"You're going to live a normal life... I'm sorry." His eyes softened when his words grew sharp, "I'm so sorry."

Flashback 1024

It was autumn in the small town of Champaign. The sky was already dark by 4:00 P.M.; the devil controlled everything. The darkness engulfed every street. The wind was howling like a giant, ancient monster.

The cold feeling wrapped around everyone's heart, making them hide in their warm houses.

In a frat-house on Armory street, freshmen and sophomores were taking advantage of the weekend to throw a party.

In one of the rooms on the second floor, a group of young people were dancing to music.

Besides the dozen or so people that were dancing, several other people sat on a long sofa along the wall. Among them, a dark-haired boy was drinking chocolate wine alone and in silence, slow mouthful followed by slow mouthful.

"They're dancing like monkeys." The girl who was sitting beside him suddenly said; she smiled like the morning Sun.

"Yeah… you're right." The dark-haired boy stopped sending the cup to his lips and gave her a glimpse.

She was wearing a purplish-red sweater with a large embroidered crown on the front made of white pearls and artificial jewels. Her soft, pitch black hair was falling onto her shoulders. She was staring at him quizzically, frame-less glasses set on her small round nose.

"I think they dance alright." He said, turning his eyes away to the tea table, the small suggestion of a smile hovering about his lips.

"Do you like to dance, Moran?" she asked.

"Yeah, I like to dance." The young man called Moran smirked, "I'm not very good though. But I like it."

"Then why don't you join them?"

"Not this time." He replied while leaning forward a bit,"I prefer to drink."

"Okay." The Asian girl nodded.

The dark-haired boy glanced at her,"Why don't you join them?"

"I don't know how to dance." The Asian girl smiled shyly.

"You can dance. It's very simple. Just move your body along with the music." Before the dark-haired boy could continue, a blonde girl came out from the dancing crowd and walked up slowly towards the Asian girl.

"Hey, Alisa, dance with us." The blonde girl reached out her right hand.

"Erm, Debbie… I can't really dance..." The girl called Alisa gave her an awkward smile and wanted to kindly reject the offer. But before she could say anything, the dark-haired boy beside her gave her a push on her back. She tumbled into the dancing crowd half-willingly. Debbie quickly followed.

An African-American boy swirled passed her while dancing. "Hey, Alisa, what's up."

"I'm great. Thanks, Charles..."

The boy called Charles smiled, "Wanna dance?"

"Sure… But can you teach me first..." She said shyly, "I totally have no idea how to dance."

"Sure. It's very simple. Just pretend to sit down and move a wheelchair."

"Um… hum?"

So Alisa started to dance clumsily with the guidance of Charles.

The earlier blonde girl Debbie and a baby-faced boy named Larry also came up and danced along her side.

All of them began doing the "sitting down and moving a wheelchair" technique. They definitely looked like a group of monkeys now.

When the song finally finished, Alisa returned to the sofa and sat down, sighing, "They are so warm-hearted."

The dark-haired boy called Moran smiled at her,"Your dancing is very good."

"No… It's not." Alisa leaned her body forward and waved her head quietly.

"Really, your dancing is very good."

Alisa silently looked at him for two seconds, the ghost of a smile hovering on her lips, "Thank you."

As Moran got himself another glass of cherry colored cocktail, Alisa started eating some snacks.

"Can you pass that bag of chips to me?" She asked.

"Which one?"

"That one."Alisa leaned her body forward and pointed at one of the chips bags on the table.

The dark-haired boy passed the chips to her while listening to the chatter of a group of boys playing a console game in the corner. Charles, Larry and Grey were talking about something in low voices.

"They're going to a bar later." Moran said softly, turning back to Alisa.

"Really? But it's already nearly three..." Alisa blinked.

"Looks like it is." Moran glanced at her, "Are you going to join them?"

"I don't think so. I want to go back I think." She said sheepishly, "I can't really stay up the whole night."

"How are you going to make it back?"

Alisa thought for a bit. "The MTD bus service, I guess."

"Do they still run this late?"

"They operate till three in the morning."

"Gotcha." Moran answered, turning his eyes to the drink.

"So how do you plan to go back?"

"I'll just walk. My place is quite close."

"Cool." Alisa answered. She was silent for a few seconds, then murmured hesitantly, "Well… actually, I'm not sure how to get to the bus stop. And I don't want to walk there alone..."

"No problem, I can walk you there." Moran said, the suggestion of a smile hovering over his lips.

"Really?"

"Sure." Was his reply, with a uniquely accentuated tone.

"Thank you so much, Moran! You're the best."

Alisa and Moran stayed there for another half an hour, watching the bustling group play video games, then they said good-bye to the hosts and left with some other guests.

Charles accompanied them down to the street. One by one he asked all the girls how they were going to get back and whether someone was going to take them.

When Alisa quietly walked out of the main door, Charles suddenly asked, "Wait, who's going to walk Alisa back?"

