A Step Behind Death Chapter 2
The phone buzzed inside my pocket. Every time I hear that sound it always baffles me, mostly because receiving text messages for me is a rare thing, especially receiving one while walking to school. I am not the type of person who likes to share my personal information with other people so having someone else know my number is unusual. There are only two people who know my number; my Aunt Faye, and Noah, but even they rarely text me. After taking my phone out and checking who the sender is I discovered that it came from an unknown number, feeling curious I decided to read the contents.
Student council's office.
I'll be waiting.
With the first read I immediately figured out who sent the message. How the hell did she get my phone number? Now that I think of it, Noah must've given it to her. And what's with the M there in the end? Is she trying to be mysterious or something? I took a deep breath and calmed my mind, it's no good being irritated so early in the morning, and being hungry won't help either. Before heading to school I took a quick detour to the nearest convenience store, I checked for something that will be the most satisfying to eat. The selection was the traditional hotdog sandwich, tuna sandwich, and a slice of pizza, nothing surprising really. While pondering about what to eat, I felt something sharp touch my back,
"Don't move" Judging by the voice the one holding a sharp instrument behind me is a man, he proceeded to wrap his right arm around my neck as I tried to squirm free but to no avail.
He proceeded to take off my left earphone, "Money" he whispered into my ear, causing me to panic.
"O-okay, h-here take it just, leave me alone, okay? No need to hurt me, please" I cried out, pleading to the man as I took my wallet out of my back pocket.
"Take this as a lesson, boy, and try to pay more attention to the things around you"
"Y-yes! I will, I will, please, let me go already, I gave you what you want"
"Well- brhg- Ahem. What if I told you- hm- ahaha! I can't, I can't hold it in anymore, hahaha!" his deep and intimidating voice faded into something more familiar as he laughed out loud. I turned around finding out that the one holding what looked like a pen behind me was in fact Noah, who almost fell on the floor as he laughed.
"Oh for the love of-, I hope you die laughing."
"I just might" he said as he struggled to take a hold of himself. "But if I did, you won't have any friends left."
"Just give me back my wallet already"
He threw it at me, almost failing to catch it.
"But seriously, try to pay more attention to what's happening around you. What would happen if someone decided to rob you for real? Drown them with your tears?"
"Don't worry, I'm sure I learned something today." I said while returning my earphones to their rightful place.
"You better. You can't keep being like that forever, you know." He coughed to clear his throat.
"Shut up, don't give me that. What are you? Aunt Faye?" I continued to scan the shelves.
"Anyway, since that you're going to have breakfast here I might as well join you. Let's see here…" He gazed at all the food items in front of us, it looked like he was having a hard time deciding what to buy.
"Hmmm, Ah. Pizza it is." He grabbed one of the slices of pizza on the shelf. "Nothing beats a piece of bread with red sauce on it."
"Eh, I'm more of a sandwich person." I grabbed one of the tuna sandwiches in display. Before heading to the counter I checked how much money I had in my wallet, and to my surprise it was empty. For a second I thought that I maybe forgot to bring any but, I quickly realized that Noah was holding it a second ago. I turned around and to look for Noah, I saw at the cash register handing over the cashier the money that was in my wallet a few seconds ago. After paying he looked at me with a grin on his face. "Don't worry, I'm not going to keep the change." To my dismay I held my forehead with my right hand and then returned the sandwich back to where I took it, my hunger disappeared.
"You'll be buying lunch for the both of us." I grabbed the change on the counter just before he picked it up.
"What? Didn't you think I was going to give it to you?"
"Lunch. For the both of us." I said with a serious tone.
"G-got it." he stuttered a bit as he replied. It's about time.
"It's about time we headed to school, 1st period is about to start."
We exited the store and headed to the intersection. It was strange, looking at where we were going and realizing that an explosion occurred there not long ago.
"It's been two days, huh." Noah said, taking a bite out of his pizza.
"Yep" I replied. May didn't talk to me since the accident happened, but suddenly she texts me about going to the students council's office.
"Here" Noah said, offering me half of what he was eating, "Come on, take it, or else I'll feel guilty."
I just stared at it, hesitant. I wanted to make sure of something first.
"If it makes you feel better, I'm still going to buy us lunch."
"Good." I took it from him then proceeded to eat the piece of bread.
"God this taste's awful."
"I know right."
"Wait," taking a bite of that pizza made me remember something, although I have no idea why a disgusting slice of pizza would've contributed to that happening. "Did you give my phone number to May?"
"Nope" He replied.
"Come on, don't lie to me"
"If you didn't, then who did?" I said, scratching the back of my head.
"Well, why not ask her?"
Both of us finished our meal as the traffic light changed from a red to a green, it was time to cross. There were a lot of people crossing the road, mostly students. As we walked across someone or something suddenly bumped into me, "Oh, my bad, are you alright?" the entity apologized.
"Yeah" as I turned around to look at him I realized that the one that had just bumped into me was no other than Glenn, the student council president, "I'm good." I continued.
