-1A/N: Woot! Chapter 2! This is rapid progress for me! I hope you guys liked the first chapter and will continue to read… Eric and Aiden have one disorienting relationship, as becomes even more apparent in this chapter. Well, shall we?
Chapter 2: Carpe Diam
It was hard to justify myself and that feeling, pure and uncontrolled as it was. Usually, I was able to better restrain my emotions, encasing them deep within me, only ever letting them briefly become me. Feelings… they were restrictors, inhibitors of sense. My runaway fear was proof of that. Laying in bed in the early morning, where pale and soft sunlight slipped through my blinds, I was feeling very afraid.
Thinking was difficult, as I couldn't concentrate long enough. Couldn't gather up all those tangled thoughts to seek answers or solutions. I was reeling within the torrent of my terror. I kept believing something, or someone, was waiting for me outside. There were no sensations of prickles and punctures all across my body, but my mind knew that if I left, left the comforts of my familiar house, I would feel them again. It was almost ferine, the acute sense of adrenaline caused by my fear. A ferine need of survival. Civility and logic… what were they next to this sense of surviving?
What could make me feel so less human, more like a cornered animal, and so instinct upon threat and fear?
I just won't go to school today, I told myself. My body was rigid, and sweat trickled down my cheek, neck, back, legs, and arms… everywhere. This I knew, though I couldn't really feel it. I was numb with stiffness. My spine was begging for relaxation; I would not comply. I was too busy indulging my fear.
Why? Why can't I ever have peace? I thought bitterly, trying to flex my fingers. Haven't I experienced this enough before?!
No. I wasn't going to think about that. Never again about that. I looked out my window, through the slightly parted blinds, and stared at the blue sky. I stared at it as if it had betrayed me. The clouds were forming in billowing stratocumuli that pocked the sky like a writhing disease. A work of art, truly.
I turned my head back to stare at the ceiling, feeling too resentful to appreciate God's poesy.
I tried to think about what I had once read concerning reactions and emotional responses; trying, laboring, to wield myself away from feral instinct to conscious thought. Fear, the book had began, is an innate and emotional response arising from sense of danger and other negative stimuli… It is a defense mechanism associated with activity in amygdala of the limbic system.
I could feel myself calming somewhat as I went through the knowledge. I shut my eyes to more visualize it and to shut out my surroundings. When in fear, one undergoes a variety of physiological effects from widening of the eyes (increasing perception of the surrounding area) to the tightening of muscles, enriched with oxygen and nutrients, so as prepared for the 'fight' or 'flight' response.
It was soothing, falling back on what made sense. I was able to gather up my runaway fear, and cage it behind knowledge. Yes, reciting that information allowed me to better recognize and control my terror, enabling me to become my calm self again. My breathing was easing.
Then came a blaring sound! I leapt out of bed in alarm, got caught in my sheets, twisted, and fell roughly to the cold, wooden floor. My heart seemed to have leapt when I did, only it didn't stop jumping, as I laid on the ground. I could hear, let alone feel, the agonizing thumping of my heartbeat, as it pulsated like a convulsive drum alongside the shrill noise. It took many panic-stricken moments to realize the deafening sound was my alarm clock. Apparently, the cage had not been strong enough.
"Jesus!" I sighed in wary relief, as I heaved myself upright and trembled across my bed to shut the irritant off. When my alarm was silenced, I collapsed on top my bed, burying my face in the sheets, trying to remember how to breathe steadily. There is no justification for this, I lectured, panting dissonantly. Perhaps, the subject of my English paper wouldn't be social censure at all! This new terror was quickly becoming my most gripping, whatever was causing it. English paper…
"Damn it!" I hissed into my mattress. I had forgotten all about the assignment, and the rough draft was due today. I was scrambling off my bed and was down the hall at the top of my stairs, when I recalled my earlier decision. No school today. I wasn't going to go. I was turning around when I heard the doorbell ring. I paused and stilled myself, listening intently, but damn it if I couldn't hear anything over my frenzied heart!
