Zoë had never been a violent person.
The worst act of violence she had ever committed was squishing the occasional bug, and even then she did it with remorse. So when she had begun contemplating various attack movements during her spare time, she knew she had a problem. She had never had the urge to cause physical harm to anyone before. But now the saying never say never had suddenly become truth for her. She wanted Dominic Harris's head on a platter. And that was putting it nicely, even after a few days of cooling down.
"You know nothing about me."
As the days had passed, that one sentence had continued to ring in her mind over and over and Zoë still had a hard time believing that those words had actually come out of her mouth, of all places. Although the fact that she was actually considering causing bodily harm to someone should have tipped her off as to not underestimate herself.
But even still, no matter how many times she thought about it, Zoë couldn't figure out what exactly it was that had made her unconsciously work up the nerve to put Dominic Harris so neatly in his place.
But she had to admit, it felt good.
The anger, which had been such a foreign feeling to her for so long, was such a welcome emotion that Zoë couldn't help but feel proud of herself for her outburst. So much so that every time she thought back to the confrontation with Dom, anger coursed through her veins once more.
The insensitive jerk had actually had the nerve to listen to her conversation. And as though that weren't embarrassing enough, he actually had to the balls to say something to her about it as though there were nothing wrong with his actions at all.
But if Zoë were being honest with herself, the part that had upset her most wasn't the fact that he was a nosey, rude, jerk- although that was definitely part of it. No, the worst part of it all? Was that he was right about what he said.
She did let everyone walk all over her and tell her what to do as though she were a child instead of a competent eighteen year old.
Zoë stopped outside of the courtyard gates, the buzzing sound of conversation finally bringing her from her thoughts. She glanced around, spotting the one person who had ruled her thoughts for the past few days.
Dom was sitting in his usual spot on the grass; his back leaned casually against the stone wall behind him while his friends chattered around him. He himself seemed to be lost in his own thoughts, his usual brooding expression plastered on his sharp features.
She frowned. Even though he was a jerk, he had opened her eyes. Zoë had never let herself see the truth before but now that she was forced to see just how much people treated her like a child, it was as though everything became crystal clear. And she was amazed to see how much the truth hurt.
Along with that clarity also brought the realization that anger wasn't the only emotion she felt rising inside of her. She had this odd constricting feeling in the middle of her stomach and it seemed whenever she thought about the people around her, the squeezing sensation would tighten. She felt like she was slowly suffocating inside, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it.
She glanced over to her own spot in the courtyard and at the sight of her friends laughing and talking animatedly, the sinking feeling increased.
On instinct she turned around and fled, heading in the direction of the place where she could be exactly who she was with no questions, unaware of a pair of green eyes following her the entire way.
Dominic watched as Zoë disappeared around the corner as fast as she had come. When she disappeared completely from his sight, he tore his eyes away and forced himself to focus on something other than her.
It didn't matter that she looked miserable; she had nothing to do with him. He had his own problems and mess of a life to worry about. Besides, she had made it clear exactly how she felt about him sticking his nose into her life.
And over the last few days Dominic had taken the not so subtle hint, and had made it a point to stay away from any of the usual places he would have otherwise run into Zoë. He knew a livid female when he saw one and was smart enough to stay far, far away.
And though he wouldn't admit it to anyone, he kept his distance with his tail between his legs. Just as he recognized a furious female, he also recognized when he was an ass. And he had, obviously, pushed Zoë far enough into a corner until she finally snapped.
He felt the slightest bit guilty. Not that he would admit that to anyone either, of course.
Without his permission, his eyes strayed back to the direction Zoë had disappeared. With a suffering sigh he glanced down at his watch. It was still early in the lunch period, if he hurried he could probably… probably what?
Go apologize for being a jerk? He scoffed.
He was a jerk.
Why would he apologize for that? But one last glance across the courtyard made up his mind.
And though he didn't understand it in the least, he found himself leaving his chattering friends behind to go find the absent girl with the sad eyes.