"Well, I'll better be going now, see you later." He sprinted to the other side, like he was in a hurry. Wait, something he said caught my attention; see you later? What did he mean by that? Hold on, how does he know that I'll be going to the student council's room today? While deep in thought the sound of a loud clap brought me back to the real world, "Pay attention" said Noah as he walked in front of me. I shook my head as if I was trying to wake myself up, then I followed.
"So what will it be?" Noah asked.
"… What?" I answered.
"Lunch, Damis." He replied sternly. I looked around and realized that we were inside the school cafeteria. "You really have to stop doing that, phasing out all the time."
"I can't help it, I like to think." I replied as I pointed at the plate of spaghetti on display at the counter.
"Thinking is different than daydreaming."
"You don't know that" After purchasing the plates of spaghetti we continued to sit at one of those tables that were attached to a wall. I like sitting there; I like to eat where no one can stare at you while you gulp down your meal.
"So are you going?" he asked.
"Of course we are."
"Yep." I took a fork-full of spaghetti a plunged it down my throat.
"I don't think she'll like that." He said as he ate a fork-full of his own.
"She didn't tell me to go alone though."
"Why do you even want me to go with you? Scared?" he said jokingly.
"Yes, I am." Upon hearing my answer he turned his eyes towards me.
"Oh." He said. We finished up our meals then worked our way out of the cafeteria that was starting to fill with starving students.
"So, where to?" he asked, stretching his arms a bit.
"Student council office" I answered.
"Well that's weird, I thought she'd be telling you to go to the rooftop again."
"If she did then I would've told her that I wasn't interested."
He has a point though, why would she pick the student council office of all places? Thinking about it again, that would explain why Glenn knew we were coming. We walked up the stairs to the second floor where the room was located. We took a quick detour to the library; I needed to return a book I borrowed yesterday. I noticed that there were quite a few students inside the library, and most of them weren't reading but looked like they were trying to find something. The library woman and her assistant which was one of the students were helping them while they searched.
"It's been three days already and we can't still find it," said one of the students. "Are you sure it wasn't misplaced or anything Ma'am?" he continued.
"I've been working her for years young man, misplacing a book will be the last thing that could happen." The library woman answered. The students continued searching for what appears to be a missing book. After placing the book I borrowed on the tray we left the room and continued our way to our destination.
"Sheesh, it's just the first week of classes and things are missing already." Noah said.
I shrugged in response.
After turning left and walking a few more steps we arrived at the office. I hesitated to knock, "What are you waiting for?" he whispered. I took a deep breath and readied myself. Before my fist could touch the door it opened, and on the other side was May.
"Took you long enough, come in." She said. She opened the door to let me in and upon going inside I realized that there was another person inside the room, it was none other than Glenn. "Greetings" He said, with a smile on his face, probably knowing that we were coming.
"You, the other one, get in" she said to Noah that hid behind the corner of the wall just before May opened the door.
She closed the door, both me and Noah sitting on the only sofa located in the room.
"Comfy" Noah commented.
The room contained one long table surrounded by four chairs, and one desk with a chair that Glenn was sitting on, papers that looked like documents were scattered all over the table though a file cabinet can be seen next to the left wall. May sat on one of the chairs, playing with her phone, and before long, silence filled the room. "So, you're the one they call Damis I presume?" the student council president asked, staring at me. He slightly adjusted his glasses as he waited for an answer.
"Uh, yes" I answered.
"So that make's the other one, Noah right?"
"Yeah, Noah Mecker" Noah answered with a smile.
"And I'll assume that you both already know me, seeing that we're all on the same year level as each other. But, for formalities sake I'll introduce myself once again, I am Glenn Caster the current student council president, this is my second year as the student body president and by the looks of it, this will be my last. Nice to meet you"
"Nice to meet you too" I answered politely.
"Likewise" Noah replied, still wearing that smile on his face.
He stood up and started pacing towards the table located in the middle of the room.
"You see, May here said that she will be waiting for someone, here in the office, and having to know May as more of an, introverted type of person, hearing that was news to me. Anyways, seeing as you have already arrived, the people whom she was waiting for, I see no reason for her to continue staying here doing nothing as the rest of my council members try to solve a problem none of them have the capability of solving." He said, staring at May, his voice getting louder as he finished his sentence, while May seemed to ignore his minor outburst and continued to pay attention to her phone. We sat there, quiet, even Noah managed to stay silent for more than a minute.
"Okay, how about if… I do your Science homework for you?" Glenn pleaded, May still not moved by his display. Glenn started to tap his feet and scratch the back of his head as though he was beginning to get irritated, it seemed like he had anger issues, trust me I'd know. After a few moments, he let out a deep sigh.
"All of your homework." He said, looking defeated, May who finally heard his plead looked at him and smiled, "You should've said that earlier, come Damis." She stood up and hurried her way to the door.
"And, Noah, do you want to tag along?" she asked.
He took a quick glance at me before he gave his answer, "Nope."
I couldn't help but slap my palm on my face.
"Well, you should." She debated, "Isn't that what you wanted, Damis? Why else would you bring him with you? "
"Yes." I turned around to glance at the cheeky guy.
"Let's go then" she said as she opened the door.
"Where, exactly?" I asked, propping myself up.
