He was a cold, calculating mystery. He was gorgeous. And terrifying. Half the school was scared of him but in love with him; the kind of terror and love that breed from mystery. He had tattoos, and a steeled gaze. He was muscly in a slim, lanky way and had an earring in his left ear. He drove a black jeep and was often seen on weekends with an intimidating Rottweiler.

I tried really hard not to pay attention to him, as a general rule. However I was always glancing at him out of the corner of my eye; my attention just gravitated to him. Don't get me wrong, I didn't have any false notions. I was a quiet girl who kept her head down and studied. But still, there was a sort of elegant beauty in how dangerous he seemed; it was nice to have a little distraction from the daily life that was Lincoln High.

Sighing I tucked my hair behind my ear and focused back on the books in my locker. Time for the library. It was just my mom and me at home and she worked late hours, so when the bell signaled the end of school at 3pm, I headed straight for the comforting doors of the library until my mom picked me up at seven or eight-ish. It wasn't a super fun way to spend my time, but at least I got all my homework done.

"Hi Mrs. Fitzpatrick!" I waved at the chunky librarian behind the desk.

"Howdy Melanie!" I tucked my hair behind my ears as I hunkered down at my favorite library spot. Seemingly minutes later, Mrs. Fitzpatrick was shaking my arm, "Melanie, sweetie, you fell asleep." I jolted awake and pushed my glasses up my forehead, pushing back my hair, and rubbed at my eyes.

"Sorry," I murmured, still sleepy, "What time is it?"

"Seven-thirty, sweetheart, I have to go home," she was frowning at me in a look I recognized as pity.

"Oh, of course!" I jumped up, packing away my things, "Sorry to keep you." I strung my backpack on my shoulder and walked out with her. When we got outside, I stopped at the sidewalk, under a pool of yellow light and waved her goodbye. She froze for a moment, hesitation crossing her face, "Do you want me to wait?" I could tell she was half concerned for me and half really wanted to get home to her family.

"No, thanks, mom will be here any second. See you tomorrow!" I planted a smile on my face and waved her off. Two minutes later she was cruising down the road, away from the school. In a disappointed huff, I slumped down to sit on the sidewalk. Suddenly feeling chilled, I tugged my sweater closer to me and pulled out the wisest purchase I had ever made: pepper spray.

"Hey girly," a voice drawled from the darkness. I jumped up and froze, finger poised on the pepper spray. "What's a cute girl like you doing out here all alone at night?" The figure approached to reveal a disgustingly drunk old man. I froze, as I tended to do when completely terrified. He kept walking towards me and I was losing my words as he said, "Bad things can happen to pretty girls when they're alone at night." Now he was in front of me, his dirty fingernails itching up my arm, his whiskey breath dissolving in front of me.

"G-g-get away from me," I shuddered, finding my voice, although timid.

"I'm just trying to protect you, little one." My hands shook and my heart beat faster and he was licking his lips so there was a good view of his yellow teeth. And his hand was on my neck and I felt dirty and disgusting and afraid.

A sharp growl disrupted the terror that had frozen the air and a deeply cool voice said, "If you keep touching her I'll break your hand." I didn't have time to see the person or think about what I was doing, but in a move that surprised even me I stepped on his foot and pepper sprayed him with all the force my pointer finger could muster. I could feel the tears soaking my cheeks as I did it, screaming: "Get away from me!"

The man hobbled off, crying from the pepper spray. I dropped the weapon and wiped at my neck and arms, dying to get the filth off of me, tears pouring and pouring.

"Damn," I heard the voice say and there, standing in the shadows, was the one and only Daniel Bird. I gasped and collapsed on the sidewalk, scratching at where the awful man had touched me, the sobs ripping out of me uncontrollably. His Rottweiler sat next to him whimpering. He sighed and scratched the dogs ears before kneeling in front of me.

