I'm hurrying to the parking lot in the dark.
Despite being old enough to do whatever I want, I value my relationship with my parents. Therefore, I plan on continuing to come home in time for mom's home-cooked dinners.
My mom works as a chef. She owns a restaurant with my dad, and regardless of what anyone may think, we only speak English in our family. I hate when people expect me to understand Chinese, and my mother cooks Italian meals.
She is excellent in the kitchen, which is probably why my four sisters never skip meals. We are all very respectful of our parents.
I hurry my steps, only to glance to the right when I hear footsteps approaching. Nathan is walking beside me, and with his freakishly long legs, it doesn't take long for him to catch up.
My skin crawls, and my heart leaps into my throat. I fear Nathan, but I'm too irritated to let it show.
"Are you stalking me now?" I snap at him.
Nathan pauses briefly, and I do the same. We stand facing each other like two alley cats about to rumble. I can't read Nathan's expression. His hands are shoved into his pockets, and he is wearing a large backpack that seems to weigh more than me.
Eventually, Nathan speaks. "I'm not stalking you," he nods ahead, and I follow his gaze. Down the road stands his shiny pickup truck. "My car is parked right there."
"Oh..." I blush, feeling silly that I thought he was stalking me. It's kind of an embarrassing thing to assume.
Nathan looks like he is about to say something but falls silent when a group of guys comes tumbling up the walkway.
They are loud and walking as if they have been drinking. One of the guys kicks an empty aluminum bottle across the gravel. It scrambles and tumbles into some bushes.
Something resembling fear grips hold of my throat, and my pulse thumps against my neck.
I don't like to meet groups of men in the dark when I'm alone, even if they are teenagers.
It makes me step closer to Nathan without thinking twice about my actions. I realize what I'm doing when my back brushes against the front of his jacket.
Nathan hangs his head, peering down at me from his towering height with something resembling an amused smile. There is understanding in his eyes, yet he doesn't say anything.
He calmly stands in place as the loud guys walk past us. I'm ashamed to admit it, but it seems I unconsciously trust him to some degree. Which makes zero sense—he bullied me for years!
"Are you okay?"
I pout up at him, angry that he seems entertained. "I'm fine."
"Okay," Nathan keeps the smile. "Glad I could be of assistance."
He breathes a laugh. "Come on, we both know I saved the situation here. I'm the hero of the day."
I will be damned, but I actually snort. "By doing what exactly? Menacingly standing there?"
He shrugs. "Maybe... Not to brag or anything, but there aren't many people who would be willing to pick a fight with me."
"No, you're probably the one picking the fights."
He laughs. "What am I in your eyes? A delinquent?"
I pause. "Aren't you?"
"What do you think?"
I study his eyes. They are usually colder than snow but look less predatory today. Huh. I wonder what changed? Perhaps it's the lighting underneath the streetlight.
"I don't know," I answer earnestly, raising my eyebrows. "In my eyes, you've always been seen as a living nightmare."
He winces. "Ouch."
I don't feel bad for him, not even a little bit. Remembering Nathan taking my stuff without permission is all I need in order to recall the hurt and pain he caused me.
So many tears have been shed because of him...
My mood turns sour. "Just speaking the truth."
To my surprise, Nathan doesn't seem to take offense. "I probably deserved that."
I walk forward and realize Nathan is putting effort into walking at the same pace as me. His car isn't even parked by mine, and I grow suspicious. Is he making sure I make it to my car safely? Since when is Nathan a gentleman?
My stomach churns unease, yet I say nothing and let Nathan walk me to my car. When I open the door to throw in my backpack, Nathan clears his throat behind me.
I turn around and give him a questioning look. "Yes?"
Nathan seems to hesitate. His lips open before closing again. I'm caught staring at his stubble and then at his full lips.
He is irritatingly attractive.
The last thing I stop on is his eyes, which I'm sure could bring any woman down to their knees. Those ocean eyes are surrounded by thick, dark lashes. The only thing about him that can be considered girly since the rest of him seems cut from stone.