"Library" she replied before leaving the room. Before approaching the door I glanced at Glenn to say goodbye.
"Go on, you wouldn't want her to wait." Glenn said, sitting on his chair while resting his head on the palm of his hand.
"Is she a member of the student council?" Noah asked abruptly, pointing towards her direction. It caught me by surprise, but I too was somewhat eager to know the answer.
"No. Well, I offered her a spot before but she declined, she said it was too… social."
"O-okay then, we'll be off now." I said, gesturing Noah to get a move on.
"Good luck." he smiled and waved goodbye as I closed the door. He was pleased, and for a second, he looked too happy.
"I didn't expect you to come." said May, leaning against the wall in front of the closed door.
"I guess you got that wrong then," I replied.
She smiled, I didn't know why but it ticked me off.
"Don't get me wrong, I'm not here because of that text you sent me." I clarified, "I'm acting out of curiosity is all." Well, that's half of the reason I decided to come here. If there weren't that much people in the library I would've just read a book till class started. But I wanted none of that stressful atmosphere. Normally if the library isn't available I'd go wherever Noah goes off to, even if it's just to hang out with random people he knew while I amuse myself with whatever I see in the distance. With that being said, I don't follow him because I enjoy going around school with him as he talked with random people, my reasons are pettier than that. It's because if I didn't, I'd be sitting by myself in class while my classmates try their best not to shout at each other as they discuss where they should go after class. Basically, I didn't want to do any of those things today.
"Yes, I am aware of that. Let's get moving then." We began walking to the library.
"So, are you going to tell me how you got my number?"
"There were many ways that I could get a hold of your number, but after examining all of them I chose to do the quickest and easiest one, I got it from your Facebook account."
"Facebook account? I don't remember having one in the first place"
"Dude," said Noah, "You told me to make one for you remember?"
"What? No I didn't, why the hell would I even want one?"
"Seriously? I'm sure I heard someone telling me to make an account for them..." He scratched the back of his head as he tried to remember.
"Damn it Noah."
"Come on Damis, it's okay," he debated, "Nothing's bad with getting with the times y'know? And you should really try to connect with people more-"
"Yeah, but I didn't tell you to make one."
"You two sure are a lively duo." said May who stopped and looked at us with crossed arms.
"Anyway, couldn't we just do this after school? I mean, there's no need to rush." Noah asked.
"No that won't do, I usually finish these before class starts." She continued walking.
"What do you actually do?" I asked.
"I just pass the time."
That sounded cool and all but it didn't exactly answer my question.
After a few more steps we finally arrived at the library, greeted by the same scene as earlier. The same students still busy trying to find something.
"Does this have anything to do with the lost book?" I asked, reaching to that conclusion after overhearing their conversation earlier.
"Not book, books." She answered, "They wouldn't have closed the library on the first day of school if they only lost one book."
One of the students looked our way, he looked quite mad. The red tie walked towards us, staring intently at someone in particular, someone that probably forced them to come here in the first place.
"Where were you?" he asked.
"I was in the middle of a negotiation." May answered, seeming to take the student lightly.
"... Right" he answered wearily, "Anyway, we have three missing books."
May frowned after hearing what he said for some reason. The boy coughed a bit then continued, "Three books, all from the same author with the name of Jonathan Lewis," he glanced at May and noticed that she was rather uninterested with what she was hearing, but after letting out a sigh he continued. "They disappeared last-" just before he could finish, May interrupted him,
"Labels?" she asked.
He looked at her with confusion, "What?"
"I mean titles, what were the titles?" she clarified.
"Uhmm... They were the moon and the lake, the invisible woman, and the night to surrender."
"When did they... I mean, who noticed that they were gone?"
"The library woman, during the first day of classes"
"All of the books were gone by then?"
"Yes" the library woman answered after overhearing their conversation, "We check the books regularly. In all of my years of working here I have never misplaced a single book let alone lost one. "
"So you think they were stolen?" I asked, glancing at May who was occupied with her phone. Can't she let go of that phone even for just a second? I held my forehead in dismay.
"I know they were stolen." the woman answered, "Those books were donated by the headmaster and said to have cost a fortune. It wouldn't be a surprise if someone had decided to snatch them all away and sell them to the highest bidder."
"I know I would" said Noah, jokingly. The woman stared at him for a while, Noah just smiled as she made weird faces at him. I tried to hold in my laughter at the sight.
"Hmm I highly doubt that" said May who held her phone up to show us what she had been doing with it earlier, "Jonathan Lewis, a contemporary novel writer. It's highly unlikely for him to have such high valued books when most of the priceless literature are classical, not contemporary."
"So they weren't stolen after all…" I concluded.
"They WERE stolen, "she declared, "You heard the woman, she'd been working her for years, misplacing a book would be the last thing that can happen."
"That's what I told the other kids" the library woman interrupted.
"Of course you did." she put her phone away and walked towards the other student council members who were helping out.
"Don't worry ma'am, we'll find those books" Noah said, trying to reassure her, I on the other hand called it bullshit. He sprinted to the same place May was heading, to do what exactly? I have no idea. The student May was talking to earlier glanced at me then made a smile, guess he wants to talk to me now.