With more gentleness than I thought possible, he took my hands and held them in his own for a moment, eyes scanning the red marks on my neck from the scratching. He took a deep breath and placed his hands on my face and wiped the tears away, shushing me in an oddly calming way. "Breathe," he murmured and his sweet voice washed over me like a calming rain. I took a deep breath and a shudder shook through me. He smiled at me and wiped tears from under my eyes, "You didn't even need me." I laughed a loud, forced guffaw and hid my face with my hands. And suddenly he was next to me, his arms wrapped around me, rubbing his hands up and down my arms to generate warmth.

I was starting to breathe normally again and the tears were starting to subside when I felt a cold nose and a wet tongue touch my hands. I froze.

"Sheila," Daniel said, in an amused but disapproving way. I peeked between my fingers and saw the most adorable, slobbery dog face I had ever seen. My jaw dropped, the intimidating Rottweiler Sheila was so…cute. I slowly put my hands down and the dog looked at me hopefully, I held my hand out for her to sniff. Which she did before promptly pouncing on me with kisses. And despite myself, I giggled and laughed and hugged this dog who I immediately fell in love with.

Next to me, Daniel was laughing to himself quietly. I fought to sit up and wiped the tears from my face, pushing my glasses up in the process.

"There's a smile," he joked, shoving my shoulder with his lightly. I smiled sheepishly and cleaned my glasses so I wouldn't have to look at his gorgeous face. "What's your name?" he asked, and I sucked in a sharp breath. I suppose it was foolish to think he would notice me as I had noticed him. Not that I could complain about such a thing after what he had done for me. "Melanie Adams," I told him.

"Daniel Bird," he said. I nodded slowly, petting the dog again.

"She likes you," he said. I grinned and wholeheartedly used both hands to scratch her ears, the face she made was beyond cute.

"That was really brave, you know," he said after awhile. I glanced up at him, taking my attention away from the dog. "The foot stomping and pepper spray, I mean." I blushed and shook my head, my hair falling around my face to provide cover.

"Not really," I said, "I froze." I could feel tears welling back up.

"No," he said, tucking my hair behind my ear, "It was brave." I gulped down a sob and squeaked, "Can we not talk about this?" He nodded, resigned. I let out a breath of relief and we sat in silence for a while, Sheila settling down between us and my head somehow coming to rest on his shoulder. Our breathing synced and I enjoyed the comfort I felt in his presence.

"Why were you out here alone, anyway?" he asked. But the way he said it sounded more like rhetorical question to the empty space, rather than a direct question at me. As if it was his way of saying: "No pressure."

"I'm waiting for my mom to pick me up, she works late. I'm usually in the library, but…"

"Not tonight," he finished, sighing. And as if saying her name summoned her presence, the lights of a station wagon began pulling into the parking lot. I got up and patted Sheila on the head and started walking to the car before turning and saying, "Why were you out here alone?" He opened his mouth to answer, but the car honked and I had to run to meet my mom before I could hear what he said.

That night, when describing the details of my day to my mother, I left out the part about sexual harassment and Daniel Bird and pepper spray. That morning I looked at my neck and saw faint marks where I had scratched myself post-harassment. I wondered how mom didn't catch it the night before. I applied makeup liberally and wore my hair down to hide the scratches in an effort to avoid the awkward explanation I would have to make.

I knew what people would do if they found out about what had happened. But I really didn't want to talk about it and as long I kept pepper spray with me I would be okay. It was upon further inspection of my backpack that I realized I did not in fact have my pepper spray. Which is why, when my mom dropped me off at school that morning I searched relentlessly for it by the light post and was horribly dismayed when it wasn't there.

I was picking at my nails and partially hiding in my locker when I found the pepper spray. And by found I mean Daniel Bird gave it to me. When he handed it to me he looked me dead in the eye and grazed his fingers across my palm. Before leaving he leaned down to whisper in my ear and said: "Don't say anything about Sheila." I broke into a huge smile, clutching the pepper spray and reveling in the little twinkle in his eye. He winked at me and strode off.


