The crashing of the door swinging open can be heard as a passionate couple stumble in. A small framed girl, who'd been sitting at her desk reading when they came flying in slams her book down and marches over to the couple, who'd proceeded to the bed,
"Alright, both of you need to get out!" she declares, in the loudest voice she can muster.
The girl of the couple, peers out from behind her male partner, "Chen, don't be jealous. Its just for the night. He's not moving in or anything."
"I don't care." Chen counters, "You two are gonna be up till two in the morning, and I'll have to sit next to you trying to sleep."
She rolls her eyes, "Well, if you wanted one too, all you had to do was ask."
"That's not the point. Now, out! And I don't want to see you Emily until you're alone."
Emily and her boy walk out as Chen slams the door and slides down against it to the floor, breathing a sigh of relief. She'd hate to admit it, but she is a little jealous of Emily. Before she can even get up, she can hear Emily talking to one of the other girls from across the hall,
"What the hell's wrong with her?" the girl asks.
Emily chuckles, "I don't know. She's just super serious like that I guess."
"Well, I'd suggest requesting a roommate change or something, cause nobody should have to deal with that witch."
Chen gets up and away from the door before she can hear anymore. Already aware of her reputation as a prude, or a witch, or whatever they decide to call her that day, she'd resolved a long time ago to stop caring. Its just that sometimes, she does.
Emily opens the door sometime later that night, by this time, Chen had already changed into her pyjamas of sweatpants and t-shirt and was just getting ready to go to sleep.
"You're going to sleep already?" Emily asks, walking into the small bathroom to wash off her makeup.
Chen lays down, her head resting on her arms, "Its eleven at night, I should be asleep by now, I got class in the morning."
Emily takes a towel to wipe her face free of water, "Dude, nobody takes morning classes. You're not an old lady yet, even if you act like one."
"Guess I never got the memo." she sighs, "Hey, I'm sorry for kicking you out."
"Wha...now you're sorry? You should've been sorry before he ditched me!" she counters angrily, throwing her brush on the bathroom floor.
She raises an eyebrow, "He ditched you?"
"Yes, he ditched me, you don't need to broadcast it."
"Its just...nobody ditches you, like ever."
"Well...he just...did okay? Some of his friends showed up, he went with them, but I didn't want to go, so we just split up, that's all." she reasons, "Anyway, I'll call him in the morning."
Chen pauses first, before responding, "Wait...do you even know his name?"
"Aren't you suppose to be sleeping?" she snaps, smiling.
Chen's alarm clock sounds, and she slams it onto snooze. The morning sun gleams through the window in her dorm. She looks over at Emily's bed, and smiles when she sees that Emily's completely unfazed by her loud alarm clock. She showers and gets dressed, brushing her short black hair that barely goes down to her chin. She collects her books from her desk and heads out, softly closing the door behind her.
She steps down the stairs and leaves the dormitory. The cool morning breeze whipped through her tanned skin as she walked along the stone path leading to the main academic building. The path is decorated with various trees and greenery. Being early autumn, most of the trees have started to lose their leaves, but being as this is also Southern California, most of the scenic environment will still be intact once winter rolls around.
Out of the corner of her eye, Chen swears she could see someone leaning against one of the trees, looking right at her. On him, she catches a glint of something silver, or at least shiny. She stops right in her tracks, nobody hangs out around here this early in the morning. Maybe he's just out for a smoke or something. She starts walking again, but then she hears a voice, coming from right behind her,
"Are you...Chen Xiang?" its a male voice, definitely.
Chen turns around to be faced by a tall, slender man a couple years older, "...who wants to know?"
"Hi, I'm Andy Xiang, I'm your cousin." he awkwardly introduces, his glasses framing a narrow jawbone.
That's impossible...Chen's adopted, how would he know she's his cousin?
That shiny thing that caught her eye turns out to be some kind of thin, intricate bracelet or chain that wraps down his entire left arm, with various charms hanging on the silver chain.
"Uhm...well, its nice to meet you." she tells him, "But, I have to get to class, so...I'll see you later, okay?"