It rang again. I moved cautiously down the stairs, clutching to the rail as if it were the only thing keeping me standing. It probably was. It rang a third time. My breaths were shortening again, my chest heaving and collapsing fitfully. I paused across from the door. What was on the other side? Was it the face of my distress? I slowly trudged forward. When I was a foot from the door, my hand outstretched and shaking, it rang once again. I startled, but kept on. My hand clasped around the knob, but it was hard to hold my hand steady through the quivering; the sweat, too, making it difficult.
"Aiden?!" came a voice from the other side. I knew that voice… I turned the knob, my fear slowly abating, and opened the door.
"Eric," I sighed. For the first time, I was relieved to see him standing before me. He looked down at me, and cocked his head to the side. Ah… the worrying again.
"Aiden, I… Are you alright?" he asked concernedly. "You look sick. Are you not going to school today?" He sounded a little disappointed.
"Ah, I'm fine, really." I gave a small smile, it was difficult. My muscles were still tense. "But I'm not going to school today."
"If you're not sick, then why are you staying home?" Why was he always so damn concerned?
"I just… I'm too tired," I sighed, this time exhaustedly. For one brief moment, before I caught myself, I was about to tell him it was because I was too scared. Senseless emotions…
"Aiden." He sounded a little amused. "That's a poor excuse for missing school," he replied. He smiled at me for a moment, causing me to frown. Then he pushed past me and strode into my kitchen. I noticed through my surprise that he had two backpacks. That could wait, though.
"What are you doing?" I asked, beginning to follow him.
"Aiden, don't leave your door open," he said dropping the backpacks, as he entered the kitchen, and then I heard the banging of cabinets, and soon, the clanging of dishes. I would have scolded him for making such a demand, but I was so confused as to what he was doing, that I obeyed. I shut the door and hesitantly made my way to my kitchen. He was standing over my stove, turning the gas on. A blue flame arose as did my annoyance.
"What are you doing Eric?" I asked in agitation. He placed a pan over the fire, and the flamed licked the sides of it fervently. He didn't answer but strode to my refrigerator, helping himself to the egg carton. Walking back to the counter, bounty in hand, I asked him again, my tone embedded with a harsh command. He rummaged through my cupboards until he found a bowl.
"Making you breakfast," he said blandly, like this was an everyday occurrence, as he cracked egg by egg, the bowl filling with yolk. I couldn't think of a response to that. I stood perturbed and perplexed as he began stirring the eggs. He looked at me over his shoulder, and laughed. "Damn Aiden! You look like I've just told you you have cancer!" He was laughing his barking laugh. He might as well have.
He poured the eggs into the pan, and I couldn't be sure if the sizzling noise was the eggs or my flaring temper.
"Eric, what are you doing here?" I placed a little more venom in my tone. He turned to look at me sharply, his eyes steely.
"I told you. Making you breakfast." His voice did not contradict his hardened expression. I furrowed my brows either from disbelief, annoyance, or confusion. I couldn't be sure. I was feeling many things then. Why couldn't I restrain myself better! His face soften then.
"You don't look very well Aiden. I wanna help," he said gently. I winced. He turned back to the eggs, moving them around in the pan. I felt like I was on that pan, being prodded with all these emotions. It must be what Hell felt like. "Eating breakfast is important to feeling better! The only way to start the day! How can you conquer the day on an empty stomach?" He laughed in a singsong voice. I closed my eyes, and counted to ten in my head. I was on six when I felt him standing in front of me, the smell of eggs wafting to my nostrils and an oppressive shadow engulfing me. I opened my eyes and a plate of scrambled eggs met my view.
"Carpe diam," I heard him say as my hands went to retrieve the plate, my fingers clasping around it, as they lightly touched his fingers. My fingers constricted. When he thought I had it securely enough, he let go, and the plate felt heavy in my possession. I watched him go back to the counter, and then him piling the pan among the dirty dishes in the sink. There were a lot. I hadn't felt the need to clean then in awhile, but surely such a mess wasn't caused by one person?
