There's a Reason for Everything

Mina hated Galen, and she had every reason to do so. Since the beginning of grade 9, more than two months ago, he had displayed a number of dislikeable qualities. He was arrogant, narrow-minded, conservative, and most-of-all, drop dead gorgeous. Every single girl in their high-school -and there were hundreds- had asked him out. He had rejected every single one of them. Mina was different. She refused to sink to their level. Galen seemed to keep track of the girls who he had rejected. Mina had noticed him dropping hints on girls who hadn't asked him out, until they asked him out. This usually took him less than a week. Then, he would reject them, and spend the next half-hour or so, scribbling something down in his old notebook. Mina scornfully called it his "diary", and made an effort to mention how much she hated guys like him every time he was in earshot. Often, after school, she would see him waiting at the bus stop as she passed in her mother's car. She would occasionally roll down her window and make a silly face when they passed directly in front of the bus stop. Luckily, he never seemed to notice.

Today, Mina found herself alone in the parking lot after art club. Everyone else had left when school ended - a good hour and a half ago. While she waited for her mom to come pick her up, she combed her fingers through her short, curly, blonde hair. She loved the way it always sparkled in the sun, but today, dozens of clouds were loitering all over the sky. She sighed, hoping the sun would peak through the clouds for just a few minutes to warm up her cold, goose-bump-covered skin. The harsh November wind was unpleasantly cold, and Mina regretted not bringing a coat to school.

She stared past the back field, which was now covered in red and orange leaves, hoping to spot her mother's red Toyota Corolla turning into the small street that led up to the school parking lot. Instead, a Gold Mercedes Benz turned into the street. A low roaring noise came from its one open window. As the car approached Mina, she realized that the car was blasting rap music. Three men sat in the car, all of whom were laughing loudly at something Mina couldn't hear. The car passed Mina and then turned sharply, back towards her. It stopped less that a metre away from where she was standing. The driver's window slid open, revealing a thuggish-looking man in his mid-twenties. He pulled his black sunglasses down to his nose, and stared directly at Mina. The other two men in the car snickered. He opened his mouth, about to say something.

"Mina," said a loud and calm voice behind her, "Let's go."

Galen had appeared behind her. He grabbed her wrist and started walking towards the entrance to the parking lot, away from the three men. Mina noticed her mother's red car turning into the street. Galen's hand slid down from her wrist, and his fingers entwined themselves into hers.

"Hey, white kid! Why you stealin' our little toy away from us?" one of the men yelled at them. Both Mina and Galen kept walking without turning around.

Mina's mother's car turned into the parking lot. She noticed the panic on her daughter's face and saw the three men, who had now exited their car and started walking slowly towards them. She drove her car around Mina and Galen, separating them from the three men. Then, she gestured for them to quickly get into the car.

Mina ran towards the car, pulling Galen with her, "Get in, hurry!"

"Mina, let go..." Galen said calmly, pulling his hand out of hers, "I see my dad's car coming down the street... I'll be fine; he'll be here in less than a minute. You guys can go. Hurry..." He gently pushed her towards her car. Mina climbed into her car hesitantly.

"Where's your friend going?" her mom asked worriedly, as her car slowly started driving away.

"He said that he saw his dad coming down the street..." Mina said, with no confidence in her voice. Her mother nodded. They turned out of the parking lot, now headed the opposite way from where the direction her mother had come from. They were no longer able to see the school parking lot. Mina turned her head, staring out of her car's back window at the entrance of the parking lot which was still visible. A grey Chevrolet Aveo slowly turned into the empty street. Mina watched it, expecting it to be Galen's father's car. She waited for it to turn into the parking lot entrance, instead, it lazily continued down the street.

"Mom, stop!" Mina screamed, "We have to go back! Galen's dad didn't come!" Her car screeched to a halt. It took what seemed like forever to make a 3-way turn in the small street. The car raced down to the entrance of the parking lot, turning sharply. They stopped in the same place that it had been a few minutes earlier. They saw the doors of the Mercedes slam closed, and heard the engine start. Mina got out of the car as the men's car started driving away. She heard a shuffling sound and a quiet whimper coming from the back of the school. She looked around but she couldn't see anything.

"Galen?? Are you there? Why did you do that? Why didn't you come with us?" she shouted in the direction she had heard the sounds coming from. Her eyes carefully scanned the back of the school building. There were so many places to hide! It was frustrating. She guessed that those men had hurt Galen but she hoped she was wrong.

