Chapter 9: Welcome Back to the Dark Side

"For a girl that's well secluded..."

Blake was muttering to himself when I walked passed him to the fridge three days later. He was only wearing his boxers- ones with hearts that he said Gil had bought for him two years ago- and he was bent over a notepad at the table, scribbling away. In his lap was a full sized acoustic that he was unconsiously plucking the strings to with his left hand.

"For a girl that's well secluded," I repeated, opening the fridge, "what's that supposed to mean?"

Without looking up, he shushed me and continued the incomplete sentence.

"For a girl that's well secluded, you really know how to put on a show of your feelings very well," he scooted back in his chair, making a screech against the wood floor, before repositioning the guitar on his lap. His left hand skimmed the neck of it, and he bent his head down to check frets and chords, his black hair hanging in front of his face. Then, he strummed a few times, repositioning his fingers.

He hummed something that I've never heard before, and making a satisfied "Ah" he looked up at the sentence he just wrote down on the notepad in front of him and started singing.

I've never really heard his singing voice before, so it gave me a surprise when it turned out that it was smooth, flawless, and effortlessly angelic. It surprised me a lot. I dropped the milk carton that I was pulling out of the fridge, and was thankful enough that it hadn't been open.

The guitar music that he started clumsily playing was off key, but he was getting somewhere. He looked sure of it by the way he held his shoulders and didn't bother pausing.

"For a girl that's well secluded,

You really know how to put on a show

Of your feelings

Very well."

He stopped his playing abruptly and finally looked up at me with a raised eyebrow.

"I know, my voice is sexy, but you don't have to go all the way as to drop the food in surprise. I need that milk," he said, and then he was back to muttering, "Need to fix that, need to fix that..."

I picked up the milk off the floor and decided that I wasn't going to have any of it, and by the time I had placed it back in the fridge there was a knock on the door.'

"Go away!" Blakely yelled, but I opened the door to reveal Angela splattered in mud. It looked like the rain was still pouring outside, because she was drenched head-to-foot in water, and she had started shivering.

"I went to get some coffee," she explained as she invited herself in, kicking off her shoes, "and I had a really hard time getting back. Then I realised that I left my keys in my locked apartment, and the only person who has a spare is Wendy."

I looked confusingly back at Blake, "Doesn't he have one? You are cousins."

"Screw Blake. I'd shoot him if he could find a way into my apartment."

Blake acted like he didn't hear her, strumming away a few more times on the strings before moving a hand to one of the pegs and turning it this way and that.

"So can I use your phone to call Wendy? 'Cause I left that in my apartment, too," she shivered, and I led her to my room so that we could make a call.

"So Blake still does that," she scowled when I grabbed my cell phone from my desk.

"Does what?"

"He walks around wearing only his underwear," I handed her the phone, and she dialed Wendy's number and pressing it against her ear, moving her soaking hair so as to not get the screen wet.

"It's no surprise," I grumbled before Angela started talking through the phone at Wendy.

I made my way back to the front room in time to dodge a ball of paper passing inches from my face.

"It's shit," Blake muttered, not knowing that the crumpled up sheet almost hit me. It could have gotten me in the eye. Paper balls are dangerous in the eyes.

Blake had an open beer bottle next to him, already half empty.

"Did you chug that thing?" I asked, and he looked up startled.

"Where did you come from?" he asked.

"My mom," I replied, "and put some pants on. We have a guest."

Blake set his guitar down and looked around, climbing out of the chair.

"We do? How'd they get in?"

"The front door."

"That makes sense," he grumbled, and he trudged around the table. It confused me when he went straight for the trash can, and he pulled out a pair of jeans.

"Blake, why are your jeans in the trash can?" I asked. Blake was probably going mad.

"You tell me," he replied, pulling them on. It seemed awkward to be in the same room as a guy who was putting clothes on, so I turned around to give him privacy.

"Getting polite, are we?" his voice was suddenly tickling the back of my neck, and I turned around so quickly that I was sure he would jump back in surprise.

Blake was an exception. He was wierd enough to do the unexpected, and as much as an idiot to not know what the expected was. His face was so close to mine that our noses were almost touching. We were eye to eye, nose to nose, mouth to mouth. He stared at me closely, and I was too freaked out to step back. It was like an extreme staring contest.

Blake leaned forward so that our foreheads were touching, and he said very quietly, "Thank you."

"Wh-what?" I was flustered, I had to admit, and I waited for him to step back, which he did.

"Your beautifulness just inspired a song, my roommate," he replied.