"Plus, I'm a little peeved you ran out on me last night," I distantly heard him say as the sound of rushing water arose, but even distantly, his voice sounded cold.
"Excuse me?" I said distractedly, the heat of the plate slightly burning the tips of my fingers.
"I'm making you breakfast," he began, "because I'm also a little peeved you ran out on me last night."
"What does making me breakfast have anything to do… No. Don't do that!" I said as I watched him begin scrubbing at one of the dirty plates.
"Calm down Aiden," he sighed. "I don't mind."
"Well, I do. This is my house, those are my plates, and it's my responsibility," I replied matter-of-factly. He chuckled.
"Yeah, well, I mind you not eating my breakfast," he laughed softly. I looked down at the plate still in my hand. Steam uncoiled upward like it did upon hot gravel after a light storm. It looked good enough, I supposed. Usually, I didn't eat breakfast because I always felt sick to my stomach afterwards. Then I remembered my question.
"You haven't answered me yet," I said coolly.
"What?" He looked over at me, while he still washed away at the pan.
"What does making me breakfast have to with being peeved at me? Isn't that a little backwards?" I asked.
"Not for me!" he laughed. "Think of it like this: you missed my superb dinner last night, so now I'm making you breakfast!" He sounded… like a child… He was reasoning like a child.
"What? That's one of the most-" I began to say when Eric interjected.
"I'm gonna skip school with you," he said determinedly. I blinked once, twice, trying to make sure I heard him correctly. We were silent for a moment, the only noise being that of the running water and the scrapping of dishes. "It's just… you looked really freaked out last night Aiden," he said at last. "That was more emotion I've seen from you in a long while. I just thought… something was up, and that you might have wanted… a friend with you." He said all this so softly it was hard to make out exactly what he was saying, but I knew what he said. As much as I didn't want to, I knew. The soft and gentle determination that intoned the words made the adrenaline leap up within me. Though it did not steam from paranoia like earlier, it was still fear, anxiety.
"That's a ridiculous reason," I chastised, turning my head to the side, away from him. "Besides, won't that look suspicious? If we're both absent fr-"
"I don't care, and why would you care? You never care."
What is this? I thought, my shoulders tensing, as I closed my eyes. My head felt light, like it was going to separate and float off my neck. Why did Eric sound like he was sulking? There he was in my house, obliging himself to whatever task he wanted with no approval from me- though I very much wanted him to leave- and he was… sulking? The water was cut off then, and I heard the clanging of dishes as they settled in the sink against one another. I knew Eric was looking at me. No, boring into me, with eyes that accused and dissected me. I felt feverish, like my fingers that still held the plate.
"Aiden?" For one so affronted, his voice begged to differ. I heard him make his way over to me. "Aiden? You don't look so well," he said, and his hand began to lift up to my forehead. I stepped back a little. He paused in his movement, but then went to run his hand through his hair.
"Sheesh Aiden," he said wearily, closing his eyes. I didn't say anything. Just stood there mutely, staring at a stain on the wall. "Maybe you should get into bed. I'll look after you today. How's that?" I looked up at him. He was smiling gently, but his eyes gave him away. They were pained.
"I've changed my mind," I said, and he looked startled. "I'm going to school." I stepped out beside him over to the table. There I placed the plate down and walked away. The food, untouched. When I walked past him, I could feel his tension, like something tangible that would strike at me as I walked by. I didn't care. I wasn't going to stay here with Eric, as he tended to me like a servant. Someone like me didn't deserve that, and I really did not want it.
I washed my face and then changed abruptly into a cleaner uniform consisting of grey slacks, a white collar shirt, and a burgundy sweater with the school, Aldrigg High, emblem. I walked stiffly down stairs. When I was at the foot of them, Eric emerged from the kitchen. I hesitated in my step, but he just walked past me, toward the door, and out the door, one backpack on his shoulder.
