Chapter 1

It all started in the summer holidays of 2010, when I was nearly sixteen years old. Everyone at school had gone away to study-abroad programs and normal sight-seeing vacations after the hectic final exams were over. Even my best friend, Alison, went on a family trip to Germany, and her parents hated traveling.

So where was I, you might be wondering. Well, I just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

That would undoubtedly make me a badass when in actuality I'd always been ten thousand miles away from falling into that category. My best friend Alison, on the other hand, was quite a different case altogether. She plunged into trouble and all kinds of fiascoes with a compelling force. More than often, she dragged me into them as well. By trouble and fiascoes I mean playing childish pranks on teachers and classmates and bunking classes all the time. She'd once put a post-it note on the most irritating guy at our class. It read: "My butt itches. I am a jackass. Who's an idiot? Moi." He'd gone through his day being obnoxious and constantly poking his elbow at Alison every time he'd turn around to talk to someone. They'd incidentally been sitting one behind another. One of the many reasons why Alison's hatred for him fueled to such a degree.

The Post-It note, however, still remained stuck on his back all day until our cranky math teacher saw it and demanded who'd do something so 'bile'. He meant vile, of course. He always mispronounced things when he was mad. The class giggled hysterically, Alison squirmed in her seat and pretended to look innocent. We'd all known her crazy antics so well that it didn't take the Math teacher much to realize who the class culprit was. Alison was immediately given a week of detention. Which was pretty unfair, if you're asking me. My Math teacher also hated the guy. But I guess, he hated Alison even more.

Even then, my best friend managed to weasel out if it somehow by claiming that the note was meant for me, but somehow it had "blown away" (yup, in the middle of a classroom) and got stuck on the guy's back. Our Math teacher was suspicious; our clueless class teacher, not so much.

But still she'd done nothing too extreme like crashing a car or heavy drinking. Yet.

However, this holiday, we both crossed a line. Pretty much above the law, and from what she's been saying lately, the two of us—mostly me—can end up in jail. Okay, I am getting ahead of myself. It wasn't that bad…I think.

Luckily, due to Alison's slyness and amazing presence of mind, we'd never get caught before in situations like this. But this time luck managed to evade us completely. Perhaps because she happened to be at the opposite end of the world whilst feeding me the details of her oh-so-brilliant idea, and I wasn't too careful at hiding the trails. I was just as bad as Hensel and Gretel. You know, when they left the breadcrumbs and the birds ate them up. I dug my own graveyard too.

Anyway, it began in that tedious summer holiday when I had absolutely nothing to do and I refused to spend my time watching television all day long or loitering at the bookstore, although I did catch up on my reading by a vast amount. Thankfully, however, due to some clever research or "fate/destiny" as I proudly call it now, I managed to join a Classical Guitar organization at the outskirts of the town where I lived. That definitely provided a big enough distraction for me.

Actually, Classical Guitar wasn't my first choice of instrument, but since I already had one, gifted by an uncle in my thirteenth birthday, I figured it wasn't too late to start learning how to play it. I could already play the piano pretty decently, having done so for a couple of years. We had this antique at home; it was incredibly beautiful. It was in a bit of a run-down recently, but I'd always had a fascination and love for anything old. I'd never discard my old piano.

I'd taught myself by playing it constantly for hours at a stretch whilst singing my favorite songs. It wasn't really too difficult; I was never the outdoorsy kind of kid, more liked the cooped up one at home. I'd no siblings to pass the time with while growing up. Music had always been my companion. I kept on drumming my fingers on the keys until the music sounded right. So now was the time, I decided, to learn something new and refreshing so that I could further broaden my range of skills in playing instruments. Western Classical Guitar just happened to be on top of my list. And how fancy it sounded too.

So during the first week of the holiday, I made a trip with my mother to the school. It was one of those places that had a wide array of options, like violin, cello, dancing, classical guitar, painting, photography etc. I was immediately enrolled as a beginner and made to learn one of the most complex and annoying piece of instrument I had ever known. And which ultimately landed me in even a bigger, trickier situation than I'd possibly ever dreamed.

My guitar classes also happened to be taught by an incredibly eccentric teacher, named Mofiz and his quite insufferable side-kick aka assistant Joy. But more on that, later.

Since the school was far away from my house and my mom and dad were constantly busy with work, we made the decision that I take the bus. Not that there was anything wrong with taking the bus. My parents weren't over protective and worried that I might end up getting kidnapped. The town inhabitants were way too sleepy to brew up any trouble of that sort.

The underlying truth was that I'd never regularly taken the bus before. I usually walked to school or my parents sometimes dropped me off there on their way to work. If we had to go anywhere far, I'd usually car pool with my best friend, Alison, who happened to live merely two blocks away from me. So taking the bus to and fro from my guitar class was a new, almost liberating experience for me.