I tucked my books into my locker and secured my bag on my back and trotted off to the library in the usual fashion. I settled into my favorite chair and pulled out that night's assignments. I was glasses deep into a Shakespearean play when the chair diagonally across from me was pulled out and sat in. I glanced above my glasses and saw a blurry outline that fairly resembled Daniel Bird.

"Hello," he wiggled his fingers in a very un-him fashion. I smiled broadly, "Hi." I pushed up my glasses in a very me fashion. I straightened and looked at him expectantly. After a minute or so of us just looking at each other I said, "Uh, what's up?" He shrugged and placed his hands behind his head, putting his feet up on the chair across from him. I raised my eyebrows and looked back down at my homework. I broke again, on the talking front, after approximately three minutes of trying to grasp Shakespeare. When I looked up at him again, obviously disgruntled, he was holding back a laugh but barely suppressing a smirk. I sighed, exasperated, "Well?"

"Well what?" he chuckled. I shook my head, accepting the fact that I probably wasn't going to get his plan out of him and instead settled for a shock and awe campaign, "You're supposed to be scary."

He was immediately silenced, obviously surprised by the route I chose for this conversation.

"So?" his eyes had hardened and I could see his defenses going up. This bothered me because I so desperately wanted to get close to him after what had happened.

I shrugged, looking away from his menacing gaze and said: "You're just…you're really normal. I mean you're funny and nice and warm, and if anything the tattoos just make you hot."

I froze and clamped my mouth shut as soon as I said it, and I looked up to him and he had his eyebrows raised and a smirk playing at his lips. I blushed furiously and pushed my nose into the book, "Shut up." I began scribbling unrelentingly on the paper, too embarrassed to look at him.

Daniel seemed to be a permanent fixture in the seat opposite me for the rest of the afternoon, until Mrs. Fitzpatrick called from the desk: "Almost quitting time Melli, dear!"

"Okay, thank you!" I said, standing and packing my things. At the same time Daniel stood and followed me as we exited the library. This time when I stopped at the sidewalk Mrs. Fitzpatrick seemed satisfied with my company enough to leave me alone.

"Have a good night!" I called to her.

"Same to you, dear!"

When I turned around, Daniel was still standing beside me. I raised my eyebrows, "Well, bye." He shook his head and said matter-of-factly: "I'm driving you home."

"Excuse me?" I gaped, shocked, "Is that why you were…you really don't have to, I can totally wait…"

His eyebrows furrowed and a look of fury crossed his eyes before settling into determination, "I'm not willing to take that chance." I frowned and sighed, remembering last night.

"Okay," I murmured, succumbing to my fear and his determination.

"Good," and his eyebrows went back to normal and he was guiding me across the parking lot to a cool looking black jeep. I struggled a bit getting into the tall vehicle, but insisted on doing it myself. Once we were both in the car he turned to me and said: "Where to?"

I toyed with my fingers, "Can you not take me home? I don't want to go yet…" I whispered the last part. He nodded and looked like he was going to say more but ended up just saying: "Sure, we can go pick up Sheila." And with that he sped away from the parking lot. A few minutes later I realized I should probably inform my mother that I won't be at the school when she goes to pick me up.

"Hey mom…yeah I'm calling from a friend's phone…I have plans with them so you don't have to pick me up later…yeah they'll drop me off…" as I listened to my mother's lecture, the wind whipping past us in the open jeep, I watched Daniel. He was such a nice guy, underneath the demeanor and the tattoos and the dog…and I loved watching him. As if everything required the ultimate delicacy and thought, even driving for him seemed so natural but at the same time calculated.

He was beautiful.

"Melanie!" I awoke from my reverie suddenly, jumping as my mom yelped my name over the phone. Next to me I could see him suppressing a laugh. Blushing I heard my mom say: "Are you listening to me?"

"Sorry, mom, what?"

"Be home by ten!" she snapped, frustrated. I soothed, "Yes of course…see you tonight…love you too." I pressed end and placed the phone on the jeep's dash.

