a cigarette. A single eyebrow raised dryly greeted me, along with a perfectly arranged hairstyle, sable and black. But appearances were deceiving. Miss McAlister was certainly not as young as her hair portrayed her to be. Neither was she as stern as she looked.
"Any excuses as to why you're late, Eve?" She questioned, her nails drumming rhythmically on the polished surface.
I smirked and looked pointedly at her hands. "Are those new nails, Miss McAlister?"
"Do you like them?" She held them aloft and waggled her pink cuticles about in the air. "I should have known nothing would have fooled you." She put them back down. "I hope you didn't mind coming in today to cover for Matt. All these university students are taking leave so I'm running out of people."
"Have you tried putting up some sort of hiring sign?" I asked as I clipped on my name badge.
She pulled some books from behind the returns desk and put them on the trolley. "Yes, it's out the front," she pointed to a sign taped to the front window, forlorn and alone. "The problem is, not many people are willing to work here when I only need them as cover for a month. Most are looking for permanent fixtures."
"That's true. But if I do find anyone, I'll tell them about it."
I pushed the trolley out from behind the counter and looked at the books to see what section they came from. I didn't have to look at the title to see where they belonged. Just one glance at the bright pink cover with hearts all over it told me that it was a sappy romance. Fantastic. One of those pathetic romance novels where the guy always ended up with the girl and they lived happily ever after in the sunset.
I couldn't see anything realistic about that. People like each other, get their hearts stomped on before moving, only to get their heart stomped on again. It wasn't a simple case of love at first sight. Romeo and Juliet tried that and they ended up dying. I remember studying the play in fifth form and one particularly eager girl saying that it was the perfect ending: the two star crossed lovers united for eternity. Who the hell was she kidding? I'm sure she'd like doing that too with her then boyfriend. Who later cheated on her with her best friend. That's what I should have told Riordan that day when he had asked me why I didn't give love a chance. I had seen far too many people make the same mistake.
I paused. I was standing alone in the aisle of a deserted library and once again, lost in my thoughts. I had to conquer this. I couldn't pine and moon over someone who I'd quite frankly, pushed away myself. I had no one to blame, except for myself. There was the sound of footsteps in the next aisle and I looked up to see the back of someone, tall with dark hair, dressed in the school uniform. My heart leapt. Was it Riordan? He turned around slightly and I realised with a sinking feeling, that it was just another one of the numerous males around at school with dark hair. As if Riordan would come to visit me when he had so plainly said that he felt nothing for me. Because everything he did would never measure up to what I wanted.
Those piercing blue eyes appeared in front of me, cold and unfeeling. I closed my eyes to banish them from me. But they didn't disappear.
I liked you. You were different from every other girl.
His voice echoed in the silence. Had I not been so proud, been so sure of my opinions, I wouldn't be here, pining after someone I had scorned. I almost hated myself. For the first time in my life, I had no faith in my opinions anymore. Was I a fool for letting him go?
I think I was.
I trudged all the way home, listening to The Verve. How bittersweet everything was indeed. The house was dark when I arrived, cold and empty. It was going to be just me and my books tonight. Unlocking the door with a click, I switched on the hallway light, the bright glare of the lamp pushing the gloom away. Throwing my bag down in my room, I walked to the kitchen and turned on the stove, ready to cook my dinner. The fluorescent light flickered on, reflected in the window where the skies outside were already growing dark. I stirred the thick soup, the fleeting steam rising from the stove, disappearing into nothingness. Emptiness.
And so I sat there, alone at the kitchen bench eating my dinner. The sky was dark but the stars hadn't returned. It was a void, black and barren. My dinner disappeared fast, a result of my determination not to let this… this disappointment rule me. I pushed his eyes to the back of my mind, trying to concentrate on the essay I was writing for history. In a seemingly drug induced haze, I relished the distraction of the various events and dates in history, allowing them to saturate my mind. I was blissfully numb.
A sibilant call pierced through, the sound of the distant phone. It echoed through the empty house, harsh and jarring. Shaking the remnants of my stupor, I got up and walked briskly down the corridor to the phone, sitting innocently on the hall table. It rang once more as I picked it up, shaking in my hand with life.
"Hello, Evelyn Lawson speaking," I walked back through the corridor to my bedroom.
"Eve, this is Mum." My mother's warm voice flowed through the icy handset and into the unfeeling shell of my ear.
I cleared my throat and tried to put on a more happy tone. "Oh, hey Mum. What's up? Is something wrong?"