I'm not kidding. Nathan's body is startling. He is tall, but not hot-guy-tall, but more like Bigfoot tall—if Bigfoot were real, Nathan would be his long-lost son. Though, I suppose his face is a bit too beautiful for that. Too beautiful, actually.
A little shiver runs over my skin that has nothing to do with the temperature outside.
"Do you like Andrew?"
It takes me a while to realize Nathan has spoken. I blink repeatedly, and he frowns at me, probably thinking I'm not going to answer. Which should be fine, considering he asked something personal.
Yeah, now that I think about it, why should I give him an honest answer to that question?
I sneer at him. "What is it to you?"
The sassy tone of my voice surprises him. I can see his eyes widen before he finds words. "He will ask you repeatedly until he gets what he wants. If you aren't interested, you will have to tell him straight-up unless you want him to keep bothering you."
I laugh because this is crazy. Nathan is being so damn weird. "Why do you even care?"
His face darkens when I laugh at him, and the gentleness disappears. He is suddenly back to looking moody. "I don't know..."
"You know, if I didn't know better, I would say you're acting like you're jealous. Which makes no sense."
To my surprise, Nathan simply glares at me. I'm not scared, though. I'm close to laughing out loud because I don't know what is happening. Is he messing with me right now?
"What?" I challenge, surprised by my own courage. I'm feeling stupidly so brave that I add more fuel to the flame by joking around. "Is the big bad Nathan Douglas interested in me?"
He couldn't be.
There is no way.
Guys like Nathan Douglas never take an interest in girls like me. I wouldn't want it either. Nathan frightens me, but he is acting so odd that I can't help myself from talking.
It must be the cause of my bottled-up frustrations. For years I've been dreaming about standing up to this guy, and now, it seems I've thrown caution to the wind—I've gone mad.
I can't believe I just teased him and asked if he was interested in me—I'm high on adrenaline right now!
"Would that be so bad?"
My jaw slacks to the ground, and I lift my gaze to stare at Nathan's face. He looks utterly pissed off.
Those ice-blue are scorching hot, and I take a step back, once again reminded of his size. Nathan looks like an archangel ready to punish those he deems to be his enemies. Scary.
My tongue darts out to wet my parched lips. "You can't seriously be interested in me..."
Nathan lifts his eyebrows at that. "Why?" He looks me up and down and laughs, but the sound is dark. "Look, I don't know you that well, and it's not like I want to be interested in you, but there is no point in hiding it. You intrigue me, and I loathe myself for it."
"You loathe yourself for being interested in me?"
What is this guy's fucking problem? Nathan must be the only guy who can make his love confession sound like an insult!
"Okay, listen," I cross my arms over my chest and feel my blood rushing into my head. This guy is so fucking weird. "If you're interested in me and loathing yourself for it, it doesn't exactly make me want to give you a chance to date me."
"Please," Nathan snorts. "You wouldn't give me a chance either way because you're afraid of me," I wince because he is right, and he smirks at that, but it looks pained. "And that, right there, is why I loathe myself for being interested in you. We have too much baggage."
My frustration builds in my chest. I can't reel it in, not this time, and before I know it, I'm snapping up at Nathan.
"And whose fault is that huh?! You haven't exactly been nice to me, you fucking idiot!"
His eyes narrow. "I realize that..."
"Yeah, so don't guilt-trip me for being suspicious and afraid of you! I'm still half-convinced that you're playing games with me right now. You're probably trying to see if you can get me to date you, only to humiliate me later!"
Nathan freezes. His eyes turn calculating, and then his lips become a thin stretch on his face. "That dream can't have been a vision of the future... You and I couldn't possibly forget the past... We are like snow and salt... Fire and ice..."
"Huh?!" I stare up at him in disbelief. "Did you suddenly turn into a poet? And what dream?!"