Maybe that wasn't Blake's first beer.

I shuddered, feeling the unwanted warmth rush to my cheeks.

"Yeah right," I muttered, but Blake was already back in his chair, leaning over the notepad. He was still shirtless, and it didn't help the blush that was embarrasing me to my wit's end.

Angela was standing in the hallway.

"AWK-ward," she said in a sing-song voice, and she patted my arm on her way to the front door.

I had a shift at the cafe, so I left a little after the now called "awkward incident", leaving Blake to his guitar and mountain of paper balls at his feet.

It was wierd to walk by myself after being with Blake for such a long period of time. I trudged down the stairs in a kind of stoop, and I stopped by the mailbox to find another letter from my mom.

Dear Hazel,

How are you doing? I hope that you are doing well in school and with Blake. He seemed to be estatic when I talked to him a couple of days ago, and I'm excited to meet him in person sooner or later.

Your cousin Zack is living with us for the time being, and he won't stop talking about wanting to see you. The next time you have a considerable amount of time off, please come up to visit. He's threatening to drive down there himself and spend a night or two in your apartment, but I'm telling him that it might bother your schedule for school.

He won't budge. So if you plan to visit, make it soon.

We love you and miss you,


P.S. Should I be worried about your father? He's been visiting the shooting range an awful lot lately, and he has the most bizarre reasons. He's saying it is for releaving stress, but please be warned that every time he pulls the trigger, he has Blakely in his mind.

I didn't know which situation to be concerned about: the fact that my father was pretending to shoot Blake or that Blake himself was talking to my mother behind my back.

I shoved the letter in the back of my pant pocket and made my way to work, juggling the two situations in my mind.

The weather had become nicer in the past twenty-four hours- for the first time in Magnolia there was not a cloud in the sky, or puddles on the ground. I was in a t-shirt instead of a hoodie, and I liked feeling the warmth on my bare arms.

It was a ten minute walk to the cafe, and I walked it with an air of confidence. No, I wasn't going to fall flat on my face this time around, and no, Blake wasn't going to suddenly pass me in a black van and laugh at my face.

Or was he? I looked at the road, trying to find a familiar looking car until realizing that I was being silly.

But I never could know when he was going to randomly pop up.

That was it. I was getting too paranoid for my own good.

"Well, hello there."

I swiveled towards the random voice. See, I knew he was going to pop up!

But it wasn't him. Unfortanetly, it was quite the opposite.

Chester. Darn Chester. I didn't even personally know the guy aside from him being a part-time waiter and a full-time stalker, and he had approved my immediate dislike.

He was leaning against the wall to my right. I was a few blocks away from the cafe, an easy running distance, but I didn't want him to know where I worked and casually order some coffee on my every shift.

"Chester," I greeted, "um, hi."

Chester pushed himself from the wall and to my side as casually as possible, but him being in a five-foot radius from me made my skin crawl.

"How's the baby?" he asked, and I blanched for a minute before realizing what he was talking about.

"Oh! Um, it's doing fine?"

"That's great. Congradulations. Is it a boy or a girl?" he asked.

"Boy," I said immediately. I mean, it sure looked like a boy. And Gil had gotten a "It's A Boy" balloon, so I was certain.

"That's nice," he said, and he motioned forward, "Do you need company? I can walk you to work."

Darn Chester. So he was still stalking me- enough to know where I worked.

"No, you don't have to. I'm fine," I assured him, walking ahead.

"I can walk you to work," he repeated with a little more force.

I stopped and turned to him, startled.

"No," I said, "you can't. Leave me alone."

Chester sighed and crossed his arms, "Hazel, we can do this the easy way or the hard way."

"How do you know my name?" I asked. I was startng to feel the fear ebbing from my heart, and I felt like I was about to cry. Chester made a grab for my arm, but I jerked it back in time, "I said leave me alone!"

Chester frowned and tried to grab my arm, but I took several steps back, "Stay away from me!"

The look on his face was determined. And that look was very, very scary.

I swiveled and started running away.

I didn't know what I was doing, exactly. I was terrified about what this guy was doing. Had I become such an obsession to him that he knew where I lived, where I worked, what my name was? Did he know my social security number or something? Did he know more than I knew about myself? I started crying, tears streaming from my cheeks. I was going to work. It seemed the closest, safest place to go to. Calista seemed like a stern strong woman who could scare him away- for now, at least, because apparently Blake didn't do a good job with his death threat.

I felt a grip on my arm, and I screamed.