I froze as the door shut softly behind his retreating figure. I stared fixedly at the door. I knew I had no right to, knew it intimately, but when Eric left… I felt… a little pained. I should have been more critical of that recognition, but at the moment, I ignored the red flag flaring up in my head. I knew he was just trying to be a friend, but sometimes, it was suffocating. I didn't know how to react to such unwonted acts. I didn't deserve a friend like Eric. I knew all this, but still…
It still hurt to watch him leave. Why though? I thought to myself, still staring at the door. Why would I care? Why should I care? I knew better than this. Should know better than this. People… are all mistrusting. I, myself, including. People are just selfish indulged creatures. There are no real connections between us all. Did I think differently of Eric?
My head began to throb through the mixed sensations of pain and guilt and… other things I didn't want to acknowledge then. It pulsated harshly against my skull with each beat of my heart. I wavered over to the door. Now that Eric had left, maybe I would stay home.
Just then, my door opened, and a familiar head popped in.
"Aiden? You coming or what?" Eric asked impatiently. Though his tone of voice was one of haste, his mannerism spoke of ease, light humor… understanding? I startled a bit, but I could feel my mouth hooking up into a smile. He smiled back, and opened the door fully, allowing me to pass. I was about to, when I remembered suddenly. I turned my head, and searched hurriedly for my bag. Where was it? Where did I put it? I don't even remembering having it with me when I came home. Did I leave it at school? Did I-
Just then, Eric pointed over to the entrance of the kitchen.
"You left that over at my house last night," Eric said, laughing. I went to retrieve it, tossing it over my shoulder, and securing it as I hastened to the door. Eric watch me all the while, pleased. "See how wonderful I am?" he asked, face humored, eyes expectant.
"Eric, you've always been wonderful," I said bluntly. I heard a sharp intake of breath and glanced worriedly over at him for such a reaction. The look on his face made me regret what I had said. Blatant… and inexplicable… happiness. I shifted uncomfortably, and fumbled for my keys to lock the door. To his credit, and to my relief, he played it off jokingly.
"Of course I am! Coming all the way over here, bringing what you so irresponsibly left behind. Though, I, too, forgot to tell you about my chivalry when I was invited in."
"Imposing more like it," I said tersely.
"Oh, yeah, sorry. Well, when I… imposed," he said dryly. I smiled at him. His face did a weird spasm like thing, like he was going to smile, but distress intervened at that moment. I laughed softly at that, as I locked my door behind me. When I looked back at him, beginning to head towards school, he looked flushed. That didn't bode well with me.
On our way to school, I was ever alert to the bodily signs that meant my source of fear was not too far from me, or watching me.
No such signs ever arose.
Due to my paranoia, I fell in and out of Eric's conversations, sometimes giving responses, but mostly ignoring him, trying to stay vigilant. He didn't seem to notice or mind, and happily kept up the banter, which was quickly becoming more like a soliloquy.
The sun was rising up in its sky, and though it was still early in the morning (even after mine and Eric's little… situation, we were still on time for school), the atmosphere was heavy and hot. It had not rained for a couple of days, a contradiction to England's usual weather patterns, and the humidity gathered, trapped, and hung in the air like an oppressive cloak. Even the great trees that lined our path with their shadows, aided little.
It was going to be a bright and sunny day.
To many people, one being Eric, days like this were gifts. Gifts from God or mother nature, whomever they thought. To me, days like these were bothersome. Light reflected off of cars parked along the downhill road we walked, off of building signs, windows of people's homes, off of Eric's hair and sweat. My own, too, I was sure. Everything was so illuminated. It was sometimes blinding.
And the heat was bordering uncomfortable. The heat, when I breathed in through my slightly parted mouth, languidly rolled in, lingering heavily on my tongue, and then burning my throat as it made its way to my lungs. It touched my face, my neck, my every exposed skin; those areas feeling gently singed. My hair, thick as it was, trapped the swelter, locking it in place on my head like a crown of blistering torridity.
