His eyes wandered over my body leisurely, drinking up my every feature. I felt hot. Molten lava seared through my veins, causing my spine to shiver and my knees to quake. Slowly, he raised his scotch glass in my direction before a smirk played across his divine lips. I felt my resolve quiver and turned, letting my body bleed into the crowd of the party. His eyes lingered, burning me.
Suddenly the urge to turn around overtook me. Every cell in my body screamed at me to get one last look at him. One look couldn't hurt, could it? My resolve shattered and I turned on my heel, eyes peeled for the beautiful specimen that had crept his way into my mind. Where was he? I crawled through the throngs of people, willing him to stay where he was.
My eyes shot down to the tiny, delicate scotch glass resting on the window sill. It was empty except for the tiniest sliver of caramel liquid in the bottom, meshing together with melted ice. A large, slick thumb print had been pressed into the grass, preserved from the evaporation of the freezing water. I scanned the room, searching for the mysterious owner of the drink, but he was no where to be found.
"And my running feet could fly
Each breath screaming
We are all too young to die"
Between Two Lungs - Florence + the Machine
The aged hall was silent, a part from the constant scratch of pencil upon paper and the occasional tired sigh. Dusty book shelves lined the edges of the room, filled with stained, dog-eared pages crumbled tightly into their binds. I slipped my hand into my pocket, thumbing my phone gently from the opening. Bleary-eyed, I acknowledged the time and sighed in defeat - not even an hour had passed since Danielle and I had settled into the far right corner of the study hall. It was imperative that I should spend at least sixty torturous minutes a day here, slaving away over my most recent assignments.
"What are you wearing tomorrow night?"
My silent musings were shattered and I jumped slightly, startled. Danielle hadn't looked up from her notebook as she furiously scribbled illegible paragraphs into the lines, too cramped for her enormous chicken-scratch. I took a moment to scan my brain, did we have plans?
At my blank expression, my friend raised her eyes to the sky and pursed her lips. "Really, Frieda? The party in the dorm common room? Ring any bells?"
My lips took the shape of an 'O' as realization dawned on me. Then my stomach was flooded with dread as I contemplated tomorrow evening. "Oh..." I trailed off quietly, attempting to search for a valid excuse. "Here's the thing D, I was hoping to-"
She cut me off. "Oh no you don't!" At the sound of her voice raising a few octaves, a mousy Asian girl in front of us turned around with narrowed eyes, shushing us. Danielle ducked her head in embarrassment, but her irritation had not vanished. "You promised," she whispered, her chocolate eyes darting around, searching for a sign she was causing more disruption. "I don't want to go alone. Please!"
I nibbled on the end of my pen nervously and furrowed my brow, thinking. It wasn't that I disliked parties. During high school I'd been quite enthusiastic over the whole ordeal. But university was a different matter all together and the idea made me anxious. I knew no one except for a select few, all of which were friends of Danielle's. Such were the perks of having a roommate who thrived on social interaction and being the centre of attention.
I observed my roommate closely, searching for any sign of plotting or schemes. One of her favourite activities was attempting to set me up with the latest 'hottie'. It wasn't that I didn't appreciate the thought, however I was strictly married to my study schedule, which left no room for romance or fooling around with anyone. No matter how much Danielle pleaded.
My decision was made in a spilt second when I recognized the hurt and disappointment in her dark, wide eyes. I released the breath I didn't realize I was holding and buried my head on the desk. "Fine," I moaned, my voice muffled by soft, comforting limbs. "but I'm not drinking. I have a paper due in four days. Four days, Danielle. That leaves no room for slacking off."
She huffed indignantly, "So you're going to let me get drunk by myself?" Although she attempted to sound annoyed, I could hear the relief in her voice. She may have been great with people, but I knew that she felt most comfortable around me. It was the best part of our friendship. How easy it was to just be together. She was my armour, and I was her rock.
"You know I don't like drinking, anyway." I murmured, my voice was stifled from the barrier my make-shift pillow created. The idea of returning to my study did not sound appealing. I may have been high-achieving, but that didn't mean I particularly enjoyed burying my nose into books for hours at a time.