"So why do we have to pick up Sheila?"

Daniel shrugged, "I usually pick her up and feed her and walk with her after school. She's probably feeling a little cooped up by now."

"So I get to see your house?" I wondered, images of the possible abode flashing in my mind.

"One of the lucky few," he chuckled.

When we pulled up to a respectable two story house with a picket fence I thought we were making a pit stop. And I let every stereotype about Daniel convince me that this could not be his house. I asked him: "Why're we here?" He shook his head laughing and ran a hand over his sandy colored buzz cut, "I live here." And he hopped out of the jeep. I sat frozen, completely ashamed of my assumptions, with my jaw on the floor. He met me at my door and said, "Don't worry about it," and he opened the door for me. When my feet hit the ground I turned to him and said, "I'm sorry." When I looked at his face he was smiling, but before he could say anything a little girl in a tutu and tiara bolted across the front lawn squealing: "Daniel! Daniel!"

Daniel, without a moment of hesitation, bolted over the picket fence, scooped the girl in his arms and twirled. I very much expected death from cuteness overload in that very moment. How could one guy embody not only the badass stereotype, but also the nice guy stereotype?

I was falling, really, really hard.

A dog rushed out barking, too, and I recognized Sheila as she jumped around the pair. I took a breath, a little overwhelmed by the awesome sight before me, and turned to close the jeep's door. I slowly approached the gate and walked through. With a bark, Sheila bolted over to me. I bent down laughing and petted her, saying: "Good to see ya, girl." She barked in delight.

When I looked up Daniel was walking over with the little princess on his hip. He beamed down at her and said: "Princess Annabelle, I would like you to meet the lovely Melanie Adams." She wiggled to get out of his arms, and he set her carefully on the grass. She stared up at me with wide eyes and immediately said: "Are you Dan-Dan's girl-friend?" she enunciated the long word slowly and with a little difficulty. I blushed and coughed a little, surprised, and she continued: "You're really pretty."

I smiled, "So are you," I knelt down to be at her level, happy to change the subject from "girl-friend." I told her, "I love your tutu!" Annabelle grinned and twirled her tutu. I laughed as a woman called: "Annabelle, your dinner's ready sweetie!" Without hesitation the girl bolted across the grass, her sneakers lighting up on the way, the dog following. I stood and looked at Daniel, who was grinning. I tucked my hair behind my ear and asked, "How old is she, Dan-Dan?"

He smiled and bumped shoulder's with me as we began walking to the house, "Four."

"She's adorable."

"Yeah, she's my mom and Rick's daughter."

"Rick?" I said, stepping into the house.

"Well, howdy there princess!" a voice bellowed, and Daniel motioned further into the house as to demonstrate "Rick."

"Who wants some mac n' cheese?" the voice said again as we entered the kitchen. A graying middle aged man in a suit with the sleeves rolled up was playfully laying a plate of mac n' cheese in front of Annabelle.

"Me!" she giggled, "Me, me!"

Next to her Sheila whimpered, putting her paw on Annabelle's chair. "Here you go, Shelay!" Annabelle scooped some of the dish into a spoon and was beginning to hold it out to the dog when a woman's voice said: "No! No food for the dog sweetie, just for you," the woman laughed, attempting to shoo the dog from the table.

"Daniel, please, the dog!" she said. Immediately the resemblance was obvious. Although her hair was much paler than Daniel's, and her face much more sharp-lined, her body structure was the same as his. Tall and thin, although she was knobbier while he was lanky. But when she turned her gaze on me, I saw the most striking similarity, the eyes. She had the same ice-blue eyes as Daniel, so sharp and powerful.

When she caught sight of me she immediately straightened and said: "Oh, my apologies, I didn't know anyone was with you," she turned her sharp gaze on Daniel. He averted his eyes and whistled lowly, Sheila promptly racing over. I smiled at the woman and said, "No, I'm sorry to intrude, my name is Melanie." I shook her hand.