As we walked along, I looked over at Eric. He was slightly flushed, but was energetic and seemingly fine. I hid the envious looks in my eyes. I was panting and was sure my skin had reddened drastically due to the combination of damned heat and exertion.
What I excelled at in academics, I lacked in physical strength. I was regularly teased for my frail athleticism during PE and other sports related activities. It wasn't like I was unhealthy, really; I was toned, though slender as I was. It was just that I was clumsy or always enervated. Running was the worst activity they could force me to do, and so, by Murphy's Law, that was, of course, the scheduled activity for PE today.
Yes, a very bright and sunny day today.
I sighed miserably to myself, whilst Eric chatted away the minutes in blissful contentedness.
The first periods of the day went by in a blur. Before I could submerse myself completely into a class, the bell would ring, and off I was swept to another. I never had such a problem of lax concentration before. I continuously caught myself staring to the outside, scouring the trees and buildings for the signs. I paid intense attention to my body as well; waiting for those stings and pierces. I flinched when I had an itch, or when the breeze from the overhead air conditioners would ghost across my skin.
I could feel myself pivoting on some cliff, feeling myself fill with anxiousness and adrenaline. Waiting… ever waiting for it to come.
However, nothing came.
I was sitting in the canteen during break time, absentmindedly eating away at an apple, scrambling to piece together coherent thoughts into the soon-due English essay, when a girl sat down across from me. At first I was oblivious to her presence, fitfully adding paragraphs to the paper, but a soft cough pulled my attention towards her.
She was tan with long dark hair spilling over her shoulders, covering her abundant chest which the tight fitting dress shirt barely contained, it seemed. She had a pleasing face, but it could have been prettier if she didn't hold her eyes so narrowly and mouth so thin pressed. I stared at her questioningly.
"I noticed you hang out with Eric a lot," she started. She had a high pitched voice, one that seemed to contradict her womanly form and aged expression. What could this be about? I thought, not responding. I wasn't sure what she was getting at. When she hadn't continued for some time, I nodded, really for her to go on, but I think she believed me to be affirming her statement.
"I'll get to the point then," she said tersely. "What exactly is your relationship?" I choked. She gazed at me with calm scrutiny. My own face, I could feel, was morphed into a quizzical one.
"Excuse me?" I asked hoarsely.
"What, exactly, are you to one another?"
"Um… friends, I guess, if anything at all," I said, feeling my palms becoming clammy, as the hand that held the apple tightened it's grasp.
"What do you mean by "if anything at all"?" she asked, immensely interested. I felt like I was developing hives as she leaned in closer, her hands folded upon the table in a thoughtful manner.
"Well, I mean, I guess we must be friends, though we barely talk, and even rarely hang out," I replied nervously. What was the meaning of this discussion? She smiled then, but it was one of dubiety.
"Just friends?" she asked. I didn't like what her tone was implying, but I nodded anyway. "Okay then," and she sat back. However, to my dissatisfaction, she didn't leave. Instead, she sat in quiet pondering. After a few moments of her agitating silence, I asked, in a tone most coated with impatience, "Is that all?"
She looked at me through half, heavy lidded eyes. It was hard to distinguish between her pupils and irises, both so dark and analytical. "Hmm… Let me put it this way then," she replied in a soft, but harsh, tone. "What are you to him?"
What? What?! I could feel myself growing panicked. This was a topic I continually, and most willingly, ignored. Thinking about how exactly Eric saw me always made me feel alarmed and squeamish, boring up emotions I never wanted to give any recognition to.
"Why not ask him?" I replied, trying my damndest to sound bored, uninterested. I hoped most ardently that she couldn't see the throbbing in my neck, signaling my heart going into overdrive.
"I'd rather hear it from you," she responded dangerously, her voice a mere cold whisper. I gulped several times, hating the sensation of being under her dark, hawk-like gaze.