Mina's mother climbed out of her car, and walked towards her. She mouthed "Let me try" to Mina. Since childhood, her mother had a bad reputation for eavesdropping. She had very sharp hearing. She cupped her hand around her ear and leaned towards the direction Mina pointed in. Her eyes narrowed as she pointed to a large blue garbage bin, not more than 10 metres away from them.

"Look behind there, I think I hear breathing," Her mother said worriedly, "I'll wait in the car."

"Don't wait; you need to go pick up Mona from work. I'll walk home, today," Mina replied, more worried about Galen than about her sister, Mona, getting home from work. Her mother looked worriedly over to the blue garbage bin, and then she nodded, walking back to the car. Mina was still facing the garbage bin when she heard her mother's car drive away. She walked over to the front of the garbage bin and sat down. She didn't walk around to the other side of it, where she knew Galen was. She wanted to give him space.

"Are you alright?" she asked, trying to keep her voice from sounding worried. She heard a quiet, croak-like laugh from the opposite side of the garbage bin.

"Never been better..." Galen replied quietly, abnormally calm, "Why'd you come back?"

"Because your dad wasn't coming..." she replied, feeling unappreciated, although she knew she hadn't been any help to him as of yet.

"So...?" he asked, coldly.

"So... I was worried. I was the one who got you into that..." she answered, feeling guilty, "If you hadn't been there to save me... Maybe... you wouldn't have been-"

"You would have been kidnapped, raped, killed - God knows what else!" he snapped back at her, "I chose to interfere, so don't you dare feel guilty about this!"

Mina was alarmed by the anger in his voice, He must feel so unappreciated! I'm such an idiot... Why do I always say the wrong things?? She stared at the small anthill which was a few feet away from her right foot, while thinking of better possible turn-outs for that day's events. Galen became worried after she stayed silent for a few minutes. He worried that he had been too hard on her. He stumbled around to her side of the garbage bin.

Mina looked up at Galen and gasped. He had a black-eye, which was swelled so badly that you could only see a thin line of usual golden-brown of his eyes. There was a thin layer of drying blood pasted around his left nostril, the contrast between the dark red of his blood and the paleness of his skin was shockingly beautiful. Mina pulled an unevenly folded tissue from the tight pocket of her jeans and handed it to him. He looked up from the tissue in her hand to her eyes and then accepted it.

"Where am I bleeding?" he asked casually. She placed her finger on her own nose. Galen nodded his understanding, and then lifted himself up, walking towards the back doors of the school where he had dropped his backpack. Mina followed closely behind him.

He sat down on the top step of the small flight of stairs that led up the door and stretched his hand back to grab his backpack. He took out a water-bottle and poured water from it into his cupped hand. Then he brought his hand to his face, submerging his nose into the water. He held the position for half a minute before taking a deep breath and dropping the blood-tinged water from his hand onto the ground. Then he found Mina's tissue, which he had stuffed into the pocket of his pants, and wiped his nose with it.

"Whoa! It looks like nothing happened, already!... Expect for the eye..." she stared in wonder, "Are you experienced with that or something?" Galen ran his fingers through his short light brown hair, pondering how to reply.

"What can I say?... Except that it sure doesn't feel like nothing happened," he laughed to himself, and then noticed the depressed expression on Mina's face, "Trust me, it doesn't hurt a lot."

Galen slowly got up, wanting to prove that it didn't hurt. He threw his backpack over one shoulder and started to climb down the stairs. He hadn't realized that the pain in his calf made climbing up these same steps much less painful than climbing down them. Mina saw him stumble and quickly grabbed his arm to steady him.

"I'm fine, really," Galen said, pulling his arm out of Mina's hands. He continued walking down the stairs, making sure he didn't flinch from the pain. He looked around the parking lot, "Your mom ditched you?"

"No... I told her I would walk home," she said, scratching her head. She felt embarrassed admitting that she wanted to stay to make sure that he was okay.

"Idiot..." he whispered.

"What?? How?" she snapped back, she hated being called an "idiot".

"What if they came back? How would you get away then, considering your mom won't come back to save your ass?" he asked, angrily.

"What about you?? If they came back you'd be dead! I don't see why you lied about your dad coming!" she glared at him.

"You don't think if I got in that car with you, they'd follow us? Maybe you haven't dealt with people like that before, but they're crazy! The whole lot of them..." he stated firmly. Mina immediately felt guilty for yelling at him. What he had done was logical, but the whole "self-sacrifice" thing was unnecessary.

"What's with guys and their stupid 'self-sacrifice' acts that they put up? They don't impress every girl, you know..." Mina mumbled, according to her, males had the stupidest most pointlessly common habits when it came to impressing their female counterparts. Galen shrugged, stopping a few steps from the bottom of the stairs, and turned to look up at Mina, who was still sitting on the top step.