"Let go of me!"

I yanked myself from the grip, and I used so much force that it made Chester fall to the ground. I felt relief wash over me when I started running again. Surely, I would make it to the cafe without him trying to grab me again.

I ran to the cafe and swung the doot open, breathing heavily and sobbing. I was so freaking scared that once the door was safely shut I collapsed on the floor and started a fresh rally of tears again.

"Dear God!" I heard Calista shout from the counter, and she scurried around it to get to me.

"Darling, why are you crying? What happened?" she asked, and I heard the bell ring from the door opening behind me.

Damn that stupid son of a bitch!

I scrambled behind Calista at the first glance of Chester walking in. Calista gave me a disapproving look, not understanding what was going on.

"Good," Chester said- he was breathing like he just ran a mile, "you made it to work safely. I'm glad."

"Go away!" I screamed with all my might. Orion came running from the storage room, wondering what was going on, and he froze when he looked at me.

"Hazel, why are you crying, babe?" he asked, putting a comforting arm around me, but I shook it off and pushed him away automatically. I didn't want a guy touching me. I didn't want anybody touching me.

"Who is he?" Calista asked sternly, still looking at him.

"I don't know," I whispered, sobbing in my hands.

"Rion, take her to the back," Calista ordered, "I have a customer to deal with."

It was nine o'clock at night when Orion took me back to my apartment. Calista insisted that he walked me back- her talk with Chester was a serious, life-scarring one, but she wasn't sure if Chester was mentally ill or not.

"So, this is Blakely Cherry's house?" he asked, knocking on the door even though I was capable of opening it myself. "Just making sure he's home," he assured me.

I felt a little guilty. I hadn't talked to Orion at all that day, since I had been scared shitless by a stalker who didn't seem to give up. I didn't want him to think it was his fault. The only thing he could be guilty of was being nice to me.

"Thanks, Orion," I whispered, and he glanced at me and smiled.

"No problem," he said, "anything for the badger."

"Kitten," I corrected automatically, and I pressed a hand over my mouth in shock.

He raised an eyebrow at me in surprise. "Sure," he said.

Blake opened the door. He was still shirtless, with his hair in a ruffle. He looked at Orion and scowled.

"How do you know where I live?" he asked. He didn't notice me standing there, waiting to get in. I pushed lightly past him, saying goodbye to Orion before making my way to my bedroom. I had to wade through what seemed to be a sea of crumpled paper, something I was not happy about. But I didn't care that I might have to pick it up in the morning. Not now, anyway.

Blake was left talking to Orion, and I walked into my bedroom and closed the door behind me. The first thing that I did was crumble on my bed and kick my shoes off of my feet, hearing the thud as they landed across the room.

I was laying face-down on my bed, face against the pillow, and I flopped on my back to try to relieve the tension squirming around my head. Truthfully, I was trying hard not to cry.

Blake abruptly opened my door and quick-walked into my room, slamming the door so that the whole room shook with the force. He clambered onto my bed and got on top of me, and I almost started screaming.

"Do you not trust me or something?" he yelled, and his tone made me open my eyes and look at him. He was leaning over me, his eyes staring directly into mine.

"Chester tried to grab you today and you didn't think about running back here?" he corrected, "Is there something wrong with me? Do you not trust me enough to know that if you were in trouble I would protect you?"

I looked at him. I couldn't say anything. He was too close to me right now. This morning, the close proximity was fine- our faces were even touching and I didn't freak out. But after Chester tried to grab me, I hadn't let anybody except Calista get close enough to touch me.

"You're too close," I whispered.

"No, I'm not," he said, "I will never be too close, Hazel, that's what's wrong. I'm too far. It's you that won't let me get closer."

"Get away," I felt the tears starting to come, "please, just go!"

"Hazel!" he rolled over so that he was next to me. He grabbed my wrist, but I tried to tug it away from him. I wanted to get away from him. I didn't want him to touch me.

"Hazel, listen! Stop! Look at me!" he said, and I obeyed, as much as I didn't want to. His blue eyes seemed to be the only light in this dark.

"If something happens, I will protect you. I promise," the tears brimmed over in my eyes, "I would never hurt you. I will protect you, no matter what, alright? I won't let some stupid psycho get to you. I promise."

I started crying, and he pulled me towards him, to his bare chest. It was so awkward to cry on him like that, but he didn't care. He was petting my hair and letting me cry.

"I promise I won't let anymody hurt you," he whispered.

"I promise."