Dominic had barely been in the school for more than five minutes when he heard the crash. His head snapped in the direction of the sound, his eyes widening at the realization that the crash came from the school dance studio.
His mind immediately went to the one person he knew was in the studio ninety nine percent of the time and before he could contemplate his actions, he ran down the abandoned hallway and toward the direction of the noise quickly. Since all students were either in their classrooms or in the courtyard, he made it across the hallway in under a minute and it took less than that to push through the doors of the studio.
What he saw made him freeze in the surprise.
In the middle of the parquet floor sat Zoë, her face in her hands, shoulders shaking with silent sobs while the remnants of what Dominic assumed used to be a wooden chair lay scattered around her.
He stood there in shock for a moment, not sure what to do, before quickly making his way over to her. When he kneeled down next to her, she looked up sharply.
"I… I'm sorry… I'm fine. I just…" She quickly stood up continuing to mutter unintelligible things frantically, tears flowing down her pale cheeks.
Dom stood up with her and hesitantly placed his hands on her upper arms to try to steady her as well as give an awkward attempt to comfort her, obviously out of his element.
Surprisingly it had the opposite effect and she let out a frustrated yell, slamming her own hands onto his arms. "God! Why am I such a mess?" She asked, hiccupping from her unstoppable tears.
Unfazed by the pressure she put on his biceps, he held onto her tightly. "Hey," he squeezed her arms gently, coaxing her to look up at him. When she finally did, he told her gently, "We're all a mess. It comes with the territory, I guess."
She looked up at him, her sad eyes filled with unshed tears. She stared at him for a full minute before she let out a long breath, silently releasing her death grip on his arms. Finally she stepped back from him and he stared at her, obviously worried that she was going to break down again.
He didn't think he would be able to handle it.
Instead of crying though, she merely swiped at the drying tears on her cheeks.
She shook her head. "I have a hard time imagining you crying and breaking chairs…"
Glad there wasn't going to be anymore tears, he leaned down and picked up the broken chair leg. He passed it from hand to hand. "I tend to resort to punching things." He admitted, as though it were all completely normal.
She smiled softly and he cleared his throat, starting to feel a bit awkward.
"What the hell is going on in here?"
Dom snapped his head in the direction of the angry voice and the sight of their principal standing in the doorway had his heart dropping to his stomach. Zoë whirled around, her back having been to the door, and let out a quiet curse at the sight of the balding man.
Dom agreed with the sentiment completely.
Principal Snyder marched over in their direction, his expression murderous as he took in the scene before him. The remnants of the chair still lay scattered at their feet and at the sight of the broken chair leg still held in Dominic's hand, a knowing glint passed over his expression.
Dominic tensed, knowing what the situation looked like and knowing exactly how it would be taken from Snyder's perspective.
"Harris. Now, why am I not surprised?"
Dominic looked away. "I didn't do anything."
"Somehow I find that very hard to believe." Dominic looked up at the Principal with a scowl, but said nothing. "I knew you'd mess up eventually, but this is ridiculously low even for you."
Dominic didn't say anything however and instead dropped the broken chair leg onto the floor. Zoë looked back and forth between the two men, completely confused.
Snyder, however, didn't even acknowledge that she was there, his attention fully focused on the silent man in front of him."This is the last straw. Obviously it's just a lost cause with people like you. Follow me."
Dominic, who still hadn't said a word, was about to follow behind the balding man, when Zoë spoke out quickly. "Wait a minute."
The principal turned to stare at her in surprise, as if just noticing that she was there. "Ms. Sanders. What is it?"
"It's not his fault. He really didn't do anything sir. I saw the whole thing," she glanced at Dominic meekly who was obviously trying to tell her to shut up with his eyes. She ignored his silent request. "He was helping me." She said instead.
If Principal Snyder looked surprised before, he looked shocked now. He turned to aim his steely gaze on Dominic before turning back to Zoë, his expression softening. "You don't need to cover for him Zoë. Did he threaten you, is that it?"
