*****I have went through and updated the first four chapters as of 6/17/17*****
If one were to truly understand the relationship I have with Chase, I'd have to go back to the beginning to when we first met. It was just after freshman orientation. All the freshman were supposed to go to a New Student Welcome event in the main building on campus.
They honestly did a really great job of putting the whole thing together. They had a mechanical bull, laser tag, caricatures, and a few other fun things. There was even roller skating in the ball room. But that just wasn't my sort of thing. I didn't really know anyone at the event, so I wandered outside and sat down on a bench facing the street. I glanced around, but saw no one so I pulled out my cigarettes and lit one up. I know it's a disgusting habit, but it's one of my few vices to keep my anxiety at bay.
I had just flicked the remainder of cigarette on to the sidewalk when he appeared. "You know you shouldn't smoke cigarettes, right?"
I turned to the voice with an incredulous look on my face, "You think I don't know it's bad for me?"
"No, I meant you shouldn't smoke because you're much prettier without a cigarette in your mouth." Oh boy, was he a charmer or what?
"Well, aren't you just itching to get laid?" I asked sarcastically.
"Oh no. I just like to tell a girl when she's pretty...and you are." His cheeks began to flush, but he was quite confident with himself. "Why don't you accompany me to this lame event? Maybe your company can make it more fun for me."
"I was actually just about to leave." Lie. I wasn't about to cozy up to some stranger five minutes after our first interaction.
"Oh, come on. What's your name?"
I let out a sigh of frustration, "Sarah." I didn't want to be more rude than I already had been, so I stood up walked over to him, extending my hand to shake his.
"And my name is Chase." He let go of my hand, linked my arm with his and began to walk with me back into the building.
"What are you doing?" I tried to stammer out, extremely flustered.
"Give me twenty minutes to prove to you I'm fun, if you aren't having fun by then you can leave." He pleaded, holding my gaze momentarily.
"Fine." I gave in and he led me farther yhinto the building, Baker center as it's formally known, filled with the new group of new students. The building itself was immaculate. It was a large, four story building, holding a different purpose for each. My favorite floor was the third floor where the coffee shop was.
I was kind of surprised at the attendance of the event. Sure, plenty of people showed up, but it was just much less than I was expecting. Then again, it was the beginning of the year and we were at one of the biggest party schools in the state, so I'm sure there were plenty of parties going on all around campus.
Chase led me to the photo booth and we got in, "First things first! We need pictures so we can remember this night forty years from now."
"Forty years, huh?" He nodded at me and grinned.
"Smile!" He threw on a big, cheesy smile as he said it and motioned for me to do the same thing. I don't know what it is about smiling, but it really does help a person to loosen up. I even found myself starting to giggle and by the fourth and fifth picture we were both in a fit of laughter. That was the moment when I knew we were going to be good friends.
We got out and waited for the pictures to print, we both got a set and I stuck them in my wallet so they wouldn't bend. We began walking around looking at all the different people and watching what they were doing. Everyone just looked so happy. A big part of me wished I could feel like they did. Happiness was something I rarely got to feel. I had struggled with depression and anxiety for longer than I could remember. But that's a story for another day.
Chase stopped at the entrance to the food court, "Do you want to get coffee and go for a walk? I really don't feel like being in here anymore." I nodded and couldn't agree more wholeheartedly. Being around this many people at once really just put me on edge.
We exited the building on the opposite side from which we came in. It took us out onto the busiest and most popular street in town, Court Street. We were on the main strip and continued our walk. We weren't really talking, just observing everything going on. People were running around excitedly, no one seemed like they could be brought down. They were all excited to be back in this beautiful town with all of their friends. I should have been more happy to be there too, the town was extremely gorgeous. The beauty of the campus was one of the things that had influenced my decision to attend school there.
I took a sip of my coffee and we stopped as we passed the college green, watching a shirtless guy with dreadlocks juggling three bowling pins. He was standing on the ledge of a statue, laughing when his friends began to pelt him with clumps of dirt, making him drop his pins and stumble on to the ground. I smiled briefly at the site.