"The conference is going well," she said cheerfully. "Is everything fine where you are?"
I raised an eyebrow. "I'm fine, but Mum, you don't normally call from a conference."
There was a rush of static from the other side. "That's true - ," she said with a sadder tone.
"No, I didn't mean that it was bad. It's nice to be independent." I hastily interrupted, not wanting my mother to feel any guilt. I had grown up like this and as much as some people hated being left alone, I liked it.
"Eve," another rush of static. "You're so independent and that's good. But, sometimes…" she trailed off, trying to fumble for the right words. "It's good to take a seat back and let others take the reins."
I coughed awkwardly. "Thanks for the chat, Mum." Sure, my Mum was the warm fuzzy type, but she never sat down (or in this case, talked over the phone) to give me such insightful advice… until now. It was almost like a benediction. A farewell of sorts.
She cleared her throat and became her cheery self again. "That's fine. Now, to tell the truth, I called up because I need you to do something for me." I unconsciously held a breath, waiting for her to say what it was. "Eve, I need you to go and get something from the Maxwells for me."
I exhaled, my heart beating loudly, a drum pounding in the distance. "As in the Drs. Maxwell?" I asked, praying that it wasn't. I didn't want to see him. Not yet.
"Yes, Riordan Maxwell's parents." My mother chirped cheerfully. Almost simultaneously, my heart sped up before stopping abruptly. It was a strange sensation. I stopped outside my bedroom door. "We're doing some legal work for their clinic."
"Ah. Are they expecting me?" I asked apprehensively, my gaze flickering to the jersey. His jersey. The dinner date. My dinner with Karl on Sunday.
"I just rang them up. They say that tomorrow afternoon is fine."
I held the phone away from my ear and looked upwards. "Okay. I'll go around."
"Thanks, Eve. It makes business smoother when we get back. They live in a suburb on the other side of town. You'll need to catch a bus to North End and then get on the number three bus that goes by Highbury." She took a breath before continuing. "Get off on the fifth stop and their house is number seventy five along the same street."
He lived in another suburb. On the other side of town. So, was it more than pure coincidence that he happened to be driving past my house every morning? Why did he take a detour when there was a more direct route to school?
"Eve, did you get that?" My mother's voice drew me out of my reverie.
I grabbed a pen from my table and scribbled down the details, jagged black lines. "Done. Is it just some documents?"
"Yes, a termination contract. Nothing particularly major, but it needs to be done."
I nodded. "Okay, then. Say hi to dad for me."
"Love you. Be careful, alright?" Then she hung up. The dial tone was dissonant, a pulse that went into eternity and never echoed.
It was late afternoon that I found myself outside the gate of the Maxwells' house, or specifically his house. The fence around the house rose forebodingly, looming over like sentries. Concealing, hidden and unseen. Unlatching the gate, I stepped in over the threshold and along a paved path to the front door. Bright flowers bloomed along, shrubbery in the front yard. The sun gleamed off the large front windows, clean and polished. The front door stood at the end of the path, tall and proud.
Draping his jersey over my left hand, I knocked using the brass knocker several times and then stood back to wait for someone to get to the door. A few tense moments before the door opened and out stepped a woman with intelligent grey eyes. It had to be his mother. She studied me briefly, her eyes searching.
"Hi Dr. Maxwell, I'm Evelyn Lawson, I'm here to collect some documents for my parents, Arthur and Ellen Lawson." I had to appear assertive.
A warm smile appeared on her face. "Ah, Evelyn. Your mum called yesterday. She said to expect you some time today. Come in and take a seat." She stepped back and beckoned.
My eyes roamed for any sign of his presence before nodding, albeit reluctantly. I stepped in through the door into a large atrium with high ceiling and white washed walls. Paintings hung on the walls, a swirl of blues and greens depicting the sea. The wooden floor was hard, our footsteps echoing as we made our way down a corridor, adorned with various photos. I studied them as best I could while walking down. Dr. Maxwell stopped and turned around, the corner of the mouth quirking upwards. "It's fascinating watching people grow, how they change." I looked upwards at a photo seeing a young boy in a soccer uniform, festooned with mud, blue green eyes lively. His long limbs stuck out awkwardly, splayed outwards as if he didn't know what to do with them. Yet, he'd grow into them. That I certainly knew. He roamed the school hallways, his head above everyone else's, his legs long allowing him to walk lithely. Catlike, like a predator stalking prey.
