Heh, another new story I did not plan for. That doesn't bode well, I often don't finish stories I don't plan but I was just itching to write again, and I like this so far. Tell me what you think! Thanks.
Copyright 2007 Nabila Qureshi.
Summary: Isabelle Mazarin bumps into an odd stranger one day, accidentally breaking a necklace he wears. When he demands that she help him fix it, she gets caught up in a world she knew little about, and learns things she never would have dreamed of.
Chapter 1: An Unfortunate Accident
One of my favourite feelings in the world is waking up to the soft sound of rain upon my roof. That gentle, constant pattering of water falling from the sky has always soothed me and, for some odd reason, has always made me feel rather removed from the world. I feel as though I have stepped through the door to some other place, some other time, perhaps, when most people worked the earth with their hands and prayed for the drink of life to bless the lands.
Once I leave the warm comfort of my bed, however, all feeling of enchantment dissipates. The day suddenly looks miserable, cold and grey, and the thought of trekking to lectures under such conditions makes me wish that class could be canceled.
"Chicken," I mumble to myself, as I roll out of bed and stumble into the washroom to brush my teeth. "I want a chicken sandwich for lunch today." But that means spending money, my brain protests. Right, money... a thing rather lacking in my life at the moment. It's not a crisis, really, but living on residence on top of paying tuition fees for university tends to suck a bank account dry.
Once I've rid myself of morning breath, I scrub my face, get dressed, and check what time it is. Ten in the morning... I have an hour before my French exam begins, but once it's finished I'll be off school for three lovely weeks of winter break. Three lonely weeks of winter break, my brain corrects me. You aren't exactly making friends here.
Waffles and a glass of milk later, I'm opening my umbrella and sloshing across the sidewalks as I head to where my French class is held. The rain is pouring down fast, driving sideways in sheets so that I have to tilt my umbrella before my face to protect it from getting hit by cold needles of water. My eyes are concentrated on the ground before me as I silently recite verb tenses in my head. I suppose it's because of that that I manage to collide with something suddenly, hard enough that I'm thrown backwards and, to my horror, fall neatly onto my ass. The umbrella drops to the ground and I sit there for a second or two, my brain processing three things: that I should have looked where I was going, that cold water is seeping into my pants, and that I don't know what I bumped into.
"The hell is your problem, don't you look where you're going?" a low voice snaps, just as I look up. A young man is sneering down at me, his eyes dark pools of fury.
"I - I'm so sorry-" I begin, but he cuts me off.
"Sorry? You just stabbed me in the chest with that thing, and all you can say is sorry?"
I pick up the umbrella and slowly get up, feeling miserable but angry at the same time. It was an accident, and he's acting like I stabbed him with a knife.
"I'm sorry," I say again. "I should have watched where I was going. I'm really sorry." I'm drenched, and cold, and all I want is for him to accept my apology and walk away. I hate confrontations, they never seem to do anything but waste time and make me upset.
He pushes past me without another word. I raise the umbrella, but it feels useless – I'm completely drenched, anyway. But in two and a half hours it will all be over, and I will be able to come back to my dorm and sleep.
I finish the French exam, look it over twice, and check my watch - I'm done half an hour early. I hand it in and grab my backpack before slipping silently out of the room. My exams are done! I breathe a sigh of relief and a slow smile spreads across my face as I walk down the hallway towards the entrance doors of the building. The smile freezes on my face, however, when I see a familiar man standing there.
He turns, then, and sees me. The man I bumped into earlier.
"You. Come here." It's an order, not a request.
"What?" I ask, staring at him warily. I've stopped walking. Has he come back for revenge? Was the weakling hurt that badly by a little poke in the chest? I think spitefully.
"Come here," he growls, and when I look at him his eyes, like last time, are dark pools of fury. I fully take him in for the first time, his wet black hair and light skin, the chiselled features, the silver stud glinting from his left ear. He's at least a head taller than me, languidly leaning against the wall, a trenchcoat hanging off broad shoulders and a lithe frame. I realize I've been staring and my eyes snap up to his face to see a slight smirk playing about his mouth. This man, I realize, scares the heck out of me. He looks handsome and dangerous, a combination that is perfectly attractive in novels and films but utterly terrifying in real life.
"What do you want?" I manage to squeak, trying to sound as polite as possible so as not to anger him. "I'm really sorry about bumping into you earlier-"
"You'd better be fing sorry," he says. The smirk is gone, replaced by fury once again. Seeing that I am not going to approach him, he takes several steps towards me. Ah, crap. This isn't good. "Do you know what you did, when you rammed into me earlier? Do you know what you did?"
I didn't ram into you, I want to protest. But now I wish I had, perhaps taking out a lung in the process so that this creepy jerk would be in the hospital instead of accosting me when I should be celebrating the end of exams.
"Look what you did," he growls, and he holds out a hand to me. Upon his palm lies a small clear marble, hanging on a string, and it's cracked. Oh dear, I think. Was that a necklace I managed to break when I "rammed" my umbrella into his chest? Is he going to ask me to pay for this?