"Welcome," she smiled beaming at me and I had a feeling I was beaming back.

"Will you be staying for dinner?" she looked from me to her son. I turned to Dan-Dan and shrugged. He pet the dog lightly and said: "Nah, I don't think so mom, we'll just pick up some food for Sheila and take her on her walk." A sigh of what I thought was relief escaped his mother and he squeezed her shoulder.

"Well, just be home before midnight, okay?"

"Of course," he grinned, kissing her on the cheek. Then he walked across the kitchen and kissed his sister saying: "Hey rugrat." And he shook hands with his stepfather. Next to me Sheila panted at my feet and his mom turned and said, "He likes you." I turned to her, my jaw dropping. She comfortingly patted my shoulder, but before she could explain, Daniel was back.

"I got Sheila some food, ready?" I tried to hide the surprise at what his mother had said and snapped my mouth shut, nodding, "Uh-huh."

When we were outside, Daniel opened the gate and let Sheila and I out first. As I passed him he put his free hand on the small of my back and turned to close the gate. His hand was gone in seconds but my cheeks burned from his touch. Sheila trotted along beside us as we walked away from his house, her nose prodding Daniel's clasped hand. He tapped her on the nose lightly so she jumped back slightly and he laughed a little.

A comfortable silence enveloped us as we passed through the neighborhood until I asked, "Where are we going?"

He shrugged and his muscles rippled, and I wondered why I was noticing that specific of a detail. I moved my eyes to look at the slowly sinking sun, turning the sky pink.

"My sister likes you," he said suddenly, breaking our quiet. I beamed at him, "Really?" He nodded, looking forward, his hand with the food resting on Sheila's head.

"She's adorable," I said.

"Yeah," he murmured, he brought his hand up and brushed it over his head and his muscles flexed. His shirt rode up on his stomach, flashing the waistband of his briefs and his belly button. I took a sharp breath and my heart fluttered in the way it did when someone was attractive. He peeked at me slightly, "Do you have any siblings?"
"Nope, just me," I paused before adding, "How long have Rick and your mom been married?" Daniel took a deep breath and looked into the distance, seemingly trying to remember, "Ummm, four or five years?" he phrased it like a question.

"Oh," I murmured, wanting to ask the next obvious question but preventing myself from doing so. He seemed to see this conflict on my face and said, "It's alright," his eyes were serious, "My dad died from cancer when I was twelve."

"Oh my god," I gasped, "I'm so sorry!" He shook his head out and said, "It's fine, it was a long time ago. And Rick is good for my mom, they're happy." I nodded, looking down at my fingers.

Suddenly, Sheila barked loudly and sprinted forward. Reflexively I stepped forward to stop her, but Daniel was running after her with a grin on his face. He turned to me and said: "We're here." He spread his arms out wide; behind him was Lincoln Park. I laughed, enjoying his enthusiasm for something as normal as a park. He jogged to Sheila and the dog jumped up playfully for the food. Chuckling, Daniel set it down and Sheila began munching away.

I made my way over to them and sat beneath a tree with Daniel, watching Sheila eat and play in the park. Looking over I saw the fence that surrounded our school. I pointed to it and said: "That's why you were there the other night?" He nodded and looked at the lamp post, frowning. I took a deep breath and sighed.

"Thank you," I whispered, "I don't think I ever said it." He put his hand on my cheek and brought my forehead over and kissed it lightly, like it was a habit, something he did all the time. I paused, frozen for a moment, my heart racing. When I looked up at him his ice-blue eyes were trained on me, a question in them. Without a moment's hesitation I leaned forward and kissed him slowly, feeling at ease but nervous at the same time.

I don't know how long we kissed for, but I never wanted it to end. It did though, when Sheila came over to us barking and slobbering, wanting in on the attention. Daniel wrapped his arm around me pulling me close, petting the dog, "It's weird," he said, "How I only just met you and yet this feels like the most natural thing in the world."

Check out this story from Daniel's perspective my profile under "In the World"