And I enjoyed it greatly. My classes usually started from five in the afternoon and lasted for two hours or more every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Sometimes the buses were cramped by people during the early afternoon when I'd enter it. However, it usually became absolutely free at night. The school was in the outskirts of our sleepy town, and not too many people made journeys after seven at night. I was immensely happy about that; I liked lounging at the back seat of the bus and listening to music as the bus hummed along the town street during the late evening.

Anyway it was during my second time in the bus—I was coming back home from class—when I first saw him.

There wasn't anybody else at the bus during that time. Just him and me and the friendly but a bit grumbling bus driver up at the front.

No, it wasn't solely because of his dashing good looks—he did have the most amazing brown hair, thick eyebrows and an angular, chiseled face, with prominent cheekbones—or his almost aquiline nose, which attracted my eyes and made me gape at him during the entire journey. He happened to look extremely adorable as he slept with his mouth slightly open. So cute, boyish and peaceful. He just had a friendly vibe, I could tell straightaway.

It was during that time the word 'beautiful' suddenly crept onto my mind. I felt words like 'fireworks' and 'angels' thwarting inside my head. I knew it was crazy thinking that way, but those were really the only words I could find that could justify his extremely good looks. He looked angelically beautiful. Before leaving, I even crept up close just to make sure that he was real. My suspicions were forever removed.

I know, didn't I have anything better to do than stare shamelessly at a stranger, who was around my age? Well, not really. The classes lasted up to two exhausting hours and by the time they were over, all my energy had seeped away. Not to mention that I had to go home and practice continuously again. The beginners were required to give a performance at the end of next month and I could not afford to fumble during it. That'd be embarrassing. Everyone's parents and families were invited to be there.

So yes, staring at him, while he remained oblivious to my gaze, seemed like a perfect reward after the gruesome hours. And I had to admit that I probably relished on it more than it was healthy.

Of course, the opportunity of seeing such a beautiful-looking guy could hardly pass without me talking to my best friend Alison about it. We were Skyping at eleven o' clock at night after I'd taken my shower and eaten my dinner.

Alison was talking about this humungous, amazing ice-cream sundae her cousin had bought just for her in a coffee-shop in Germany. It was difficult for me to get a word into the conversation; she was so excited.

'It had Nutella, wafers, marshmallows all in one!' Alison squealed out. 'And it was so, so good! It was like heaven in my mouth! It was like—okay I can't even describe it…'

'Please don't,' I begged.

'No, no, I must!' Alison said, smiling diabolically. 'Okay, just imagine... An angel was in the sky…got murdered and was made and refrigerated into ice-cream by God …'

'What?' I asked laughing. It sounded so hilarious and at the same time so Alison-y.

'It was the best thing I'd ever eaten!' Alison yelled, laughing now.

I narrowed my eyes. 'I thought that the sausage was apparently the best thing you'd ever eaten.'

'No, no, this tops everything in the world!' Alison sang out. 'I love it so much I can marry it!'

'Not fair,' I grumbled, but half-heartedly. I was glad that Alison was enjoying her time there and even happier, knowing that she'd be bringing a lot of stuff back for me when she'd return.

'Wa ha ha,' Alison suddenly said, trying to conjure up an evil expression on her face. 'You will never get anything!'

'Really?' I asked skeptically, trying to make a puppy-dog expression. It usually worked with her.

'No, no, I didn't mean that, of course you will,' Alison at once contradicted and looked sorry. I couldn't help giving out a laugh. The two of us really got along well with each other; we'd been best friends since middle-school. According to her, she'd first wanted to be friends with me after seeing the vast collection of erasers I'd possessed. Which was pretty big and diverse even back then, I had to admit. I'd had all sorts of erasers in all kinds of colors and shapes. It'd been one of my hobbies, other than collecting coins and playing the piano and singing. The two of us had been pretty strange kids, now that I was looking back. We'd weathered a lot, and became almost inseparable while growing up. Well, except for this holiday, I realized dolefully, where we were living at the opposite ends of the world.

'Oh…I got your text before,' Alison said, looking at me with a clueless look in her face, quite similar to the ones she usually gave me during our Math classes. It wasn't a strong subject for either of us. So staring at me with a quizzical expression often didn't help her much either. I'd have no answers, too. 'You joined a guitar class, right? That's so cool! Dude, you are going to play so many things. It's amazing! You can be like a one-woman show. How was it?'

'Today was the first class, but it was…actually quite hard,' I replied truthfully. 'But I am learning many techniques and notes, so that's cool. And my very good. At playing.'

'You mean you're reading those weird-shaped things?' Alison asked, sounding impressed.

'Yup,' I answered, smiling. I wanted to divert the conversation and somehow bring up the topic of that guy in the bus. I badly wanted to describe his angelic face to my best friend, even though I wished something out of ordinary had happened. I'd basically just stared at him for one whole hour instead of doing anything.

'The school's outside town?' Alison asked, after a few seconds of silence. I realized that I'd been gazing into the distance and ignoring her completely meanwhile. 'Is your mom dropping you off?'

