The Cheat Sensor
"You cheated!" I called out, pointing an accusatory finger at him. "I can't believe you did that!"
Zachary looked at me, stricken, but quickly shook his head, his dark blond hair ruffling in the movement, "I had to do it Aria, how could I have let my best friend down?"
"You won't even acknowledge what you did was wrong?" I asked him, feeling the anger boiling inside of me. I was afraid that I was going to burst any moment now. I couldn't believe that he would do something like this. He knew how I felt about cheating. He knew what it did to me.
"Sweetheart, I'm sorry." He pleaded, stepping closer. He opened his arms as if to hug me but I stumbled backwards, hugging my arms around myself instead.
"Don't." I choked out. "You know I can't be around you right now." Even though the words were hurting him as much as they hurt me, I couldn't be in his presence any longer.
Zachary stared at me, a look of helplessness on his face. "I am really sorry Aria. I know you can't handle being near me right now, but I really did do what was best for Eric. He needed me and I just helped him out. I'm sorry, but I swear to you it'll all work out. I promise, I'll never do it again." He said with conviction.
I stared at him, the pain still searing through me, "How can you say that? What if he needs your help again next time? What if someone else needs you and you break your promise to me?"
"I won't." He swore as he gazed intently into my eyes. "I swear to you with my heart I'll never do it again. God, the pain on your face is killing me." His voice broke on the last word.
I had to struggle to give him a nod. He sounded so sincere, that I could not help but believe him. "I swear to you Zachary, if you break that promise, you break me."
He nodded seriously. "I promise you, Aria. I promise."
Silence fell upon us.
I softly cleared my throat, the hurt still lashing through me by his presence. "Can… can you leave now please?"
Zachary looked like he wanted to do something. Say something. But then he just swallowed and nodded. "I'll come back… when you stop hurting."
I rubbed my upper arms as I offered him a small smile. "Thank you."
His blue green eyes flickered to my grey ones one last time before he turned around and let himself out of my apartment.
The pain lessened, but it was still there. Numbly, I shuffled to my couch and let myself fall upon it. What made Zachary commit such a foul act? He knew it was wrong… not to mention absolutely illegal. It was deceit. The idea that the love of my life had committed such a horrendous act made my heart suffer. I sighed and ran a hand through my long black hair.
That's what attracted me to Zachary in the first place. His honesty, his sense of goodness. We met at the ice rink when we were seventeen. I was dragged there by my friends and they so easily abandoned me in the middle of the ice. Zachary, noticing my distress, helped me out and soon after, we began dating. That was four years ago. I loved his blue green eyes and his sweet smile. I liked his smooth voice and his amazing laugh. But most of all, I liked his honesty and his friendliness.
Both of which were killing me today.
I had always had this peculiar skill ever since I was little. Whenever I was around people who were dishonest, who were cheating, pain would prickle me and my heart would hurt. And trust me, I've been around a lot of cheaters. High school especially was hell. Do you know exactly how many students liked to sneak peeks at other people's exams? How many committed fraud by turning in a project that was not theirs? Plenty, I tell you, plenty. And every time I was around one of them, it hurt. There were several stages of pain connected to several forms of cheating. Like when I was around someone who cheated on their significant other, the pain was almost unbearable. That kind of pain hurt me the most. Thankfully, I had managed to choose my friends wisely. And my boyfriend. Although right now, I was reconsidering that decision.
Guilt seared through me. Why did I have to be so vile to him? For the past four years, he had been nothing short of wonderful. Why was I hurting him because he only wanted to help his friend?
I let out a sigh. I had to go apologize to Zachary. He deserved at least that. The pain that accosted me minutes ago was already disappearing. I knew why. Zachary's act was pure. The pain had dulled away so quickly because my body understood. My ability understood the reasons why he did what he did.
Just as I was about to get up to go after him, my cell phone rang. "Linda?" My voice croaked as I answered the call.
"Hey hon, you don't sound so good." I could practically imagine my best friend frowning.
I inwardly cursed myself. The pain and hurt from before had made my voice sound coarse and dry. "… Zachary cheated." I knew my best friend would understand. She knew of my strange ability.
"WHAT?!" Linda screeched.
I jolted from the shock of her outburst. "I know." I replied dejectedly. It sucked that he had done that.
"I'm going to kill him! Stay there, Aria, I'll fix this for you." Linda promised, the threat very much audible in her voice.
I gulped as dread washed over me like a bucket of ice cold water. I had never heard her react this strongly before to anything. "Linda–," I started before she cut me off.