"I don't think you understand this university student business, Fred." She scolded, "You're supposed to have fun."
I opened my mouth to make what I hoped was a soothing reply, but at that precise moment the Asian girl in front of us whipped around in her seat. She was fairly attractive, I deducted. I always liked Asian skin. It was smooth and had a healthy colour to it, something my pale complexion could never achieve. Her hair was styled impeccably and dead-straight, water-falling over her shoulders and rippling with her sudden movement. She looked incredibly familiar. However, the pure dislike etched into her face distracted me from discovering the connection.
"Just in case you didn't know," she hissed, her voice laced with frustration. "this is the study hall. Where people go to study. Not talk about ridiculous social conventions and complain. If you'd like to continue your conversation, there is the exit." Her fragile, bony finger flung from beside her body and stabbed into the air, directing our attention to the huge oak doors at the front of the massive room.
Danielle bristled, but accepted her defeat. "Fine, we'll go."
"S-sorry," I stammered, ducking my head a little.
"Whatever," the stranger spat unkindly. I felt my cheeks burn.
At this, my roommate gave her an ominous glare and placed her hand on my back, soothing my nerves. I didn't like upsetting people. Quietly, Danielle began to gather her things, and the girl gave me one last disgusted look before twisting around in her chair and returning to her work. I followed my roommate's actions, piling my papers into a stack before shoving them into my large, taupe tote. We shuffled from the hall together, savoring the moment of freedom after we'd stepped from between the doors and closed them heavily behind us.
The summer afternoon breeze was welcoming as we darted across the campus together, heading towards our dorm. For what seemed the millionth time, I stared up at the University of Brooksworth in awe and came to a slowed halt. The buildings were exquisite examples of architecture. Built entirely from sandstone, all the main buildings' entry ways were flanked by Roman-style columns and had a thriving border of plant-life, all of which were sporting brilliantly coloured blossoms. The entire university was huge, expanding over 114-hectares of land. The landscaped grounds were plush and rich with life, and there were several manicured hideaways where one could spend their afternoon, lazily drinking in a novel. The university boasted many facilities, particularly when it came to sports and science, as intelligence and performance were highly valued by the student board.
"Come on," Danielle tugged on my dark blue sleeve and stamped her foot roughly into the grass. "let's go, it looks like it is going to rain." My eyes scanned the sky, and noting the dark clouds looming in the distance, I let my roommate drag me along. We scrambled through the gardens, taking a forbidden short-cut and avoided trampling the delicate shrubbery there. The dorms were on the very outskirts of the campus, and considering its sheer size, could be a pain when avoiding unpleasant weather.
By the time we'd almost reached the dorms, it was bucketing down. I had stiffly tucked my tote underneath my arm, praying that the rain would not penetrate the soft fabric and destroy my notes. It was a relief when we reached shelter, and we climbed the stairs eagerly. The building was separated into left and right sectors - the left housed female students, the left was where the male students lived. It was a policy of the university that students did not mix in these areas of the buildings, except in the common room, which was located on the first floor. Barely anyone took these warnings to heart, though. Everyone was legal and nobody could really stop visits from the opposite sex.
I welcomed the friendly sight of our dorm as Danielle strode over to the fridge and plucked out the milk, drinking straight from the carton. It was a small space, the kitchen was equipped with only the most important basics and divided the room with the mellow, beige kitchen counter. There was a reasonably sized TV, with an ugly, dated brown leather couch seated in front of it (Danielle had attempted to make this more attractive by smothering it in bright pillows and a soft, fuzzy blanket). There were two bedrooms, each armed with a single-bed, modest wardrobe and a flimsy desk nailed into the wall. Danielle and I shared the tiny bathroom fairly easily.
It wasn't much, but the cramped space had become my home over my first year of my course. I wasn't about to complain. It had it's advantages.
"So as I was saying, what are you wearing to the party?" Danielle quipped, finally deciding she'd had her fill of our milk. She'd moved onto the cheese, slicing thin servings off the block and consuming them greedily. She was always eating.