'Oh, sorry, I dozed off,' I apologized, absent-mindedly. 'But no, I'm taking the bus.'

Then clearing my throat, I said, in an almost girlish voice, 'I saw an incredibly amazing-looking guy there.'

'Really?' Alison exclaimed interestedly. She laughed a little, looking disbelieved as she said, 'I did not know our town had too many cute guys.'

'Well, he was really, really good-looking,' I answered, smiling at the memory. 'And he was sleeping with his mouth slightly open. He looked really…angelic.'

'My sister saw an angel on the streets here,' Alison remarked quietly, a reflective look clouding her face as she reminisced about the past. She actually meant it too, by the way. 'He had wings.'

'Okay…' I said, trying my best not to laugh. I'd known her sister quite well; she too had the same imagination as Alison and loved exaggerating stories. One problem, Alison usually believed them. 'Did you...did you see him?'

'No, I was being chased by this evil puppy,' Alison droned on, looking serious. 'Wow, you saw an angel too. My sister's one disappeared, though...I saw a couple of hot German guys here too. They were pretty fantastic to look at. Not angelic looking though , sadly. One of them smiled at me at the train…well not me, but at my guy cousin. But you know, he was standing right there beside me. Okay, my cousin wasn't…but he could've—'

'Hmm,' I said, trying to sound extra dreamy to annoy her, even though I did feel interested.

'Hey don't fall asleep on me, but you know what you should do!' Alison yelled out in an enthusiastic voice, as an evil smile crept onto her face. Mischief was brimming already. 'You should put lipstick on him while he sleeps!'

I barked out laughing. That was the crazy Alison who could conjure up ideas of pranks even from Germany.

'I don't think so,' I replied back. 'He may be a regular at the bus…' I trailed on. 'It could turn…awkward? And I'm the only one there.'

'Well, if he is rude or snores when he is asleep, you should do it!' Alison cried out, clapping her hands excitedly.

I smile, a little sadly. I didn't particularly have Alison's guts or passion to do outrageous things. On the other hand, I was nearly sixteen and more than one year older than Alison, who had ended up jumping one grade higher when she was in second grade. Alison happened to be the youngest at our class, too. Her sisters were incredibly smart and helpful. Alison, too, was very intelligent, although most of the time her head would so preoccupied with pulling on childish pranks at everybody that she'd forget a lot of important things.

'We will see about that,' I said, trying to evade the subject now.

'Dude, I think my nephew is trying to beat me up with his sword now…and my niece is coming with a fork in her hand,' Alison called out suddenly. I watched her get up from her chair. 'I think I have to go. I'm supposed to babysit them or something. I forgot. I should make them watch a horror movie. Waa—'

A scream ensued. There was a crashing noise and Alison disappeared from the screen.

'Are you okay?' I asked, laughing. Knowing Alison, I felt certain that her nephew was probably tugging on her arm and her niece…probably had a fork. Alison had an insane, large family, and all of them were pretty crazy. 'What happened?'

'Okay, my stupid nephew pulled the chair away so I fell down! I gotta go now and destroy him! Destroy!'

'He's four, Ali. And I'm standing right here. I can hear...perfectly.'

'Take pictures of the beautiful guy!' Alison yelled out even louder before signing off. I could hear her nephew and niece screaming in the background. 'I want to see him!'

At that moment, it was like a light bulb had been switched in my brain. Of course I should take one or two picture. I'd show Alison those and then keep them for myself later on. It was a harmless thing, I told myself later on as I went to charge my phone. A beautiful, angelic-looking guy was sitting in front of me; it'd be too disappointing if I didn't take a single picture. I might even regret it afterwards.

So that's when I realized I had a mission to accomplish. I started watching out for him every time I got on the bus. Thankfully, his timetable wasn't unpredictable at all and I managed to get acute glimpses of him to feel ridiculously happy. My sightings usually occurred when I'd take the bus to go home after my guitar lessons were over. Most of the time, he'd already be there at the same seat beside the window, asleep or close to dozing off. I felt very curious and wondered ceaselessly why he slept so much. Although I didn't really do much about it. I wanted to wake him up and ask him questions, but only in an ideal world, I'd actually have the guts to do that.

I usually spent the nearly one-hour journey back home observing him very carefully—though subtly and from the comforts of my back seat. He usually sat on the window-seat, close to the exit, facing me. That gave me ample time to marvel at his beautiful features and daydream constantly. And all the songs that I started listening just reminded me of him. It was surreal.

Anyway, after a week of intense scrutinizing, I came to the conclusion that he wasn't a jock—he had never worn sportswear any day—and he always carried a bag pack which seemed to be full of books. He didn't look like a broad-shaped athletic kind, really. Definitely not a goth or an emo either. Just your typical, friendly guy with the world's most beautiful face.

He was an enigma and he'd really blown me away, I had to admit. He wasn't stereotypical at all. And I was impatient to find out more.