Zoë's eyes widened in surprise. "No!" she said quickly. "Principal Snyder, he really was just helping me out. I…" she trailed off and Snyder's eyebrows rose expectantly. She hurried to explain, "I can be a klutz sometimes. I was practicing and I… tripped. I must have kicked the chair into the wall pretty hard... It was my fault. Dom was just helping me clean up the mess."
Principal Snyder cast a dubious look in Dominic's direction and then glanced back toward Zoë.
She nodded in encouragement. "It's true."
The balding man frowned, obviously disappointed that he wasn't going to be able to expel Dom. He turned to glare at him once more. "Next time you won't be so lucky Harris. When you slip up, I'll know." He glanced at Zoë briefly. "Clean up this mess then and start making your way to class, both of you."
He shot one last look of loathing in Dominic's direction before turning around on his heel and walking away, not even sparing him an apology. They both watched as the overweight man walked away, muttering about teenagers under his breath.
After a full minute of silence, Zoë forced herself to look at Dom. He said nothing about the encounter with the reproachful Principal, and instead began to clean up the scattered remains of the chair. Zoë moved to help him, both of them cleaning up in silence. As the minutes passed, Zoë began to feel more and more uncomfortable, embarrassed about her outburst. But Dom said nothing.
Only when the floor at their feet was spotless did he speak. And to say that the words surprised Zoë would have been an understatement.
"I'll take you home."
Without waiting for an answer he turned toward the door. Zoë shifted. "No…" he looked at her and she continued, "I'm… I'm fine. I should get to class," She said, though she didn't feel up to sitting through the rest of the day at all.
But going home didn't seem like a much better option either.
Dom stopped to look at her at her words. His green eyes raked over her face, taking in her puffy eyes and pale face. He was silent so long that Zoë glanced away, feeling slightly uncomfortable from his searching gaze.
Finally, he nodded toward the door. "Come on."
Zoë didn't bother to argue any further and followed silently behind him. Though he didn't wait for her, it was obvious he had slowed his gait enough so that she could keep up without a struggle. As they made their way into the school parking lot, Dom silently wondered what the hell he was doing.
Zoë, who was silently wondering the same thing, glanced around. The lot filled with cars was the only thing that reminded her that school was still in session. She felt too tired to care that she was technically skipping school and instead made her way toward the passenger door of the black Mustang Dominic stood by.
Zoë didn't know anything about cars but she knew that it suited him well. It was sleek and obviously a classic, but well taken care of. And obviously a prized possession, she noted as Dom carefully unlocked the door, and ran a loving hand over the metal frame.
"It's open," he said and climbed into the driver's side. Zoë awkwardly settled into the passenger seat, feeling very out of place.
The whole situation was beyond surreal, but once again Zoë felt too drained to really allow herself to care. As he turned the key, the engine roared to life before settling to a low purr. Zoë forced herself to relax, sinking into the cool leather that was the seats. Music she didn't recognize filled the small cab and Dom fiddled with some controls before backing out of the spot and driving onto the street.
When he jumped onto the highway, she looked at him questioningly. He glanced over at her. "I don't feel like going home yet," he said as means of explanation.
Zoë merely nodded.
Inwardly she was thankful for his impulse to drive aimlessly. It wasn't exactly like she had been looking forward to going home to an empty house or to her pestering mother. So she let herself relax and somehow the awkwardness and tension that had filled the car at first seemed to decrease as the miles he drove increased.
Zoë began to feel more and more at ease as she focused on the scenery outside her window, letting the lull of his driving relax her.
Dom, however, was anything but relaxed. He wasn't sure what the hell he was doing. It didn't really make sense that he not only insisted he take her home, but willingly chose to go for a ride around the neighborhood with her, for no reason at all. He was silently berating himself for his impulsivity, when she spoke, breaking the silence that had filled the car since they had gotten in it.