We continued walking, past a staircase that led up and finally to a sitting room, warm and sunny. Sunlight shone through the windows, the burgundy window seats looking so appealing. A variety of pot plants sat on the floor, artfully arranged. An antique coffee table sat in the middle of a cluster of cream couches, while a small arrangement of anemones were placed on top of the table.
Dr. Maxwell looked at me. "Take a seat, Evelyn. Would you like something to drink while I get the documents?"
I shook my head. "No, thank you. I'm fine."
She opened her mouth as if she wanted to say something before nodding. "Alright, I'll be back in a moment." She turned and left the room.
I sat down on the couch, my eyes roaming about the room, hoping with every fibre of my being that he wasn't home. I wondered if his parents knew about our dinner. About me. But, it was folly to think that he had told his parents about me.
But he used to like you.
Ignoring that train of thought, I focused instead in my surroundings, admiring the style in which the room was decorated in. The cream mixed with the rich burgundy, the tasseled cushions adding to the affluence of the environment. A russet grand piano sat in the corner of the room, the lid propped up. Black and white keys glistened in the light, bright and polished.
Footsteps echoed in the hallway outside the room and my heart sped up. I wanted it to be him, but at the same time, I was dreading his presence. Much to my surprise, a young woman entered the room gracefully before her grey eyes lit up with surprise. "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know you were in here." She looked delicate and translucent, like a glass ornament. This had to be Belinda, his sister.
"That's fine. I'm Evelyn and you must be Belinda."
Her eyes widened further and to my surprise, her gaze contained some sort of inner strength. She wasn't as weak as she appeared to be. "I don't know why I didn't recognise you," she said as she sat down opposite me. "My brother has told me a fair bit about you." Her voice was clear and even.
It was my turn to be surprised. "I suppose most of it was bad." I said ruefully. "How I'm so stubborn and argumentative?"
Her eyes twinkled as she considered my comment. "Not really, more like willful." Her gaze traveled to the jersey draped over my arm. "Why do you have my brother's jersey?"
I flushed and looked at it. "Oh, your brother lent it to me a few months ago. I just haven't really found the time to return it." I finished almost sheepishly and set it down beside me.
She nodded sagely. "That happens. So, why are you here? My brother's out at the moment. But he should be back soon, if you're looking for him."
Almost simultaneously, my heart leapt and sank. I knew that I had to leave as soon as possible. I couldn't see him. "No, I'm just here to get a few documents from your parents to give to my parents."
"Oh, the termination contract. I didn't know that your parents were the lawyers who were in charge of it." She paused before continuing, her lips pursing for the slightest of seconds. "We're changing medical suppliers."
"I see." I replied noncommittally. Suddenly, my mind flashed back to an earlier conversation with my mother. Karl's father owned a medical supply company. Could they be changing to his one? Or perhaps from his company… but as if they would change medical suppliers just because their daughter was dumped by the son of the owner of said medical supplier. Or was there another reason?
Belinda laughed suddenly, her grey eyes observant. "You're a very methodical person, aren't you?"
I blinked and shifted. "I don't mean to sound surprised, but you sound older than you are."
She paused, something passing over her eyes. "I think your experiences shape who you are." She looked away for a fraction for a second before a smile appeared on her face again. Like a well recovered mask.
"Yes, but you've got a much better vocabulary than most fifteen year olds." I replied, fighting the urge to ask more.
She shrugged. "I guess it comes from reading."
"Oh, what do you like to read?" I raised my eyebrows in interest.
"Depends what the library has on offer. It's kind of annoying when you get there and all the books you want are gone already."
The wheels in my head were turning already. "In that case, would you be interested in a job at the library? I work there and it's great because," here I smiled somewhat ruefully. "I can sift through the books and save the ones I want for myself before putting the rest on the shelf."
"So that's why I can't find the books I want." She exclaimed with amusement. "I'd like to. What are the hours like?"
"They're quite flexible. How about I give you my cellphone number so you can contact me more easily?"
"That'd be good. I'll just get some paper and pen." She got up from the seat and left the room, the leaves on the plant quivering in her departure.
I leaned forward to examine the anemone plant on the coffee table, the brilliant blue shade of the petals contrasting the warm burgundy shade of the room. I reached out and felt the velvety texture, a dusting of pollen falling onto my fingertip.
Belinda walked back in, holding a sheet of paper and a pencil. I looked up. "It's funny. I thought a red anemone would have gone with the colour scheme of the room better."
She smiled, sat down and handed me the pencil and paper over, her gaze flickering to the plant. "That's true, but blue's a better colour for the meaning of the flower itself."