"I suppose… he pities me," I gave blandly, no matter the undertone of panic. She narrowed her eyes further, a look that said all too well 'do explain.' I closed my eyes, it was easier to respond to this bizarre and uncomfortable hearing that way. "I'm kind of antisocial. I don't get along with people very easily." This was all very true. "Eric is someone who, to me anyway, hates to see others… left out. I'm just supposing he is befriending me out of that."
Vocalizing this, it felt very much like the truth. This must be the core of mine and Eric's association with one another. It made perfectly good sense. I was an object of pity for Eric, someone whom he, good natured and kind as he was, could save from the throngs of solitude and exile. Yes, perfect sense.
The dark eyed girl seemed satisfied, too, by my answer. She smiled smugly and straightened herself from her seat. Now that she was fully erect, she was quite tall, standing several inches greater than myself. I also noticed that her skirt barely seemed to fit within the rules, showing a dangerous amount of perfect legs.
"Sorry to have bothered you Aiden." She purred this and glided gracefully from the canteen. I was left rather confused, dazed, and with several jealous and scrupulous looks from the surrounding boys, all of whom had ceased their chatter and eating. Feeling lightheaded from all the stares, I gathered my things, throwing them into my backpack disorderly and fled the lunchroom.
I was just going to have to take whatever grade I was given for the essay, knowing I was responsible for the incompletion, but while I knew this, I couldn't help but feel a bitter resentment towards that scantily dressed, raven eyed girl.
My leg muscles were painfully throbbing, threatening to melt off of tendon and bone, while my chest and heart were laboring intensely. My mouth was dry and hot through my panting, and my lungs were filling with the burning atmosphere, aiding in boiling my blood that already pumped viciously throughout my body.
A harsh and sudden pat resounded painfully across my back, the owner of the hand smiling devilishly down at me, as I bent over wheezing, hands resting on my knees.
"Exhilarating, isn't it?!" Eric asked me grinning, face flushed and gleaming with sweat. I looked up at him disbelievingly behind sweat-drenched bangs. He rested his hands on the back of his head, as a barking laugh erupted from his mouth at my expression.
"Yes, Eric," I panted, "This is the pinnacle of exuberance." He continued to laugh. My lungs felt like they were going to erupt, as they must be ballooning out from all the hot air I was inhaling.
"Aiden. Stand up straight and place you hands behind you head," came Eric's voice. "It helps the lungs, giving them room. You're making yours uncomfortable," he said as he placed his hands on each of my shoulders. I wasn't sure if I straightened because he forced me too, or if it was because of an unconscious reaction on my part, bolting upright from the touch. I quickly placed my hands at the base of my skull, just to deter any further contact.
"No," Eric said, stepping closer. "Keep your upper arms parallel to the ground." He gently put his hands underneath my arms, and raised them till their position satisfied him. I felt so queasy then, as my heart beat erratically from both the running and the physical contact. I felt very tired. "You should keep walking, too. It's not good to suddenly stop like that. You need to slowly cool your heart muscle down," he said matter-of-factly, as he gestured for me to follow.
I didn't move. My legs wouldn't allow it. Eric frowned then and turned on his heel. He reached out and grasped my arm from behind my head and pulled me forward. My ankles shook and I swaggered into Eric, my head colliding into his chest, his hand still claiming my arm.
For that brief moment, with my head at his chest, I heard his heartbeat.
It was steady and strong, beating with a purpose, it seemed.
When I realized that I had been resting upon Eric's chest for… however long it was… I pushed myself away. I didn't get very far, though. Eric still had my arm. I didn't dare look at him, fearing the expression his face might bear… fearing the look that would be in his eyes. His hand had tightened around my arm.
He said nothing; I said nothing.
Then I felt him tug my arm, and I, unresisting, was pulled along. I was too depleted to object. Too tired and weak to yank my arm free… too scared to make out the feeling that was rising in my stomach, spreading to my throat, to my head, making everything fuzzy.
