She looked at her hand for the thousandth time. He had touched her. Such
a simple thing, to cause so many insane reactions.
She'd been touched before. Oh, yes. Never kindly, but she had felt the pressure
of touch before. And it wasn't as if Arrian was a threat to her – not physically. He had let go as soon as she had tensed,
and had looked uncomfortable. She had put that look on his face. She had... hurt him.
She sighed. She didn't want to be afraid anymore. She didn't want to flinch
whenever someone moved too quickly. She didn't want to tense every time she heard a loud noise – an angry voice, a bang.
The weekend had been hell. Now that Sunday was here and almost over, she could hear the sounds begin to die down. Friday and
Saturday nights had been the worst, when most of the students on campus were returning from parties. She heard them at three
in the morning, loud and drunk. She heard... girls screaming, then laughing. Screams were supposed to be sounds of fear. How
could anyone scream when they were happy? How could anyone... make so much noise? Wasn't it dangerous?
So strange for her to think that way. That noise itself could be dangerous.
It made her different. Everything about her made her different.
She put her head in her hands and fought the wave of desperate loneliness
that swept her up. To have friends like that, and be a friend like that. To be able to push one another and laugh. The thought
of touching Arrian scared her. She didn't want to be afraid of such a simple thing. Arrian had thought it completely normal
to touch her. Nothing special. Just touching her hand, most likely to help her up from her seat. Nothing.
And yet, to her... everything.
“What have you done to me?” she asked, but she had no idea who
she was directing the question to.
He saw her again, in her usual seat, on Monday. She looked... sad. Lonely.
She looked up as soon as he entered the room. It was something she'd done
before, but he'd never noticed its importance. She was... hot-wired to a person's entrance. Guarded for just one small second
before smiling – half real, half not. Still tense, just like Friday. Afraid he would touch her. Now he understood why.
It made him hurt for her.
“Good morning,” he said to her, and she nodded and repeated the
phrase to him. “How are you?” he asked, and knew she would lie.
“Pretty good,” she told him. “The weekend was nice, though
the wind was pretty evil.” She chuckled slightly, as if to say, “joke! I'm joking!”
It was common for her to say such things, talking about mundane things and
phrasing them to make others laugh. It made those around her think that she had said much more than she actually had. She
had turned evasion into an art form. And the other students in her class were fooled.
And he knew, absolutely knew, that she was tired of everyone believing her
He could understand, too well, just how deep a habit it was to hide herself.
A child, from before the age of the capacity to recall... two? Three? Four? She'd been around such an age when her mother
had begun beating her almost every night. And the truth of it was that she would never truly be understood by other humans
unless they themselves had been in such a position. Beaten by a mother – big deal. More serious with a father, right?
But when you were a child... you could fight against neither. And you'd only be hurt more if you tried.
He sat down at the desk beside her – as usual – and looked at
her as she returned to her story. He knew that if he continued looking at her, she would turn to him and start a meaningless
conversation. To try to hide.
He looked at her for one more second and then turned away. It would be insanely
difficult to get her to open up, but he wanted to do it. He wanted to stay and help her, because he had a feeling that she
would shine once she let herself go. She would be even more beautiful. He wanted to see that. He wanted to be there with her
through that. He didn't want her to be alone anymore.
So he turned to her during class and whispered a joke: “is that word
supposed to be terminate?”
She smiled outright and remarked on the joke immediately. “Yeah, that's
my best guess. I'm noticing a distinct lack of English in the English department.” This started an intricate conjecture
about what the initial language was before they'd switched to English. They'd gotten to Ancient Aztec – her idea, not
his, and one that had surprised a rather loud laugh from him – before the class ended. The teacher warned them about
an upcoming quiz.
He didn't want to leave.
She seemed to feel the same, though she packed up and left quickly enough.
Her eyes strayed to him once, just once, before she turned away and hurried out the door. Probably to get to her next class
as quickly as possible.
He could only watch as she ran from him, from what she was feeling. He could
feel her confusion, her sadness. Her fear.
More than anything else now, she was afraid of losing him. He could feel
it, bright and warm and trembling. He felt pleased and contented by the thought, but also terribly cold.
Because he was eventually going to leave her.
She sat in her room Monday night and wanted to bang her head against her
This fear was going to kill her. Arrian had become such a normal thing for
her to see. Every day, she went to class more to see him than for any other reason. She was starting to depend on him. Stupid.
Stupid, stupid, stupid!
She shouldn't rely on him. Couldn't
rely on him. She might see him this semester in her classes, but when would she see him after that? Every once in a
while, maybe, on her way to class. Maybe in the cafeteria, when she was eating. Maybe they would even become friends... until
they drifted apart. She'd learned the hard way that no one lasts long as a friend. Eventually they would all leave her. Probably
her own fault, she thought. She never really let anyone get that close.
Arrian. Why was she so afraid of him?
No. No, she wasn't afraid of him. He was so nice to her, so kind...
no, that in itself didn't scare her. In fact, she couldn't help but smile back whenever he smiled at her. Maybe that was what
scared her – how he just automatically made her smile.
Plus, it hurt her to look at him, at his perfect face. And it was
perfect – everything about him was perfect. His voice, his face, his hair, his eyes, his bloody freaking body. Beautiful.
And he truly was kind. He seemed to understand her strange shifts
in mood and accommodated them. She felt like she was letting him down, making him shift with her. But she'd tried to change
things around, to make him laugh and thus lighten the tension. He never let her. Instead he helped her to smile for real.
And, oddly... it felt good. Selfish. But good.
She sighed again. It was so irritating, her own problems. She was hurting
herself. She was hurting Arrian. Why was he trying so hard for her? What did he want?
She shook her head. No, that wasn't fair. Not everyone was like her mother.
She always thought so pessimistically. She knew that she was too cruel to her fellow people. Too ready to think the worst.
But Arrian wasn't like that. Or was he?
She pushed away the doubt.
She felt strange whenever she thought of him, whenever she saw him. A strange
pain that filtered from her chest through the rest of her body. What was it about him? What made him... hell, for that matter,
why the hell had she looked up the meaning of his name? Why did she wonder about the name Arrian – a name that meant
holy, by the way? Like an angel. A real angel.
She shook her head. Stupid. A name couldn't mean anything. His parents were
just Christians, or kind, or hopeful, or... just had a strange taste in names. After all, wasn't she one of those weird people
who looked up the meaning of names constantly? Not everyone did it.
She sighed once again, then stopped before another one could follow after
it. She stood and looked around her room, unnerved by the white walls, as she always was. She'd used up quite a bit of money
buying posters to color the room. She didn't like the idea of being trapped in a room without color. It reminded her too much
of her room back at her mother's house. She'd never been allowed anything on the walls for fear of messing up the paint job.
Instead her mother had taken her posters – the few she had – and stuck them in a box in the downstairs closet.
She'd grabbed them last-minute before coming to college.
She didn't like dwelling on those memories... some of the few she had left.
She glared at her English book and snatched it up. It was still on the first
page, and even that she hadn't finished. She began reading again. She wouldn't fall behind in her classes. School was all
she had that would follow her through the rest of her life, something that was constant. Something that only she could control.
She couldn't control anything else. Her mother. Her father. Arrian.
She shook her head and forced him out of her thoughts with a practiced shove.
He closed his eyes, allowing his body to relax. He was tired. He needed to
“Lord,” he whispered, “please help me find the strength
to Save her.” He wanted to see her shine with the brightness her soul had lost. He wanted to see her smiling, always
smiling, in that true form that made his chest warm. He would do anything for that. “Please,” he whispered again,
and felt himself fall into sleep.