"I'm Lawrence, nice to meet you" he greeted, holding out his right hand. Wanting to be polite I decided to introduce myself as well.
"Damis" I said with a smile, we shook hands and everything was going good so far.
"So… what position of the council are you in?" I asked, feeling the need to initiate small talk.
"I'm the vice president, bet I looked like an auditor or something" he said jokingly.
"No no don't worry, you look the part." I tried to reassure him. Though I have no idea why he thinks being an auditor isn't appealing.
"No its okay, I'm aware that I'm not as smart or as good looking as the president " he insisted. Looks like this guy is a real downer, he just can't help deprecating himself for some reason. It's either that or he's just stupidly humble.
"Anyway," he said, as if he's trying to change the subject, "What's your relationship with May?" he asked, giving no underlying impression to why he asked such a question. It felt like he was genuinely curious.
"Nothing, I barely know her." I answered. I was thinking about saying more but I hesitated, no need to tell him what he doesn't need to know.
"Really? It's quite unusual to see May hanging out with other people, especially during a time like this."
"Time like this?" I asked for clarification.
"When she does what she does."
"What does she do, exactly?" I hate having to ask the second time. It makes me feel like I'm being ignored.
"The simplest way I can explain it is, she helps us help others."
Well, that kind of makes sense. I still have a lot of questions though. But I'm starting to get tired of asking. The way he explains it hints that he doesn't really want to tell me any specifics on what she actually does, and why she does them. I'll just ask May directly, she owes me some answers.
"She's been doing this for a long time now, but this is the first time I saw her bring other people with her."
"I can imagine why." he laughed a bit at what I said, and I let out a chuckle of my own.
"You know, I think she's changing" he whispered, "She used to be more difficult. But now she actually listens to people."
"… Really?" I find that hard to believe.
We glanced at where May and the other council members were gathered, May stared at the empty shelf where the books were formerly located. She looked as calm as I remembered. I tried to look for Noah and saw that he was chatting up one of the female council members, both of them enjoying each other's company. That poor girl doesn't know what trouble she'll be into, especially after Noah gets a hold of her number. I've known Noah to be a good looking and good guy, but his luck when it comes to romantic relationships is anything but depressing. But he's persistent, never gives up easily. And sometimes, he just never gives up at all. Though he may be annoying and narrow minded, his determination is a characteristic of his that I admire, and envy.
"So, How did you two meet?" he asked.
"It's a long story." This phrase is handy. It's basically synonymous to "I don't want to talk about it" or "You're asking too much questions" or even "Do you really need to know?" It's so overused but still reliable.
May approached one of the female council members and appeared to have said something to her, the girl then called Lawrence. "Looks like we have a lead" he said as he sprinted to their direction. My curiousness made me want to go and find out what their talking about so I decided to follow, after taking a few steps I felt someone walk past me from behind, not giving it any thought I continued to walk.
"So, what do we got?" Lawrence asked eagerly, he looked a bit excited. Probably because when this is all over they can finally leave this place.
Noticing me entering the scene May switched her attention to me then asked, "Ah, Damis, you like reading books, right?"
"Y-yeah," I said, she asked so abruptly that it made me stutter.
"Have you read any of the missing books before?" she continued. The gazes of the surrounding students were fixated on me, I don't like this sudden flood of attention I'm getting.
"Uhh, I don't think so… I can't remember…" I answered, poorly.
"Umm, I read one of the books" said by one of the female students at the library.
"Good, good, umm… what was the book you read and when did you read it?" May asked, staring intently at the girl.
"I-I read the invisible woman, "she answered," I finished it just before summer break. The story was wonderful, it was about this widow who-"
"Did you notice anything weird in that book?" May interrupted, "or something that was not supposed to be there?"
"N-no, not really- Well, if I recall, while writing my name on the card at the back of the book I saw some numbers that seemed out of place, they looked like the dates on the calendar but for some reason the year was missing."
"Do you remember those numbers?"
The girl held her chin while she tried hard to remember. "Two… and… twenty-nine, sorry that's all I could remember."
May pulled out her phone then started to mess with it.
"February twenty nine?" I asked abruptly, causing everyone's gazes to be focused on me again, this is beginning to wear me out.
"A leap year" said Lawrence.
"Those numbers aren't dates," May declared, "Last year wasn't a leap year."
"Then maybe the numbers were written later than that" Lawrence suggested.
"The library lady would have replaced the cards by then. With the amount of students visiting the library those tiny cards would've been filled with names in just months." She took one of the cards from a random book in the shelves then showed it to everybody, trying to prove her point.
"She's right." The library woman added just as she walked in the scene.
"… Codes then," I said, "or some kind of cipher." Thankfully no one stared at me this time.
"Well done Damis, I always knew you were smart." She replied, smiling "it is probably some kind of cipher that can be decoded using the book with the card it was written on. The first number probably indicated the page number and the second number was for the word number. Unfortunately we only know one pair of the numbers, and the book used to decipher them is nowhere to be found. But we do know that the person who wrote those messages is probably the one who stole them."
