Authors: Stephanie Witter
By Stephanie Witter
All rights reserved. Published by Anchor Group. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher.
Published by Anchor Group
PO Box 551 Flushing, MI 48433
Edited by Melissa Ringsted
Cover design © Arijana Karčić, Cover It! Designs
To the people who suffered or are still suffering.
At one point, even when you don't have any hope left, things get better.
Never give up.
To all the readers giving me a chance. Thank you.
I hate winter. Even with my red Converse on my feet and careful steps, I found a way to fall outside of the dorms. Now my ass hurts, and I can still hear the giggles of a couple dozen witnesses in my head.
After all, I’m not that surprised my second semester of college started like this. I’m not even angry or ashamed; I just don’t care that much anymore. Not many things bother me these days. In fact, only two things: lame jokes about my name and my academic marks, which I want perfect.
In the freezing air my breath creates white puffs of smoke. I glance at my cell phone and realize I have only ten minutes before my Psychology class begins. I can’t be late. My feet pound on the ground half covered by snow melting fast. I’m already out of breath even though I’m not a smoker, or an athlete for that matter.
With my eyes on the ground, I don’t see the group of students coming my way. I cringe when I hear laughter. Adjusting my dark green scarf around my neck, I glance at them. Suddenly, I don’t feel how my ass still hurts, how my cold, damp jeans are clinging to my backside, or how my bag is too heavy on my right shoulder. My heart is beating louder, almost painfully in my chest. My breath staggers and my eyes stop cold on him.
Neat blue jeans, black coat, and a night blue scarf around his thick neck. Unfortunately, his baby blue eyes don’t brighten with recognition or anything. His thin lips are in a straight line and his slightly crooked nose is red from the freezing air.
On the contrary, the two other guys seem delighted to see me. I walk faster, ignoring them. I can’t look at him any longer, not after ... I just can’t.
“I heard that the Force wasn’t with you this morning, little Skywalker,” one of the guys says, almost unable to mutter a word because of his laughter shaking him.
Two guys high five, but he says nothing. He’s not even following what his buddies are doing. He’s only focusing on the girl who must be his latest lay. I walk past them and open the door of the building where my psychology class takes place and inhale deeply. My hands are shaking in the pockets of my black leather coat. I’d love to think it’s from the cold, but I know it’s from seeing him. When will I be able to ignore him like he does with me? When will I just forget? That’s the thing. I can’t forget.
I follow the flow of the last students walking in the huge room for my course, Introduction to Psychology. Hands down, this class is my favorite one. The room is already packed, so I’m fuming because I can’t go and sit in the middle where I blend in with the other students.
Without paying attention to my surroundings, I turn to my left to walk toward the row closer to the door where a seat is available. I take a step and collide with a hard body, almost toppling me over on the ground for the second time in less than an hour. A strong hand grips me firmly by the forearm. My body stiffens and my breath catches in my throat. It’s as if I can’t move besides yanking my arm free without looking up to see who I collided with.
“Are you all right?” he asks me in a deep and calm voice.
My eyes wander from my red Converse to his dark boots. I have to calm down. I’m being ridiculous. Calm down. I take a deep breath and look up slowly. Long, muscled legs in beat up dark blue jeans, an old black leather jacket open over a dark grey V-neck sweater that showcases an impressive tall body with broad shoulders and finally, longish and messy black hair, perfect straight nose, full lips, high cheekbones and expressive soft dark eyes that lock with my bluish-greyish ones. He looks older with his goatee perfectly trimmed. A perfect hot mess many girls would say. I’m just intimidated by this stranger, though.
“I’m fine,” I reply, my voice even. I push away some of my untamed locks and curse my auburn frizzy hair that is always all over the place.
“Hmm ... good,” he says, frowning at my behavior.
I know I’m not a social person. No, that’s not entirely true. I used to be very sociable, but it seems so long ago that it’s almost like the memories of another person. I cross my arms tightly over my chest and turn away, resuming my hunt for a seat in the class.
I don’t look back, nor do I waste another second on this guy, who is obviously older. Moreover, his eyes feel like they could see through my shield, a shield I have perfected throughout the last three years.
I turn on my MacBook Air and sigh. The noise in the room is deafening from all the people chattering excitedly about their Christmas break. I massage my temples and keep my eyes glued to the blank page on the screen. I don’t like to wait, to realize how out of place I am amongst all these outward people who enjoy chatting about nonsense.
Beside me, two girls that I’d qualify as nerdy are talking about a guy, giggling furiously. I cringe. What a horrible sound; it should be banned from public grounds. Once again I sigh, feeling more and more restless as the minutes go by without Dr. Dills here to begin the lecture. I don’t want to have this spare time to overanalyze my encounter with him, my ex.