Instead of responding, Nathan turns around to stride toward his car. I growl and glare after his back. "So, you're just going to leave without explaining yourself?!"
Nathan stops by his door and snorts. "You're not worth the trouble, princess. Speaking to you is giving me a headache."
For some odd reason, it hurts hearing him say that. It's stupid. We have always been enemies, yet tears prickle behind my eyelids.
"Well, fuck you too!" I shout.
Nathan doesn't respond. He slams the door and revs up the engine while I kick up gravel.
Stupid Nathan. Why am I so bothered by him saying talking to me gives him a headache?
I shouldn't care about him!
"Gah!" I shout and storm toward my car. "Men say women are hard to understand, but it's actually men who are impossible!"
I turn on my car and take a deep breath. Hot tears are rolling down my cheek, but everything will be okay. I have Winnie, my family and maybe I will go with Andrew. The future looks bright.
NathanI'm so fucking stupid! Why did I raise my voice at Alice, and why did I get into the car?! I said she wasn't worth it, but the joke is on me because my heart won't stop aching, and my brain won't shut off!Those images from that dream are hunting me as I drive. I see the other Alice's smile, and the picture mixes with the real-life Alice I saw earlier. Their faces, eyes, and smiles—it's all the same!"Damn," I say while driving and suck in a deep breath. "That dream really messed me up..."Tears are stinging behind my eyelids, but I don't shed them. I'm a grown man, for fuck's sake. It would be stupid to cry over something like this, and yet... Yet I'm close. I was about to have a fifth daughter in that dream—I held Lily in my arms. She was perfect. Cute and adorable with tiny little toes. Her lion mane was a mess, and she smiled when I held her. How will I forget about her?And Alice... Fuck Alice. She isn't mine. I don't even know her in real life, yet when I saw how Andr
AliceI've had the best week ever!Winnie has quickly become my best friend. We are both studying prelaw, but there is a difference between us: her heart is in it. But I, on the other hand, honestly don't want to become an attorney.I just want to make my parents proud. They would probably be disappointed if I told them about my dream. It's a big secret, but I want to draw. It could be for comic books. Or maybe even comics on the web?"Hm, which one should I choose..." Winnie is standing ahead of me in the food line, taking her sweet time picking her hamburger.I roll my eyes at her. "They are all the same.""Aha!" Winnie exclaims. "This one!"I have to resist the urge to laugh when she picks her food. Winnie is a character, alright, but I like her. She is my first friend, and that's precious. I never want to lose her. "Hey, Alice?" Winnie beams at me when I look over my shoulder. "I'm going to go and sit with the others. But we are sitting by the table right over there—"Winnie!"We
AliceI'm nervous. Music blasts from the frathouse, and people are lining up the street. This is the first party I've ever been to, and I'm close to freaking out from the sheer pressure. What if people will find me boring?Will I even have fun here?What if, for some reason, that doesn't make sense, people just start bullying me out of nowhere? I know the chances are slim to none, but I'm just so freaking scared and traumatized from high school. I sometimes have trouble understanding why Winnie is even willing to be my friend. My heart is booming when Winnie pats my shoulder. A wide grin has spread over her face. "Are you excited?"I try my hardest to smile. "A little." But I'm mostly scared."Good, because this is going to be fun," Winnie fishes up her phone and unlocks her screen, mumbling. "Andrew told us we could skip the line... Let me just text him to come to the door..."I try to keep it together while Winnie calls Andrew. My eyes go to the left and right, landing on all the
NathanAlice and I make quite a team, and I'm having fun. "Down you go!" Alice shouts when she manages to push another girl off the shoulders of some random bloke. "Another victory for team Nathan and Alice! Let's go!"Water splashes in my eyes, and people whistle around the pool. I don't make a move to get up, though. Alice and I are finally down to our last challenge. The next battle will be our fight against Jake and Winnie. "Ladies and gentlemen!" The judge speaks over the noise in an anchor's tone. "We are finally down to the last battle between team Alice and Nathan and Winnie and Jake! Who is going to win?!"People whistle and cheer. Some hold their glasses in the air, and a few red plastic cups float around in the pool. Gross. I wrinkle my nose in disgust, but instant happiness finds me when I look up at the dwarf sitting on my shoulders. Alice weighs nothing. She is adorably tiny yet larger-than-life in my heart. Why can't she be mine already?Seeing Alice's smile makes m