I was genuinely amazed by her display of intellect and logical thinking. I'm starting to understand why the student council asks her for help.
"So, you guys found the thief yet?" Noah suddenly whispered into my ear, catching me by surprise.
"Not yet." I answered.
May reacted as if she noticed something, she looked around the room taking a quick glance at each person around her. She's quite the eccentric fellow isn't she?
"One is… missing." She said. Lawrence and the other student council members stared at her, confused.
"There is one person missing in this room." May clarified.
I remembered noticing someone walk past behind me earlier.
"Someone left here a while ago. Just as I walked here earlier I felt someone walk past behind me, seemingly in a hurry." I said, making me realize something afterwards," Wait, did you just count every person in this room?"
"Oh, that was Margo," The library woman replied, "She's my assistant. She said she wanted to go to the comfort room."
Without saying a word, May started to walk outside the library. I caught up to her just before she left the room.
"Where are you going?" I asked.
"I need to go the CR." She replied, her eyes focused on the corridor ahead.
She continued to walk to the girl's comfort room which was just a few steps away then after checking the inside she walked back to the library.
"She wasn't there." She said with crossed arms.
"So she's the one that stole it?" I asked.
"That or she knows who did." She answered, "Why were the numbers written on the card? If it was me I would've just slipped a piece of paper containing all the numbers inside the book. It would've been cleaner, right?"
"Yeah, maybe writing it on the card was the easiest way for it to be noticed."
"Noticed by who?" May asked, looks like she's asking for a second opinion.
"… Probably the one who handles the books, the library woman, no, the assistant. "
She turned to face the council members.
"She shouldn't have gone far. Message me when you find her" Lawrence said, instructing the other council members.
"I'll help" Noah volunteered. I bet he just wants an excuse to leave this place.
The students left then all of us sat at one of the tables.
"How could I have let this happen?" The woman muttered, brimming with disappointment. "She's my responsibility, I should've paid more attention to her."
"So, where do you think the books are now?" I asked.
"No idea, we don't even know her motive. It might not even be her at all." May answered, staring at the distance.
"She's always been by my side…" The library woman continued, but what she said sparked something in my head. Always by her side, huh?
"What year is she in?" I asked, hoping to get some additional information.
"Oh, she's not a student." The woman answered frankly, "She's works here, started two years ago."
May turned her attention towards our conversation.
"But the uniform…" I said, hoping to get some clarification.
"She had always been mistaken as a student due to her uniform, she often talks to me about it."
"I did not know that." Said Lawrence who's dumbfounded by the revelation.
"She looks exactly like a student…" May muttered, holding her chin.
"Wait, you thought she was a student too?" I asked in minor disbelief, although I just wanted to mess with her. If I'm going to be here I might as well have fun.
"I never visit the library that often." She answered.
"But you of all people should've noticed that Ms. I'm Always Right"
"Stop doing that"
"Stop acting so childish, it's embarrassing." She said, not even trying to look at me.
"She looked so young," Lawrence interrupted, trying to change the subject, "attractive even, anyone could've mistaken her to be a student here."
"Well of course", the library woman replied, "she's not that old. If I recall she's in her early twenties. I can't help being envious myself."
"Lawrence," May said, staring at him, "If you didn't know that she wasn't a student here would you have considered asking her out? You said she was attractive, right?"
"Umm… yeah, if things had ended up that way then… I would've considered dating her." He answered, a bit embarrassed by the topic.
"Then what if she never told you about not being a student here while you two were dating, and you ended up finding about it yourself, what would you feel?"
"How is this going to help us, exactly?" he asked.
"Just answer the question." May declared, sternly.
"Well…" he uttered, looking away while May stared at him. What's with all this tension in the air?
"I guess… I'd be okay with it?" he answered, shrugging.
"Ugh, why the hell did I consider asking you about this…?" May said, disappointed.
The conversation was interrupted by the buzzing of a phone, Lawrence took out his mobile then took a quick glance.
"They found her."
The rest of us students walked to the school courtyard where one of the council members found the assistant sitting under one of the many trees scattered across the area. She sat beneath, on the lush green grass that grew atop the soil where the tree was planted many, many years ago. The tree looked as old as the school itself, its thick long branches reaching as far as it can in many directions, its leaves as green as the grass beneath it, and as still as the melancholic girl who sat under the branches it grew on, hugging both of her knees as she stared at the distance, seemingly waiting for something. We didn't approach her immediately, Lawrence wanted this to be as chill as possible. And she didn't seem to notice we were there. Noah and all of the student council members gathered on the walkway we were hiding in, all trying to figure out the best way to handle this situation.
"Damis," May called, "How about you go over there and talk to her for a bit?"
"Why the hell would I do that?" I debated.
"She looks rather, dejected. I want you to go there and try to chat with her, make her open up, it'll be easier to get her to talk that way. " she argued.
"I don't think she'll talk to any of the council members. And due to my affiliation with them, I doubt she'll open up to me."
I looked away and tried to think about it. I'm not good at handling people. Most of them piss me off or make me look down on humanity. What am I supposed to say to her anyway? She doesn't even know who I am.