"I'll send Justine to you and will take care of business. Don't worry. By the time we're through, Zachary will be begging for his death." Click. Dial tone.
I stared in horror at my cell phone. Linda, what was she up to? I scrambled to my feet. There was no way to reach her, I knew from experience that if she made her mind up, nothing could stop her. I had to get to Zachary as soon as possible. As I rushed out my front door I frantically tapped a picture of his face on my cell phone screen. Come on, connect the call, I pleaded inwardly.
My heart pounded against my chest. He's not picking up. Which could only mean one thing: he was in his art studio, with his music blasting so hard from the speakers that he wouldn't be able to hear his phone. I groaned.
And then I ran. I ran as fast as my legs could take me. I passed houses and buildings and even the small park on the edge of the neighbourhood. The wind whipped my long hair around me as I hurried along. Zachary's studio wasn't that far from my apartment. Usually I could reach it after a fifteen minute walk, but today, his life was hanging by a thread and I was the only one who could keep that thread from snapping.
My heart thudded as my breaths turned shallow. My legs started to hurt and a cramp started in my side. I cursed. This was all my fault. I should've explained it better to Linda. She had jumped to conclusions and now Zachary was caught in the middle.
When I was at a red light, my phone started to ring. "Oliver?" I answered the phone.
"Aria, what's going on?" Linda's boyfriend asked me. It sounded like he was hurrying too. "Linda's going crazy over here." He whispered in a low voice, probably making sure that his girlfriend didn't overhear him.
The light sprang to green and I hurried across the road. "Can you please stall Linda?" I panted into the phone. "It's all a huge misunderstanding."
"I'll try. But she's made up her mind. You know how she is then."
I heard Linda's voice in the background, "Let go of the back of my shirt, Oliver! I need to get to that dead guy and make sure he knows he's going to die! Justine, tickle his left side, he can't take that!"
I winced. "Trust me, I know. Thank you, Oliver." I ended the call and picked up my speed.
After an impressive ten minutes, I could see the large building coming into view. Zachary's studio, with his bicycle leaning against the wall. Zachary had rented a part of the building so he could work there in peace, surrounded by all his marvellous creations. I loved his ability to create beauty from such unassuming things. Paper, clay, wood, metal – you name it, he could do it.
I forced my feet to walk that last couple of metres and all but collapsed at the front door. With a thud I fell against it and slumped to the ground. Zachary was here, I thought, my body filling with relief as I felt the soft vibrations of the music pumping inside. He would also come to the door soon. I had hit the button on the door before collapsing. It was like a doorbell, but instead of ringing, lights would flash inside, indicating someone was outside. It was a solution to his always blaring music.
The miniature vibrations stopped and seconds later, the door opened.
Still exhausted, I let myself fall backwards. Strong hands wrapped around my arms before I hit the floor and pulled me against a firm chest.
"Oh my God, Aria." Zachary breathed, worry etched in his voice. "What's wrong?"
I turned my head upwards a bit so I could stare into those magical eyes of his, "Zachary… Linda… kill…," I managed to squeak out before the world turned black.
When I drowsily regained consciousness, I heard the commotion around me. My eyes fluttered open and I noticed I was lying on the couch in Zachary's studio with a fleece blanket wrapped around me. I groggily sat up and pushed my hair out of my face. Man, who has ever fainted from running a few blocks? I was pathetic.
"You kidnapped her? Did you drug her?"
Uh oh. I recognized that voice. Linda. My best friend since kindergarten. I quickly flung the blanket away from me and hurried to the entrance of the vast studio. There Zachary was standing with his back to me, his shoulders tense, facing an angry looking Linda who happened to be flanked by her boyfriend Oliver and our other friend Justine. Was that an umbrella she was gripping in her left hand? Please don't tell me it was her choice of a murder weapon.
"What are you talking about?" Zachary asked her, confusion laced into his voice. "I didn't kidnap anyone."
"Linda." I croaked as I neared the small group.
Zachary whirled around and his eyes lit up as he walked towards me. "You're awake." He swept my raven bangs aside and rested a warm palm against my forehead. "Are you feeling okay?" He murmured softly.
I nodded and bit my lip at the heartfelt concern in his voice. God, I loved him so much.
"Uh, hello? Why are you letting that creep bastard touching you?" Linda called out. "Shouldn't you be in crippling pain, anyway?" Linda had often witnessed me suffering during the years. Physical contact with the person who cheated hurt even more than just the knowledge of them cheating, even if it was just a brush of our hands.