Alice"My mom will kill me if I come home like this," I hiccup and laugh at how my voice sounds. Shit. I'm wasted. A wasted squirrel. Yup, that's me. I also feel kind of... Like, I don't know. I can't be bothered. "Fuck, she is wasted," Andrew's large hands land on my shoulders, and I smile up at him. "Sup?"He tries not to smile but ends up snorting anyway. "What am I supposed to do with you?""Let Alice sleep in your bed and share the living room with my brother and me? Jake is putting Winnie in our room.""Oh, then, can Alice have your bed?""Psh, no way. I want no stray girls in my bed. Let her sleep in yours. I don't think Nathan is home anyway.""Fine."I'm not sure what is happening. I can't keep my eyes open, and the entire world is spinning. Am I being carried? I think so. "I will make you sleep in my bed.""That's nice..." I mumble. The world turns black.Later, much later, I open my eyes and find myself lying in someone else's uncomfortable bed."Shit..."My ears pick u
Alice A few weeks have passed since the party. I've become best friends with Winnie, and we hang out at the ice hockey rink daily. I'm still in the fan club for The Fighting Devils, but it seems one player, in particular, is set on ignoring me. Nathan Douglas. The night I spent with him made me realize I liked him. But Nathan, true to his word, has stayed clear of me. Whenever I walk past him on campus or watch his hockey team play, he stares through me. It's like I'm air to him. "Why won't you date Andrew?" Winnie asks me while chewing on a fry. We are eating in the dining hall. I sigh. "Because Andrew is a player?" "You could still give him a go... Unless there is someone else that you like? Someone that I don't know about?" She blinks at me with a sweet smile, and guilt gnaws at me. I haven't told Winnie that I'm crushing on Nathan. It's a secret I will take with me to the grave. It's not like we would ever become an item, anyway. And to save myself from the humiliation
Alice Friday has come, and I'm wearing a winter jacket while Winnie and I are waiting for the hockey game to begin. The stadium is filled with people. Some are hardcore dedicated fans; others are only here because college hockey games are rumored to be violent. Or, at least, that's what Winnie told me. She said some players don't give a fuck. They know they won't be recruited by the bigger league and just tackle people to the right and left, sometimes even hard in the plexiglass, without care of getting injured. It sounds brutal—no wonder all of these men are built. "Look," Winnie tells me while holding up her binoculars. "Aubrey and Nathan have only gone out on one date. You don't have to feel guilty about having eyes for him. They aren't serious yet." I grimace and move closer to her. It's damn cold in here, and I hope to steal heat from her, even though I realize it's impossible. "I still feel guilty." I turn my attention toward her. We are wearing too many pieces of clot
Alice "Won't Nathan laugh if I give him this thing?" I ask with a funny feeling in my stomach. I can't tell if it's fear or excitement. I've drawn a card with various cartoon characters. One of them says they are sorry, and the other holds up a bouquet of roses while asking to please go out with them. "I don't think so. It's genuine and sweet. It also shows who you are as a person," Winnie says. I glance at her from the table in her room. Her roommate Caroline isn't home right now. "You think so?" "Absolutely. You love drawing. It's part of you, and since you're so bad at talking and getting your point across, use your art. Speak through it." "Thanks," I size her up. Winnie is wearing a burgundy dress that shows off the goods. It suits her. Winnie is blonde and beautiful, with lots of freckles that give her character. "That dress is nice. Are you going to wear it to the party tonight?" "I was thinking about it..." Winnie pulls at the dress while looking herself over in the mirr