"Come on Damis, she's in a state where she'll accept help from anyone no matter who it is." May let out a sigh, "It's either you or Noah."
I guess I have no choice then.
"I'll try." I slowly walked towards the assistant's location, with each step I take I tried to think about what I'm going to do. How will I greet her? Will she even acknowledge my presence or just ignore me altogether? Man, I'm starting to get paranoid.
I stood in front of her, no response. Okay, let's do this. I coughed as if to ready my mouth for conversation. Just before I could say something my phone started buzzing, I took it out then checked for messages where I saw one, and it was from May. Sit next to her, it said. Why the hell do I have to do that? I glanced at where all of them where hiding and saw may staring at me, the way she stared at me felt the same way Mrs. Palmers stares at me when I'm on the verge of doing something irresponsible. Without much of a fight I held my forehead and decided to do as she says. I sat beside her, a few meters away, avoiding the patch of dirt at the side of the tree. I received another message from May. Sit closer, it read. Not having much of a choice in this situation I moved closer to the female beside me, inch by inch, as if trying to avoid her notice. I stopped when there was only a few inches separating our shoulders from each other. I just sat there, quiet. I still have no idea on what to do in this situation. Maybe an introduction would be a nice ice breaker. Before I could twist my neck to look at her she suddenly rests her face on my shoulders as she made unintelligible noises of sadness. I felt the cloth on my shoulder moisten as her tears began to soak it. Whoa, this escalated quickly. I just sat there, trying to fulfil my role as a shoulder to cry on. I would never have guessed that my first physical contact with a girl would be while she was crying, and I don't even know anything about her. She started making more weird noises, little did I know she was actually trying to talk to me though I couldn't make out what she was saying because of her constant sniffling. With my shoulders starting to wear out I offered her a handkerchief to mush her face on which she gladly accepted.
"I… never asked for this…" she said, managing to get a hold of herself.
I waited for her to calm down before I asked the question, "Did you steal the books?" I said, trying to be as gentle as possible while trying to get a grip of the situation.
After a sniffle she replied "Yes." I moved a few inches away from her to give her some space.
"So… why did you do it?" I asked inquiringly.
"I… I just had to." She answered. Seriously? That's all you want to say? Here I am sitting my ass flat on fertile dirt trying my hardest to get information from you and you won't even give me the pleasure of knowing your motive. Why am I even here? This is starting to wear me out. I let my thoughts drift away for a few moments, wondering what would happen if I just suddenly walked away, if I stopped talking to her altogether and just sat there all silent, what if I farted, damn it. Noah's bad jokes are rubbing off me.
"… What if… what if you could have any superpower you wanted… what would you want to have?" she asked, catching me by surprise. Superpowers, huh? That's not the kind of thing you ask someone you don't know while you soak their shoulder with tears and other liquids. But for the sake of this conversation, I'll go along. Thinking about it I already kind of have one, though it's more of a curse than an actual superhero ability. How about I give a generic answer like flying, x-ray vision, or defeating any enemy with just one punch, that last one sounded good, yeah I'll go with that.
"I'd want the ability to see the future…" She answered, interrupting me in the process. Though admittedly it was my fault for not giving a reply sooner, she could've at least let me finish. Anyways, having an ability to see the future would be nice. Well, any superpower is better than seeing dead people all the time.
"… That'd be nice…" I uttered, not noticing that I was thinking out loud. Feeling a bit embarrassed I glanced at her to check if she heard what I said, thank god she didn't.
"Why?" I asked, feeling that she was beginning to open up to me and might finally provide some explanation to this mess. I began to hear footsteps behind us, they became louder and louder in quick succession. A figure of a female student stood beside me, crossing her arms as she glared at me.
"What's taking you so long?" said May, she looked irritated.
"I do things at my own pace okay." I replied. I stood up to whisper what I'm about to say to her, "I thought you were letting me handle this?" I continued.
"Well I didn't expect you to take this long, I mean, all you had to do is get her to talk."
"How about you give it a try?"
"No thanks, I find drama appalling."
Then what do you think I'm going through right now?
"Did she say anything involving the missing books?"
"Well, she admitted stealing them."
"Then our job here is done."
"Hold on, we don't even know why she did it in the first place. We don't even know where the books are. "
"I would like to know about it myself but our job is to find the thief and we found her. The council will handle the rest, and considering that she's a faculty member, the principal and the rest of the faculty authorities will join in so there's really no need for us now that we got a confession. "
"Umm… excuse me," Margo said, she stood in front of us, "I'll go. I know that what I did was stupid, I'm ready to face the consequences for my actions." she reached for my hand as she gave back my handkerchief, "Thank you." She made a smile so bright I feared it might blind me though her nose was still a bit red and a few tears still linger along her eyelids. She walked past us and headed to the direction of the council members where she apologized.
"You already know her motive, do you?" I asked May. She just shrugged in response.
"There are two things that can make a person do stupid things, love, and fear."
"How would you know that?"
"I just do. Just like how I know the bell will ring a few seconds from now."