"Which way's your house?" he asked casually. Mina stared suspiciously at him, with one eyebrow raised.

"Why? You turned into a gentleman all of a sudden?" she teased, and then let out something between a cough and a laugh, "Walking girls home is another stupid male-habit that's more annoying than impressive!"

"Pffft! I wasn't walking you home to impress you... On the contrary, I strongly believe that I deserve a reward for my services - ahem getting beaten up in your place - and so, I'll accept nothing less than candy!... A lot of it..." he replied, still sounding calm and serious.

Mina grinned, "I don't have any candy, but I do have pudding."

"What kind of pudding?" Galen's eyes narrowed, he strongly disliked lemon pudding.

"You know that Oreo kind? With the chocolate and the vanilla layers..." Galen stared at Mina strangely, she guessed that he hadn't tried Oreo pudding before, "Well, it's good!"

"Okay, fine. I guess it'll do..." he said haughtily. Mina rolled her eyes, leading the way out of the parking lot.

They had walked a bit over two blocks and they were now only a block away from Mina's street. The usually busy streets were almost empty today. They saw a black limo turn out from Mina's street, coming towards them.

"Oh, shit..." Galen whispered angrily, as he ducked behind a parked car. Mina stopped, staring at him, and he hissed "Keep walking!"

She quickly turned and walked as fast as she could towards her street. As the black limo passed her, it slowed down almost to a stop. Mina glanced at the tinted windows which were now rolling down. She saw two men in white suits staring at her from the car. She turned her head and started staring intently at her feet, trying to not trip as she turned into a cobblestone road, which was a shortcut to her house. She immediately regretted entering the small, secluded road surrounded by dense woods, when she heard the doors of the car click open.

Mina continued speed-walking for a few steps until she heard the men's footsteps hurrying after her. She thought, No need to panic, this happens all the time. People think they're being followed, when it's only a coincidence. I shouldn't be such a worrywart, I'll be fine... But why did Galen get scared when he saw them?! She suddenly panicked and stopped looking at her feet. Within seconds, the top of her foot hit a stone that stuck slightly out of the ground, and she stumbled. She straightened herself quickly, and heard the footsteps moving faster and getting louder. Mina realized that they wasn't any other possibility than that they were chasing her! She didn't care about seeming like a stupid worrywart anymore. She broke out into a sprint. She heard the men behind her yelling something; it was barely audible over the sound of the contents of her bag jumping around. She kept running. The stones under her sneakers dug uncomfortably into her feet with every step.

Mina glanced over her shoulder as she kept running, the two men were still following her, but something was abnormal. They were each wearing what looked like falconry gloves on their left hands. One of the two men carried a steel cage. Through the bars, Mina caught a glimpse of something reddish-brown. There was a great deal of ruffling and cawing coming from the rattling cage.

Mina stopped, frozen with fright as she heard the cage's lock being opened, less than 15 metres away! Something cold wrapped itself around her leg, making her drop to the floor painfully on her elbows. Then she was dragged, as she screamed at the top of her lungs, into the trees. Mina tried to grab onto roots and tree trunks, or anything else that was in reach. She kept screaming, hoping that those men would save her from the monster that seemed far more dangerous than the men that had chased her earlier. She didn't want to look down at whatever was starting to wrap its cold scaled self around her. She knew one glimpse of the monster would make her too afraid to keep screaming, and by doing so, make her lose her only chance to be saved.

Her throat was horribly sore from screaming. She continued weakly reaching for branches and roots with her stinging, scraped hands. She tightly closed her eyes as she caught a glimpse of a brown-green snake slide under her arms, quickly locking her to the spot. She heard a quite hissing sound and felt something soft tickling the palm of her stinging hand. Mina slowly opened her eyes, looking up into the face of a giant snake! Its tongue poked against her hand and she stared at the vertical black slits inside the golden-brown of the snake's eyes. She stared into its eyes, intoxicated, and didn't take notice of it uncoiling itself from around her legs and arms. Mina continued to stare at the brilliant colour of the snake's eyes as the green-brown scales started slowly turning into pale, human skin! The slits of its eyes started turning into perfect circles, the whites around its eyes became more apparent, and light brown eyelashes sprouted from its pale eyelids. The gold-brown eyes looked away, releasing Mina from their enchantment. It wasn't until then that Mina understood what had happened.

"...G-Galen?!" she whispered, staring in disbelief at the boy sitting in the place the snake had been mere seconds ago.