"When I was a kid, I had an imaginary friend named Rufus," Dominic glanced, confused by her odd confession. She shrugged, embarrassed. "I don't know what just made me think about that…"
If he found her statement odd he hid it well and just as Zoë was about to feel stupid for her randomness, he spoke. "I used to have a pet rock I carried everywhere. I think his name was Harold." He found himself saying.
Zoë smiled slightly at the pronoun, glad he hadn't made fun of her for her randomness. She turned to look back outside her window.
It was silent for a minute before he spoke again, surprising both himself and Zoë. "If my life depended on it, I could never put the states in their right spot on a map."
Zoë paused for a moment, amazed that he had willingly given a random fact about himself. She thought for a minute before admitting, "I've never been able to remember my twelve times table without writing it down."
He glanced over at her expectantly. Zoë caught on fast and thought up another random fact about herself.
"I have birthmark the shape of New Jersey behind my left knee." She said, and instantly felt dumb.
He said nothing however, only a hint of a smile tugging at the corners over his mouth showing his amusement. He took his time thinking before finally admitting, "My right arm is slightly longer than my left."
And so the odd game they had somehow adopted continued. Long enough that Zoë began to lose track of time, both of them shooting random facts about themselves at each other as Dom continued to drive around aimlessly.
Eventually the facts slowly began to move from random and slightly weird things to the more serious. And before long, Zoë found herself admitting things she never thought she'd say to Dominic Harris and learning things about him she never thought she would know, let alone want to hear.
But as they continued, the admissions flowed freely and responses became quicker and more honest. And although it was unusual, in an odd way, these little confessions were strangely comforting to the both of them.
And so they continued.
"I always keep quiet and let my emotions build up until they eventually explode." She said.
"I usually explode before I think about my emotions." He countered.
She studied his profile for a moment in silence. "I sometimes have the tendency to let people tell me what to do." She said slowly.
Once again, if he was surprised he didn't show it. Instead he merely gave his own confession as they had been doing for the past hour. "I sometimes have the tendency to ignore everything people tell me to do."
Zoë looked over to see him watching her. Once again there was no judgment in his expression, only the expectant look that told her he was waiting for her next fact. Slowly, she offered him a smile. And to her surprise, and probably for the first time in history, a small smile caused the corner of his mouth to tip upward.
After a few more minutes of their game, Zoë glanced at the clock seeing that it was close to four at night. She frowned. "I should probably get home."
She was surprised to realize she was disappointed over that fact. But she knew that if she didn't show up soon, her mom would begin to get suspicious, and that was never fun.
Dom nodded and turned around, heading back toward town. They rode the rest of the way in silence, Zoë only piping up every so often to instruct him to turn, but it wasn't at all uncomfortable.
In fact, Zoë felt more at ease than she had in a long time and when he came to a stop in the front of her house, she found herself hesitating to get out.
She studied him once more. He was leaned back in his seat, one arm resting on the window, the other in his lap, his fingers tapping a beat on his knee. His black hair was sticking up in all kinds of directions and his green eyes was, like always, guarded. But knowing the facts that she now did about him, she was slowly beginning to see part of the man he worked to keep hidden from everyone else. She was surprised at how much more she wanted to know.
With a sigh, she placed her hand on the door handle. "Well, I guess I'll see you tomorrow at school." She said.
"Yeah, I'll be there."
She nodded and finally, she moved to get out of the car. When she had one foot on the pavement, she paused and turned her head back to look at him.
"Thank you." The two words hung in the air for a moment, both of them knowing it could be taken many ways, before he nodded.
Content, she got out of the car and walked toward her house, feeling much lighter than she had in a long time.
A.N: Wow, that was a hard chapter to write! But I'm finally satisfied with it :) Please, please let me know what you thought!
Hopefully I'll have the next chapter out soon. I'll be working a lot over the next few weeks but I'll try to get something out as soon as possible!
Thanks so much to everyone who reviewed last chapter. Your comments are cherished! :)