She walked to the covered walkway as all the others walked back inside the building. And without fail, the school bell rang, just as she predicted. To be honest, I was beginning to get sick of it. A gentle breeze suddenly blew across the courtyard seemingly from out of nowhere, as if telling me to get a move on. And because I know better than to disobey nature, I began to walk.
It's that time again, the time where all of the stuff you learned from school all day fade to nothingness as you cherish the moments where you don't have to sit in a room with dozens of others while all of you try to listen to a blabbering adult calling itself a teacher. Not that I despise teachers or anything, it's actually quite the opposite. But I was exhausted. And I tend to get irritated quicker when I'm tired. Before leaving like all the other students I noticed Noah still on his seat messing with his phone. I found that sight unusual knowing that he has a part time job after school he should've left already. Before walking towards him I saw him smile at his phone, and oh boy I think I know what's going on.
"You look happy." I said to Noah, "No work today?"
"Actually, I have a job today." He replied, looking all smug. He stood up and continued, "A job to mend a girl's broken heart." He made his signature grin as he basked in his non-existent glory.
"I knew as much." I replied, "Let me guess, she's a member of the student council?"
"Yeah, I felt sorry for her after I noticed she was looking all depressed which was not what a girl as cute as her should be looking like, so I approached her chatted with her for a bit. Can you believe she threw away all the gifts her ex gave her? Like the clothes he bought her and even the diary they shared with each other. When I heard that I just knew that I had to help this girl. And it looked like she was more than happy to let me help. So now, I've got a date. "
"Wow, you work fast." I replied, unimpressed.
"I know right," he replied, "Well, I got to go now, wouldn't want her to wait."
"Sure, good luck." He picked up his bag and sprinted outside the room to wherever he decided to meet up with her. I looked around and noticed that I was the only student left in the room, after fixing my chair, checking my bag and pondering if I should put on my earphones or not, I left the room as well. By the way I decided not to wear them.
I headed to the stairs where I saw May again standing in front of the steps, waiting for someone. This time I'm sure it's me she's waiting for, and this time, I don't really care anymore. As I approached her she seemed to not notice me, mostly because she was paying attention to her phone, unsurprisingly.
"Waiting for me?"
"No, I was actually waiting for Glenn" she replied, her eyes still glued to her phone.
I started walking towards the steps.
"Of course I was waiting for you," She said stopping me in my tracks, "We need to talk."
"You should've said that earlier then." I replied, "You didn't have to lie."
"I didn't lie when I said I was waiting for Glenn." She clarified, "So for now, let's wait."
I leaned on the same wall as she is, "I hate waiting."
"We have that in common. But, patience is a valuable trait. You know the saying, "Good things come to those who wait." "
"Not for the prisoners waiting in death row."
"To them, death is the best that could happen. Having to wait may be worse in comparison"
"I find that hard to believe."
"You'll never know unless you become one of them."
We stood there, waiting. The school was quiet. It felt like we were the no other people there other than the two students who are having a chat about death row prisoners while waiting for the student council president. Fortunately, I didn't have to wait any longer because Glenn finally blessed us with his presence coming down the flight of stairs in front of us. May approached him and gave him a small envelope. Wonder what that was about. She proceeded to whisper something into his ear were he nodded in response. Afterwards both of them turned their attention to me.
"Let's go." Said May. They continued to walk down the steps as I followed. I walked behind, mostly because they kept talking to each other. It looked like they were having a serious conversation but I think I overheard something about May's uncle and the homework she made Glenn take care of. We reached the gate where both of them parted ways.
"Take care then." Glenn said, glancing at both of us. He went in a cab he called then left the premises, leaving me alone with May. She began walking to my apartment's general direction though she's probably heading to the train station near the intersection. We continued to walk together. She was silent as she walked, but after a few moments she finally spoke.
"So, how is it?" she asked, "The visions, I mean."
"I-Its fine, I'm fine, I mean, haven't had one since, you know…" I answered. Then, a brief moment of silence.
She cleared her throat, then she said something I never thought I'll hear from her.
"Thank you." She said, "I… truly appreciate you helping me last Monday. And for that, I offer you my thanks. Although if I didn't grab you and ran off we'd probably be dead but… you did save my life. And I'm sorry about leaving so abruptly afterwards, I had an urgent meeting that day." She stopped and turned to face me, "If it helps, how about I buy some groceries for you as replacement for the one's you lost?"
"No no, it's okay. I've already bought some yesterday so there's really no need." I replied, and heading to buy groceries again would be a pain at this hour. I felt the need to change the subject, this is starting to feel weird.
"So, was the library assistant really behind the missing books?" I asked.
"What? You're still doubting what you heard yourself?" she answered, irritably, "well, she officially confessed stealing the books and she told us where she hid them, but in the end she never told us why she did it in the first place."
"Hmm… At least we know she really did it I guess… " I replied, "So, where were the books?"
"While you were busy talking to that girl in the courtyard earlier did you notice something unusual?"
"Well… not really…" I tried to recall the events that occurred that time as well as the courtyard itself. Attending school there for three years made it easy for me to paint a mental picture of the place. And then, I came to a realization. Unlike all the other trees in that courtyard, the one we were sitting on was different, more notably, the ground beneath the tree itself.