I raised an eyebrow in question, my cellphone number scrawled messily on the white expanse. "And that is?"
"Anemone means forsaken."
I blinked and opened my mouth to say something when Dr. Maxwell came back in. She looked at us both for a moment before handing a brown paper envelope to me.
"I see that you've met each other." She gestured at the envelope. "Everything should be in there. Please thank your parents for me."
I nodded and remembered his jersey, folded beside me. "I was wondering if I could return this. I was cold one day and Riordan lent it to me."
Dr. Maxwell raised her eyebrow and nodded. "His room is upstairs and the first on the left."
Belinda got up and murmured something in her mother's ear. Dr. Maxwell nodded. "I think Riordan has a few clothes that he needs to return to you as well. You'll find them in his room."
"Thanks." I got up and walked back along the corridor and up the stairs.
Windows along the front bathed the passage in light, while several doors ran along that faced the windows. Turning to my left, I stepped past the open door, not knowing what to expect. A well lit room greeted me, the deep blue curtains by the window fluttered gently in the slight breeze. His scent wafted towards me like an old friend, one I hadn't seen for awhile. It was hard not to think that he wasn't here, when everything reminded me of him; the deep blue of his eyes which gazed at me from the curtains to his aftershave which mingled about in the air. Yet, I was glad that he wasn't at home. It would have made things much more awkward than they should have been.
A bed was in the corner, the covers tidily folded down. It was hard to imagine acts of passion happening on such an innocent looking bed; clothes lying haphazardly about the floor, with limbs entangled in a lovers knot. With Jenna. With two faceless girls.
Not liking the direction in which my thoughts were heading, I turned my gaze to his desk, where I was told the clothes I borrowed him were. I walked over to the large desk that sat towards the window, pens placed neatly into containers and books stacked into piles. On the very end sat my dad's clothes folded carefully into immaculate squares. I sighed as I picked it up. Everything in here was too neat, too tidy.
I whirled around to see his bookshelf on the opposite side of the room. Naturally, I was drawn to it. He had mentioned in passing that he was reading The Historian… the ending which I had ruined for him unintentionally. I flushed uncomfortably and ran my gaze through the spines of the books, placed according to the author's last name. He had a few science fiction novels and mysteries, as well as 'To Kill A Mockingbird'. Suddenly, I saw one last novel placed along the top of the books on the bottom shelf. I kneeled down and drew it out carefully, seeing with shock the title of the book. 'Pride and Prejudice'. As I held it up to the light, a slip of paper fluttered to the ground, pale and wane against the wooden floor. Some words were scrawled on the front, the black letters dancing across the white paper, jarring and at odds with his tidy possessions, carefully arranged about in his room. Out of curiosity, I turned piece of paper around to read it.
Relinquish it all
Forget everything of you
And now I take leave.
I sat back with my heart beating heavily, the small note leaving my frozen fingers and twirling delicately to the ground like small butterfly. Was it too arrogant of me to think that he was talking about me? I shook my head and placed the slip back into the book. It didn't matter now. All I knew was that it was far too late. Too late for last minute confessions, too late for renouncing everything I had once believed in. A sense of utter loss of what could have been filled me. Even though it was a beautiful day outside, the sun high in the sky with the bright rays giving light, it was as if a choking mist had descended to surround me. He had gone, forgotten, relinquished everything. And we, we were nothing, as if the concept of us had never existed.
I was forsaken.
A.N. Please don't come after me with pitchforks :) This story is far, far from over and I'm not going to put it on hiatus any time soon, so rest assured. It's just taking me awhile to plan it out (coupled with uh, procrastination). Thank you for all the 'wake up' messages and reviews. I really, really appreciate them. And the supersuper person who nominated 'Deceiving Impressions' under Best Cliche at SKoW. Heh, feeling forgiving despite my tardy update? ;)
I've also hopefully provided a few more answers in this chapter or hinted at it.
Thanks goes to class.act, Nefertiry, The Quirky Sceptic and Pop The Bubble for getting me to stir off my ass and write.
Sapph: Thanks very much for your review :) I'm glad you like this story. Something will happen on Sunday... whether Riordan is there or not remains to be seen. As for Karl, well... you'll see :)
tnt: Haha, drama is lovely. Especially angsty drama because that's always good to write :) Thanks muchly for reviewing!
Hanging from the ceiling: Hope you've managed to get off from the ceiling after reading this chapter ;) It's uncomfortable, I bet. Thanks very much for reviewing :)