"I'll take her back." Moran stood forward.

"Okay. If it's you, then I won't worry." Charles reached out a hand to pat him on his shoulder, "I trust you."

Alisa quietly snickered beside them side.

...

"Okay, see you guys then." Charles waved good-bye to everyone. He gave Moran a small nod, "Make sure she's safe."

"Sure." Moran replied care-freely.

"Hey, Moran," A South American girl came up and hugged Moran warmly, "See you next time."

"Sure." Moran replied, slowly letting go of her.

After talking with the South American girl and her friends in Spanish for a while, Moran hugged the girl good-bye and walked back to Alisa, "Okay, let's go."

"Sure."

They went to the bus stop at the intersection of Armory and Wright. Since it was still some time before the bus came, they went into the shelter and sat down to wait for the bus.

"You are different. You are so understanding, you know." She suddenly said.

"Am I?"

"Yeah, you sure are. There are so many people… they're just not aware of what's happening around them."

"Okay... Guess I'll take that as a compliment."

"How long do you think it'll take the bus to come?"

"15 minutes I guess?"

"Okay." Alisa, "Can we… talk for a while?"

"Sure."

Cool, gentle wind brushed their faces even though they were in the shelter.

They became so focused on chatting that when they found out the bus had already come. They rushed out of the shelter, but it was already too late. The bus left without them.

"Well... Guess we'll have to wait for another one." His eyes turned to the shelter again.

"Yeah, let's wait inside."

….

They continued their conversation for a while.

Still half drunk, Moran suddenly said, "I can't wait to go back to my hometown."

"Why?"

"Because Americans are assholes. Their attitudes towards non-Americans are so bad."

"Oh, really?"

"Yeah. Here nobody cares about you. People are so indifferent. My friends in Ecuador are way better. I can't wait to go back to see them."

"Okay." Alisa looked down at the ground, silent for a moment, "As for me, I don't want to go back to my hometown at all."

"Why?"

"Because it pressured me so much... Living there, you know?" She looked up at the main library in front of them, "It made me forget whether I was alive or dead."

"We're all dying, Alisa." A faint light was dancing in Moran's dark eyes, "We all come to this world alone, and we will all die alone. What are people working so hard for? The only thing we can do is wait for death. "

"But, how come?"

"Because it's the truth. We are all going to die in the end. You can't bring anything with you even if you want to. So why the struggle?"

"I know… Logically you're so right. But I still don't want to just wait for death."

"What else can you wait for, then? Everything is so boring. Tomorrow will be the same as today. Everybody just lives the same day over and over again."

"There is something you can hope for, you know."

"Like what?" Moran stared at her.

Alisa looked up ahead, "Maybe hope… maybe you can still expect something new when you wake up in the morning."

"Every day is the same, Alisa ..." Moran said slowly before quickly approaching her, his lips gently brushing her neck. "...We are all going to die in the end."

Alisa was silent for a few seconds. Her expression wasn't surprised or confused. Instead, she gazed sadly at the Main Library which was located in front of them as if she was lost in distant memory.

"I know. Logically, you're so right." The corner of her lips rose slightly, "But it's very funny you know ..."

"What's funny?"

"That I have to return to China after this year." She looked down on the ground.

"Me too. I have to go back to Ecuador when I finish my program too."

"Do you? Really? ..." Alisa turned to stare at him.

"Sure. I can't wait to go back though." Moran laughed bitterly. Then he quietly glanced at her before moving his face close to hers. He was about to kiss her, but she turned her face away to look at the library.

"It's ironic though ..." Alisa said slowly, as if thinking about something.

"Who cares?" Moran laughed dismissively, "Who cares what you do? And who will judge you?"

"I know... you're right." Alisa shook her head, "...But it still feels ironic."

"...Gotcha." Moran replied, gazing down at her collar, then gently kissing her neck, "You can do whatever you want, Alisa."

Alisa turned to look at him, smiling slightly. Moran moved closer to her and kissed her on lips. This time, she didn't turn her face away.

The kiss was so violent, as if it was mixed up with ten years of loneliness and despair.

Review Responses

Review response to mce: thanks for your questions!

About his answers being 'uniquely accented', it has to do with a particular rising intonation that he uses to answer in the affirmative, a feature that he has whenever speaking to Alisa.

About the sentence "the devil controls everything". I used this sentence because Alisa's personal belief is that the world is full of devils and unknown dangers, which she takes as a challenge. So even though the novel is in a light-hearted style, the aura of the world is kinda dark.

Review response to Shailaputri: Hello! This is not a story about teen boy loves a girl in twenties. At the beginning of the story, Alisa just turned 23, Moran was getting to 21(Moran was already in Senior year. He enrolled in Spring term), so it's not really that big an age difference. Thanks for pointing out ;D

"You're going to live a normal life... I'm sorry." His eyes softened when his words grew sharp, "I'm so sorry."