"I… we were sitting next to them the whole time."
She made a smile.
"So they were under our asses this whole time," I continued, "So then, what happened to her?"
"She was let off with a warning, though things might have ended differently if the books were never found. The head librarian backing her up helped a lot in her case."
"Still… to go to such lengths as to bury those books inside school property, what could've pushed her to do such a thing?"
"I already told you remember. Although she never told us her motive I already came up with a theory as to why she did it, but it's only a theory. Without hearing it from her we can never be sure."
"Was it something to do love and fear?" I suggested, after recalling what she told me earlier.
"So… are you going to tell me or what?"
"I'll just leave it to your imagination."
"Hey, you're seriously not going to tell me?"
"Anyway, that's not what I wanted to talk to you about" she said, "I wanted to tell you this during the first time we met but I'll just do it now." She stopped in her track just as we arrived the intersection.
"I have a proposal. I wanted you to come to the student council office and join me for a reason. I wanted to show you what I do and how I do them."
"Okay… " I said, feeling confused. She let out a sigh.
"I want you to help me, and I'll help you in return."
"Your visions." She said, "I can help you learn more about them, how to control them, maybe even remove them completely. You've seen what I can do, I'm sure I can help you with whatever that is." I can't deny that I was amazed by her ability to put together seemingly unconnected information. But my visions are a completely different thing.
"And I'll help you with your… "cases" in return? What do you even do exactly?"
"You've been studying in this school for quite a long time now so I'm sure you're familiar with the student council's advocacy, right? The student council promises to help any student in need, no matter what the problem may be. But, even though the council is built up by outstanding students who are more than capable of managing student affairs, they are not perfect. When a problem arises that even the mighty few cannot solve, they consult the one student who can. At least, that's what they did at first. But now they decided to let me handle the difficult ones directly. They even offered me a spot in the council but I thought it was far too- "
"Social?" I interrupted, I didn't even notice saying it out loud.
"… Boring." She said as if correcting me.
"I find it hard to believe that you'd agree to help in the first place."
"I wasn't doing it for free. Of course. At first they offered to do some of my homework and take home activities for me which they still do up to this day but, I found the job to be quite enjoyable. Well, at least it used to be." I imagined it'd be enjoyable for her. She looks like the type of person who always wants to do something yet doesn't want to do everything. And the way she was acting earlier at the library, I guess for her, the more complicated the request, the better. For someone like her who has a distant and discreet demeanour, doing the stuff she does fulfils a purpose. Whatever purpose it may be.
"Anyway, what do you want to do about that murderer?" I asked recalling our conversation on the rooftop days ago.
"You know, the one you told me to help you find? Honestly I don't even know why the hell you'd want to find one."
She held her chin as she tried to remember, "Oh that. Don't worry about that, the murderer spiel's purpose was only to entice you."
"Entice me? So it was a lie? Why would telling me about finding a murderer even interest me in any way?"
"I just thought of it as a possibility. Look, I really don't like explaining everything I do, I want you to remember that. Because starting tomorrow we'll be working together."
"I don't remember agreeing to this."
"Come on, I know you want to get rid of those visions of yours. Having it made you what you are today. A pathetic, weak willed, slothful waste of space radiating with hate for the world."
"Whoa, slow down there. Better stop before you say something you'll regret later." I clenched my fists with anger, though I wasn't ready to stoop low enough to hit a girl. And I wasn't angry because of her searing personal insults but because she was able read me my like a book. Those were the last words I wanted to hear.
"I… Insulting you wasn't my intention." She said, she bowed her head and took a deep breath, "Let me ask you this. Are you satisfied with living your life like this? You haven't even done anything with your life these past few years. Are you going to let all of the time you've spent here go to waste? Will you even try change yourself? Will you even try?" The way she spoke was full of emotion in contrast to her normal calm demeanour, as if she was scolding me.
She let out one more sigh, "Help me, then I'll help you. I'll let you think about it." She said, "I just hope you do actually give it a thought."
"Wait. I just want to clear up something. Did you really stalk me this past year?" I asked her just before she went to cross the intersection.
"I did." She answered, with not even a glance she crossed the intersection.
I stared at her as she disappeared in the crowds of crossing people. And to my surprise, one of the crossing pedestrians was Noah, and he was alone. He began walking towards me.
"Yo… so a new noodle shop just opened around the corner," he said. He looked as happy as always but I knew him long enough to realise what happened.
"Let's eat." I replied.
We headed to the newly opened noodle shop near an old pawnshop and bought a pair of noodles. They were good. Good enough to waste my money on. As we ate I recalled everything May told me earlier. What was that all even about? I know we've been in the same class for years now but how can she even yell at me like that? Why did I just let her yell at me like that? And I still haven't gone over the fact how she went as far as too bring me along with her just to convince me about working with her. The way she scolded me earlier, she was really into it. And for some odd reason, maybe it was the way she articulated her words but, the way she said it felt like I was talking to another person, almost as if she was only relaying some message. Seriously, what the hell's wrong with that girl?
As we finished our meals and went on our separate ways, I took out my phone.