"No, wait…!" but she's already started running down the path, "Happy Birthday!" he calls out, even though she's too far away to hear him.
Who is he? If he really is her cousin, how come he's never shown himself before now? And on top of that, how does he know its her birthday? Nobody knows her birthday, or if they do, they don't bother to acknowledge it.
The entire day Chen's thoughts are filled with these questions. While she feverishly takes notes in her classes, she's also wondering if maybe, that guy was just trying to pull one on her. If he was, then he did a really good job of convincing her. But at the same time, he did kind of look like her. Same hair and general skin color aside, he had the same narrow jawbone, low cheekbones and smallish almond-shaped eyes. Or maybe that's just because they're both Asian.
Her second class of the day lets out, and she has about an hour and a half before her next class, so she walks down to the local subway shop for a sandwich. The Plaza Deli, which is about nine blocks away from the campus, is a small, quaint eatery, with ample seating. But mainly, Chen goes here because nobody else from school does.
"Hi Chen!" the young man behind the counter greets, "The usual turkey sub with pickles?"
"Yeah. Thanks Jeff."
She waits by the counter as Jeff prepares her sandwich. Suddenly, the door creaks open, and a familiar man walks in,
"There you are Chen!"
She doesn't turn around, because she can already see his reflection on the shop counter, "Hey...Andy, right?"
He nods, "Uhm...Chen? Since it is your birthday after all, and correct me if I'm wrong, it is your eighteenth birthday, right?"
Jeff looks up from the stainless steel table as he wraps the sandwich, "Its your birthday?"
She meekly nods, her lips twisted.
"Oh, cool, Happy Birthday. You know what that means?" he asks, "It means your sub's on the house." he smiles, tossing her the sandwich.
She leans back slightly, ready to catch, but just as she feels the wrapper in her clutches, a hand whips through and snatches it. She turns her head to see that Andy's stolen her lunch. He tosses it in the air for a moment,
"How about we discuss this over lunch?" he requests, swiveling around to the door.
Guess there's no way in avoiding him now, "Fine." she turns back, "See you Jeff!"
Jeff however has his arms perched on the counter, giving her and Andy the strangest look, not bothering to respond.
She shrugs it off, if someone stole a sandwich straight out of their hands, she figured she'd be weirded out too. But that wasn't a look of confusion, but rather one of suspicion.
"Hey, that was a dick move back there, now give me back my sandwich!" Chen demands, trying to grab back her small lunch while its still warm.
Having at least half a foot advantage over her, and his arms being long and lanky, he is easily able to keep it away from her, "Not until you listen to what you have to say."
She crosses her arms, "First of all, if you're my cousin, how come I've never met you before and how did you find me?"
"Look." Andy begins, "There's a lot to explain, like you have no idea. But to keep it short, your parents gave you up because they had to. They couldn't leave you with me because I was seven years old and already on my own."
Speechless, Chen places her hand on her lips, "Oh...I'm so sorry. I, I had no idea. But...why visit on my eighteenth birthday, of all days?"
"That...will be revealed at a later time." he looks around warily, "Look, you see this?" he holds up his right arm, the silver chain attached to his arm jangling with him.
"Yeah...that's a weird piece of jewelry you got there." she admits.
He nods, "It is eye catching, yes. But I wouldn't call it a piece of jewelry. When the moon comes out tonight, you'll have one of your own."
"So...you're going to give me one of those bracelets to me for my birthday?" she asks, bewildered.
"...not quite. You see, we're something called Collectors."
She chuckles, "We're what?"
"Look, I'll give you my number, and tonight, when you receive your brace, just give me a call, okay?" he tells her, tossing her sandwich back at her.
She catches it, thankfully completely intact, but by now, her mind isn't anywhere near lunch. She looks down at the sub, and on the wrapper is a hastily scratched number. Quickly adding the number to her contacts, she turns around to see that Andy's completely vanished. Now, a normal person would totally write him off as a psycho and get a restraining order, but something about the seriousness in his tone, his uncanny similarity in appearance, and the strange allure of his silver accessory, something made her believe him, even if only for an instant. Would it turn out to be true?