I shrugged, unfazed by her steady consumption of our limited stock and slumped onto the couch, the pillows nestled my lower back comfortably. "I suppose I'll wear something nice," she clapped her hands, excited. "but this time do you mind if I choose my outfit?" I was flipping through the channels on our TV now, eyes not really seeing. My stomach churned. Social gatherings with complete strangers unnerved me.
I felt her body shift into the space beside me and knew she was batting her eyelashes. "Oh, please? I love dressing you." Danielle was a passionate fashion major. "I won't give you anything from my wardrobe, I promise. It'll be all you, Fred."
I teethed my bottom lip. "Fine, but keep it simple." I rose from the couch, thoroughly bored with the limited selection on TV and made my way to my bedroom. "I'm going for a run, okay? Be back soon."
Danielle's nose wrinkled. "In this weather?"
"I need to clear my head, studying stresses me."
Safely in my room, I donned a pair of running shorts and my over-sized Gallery of Modern Arts slogan t-shirt - which had been a present the year previous. After lacing up my shoes, I stood in front of my full-length mirror and eyed myself critically. It wasn't that I was ugly, I knew I had some redeeming features. I was naturally very slender, with lithe limbs and small bone structure. My skin was youthful and clear of spots, but devastatingly pale and splattered with offending freckles. My face was 'heart-shaped' and my dark green-blue eyes were rounded and wide, but my neck was wiry and my shoulders, bony. I had fine facial features, with high cheek-bones, a slender perky nose and subtle pink lips. I had a love-hate relationship with my hair. I observed the crazy, fiery red tendrils as I tackled it back into a messy ponytail. Somedays, I enjoyed my hair colour. Other days were different.
Accepting I wasn't about to change, I did some quick dynamic stretches before heading out the door - waving to an oblivious Danielle on the way out, who was sucked into a reality television show.
My feet pounded on the unforgiving pavement. I concentrated on keeping my breath controlled and steady. The afternoon was slowly coming to an end, the crisp almost-evening air nipped at my bare skin, urging me to run faster. To escape the cold creeping in on my bones. I felt my heart begin to pick up speed, and at the same time, my feet did too. Running was free therapy for me. Nothing could get me feeling stronger or more focused. While running, there is nothing else. No study, no pressure, not even Danielle. Just my feet, my breath and the ground beneath my feet.
I stopped when I reached the football field, gasping as my lungs cried out for air. A prickling sensation tore up my spine and I straightened, stiffly.
Then I spotted him.
He was leaning against a tree, no more then a few metres away from me. He'd looked up from his book and was now watching me, without an indication of ceasing. His features were sharp, with intensely dark facial hair growing along his strong, tight jaw. His caramel skin was sun-kissed and smooth. His eyes were a dark hazel, piercing straight through me. I shivered, his gaze felt surreal and it began to escalate, almost as though the energy between us were exploding. His enormous body was snuggly encased in the university sweater and expensive designer jeans, hiding - what I assumed was a most delicious body - from sight. I could tell he had impossibly wide shoulders and a lengthy torso, his entire body was stretched out over the grass leisurely. Like a cat soaking up the sun. Everything about him was hard, fierce and impossibly powerful.
And immeasurably attractive.
I shivered underneath his gaze, feeling trapped. My feet were rooted to the spot, betraying my urge to disappear from sight. He shifted, and I flinched. One dark eyebrow lifted high at my action as his expansive hand fumbled through his messy, unkempt chocolate locks. A few strands of hair escaped his brutal hand and they curled down over his eyes. My fingers itched to sweep them away.
Curiously, I flicked my eyes around, as if searching for an sign as to what to do. Why was he watching me? What did he want?
Before I could even consider the possible answers, I turned and ran - heart and feet pounding madly.
I'm worried that this chapter is too slow/boring. But I need to establish a good foundation. I know that Frieda's personality hasn't had much of an opportunity to shine, but I wanted to display how comfortable she is with Danielle. Notice the sudden change in her demeanor when the stranger speaks to them? You'll get to discover that more as more characters are revealed.
An indication on whether or not people are enjoying this would be greatly appreciated, as I've had several silent hits but nothing of value to prompt me to continue. I'll continue regardless.