The next morning, we both had an early shift at the cafe before classes started at noon. I woke up at six, and I almost screamed because Blake was snoring at me, his tattooed arm hugging me to his chest. I had forgotten for a second about last night, and how he kept promising me that his protection was certain to the point where we had both fallen asleep.

I had fallen asleep in his arms. That was so disgustingly romantic, I was afraid I was going to throw up on him.

"Well, there's a sight to see," he whispered, and I looked to see that his eyes were open and looking at me groggily, "A beautiful face right when I wake up."

I pulled his arm off me and crawled out of bed, scoffing and telling myself mentally that I needed to desanitize myself when I took my shower. He stretched, yawned, and I looked at him as he laid there and watched me.

"Thanks," I told him, and he smirked.

"Any time, darling."

I didn't like the nickname.

He walked out of the room, and I had time to grab some clothes and walk out of the room for that promising shower...

But I ran face-first into Blake's chest. He was holding a bundle of clothes, too. He was probably going to desanitize himself from me, as well.

"This would be a time where I regret not having two bathrooms," Blake started, "but let's face it- we're so close, now, we can probably shower together and not make it awkward- I'm kidding, Hazel, don't give me that face."

I looked horrified. I knew without even looking into a mirror. I felt horrified, for sure.

"I need to desanitize myself from you as soon as possible," I stated truthfully, avoiding his gaze- it was wierd, because I couldn't look him in the eye.

Blake laughed, "Well, darling, I can't say the same for myself. If I had my way, I would never wash this chest again. But I must digress- I stink really, really badly right now."

Still didn't like the nickname.

"But ladies first- it would be rude if you had to wait, darling," he motioned for me to go ahead of him.

"Please don't call me that," I suddenly said, and I regretted it. He looked at me, somewhat hurt, but he smiled sadly.

"Sorry, Kitty Cat," he corrected.

At the cafe, I was in charge of the cashier. Orion was making drinks, passing me cups to hand to customers and making sure I didn't mess them up. Blakely was in charge of wiping tables and windows and charming middle-aged ladies by striking up spontaneous conversations with them. It was because that Blake had this job that he was the first person to know when he would come back. He was wiping the windows in circular motion, gaining a crowd of window-shoppers from outside because of his good looks and tight black shirt showing off the shapes of the upper-half of his body. Suddenly, he stopped, rigid as if the hair was standing back at the end of his neck, and he dropped the towel and ran out the cafe door.

"What's going on with that stupid jackass?" Orion asked. He still wasn't on good terms with Blake, obviously. He was not happy with him around.

I wouldn't know, of course. I hadn't been able to look him in the eye without blushing since last night.

He was seen shoving at a guy on the sidewalk, and he was yelling so loudly that I could hear his voice through the glass:

"What the fuck did I say? What the fuck did I tell you?! Did you think I was lying when I told you I would fucking kill you if you tried to touch her or so much as talk to her?! AND YOU DARE SHOW YOUR FACE HERE, YOU BASTARD!"

"I slapped him yesterday," Castila suddenly said from beside me, "I guess it didn't work. This certainly will, though. If I know something about Blake, he doesn't take threats lightly."

His voice faded- he was moving away from the cafe, away from the general public. Probably to shoot him with a hidden gun or something. I finally understood what my dad was feeling when he was at the shooting range.

Blake came back about five minutes later with no injures or blood on his hands.

"You won't be seeing him again," he told me, picking up his rag and continuing to wash the windows as if nothing happened.

"How are you so sure?!" Orion yelled at him, most likely enraged by the fact that Blake didn't show any signs of inflicting serious injuries on Chester.

Blake looked at me, in the eyes, and he said to me instead of Orion, "I promised, didn't I?"

Author's Note-

It might not be as funny as other chapters, but I needed to start on getting serious with the two- if you know what I mean *wink wink*.

Honestly, I was getting worried on how to start their relationship. I was so focused on portraying Blake as an idiot that I didn't realize how I was going to end the two of them together at the rate I was going. But there. I am relieved that it has finally started!

Anyways, sorry for the lack of update. The fact above ^ was why I couldn't really get past writers block. Until I listened to "Everybody Talks" by Neon Trees and was all "YES! MOTIVATION!"

And fair warning, I will most likely not be updating soon because school starts in two days. Yes, TWO. First day of highschool involves lots of conentration, and I need to focus on school more than writing- at least, until things calm down. Weekends are good update days, so cross your fingers.

Thanks! Don't forget to review, please!

White-tailed Swift