She wrote six words on the page before her, pausing for a moment with her pen above the paper.

The letters were just ink on a page to her and she realised she didn't have the focus to interpret them. She blinked hard and cleared her head before continuing, doing her best to ignore the unwavering presence beside her.

She hated it. The room was big but the space of his desk was so small. Working side by side, they shared the small light cast by his lamp. The width between them too thin to ignore the sound of his breath and the gaze she knew she'd see if she only lifted her head.

"Hey," he said, breaking their long silence.

"What?" she replied, not daring to look up.

"Look this way," he urged.

"No, finish the work I told you to do."

"I don't want to," he answered bluntly.

She maintained her gaze on the lined page. "Well you're going to have to."

"It seems like a waste," he replied, sounding suspiciously playful.

"Why is that?" she asked, finally breaking away from her work.

She looked up and found that they were only centimetres apart, his head resting on his palm and a few loose strands of his pale hair over his still green eyes. They were close enough to almost touch.

"Why do you think?" he whispered.

She stopped breathing and felt slow ascent of heat from her neck to her face before jerking back in a delayed reaction.

Jake laughed, grinning as if it was his victory. Her face was so red she was sure even he could feel the heat.

"This isn't funny!" she stammered.

"I don't know, seems pretty funny to me," he replied, still chuckling.

"We're supposed to be studying!" she reminded him.

"I can't concentrate," he said with a sly smile.

April tried not put thought into his words. "Too bad, you still have to finish it so go back to work."

"Fine, fine," he relented, once again picking up his pen.


She adjusted the angle of the lamplight before returning to work.

"Hey I need help with a question," he said.

"What question?"

He pointed his pen to a line on the textbook. "This one."

"Let me see…" she said, leaning in for a closer look.

Jake grinned. Suddenly she felt a gentle blow in her ear and she yanked back shrieking, pressing her hand to her ear.

Once again Jake burst into laughter, cackling like a little kid.

"Stop it!" she yelled angrily. "I'm serious, stop it! This isn't the time or place and I'm not interested. Stop it!"

"Oh come on!"

"I mean it Jake!" she said firmly, glowering at him.

He gave a pause but relented. "Fine, I'll back off."

"Promise?" she insisted.


Slowly she pushed her chair back into position and returned to the book, keeping a wary distance between them.

The neighbouring dog barked from its backyard and occasional text message notifications rang from Jake's phone. He didn't check them, but from the corner of her eye she saw him reading the screen as it lit up.

Minutes passed and April was mildly surprised. He was keeping his word. Slowly, she let down her guard, but only by a little bit.

A knock came from the door and Mrs Simon stepped into the room. "How are you two doing?" she asked in an excited tone.

"We're doing pretty good Mrs Simon," April responded politely.

"That's great. We're almost finished with dinner downstairs so would you two like to finish up for now and come join us? Won't be a few minutes."

"Me too?" she asked, sounding a little surprised.

"Who else is there?" said Jake.

"Of course!" said Mrs Simon. "We can't send you home so late hungry! Besides you're practically family, you don't have to be so formal with us. Come on downstairs, it'll be ready in just a few minutes."

Jake moved out of his seat but April stared a little reluctantly at their unfinished work before following him. It bothered her to leave things undone.

A neatly set table awaited them downstairs with Mr Simon in the kitchen, serving their meals into bowls as he hummed.

"Can I help with anything?" April offered.

"Oh no April, you two just sit down, we'll handle things."

Miranda joined her husband in the kitchen, helping him add the final touches to dinner.

It felt strange not to be helping but she did as she was told and picked a seat next to Jake. "You still have to finish the work later though," she whispered.

"Not going to happen."

She elbowed him in the side in annoyance but he grunted and doubled over.

A look of panic hit her face. "Oh my god- d-did I hit you too hard? Is your injury still not healed!?"

Her words were stifled as he pulled her into a kiss, soft and warm. His hand cupped her cheek and held her close.

Clinking bowls and quiet chatter sounded from the kitchen.

They broke apart and hurriedly, she willed herself to push him off, filled with shame at the thought of being seen. But when she caught her breath, she found his aunt and uncle, still preoccupied in the kitchen, their backs turned and hands busy.