"You have a really nice smile, you know."
I shook my head at him, "No." I didn't need to say more than that. I didn't have a very high opinion of myself. As if that weren't painfully obvious.
He pretended he didn't hear me, "Would you like to walk up town and laugh at the drunken skanks?"
I was almost shocked to hear him say this. Mostly because it sounded exactly like something I would say. "Yes! God, yes," I replied, more than thrilled.
He linked arms with me again and picked up a fast stride towards the busy street ahead of us. There were people everywhere, even in the streets. I don't know how anyone was getting through with their cars. It was so loud I could barely hear him talk, "Are you hungry?" It took me a minute to register what he'd said. I felt my stomach grumble slightly at the thought of food, but I wasn't in the mood to eat.
"No." Lie. I was never sure why I lied the way I did. The lies were never about anything that could ruin a friendship or relationship of any kind. It was more like lies that would inconvenience me, and me alone.
We pushed our way through a group of fraternity guys, who were extremely loud and obnoxious. They hooped and hollered, singing a song I'd heard on the radio. It was something about 'getting lucky.' Chase found a bench and we sat, watching the people passing us by. It seemed so strange to be sitting so peacefully with all the chaos around us. It wasn't a bad chaos necessarily, although the energy around us was intense. It was so exciting, and the frenzy of people began to give me an adrenaline rush and I felt like doing something adventurous.
"Come on, let's find something to do." I grabbed his arm, pulling him up and we were thrust back into the crowd.
I pulled him down an alley so we could figure out our plan in a somewhat quieter setting. "What are we doing?"
"I don't know, I can't even hear myself think on that street. I feel like doing something fun, though...I mean, I was having fun before but I want to get into something." Hearing me say this put a grin on his face. Chase had a nice smile, straight white teeth and perfectly plump lips that looked so delectable. He had shaggy, light brown hair that was disheveled and it gave him a sexy sort of edge. What was I thinking?! I tried my damnedest to think of anything to distract me from the physical attraction I found in him.
"I told you that you'd have fun with me," he bent down to tie his converse sneaker as he talked to me. Cocky bastard. I shot him a look and he ignored it. "Well, we could go up to the abandoned hospital and explore."
I wasn't one for haunted things but I was feeling as if I were having an out of body experience that night and thought 'Why not?'
"Alright, let's do this."
Before we headed out on our adventure, we had to stop at Chase's dorm room to get flashlights. He grabbed a couple other things, throwing them into a book bag and slinging it over his shoulder.
"Are you ready?" I nodded and we started walking towards the highway that led to The Ridges. The Ridges also housed a cemetery and a few other buildings which were now functional and used by the art department. I was way too out of shape for all the hills we had to climb to get there, but somehow I made it up without losing my breath.
Suddenly, a thought occurred to me. I was exploring a dark, secluded area of campus with someone whom I knew nothing about. I knew his name, where his dorm was, and that's about it. I'd only met him two hours before our walk to The Ridges. Normally, fear or anxiety would set in and I would be on edge in a situation like this. That wasn't the case though. There was something about him that just put me at ease. There was no pressure, just someone to pass the time with. Even then, in the beginning, I could feel that.
"Alright, where would you like to go first? Cemetery? Asylum? We just have to be careful not to get caught around the asylum by security." He led me up a path between a row of overgrown, dying trees. Only a handful still had leaves on them and it was only August. If that didn't make this feel that much creepier than I don't know what could. The rumors and gossip surrounding this place could make anyone feel weary, to say the least, about visiting even in the daylight. It was rated as one of the most haunted places in the United States. Not just The Ridges, but the entirety of Ohio University. Which was really cool to think about, but also extremely terrifying.