He can probably read the fear on my face, for he says, "Yeah, you had better be scared. This... the value of this is beyond anything you can imagine. And you are not leaving until we've made a deal for how you are going to repay me."
Ohhh crap, I am definitely screwed, I think, and can feel a wave of panic starting to make its presence known. I hurriedly quash the feeling and take a deep breath.
"Prove that I broke it."
He looks enraged. "Don't you dare try to escape blame for this," he hisses at me, and I take a step back. "This was perfectly fine when I left my room this morning. You can ask my roommate, he saw me put it on. The only possible explanation for its current state is our little meeting earlier today."
My shoulders slump in defeat.
"How much do I have to pay you?" I ask dully. Mentally, I try to calculate how much extra money I have. A few hundred dollars after other expenses for the month are paid. But that money is needed to cover living costs for the rest of the school year. Maybe I can take a loan from the bank, I think, when he speaks.
"Pay me?" he laughs. "In money? This thing can be repaired by no man. No amount of money will fix it."
I'm actually holding my breath now. Is he letting me off the hook?
"You, however, will."
There's a few seconds of silence that seem to last days, before I say, "Sorry? I don't think I heard you right..."
"You," the man repeats. "You're going to help me find out how to fix this. In fact, you may very well be the one who ends up repairing it."
"Uh," I say, my voice dripping with sarcasm, "if you don't mind it getting covered in duct tape, sure, why not!"
Before I can blink, he suddenly has me pinned to the entrance doors, his long fingers encircling my wrists and holding them above my head. I gasp, shocked – what on earth? How did he do that so fast?
"What the hell are you doing!" I shout, struggling to twist my wrists out of his grip but he's too strong, he barely seems to even notice.
"This is not a joking matter," he growls, anger laced through every word. His eyes – what a beautiful shade of dark blue, my brain muses – are focused on me with such intensity that I have to look away. "You don't know how important this is to me. You have to fix it!"
Something in his tone of voice makes me look at him again. There's a real sense of urgency there, almost fear, but he's trying to hide it.
"What can I do?" I ask resignedly.
"Come with me." Abruptly he lets go of my wrists, now sore, then pushes past me outside into the cold, where the rain has stopped. I stand there for a few seconds, staring after him. He's kind of crazy, my brain warns. This doesn't seem like a good idea. But instinct drives me to take a step forward, then another, and another, and before I know it I'm following him down the street, struggling a bit to keep up with his long-legged stride.
"Where are we going?" I ask his back, but he doesn't reply. Jerk.
We begin to head through Queen's Park, and I finally catch up enough to walk alongside him.
"So, um, what's your name?" I ask.
He's silent for a while, before he finally replies. "Zack."
"Okay. I'm Isabelle."
We continue walking through Queen's Park. The sky is starting to clear up, some shafts of sunlight breaking through the clouds, causing the water droplets on every leaf, every blade of grass, to sparkle. I breathe deeply, enjoying the fresh scent that often – but not always – lingers after a rain in Toronto.
We reach University Avenue, and Zack heads down the stairs that lead to the subway station.
"Okay, Zack," I say, starting to feel a bit worried. "Stop."
He ignores me and keeps walking, heading towards the turnstiles. I jog after him and grab his arm, pulling so that he turns and is forced to face me.
"Sorry," I say, feeling apologetic for grabbing him like that. "But really, you are going to have to tell me where we're going and what we're going to do, or I'm not coming with you."
"Why do you need to know all that?"
I stare at him as though he's stupid. "Because I just met you a few hours ago? Because you could be taking me to some shady bar where you'll drag me out into an alley and-" I stop abruptly as his expression darkens to a dangerous one. If that was a joke, it was not a very good one, my brain reprimands. Shut up, brain, I think.
"What," he says, in a soft voice belying the danger beneath it, "are you trying to say about me?"
Oh God. I want to say nothing, nothing, everything's okay! Never mind me! Let's keep going! But that would be even stupider than my bad joke. I have every right to know what was going on, this moody, albeit very attractive young man honestly could have been dragging me off to murder me in a dark alley as revenge, or sell me to a brothel, or-
"Answer the question."
My heart is actually pounding with fear, and for a second his eyes flicker to my neck, then back to my eyes. It's pathetic that I'm this scared, but honestly, I have never been good with confrontations.
"L-look," I say, "I just... we just met. And I know you need that necklace fixed, but even you have to admit I have every... every right to be a bit concerned for my safety, okay? I don't know you, I don't know where you're taking me..." My voice trails off into silence, and I wonder if I should make a run for it. But the guy's pretty well built, I bet he could catch you in a second and squish you to a pulp. I thank my brain for the words of encouragement as I wait for him to say something.
"We're going to a bar," Zack says. "I know someone there who may be able to help me. It's near Yonge and Bloor, so let's go."
I realize I'm still holding onto his arm and quickly let go, feeling my face heat up. Zack turns around and walks away, and with a sigh of wary resignation, I follow.
Thanks for reading, please leave a review! (But no flames - constructive criticism is more than welcome, however). Also, though the story is set in my hometown Toronto, I'll be making up places from time to time.