It hurts to think that after almost three years in a relationship he doesn’t even acknowledge my existence. It’s as if I’m nothing and it hurts like hell. It cuts me, like I’m being ripped open from the inside, living our breakup over and over again, even though it happened months ago
I remember the day perfectly. I was delighted after our first week in Seattle. I decided to follow him to his choice of college, and I enjoyed the orientation week. Suddenly, it all was over in a blink of the eye. He came to my dorm when my roommate was already out for a date. I was pampering—which meant changing my oversized shirt for a freshly laundered one—for a party at a frat house he was interested in. It was then he chuckled, called me a co-dependent idiot, a nobody and an annoying girl that he couldn’t even think about kissing anymore. He told me that he wanted to have sex with other girls, wanted to have fun again and that I couldn’t be in the picture. The pathetic thing in all of that is that I was open-mouthed and mute, and let him leave. I didn’t even get to tell him what I thought about his problems and how he hurt me so many times, but I sucked it up because I thought love should and could be enough. Ridiculous and naïve.
Of course, love can’t conquer everything. Love hurts and that’s all I remember. Feeling butterflies in my belly is not worth all this pain because no matter what, those famous butterflies disappear at some point leaving only an empty feeling in their wake. That’s what love is about and I’m not an innocent little girl anymore. It’s over.
“I know, I know I’m late, but please turn on your laptops. Let’s begin our first class of the second semester. Thank you,” Dr. Dills says in a baritone voice while giving some papers to his four TAs. One of them being the guy I collided with.
The tall guy comes to me of course. Truth be told, I’m sitting in the first row so it’s normal for one of the TAs to come and give me a stack of papers to pass to my neighbor, but why this guy precisely?
I don’t look at his face. My eyes are focused on his big, strong hands. He’s got a simple ring on his right index finger. I take the stack of papers with jerky movements, careful not to brush his skin.
“Bad first day?” he asks me kindly. Next to me, the girls stop talking to ogle the guy. I can understand why his deep voice attracts their attention, but they’re too obvious. However, what do I know what guys like? If I knew, I would still be with my ex, I would still be able to keep the pretense of my happiness. How pathetic is that?
“And?” I retort in a cold voice I reserve for pretty much everybody who tries to make small talk with me and not ask something with some kind of importance. I don’t really know what to do with small talk.
“Hum ... Nothing. It’s just ...”
“Sorry, but Dr. Dills is about to begin his lecture of the day.”
I look up and feel myself blush slightly. I don’t remember the last time I felt this heat in my cheeks and I don’t like it. His dark hair falls in his face, but he doesn’t push it away. He cocks his head on one side, like he’s assessing me and I squirm in my uncomfortable chair. My eyes fall slowly and pause on his necklace, barely visible in the V-neck of his grey sweater. It’s silver and is a small charm of what I believe is the symbol for infinity.
He clears his throat and brings a hand to the necklace, hiding it from my view. He nods and goes back to a desk in one corner of the room where the other TAs are. I don’t know what this necklace is to him, but it’s something meaningful.
I focus on Dr. Dills’ voice and type his every word. That’s what I like, to focus on my classes, my homework, on facts that are easy to understand. Textbooks are predictable and psychology is a way to understand, predict people’s behavior and even help them. That’s my thing. Because I need to understand people.
* * *
Back in my room, the calm doesn’t last long. A petite, curvy blonde with light green eyes and a freckle in the corner of her left eye and one under the corner of the right side of her mouth walks in, her high heeled brown boots clicking on the ground. I don’t understand how she’s not freezing to death. Okay, she’s wearing a wool dress, but her legs are still underdressed in my opinion. Kate Andrews is everything I’m not. She’s a flirt and doesn’t hide it. She’s glamorous, every bit of her is feminine and she loathes pants. Guys love her and she adores the attention even if she’s not determined to find one to settle down with. She just enjoys her life and what college can offer her.
“Good, you’re here,” she says breathlessly, kicking her shoes in her corner of our little room. She puts her brown leather bag on her bed and takes a heavy textbook out of it. “I need you Friday night.”
I sigh. It’s not the first time Kate has tried to force me to come to a party with her. The thing is, I’m not into parties anymore. I’m almost nineteen and I don’t see the fun in being wasted and then hung over for the weekend. Moreover, I don’t like crowded places where everybody is pushing you around to have some space. It makes me feel claustrophobic.
“I’m not going to a party with you. We already had this conversation,” I reply absentmindedly, my attention focused on my psychology textbook. Dr. Dills gave us a chapter to read and it’s quite fascinating.
“Please, Skye? You need to get out of this room and I want you with me,” Kate whines as she flops on her bed, pushing her feet, which I’m sure are freezing, under the red comforter.
“Tell me one thing.” I close my book and cross my arms over my chest. It’s not that I don’t like Kate, because she’s a sweet girl despite her behavior that I don’t really understand, but I’m not close to her. We have nothing to talk about and it’s fine with me, but not with her apparently. “Do you have a guy you have to meet there?”
She clears her throat, blushes just a little and laughs. “Yeah, but I don’t see what that’s got to do with anything.”
“My point is that you’ll spend the night with this guy, and you won’t even see that I’m not with you.”
“I don’t even know him; he’s in my Econ class. He’s cute, but maybe he’s boring. Or a serial killer.”
“So I’m your back up plan? Nice,” I mutter more to myself than to her. I’m not hurt; for that, I would have to care more or want to connect with her.
“You know what?” She stands up and walks to her dresser, where she picks up a half empty M&Ms bag. “You’ve never experienced how stubborn I am, but if you want to play it hard, I’m okay with that. I’m telling you, this frat party is in three days and you’ll come with me. I have three days to become your nightmare until you agree to come with me.”