"We should go down the cemetery trails." He nodded and headed down a large, grassy hill that led to the cemetery and I followed close behind. I wasn't going to lie, I was kind of freaked out. It was just so quiet… Before we could cross the tiny wooden bridge that led to the trails, we heard a loud thud about ten feet in front of us. I immediately grabbed onto Chase. "What was that?!" I whispered.
He pulled out his flash light and pointed it towards the culprit. It turned out to be a raccoon that had knocked a branch off the side of the steep hill. I felt so silly for the way I had reacted. "Sorry," I said, letting go of my tight grip on his arm.
He turned and smiled at me, "It's fine. You can hold my hand if you're scared."
The gesture was sweet but I glared at him, "I'm not scared!" I added a pout to my face for effect. He shrugged and we began walking again. It was just so creepy out here. But then again, I had to admit it was very beautiful. The moon shone through the naked tree tops, illuminating our path. If I hadn't been with this person I had just met, I might even say it was kind of romantic.
Chase stopped to read a plaque with his flash light and I glanced around, examining the tree line. For a split second I could have sworn I saw a pair of small eyes peering back at me from behind a tree. I grabbed Chase's hand before a thought even had a second to process itself. "What's wrong?" I pointed to the eyes, but they were gone. Or were they even really there in the first place? "Maybe we should head back up towards the asylum."
"Yeah…please." He smirked at me. "I could have sworn I saw eyes."
"You know it could have been an animal," he said matter-of-factly.
"It was not an animal. It was a girl...errr...I think."
He scoffed at me, clearly he thought I was crazy, "Ghosts aren't real." He took the left on the fork, leading to the asylum. I opted to ignore his "ghosts aren't real" comment, deciding it was best to avoid a debate before we really knew each other.
We headed up the road again, stopping when we reached a rusty, old water tower which stood in front of the asylum. I pointed my flash light towards the abandoned structure in front of us. It was such a sad, yet terrifying site. It was hard to even put into words, but you just knew by looking at it that horrible things had happened there. It was like the building was alive, you could just feel it.
"I'm speechless," Chase said in a low voice.
"Same," I needlessly added.
All the windows on the first story were boarded up, and the door had a thick metal chain around it secured by a padlock. Unless we had a ladder, there was no way in. Although, I can't say I wasn't relieved.
After exploring a little bit more, Chase suggested we head back to town and get a bite to eat. I finally gave in to my hunger and agreed.
Chase and I were sitting outside on the edge of the same statue the juggler from earlier was previously on, eating subs. Since we were adventured out for the night, it was a perfect time to actually get to know know one another. "So, where are you from?" I asked him shyly.
"I'm from Columbus. I lived in a suburb just outside of the city. What about you?"
"I'm actually from Wisconsin. Milwaukee."
"That's interesting. I've been there before." I wondered briefly what would have brought him to my home city but didn't have time to ask before he rebutted with his own question. "What are you planning to major in?"
"I want to major in digital photography, but I doubt I will. I'm in the school of education right now." I had always had a passion for taking photos, but my family had frowned upon it so much for a career that I had more or less given up on it.
"If photography is really what you want to do, you should at least give it a chance," he offered his positivity, but he didn't really know the whole situation.
"That's easier said than done. Anyway, what are you majoring in?" I shifted the conversation back on to him, not quite ready to divulge such a sensitive topic of my life to him just yet.
"Electrical engineering." I was kind of surprised by his answer, pegging him more for an art or music major.
"Anything to do with engineering is just so far over my head," I laughed.
He joined in my laughter, but added in a serious tone, "but you seem so smart. You could do anything you wanted to."
I shrugged and tried to change the subject again, "So what do you do for fun besides making strangers hang out with you?" He went with it, clearly seeing I was uncomfortable opening up about myself.
"I play guitar and sing, poorly, but I love it. I also hang out with my friends, read, and just find random stuff to get into. Like tonight, which I think turned out to be a good idea on my part." He nudged my shoulder with his and grinned at me, "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship, don't you?"
I smiled gingerly at him, "Yeah, I do."
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