I suppose when Eric was confident enough that I was indeed walking with him, he let go of my arm. I could feel him watch me. Maybe he thought I would run away.
I would have if my legs had not felt like they were being flayed. It wasn't until we had walked half the track did I dare look at Eric. He was slightly ahead of me, but his strides were always a bit longer than mine. I wondered then if Eric always slowed himself down when walking with me, wondered if he always shortened his stride so I could keep up.
And if he did, how fast could Eric walk on his own? Without me keeping him back? How far ahead could he get…
Why was Eric always around?! I watched him, falling behind little by little. Eric must really pity me then, I thought. Eric was such a good person that he felt duty bound to stay by me, hoping that one day, I could possibly make friends on my own.
I feel sorry for people like Eric, because people like me are always depending on them, hoping that we might be able to steal some of the strength they wear like the crowns of kings and queens. I should be a better person and tell Eric that he needn't worry anymore. I was alright and he didn't need to hold himself back anymore. I was fine on my own. Besides, that's how it has been for a long time now. Things hurt less that way anyways.
"You really hate running don't you Aiden?" Eric's voice was soft, and it sounded like it had been carried on the winds from far distances away.
"Yes," was all I could say. I cursed internally when Eric slowed down to fall back beside me. I cursed myself for being the kind of person he needed to do that for, and cursed in general because Eric was too close again.
"I wonder why though," he said. It sounded like he was talking more to himself than to me. I kept my mouth shut and let him ramble. "You have a really nice form when you run. You're not as fast as most of the guys-"
"Any of them," I corrected, looking up at him. He smiled.
"If you say so, but still…" He sounded distant again. I stared ahead and then recognized the girl that had asked me those weird questions earlier that day. She was standing by the wire fence that ran along the parameter of the track field with a group of, I was assuming, her friends, though she looked aloof from them. When we came closer to them, I was able to tell that she was staring fixedly at us with her dark, scrutinizing eyes.
No… wait. Not us… Eric.
We walked closer still. I watched her, she watched Eric, and Eric was off somewhere in his thoughts. When we were not but several feet away, she detached herself from her friends and fell into step beside Eric. Eric, who appeared to be in a deep, contemplative daze, ignored her completely, but when he did finally notice her, he looked over at me.
"Aiden, who is this girl?" I was about to respond when I caught the indignant expression on her face pass Eric's broad shoulders.
"My name is Juliann," she answered, her voice that same high pitch. Eric calmly regarded her. "Juliann Pennington. Year 9." She sounded very sure of herself as she returned Eric's calm scrutiny with unwavering confidence.
"Alright Ms. Pennington," Eric said, fixing his gaze ahead of him, "Is there something you need?"
"No, not something I need. Something I want." She smiled at Eric, eyes narrowing. I couldn't help but choke a little. I think I blushed, but I wasn't sure. Is she serious?! I thought, seeing this Juliann girl in a truer view.
Eric laughed and the girl's smile wavered.
"Something you want, eh? What is it I wonder," Eric replied, looking over thoughtfully at the now very confused Juliann. I wished I wasn't there in that moment. The conversation was taking weird turns, and I hated conversations I couldn't predict better.
"Whatever do mean, Eric?" She asked, clasping her hands behind her back.
"That's what I'm asking you Ms. Pennington." Eric sounded very amused, as he smiled at her in that knowing fashion.
It was her turn to laugh then. The sound was even higher than her voice, and it clashed with the quiet of outside. I wondered that if she laughed any higher, it would reach the frequency where only dogs could hear it. It wouldn't surprise me if it did.
"Please don't flatter yourself, Eric," she said through her giggles. Eric all but continued to smile, and I questioned why I was still there. "Do you think I'm hear for you?" Her laughter had stopped, and her eyes fixed on me. Eric faltered and stared at her confusedly.