I blinked and looked up at my best friend. For a minute there I was so lost in Zachary's eyes that my surroundings had blurred away. I cleared my throat and offered her an apologetic smile. "It's all a huge misunderstanding."
It was Linda's turn to look confused. "You told me he cheated on you."
I vigorously shook my head. "I told you he cheated." I corrected her.
Realization dawned on my best friend's face. "Oh." She turned to look at Zachary. "I'm sorry for calling you a kidnapper, a drugger and a creep bastard. I've always thought you were an upstanding guy. We could chalk this up to a moment of absurd insanity."
Zachary offered her a small smile, accepting her apology.
Oliver barely held back a snort as his eyes glinted in amusement.
Linda elbowed him in the side.
"Oomph." Oliver doubled over and shot his girlfriend a grin. "Love you."
Linda rolled her eyes and focused on Zachary and me again. "So what did you cheat on? I didn't think you had exams anymore. Classes are over since it's summer break. And honestly, I never pegged you for a cheater."
Colour rose to Zachary's cheeks as he glanced from me to our friends. "Eric had a job interview today." Eric was Zachary's goofball of a best friend. He was a nice kid, albeit rather random at times. "They made him do a computer test and he had to perform a few simple tasks."
Justine snorted, but her cheeks blushed pink. "That guy is computer illiterate. It's a wonder how he's surviving the 21st century."
Zachary nodded and nervously scratched the back of his neck, "I know. And well, he called me and pleaded for my help, and since I knew how important this job was for him… I helped him out."
"You helped him cheat." Linda supplied.
Zachary nodded. "I'm not proud of what I did, but I did it to help my best friend. I swear, I'm going to sit down with him starting tomorrow and cram his head with everything I know about computers so he can get through the job." He then turned towards me and took both of my hands in his, his eyes piercing through me. "I love you. I am truly sorry for the pain I caused you, Aria. I never wanted to and I never will anymore. I would never, ever cheat on you and I promise that I won't help friends cheat anymore either. Once was more than enough to realize that none of it was worth causing you pain. I'm sorry."
My heart filled at his words. "I know you mean it, Zachary. And I'm sorry for getting so upset earlier. It was wrong of me. I should've handled it much more maturely." I gently touched his cheek. "I love you."
"Aww, you two are so cute!" Linda exclaimed before hooking her finger in the collar of her boyfriend's shirt. "Let's go people. This misunderstanding has been cleared." She winked as she turned around and left the building.
As the door closed behind our friends, I turned around and swept a lock of blond hair away from Zachary's eyes.
"Do you still hurt?" He asked, rather apprehensively. He was aware of the lasting pain my skill could leave me with.
Smiling lightly I shook my head. "I stopped hurting about three minutes after you left."
Zachary stared at me, stunned. "Thank God. But, I mean, how?" He was probably thinking back to all those other times cheaters had hurt me. Usually the pain lasted for a good fifteen minutes – often it felt like a throbbing in the back of my head – even after I was out of their presence.
"I understand." I started as I gazed into his beautiful eyes, "My heart understands why you did it. It was an act out of goodness and so the pain didn't last." Slowly, I stood on my toes and pressed my lips against his.
Zachary's arms wrapped around me and pulled me in closer as he deepened the kiss. "I love you so much, Aria." He breathed when we pulled apart.
I smiled shyly at him as I lightly kissed his lips again, "I love you too, Zachary."
The following day I received a card from Eric.
I'm sorry I made Zachary help me cheat and in turn cause you pain due to your freaky psychic skills. Don't worry, he really chewed me out good. You're the best thing that's ever happened to him, Aria. He'd be a fool to ever let anyone hurt you again, including himself.
Ps. He just taught me how to send emails. Think you could give me Justine's address? ;)
I grinned as I looked up from the small card into Zachary's blue green eyes. "He actually wrote this?"
Laughing, Zachary pulled me towards him, "He's computer illiterate. Not illiterate, sweetheart."
I raised my eyebrows at him, "Think I don't recognize your handwriting?"
Zachary sighed, but his eyes shone with laughter, "Alright. These are his actual words, but seriously, who can read his illegible monkey scrawl? I had to copy it from him so you could actually read it."
I laughed as I put my arms around my boyfriend's neck. "You are adorable."
Zachary smirked proudly, "Which is why you love me right?"
"Exactly." I said as he leaned in and kissed me breathless.
A/N: This is a totally random story, haha. Hopefully it makes some sense. Enjoy :)