"Aren't you?" Eric turned to look at me, his eyes asking me what my connection to that girl was exactly. I closed my eyes and sighed.
"Eric, I just met her earlier today during break time. I hadn't even known her name until now," I answered calmly.
"Impressive," came Juliann's voice, like she was remarking upon a chemistry experiment.
"If the business is with Aiden, then I'll leave you two alone," Eric said resignedly.
"No, do stay Eric. I was only teasing you," Juliann giggled again. I found that that was quickly becoming a very grating noise.
"Ms. Pennington," and now Eric's voice had completely lost all its humor, "this conversation is starting to become quite the irritant. Please state your business; these games are tiresome."
"Alright then, Eric," and she actually had the gall to… purr his name! "I see you like it straightforward, which brings up questions as to why you hang around certain people."
Eric was about to comment on that. We both knew who she was referring to, but she continued on, without noticing or artfully ignoring him. "However, those can be answered later." She stopped, then, and for some bizarre reason, so did me and Eric. I would later wonder why I had not kept walking; besides, what business was it of mine what she and Eric had to say?
"Will you be my boyfriend?" Her voice was the epitome of confidence, as was her expression as she observed Eric, waiting patiently for his response. When she asked, I gaped at her. Where is this coming from? Surely Eric will turn her down? I thought as I, too, observed Eric.
He stood very still, watching the Juliann character as her raven hair whipped about her, like the snakes of Medusas.
"Why do want me to?" he asked calmly. I stared at him. That wasn't the response I was expecting. Juliann smiled.
"Because I admire you," she said pointedly. Even the girl's gym shorts were too short! I noticed as well that many guys were watching us curiously, even warily. They can't all really want this girl, can they? I thought. The whole situation was very peculiar.
Eric the turned his calm gaze to me. I returned his gaze with equal calmness, though I was trying very hard within my head to make sense of the event that unfolding before us. Eric's eyes narrowed, and after some time, he nodded, and frowned. He looked very exhausted then. That only furthered my confusion.
"Alright," he said, returning his attention back to the girl who, I noticed, had been glaring at me that whole time. She shot a questioning look at Eric.
"Really?" Her voice sounded apprehensive.
"Yeah… sure. Why not? You seem like an… ambitious girl. I can admire that," he sounded very banal and almost like he was trying to convince himself more than her.
"That makes me very happy, Eric," she replied. She didn't sound very happy, more like a hunter who had, all knowingly, caught her prey.
"And I am happy for it," and he flashed her one of his more charming smiles. "Perhaps we can get together later?" He bowed his head slightly in thoughtfulness. She smiled beatifically, and that, I noticed, was what could make her a truly gorgeous sight to behold.
"Of course Eric. Shall I meet up with you after your calculus class?" she asked in a light and girly voice, much more pleasing than what it had previously been, and either Eric hadn't caught that this girl apparently knew his schedule, or he ignored it when he replied.
"I will see you then," and he smiled. She returned it and then turned on her heels, her hair flowing out behind her and then wrapping around her shoulders like a cape, and walked back to her friends, her steps dance like.
The eyes of many guys followed her, longingly and dejectedly. Others had theirs fixed enviously at Eric who was still smiling at her retreating figure. When she rejoined her friends, they all crowded around her in a giggling and pressing fashion. Several times she shook her head, making that dark hair of hers billow out, and laughed. She looked over at Eric who waved when he caught her eye. She smiled again, and then class was called to a closure.
As Eric and I walked back to the changing rooms, I tried to analyze the whole occurrence. I found I couldn't.
"What was all that about?" I asked out loud.
"Carpe diam, Aiden," Eric responded to my unintentional question. I looked at him. He looked distant again, and then he repeated, "Carpe diam."
A/N: Well, you have reached the end of this chapter! You deserve a prize! However, I am cheap, and besides, as the saying goes, it's the thought that counts! You know what else counts? Helpful reviews, that's what. Please do leave any of your opinions! I welcome them all. Please keep reading. Thank you.