"I healed up ages ago," he told her with a smile. "Besides, it was on the other side."

"Y-you said you'd stop!" she hissed, stunned and embarrassed.

He tilted his head and shrugged. "I guess I changed my mind."

She was mute, at a loss for words.

"Dinner is ready guys!" Miranda announced, setting the bowls on the table proudly. "Dig in I made plenty."

"Oh… thank you," April replied, avoiding her gaze.

"Are you alright April? You look a little red."

"It's just the cold," she lied. "It's just cold."

The walk home was awkward with April constantly on edge. She had made the mistake of staying too late, and the Simon's refused to allow her to return home alone.

She could hear him whistle, a half whispering tune that he invented as he went. They hadn't spoken since they left his house, but April was guarded.

He walked alongside her, a respectful distance away, quietly keeping to himself as the wind chorused his song.

April whined internally. Being with Jake had grown unbearable. She simply wasn't equipped to handle his attention. The mere idea that someone, anyone, liked her was foreign, but deeper than that it filled her with an unknown sense of dread.

She wondered if she were sociable like Libby, or mature like Grace, or even confident like Christina, she'd be able to handle it. But she knew it was only a far off dream.

They turned the corner marked by jasmine bush spilling over the fence. The narrowed path closed the distance between them. Jake turned and gave her a look she had never seen before. It was calm, but there was something meaningful in his eyes.

He offered his hand and April looked at him as if he were crazy, but he only smiled.

"Why not?" he asked.

"Why should I?" she retorted.

"Trust me."

Slowly, she placed her hand in his. Their fingers folded together and lowered into the space between them, swaying a little as they walked.

To her surprise, that was all.

"Look," he began. "I'm not going to give up. I've got a good reason not to. But I'll stop playing with you… as much."

"What makes you think it'll pay off if you keep trying?" she asked.

"Because I've made my decision," he answered with a return of his cocky grin. "And I don't look back."

April frowned but felt an unwanted flutter in her chest.

"Besides," he said, jostling her hand lightly. "This doesn't hurt."

April tried to think of a good reply to that, but with the late night traffic drowning her thoughts, she resigned to silence.

They arrived on her doorstep a few minutes later and he said goodbye. It wasn't until he let go, that she realised she had forgotten them were holding hands.

In the light of the half-moon with the wind dying down, she returned her hand to her side, and closed her door.

It was a rocky ride home as the wheels of the bus fought with the uneven, winding road.

The bus was mostly empty at 3:00 on a Sunday afternoon. Only a few miscellaneous residents made their appearance; a few elderly citizens, a tired university student, and a woman with her infant children.

April sat on the courtesy seats across from the mother. She was returning home from the local library.

It was a rarity for her to leave her home on her own accord, although admittedly it was becoming more frequent. She had awoken that morning with an urge for the outdoors that she used as an excuse to visit the library she had neglected for almost a year.

On her shoulder she carried a tote bag full of various classic titles she had wanted to read for a while, including Sherlock Holmes.

Feeling a little impatient, she took out the lightest of her books and began to read against the threat of eye strain. As she started the first chapter, the bus slowed and took on more passengers, each passing her as they made their way to a seat.

Suddenly, as the bus jolted back into motion, April was interrupted from her story by a man sitting next to her.

He said nothing, and April kept her eyes on the page, but instantly she was unnerved. She had been sitting on the far right of the courtesy seats with the three remaining seats empty. It was questionable that he'd choose to sit right next to her.

Out of the corner of her eye, she observed him to be a thin man, plain looking and wearing a baggy grey hoodie. She found that his thigh nearly touched her legs and she edged them as far away as she could.

She was uncomfortable, but brushed off the feeling. There were often people on public transport that couldn't judge personal space. It was usually harmless nuisance.

But still it was awkward, she was wedged in tight and her body was tense. She was repulsed by the idea of touching him by accident. It was almost suffocating.

To her relief, she saw the bus turn into her neighbourhood and she gladly raised her arm to the stop button.

She felt a shift in weight as he lifted off his seat.

A black roar like static engulfed her and she was paralysed. She was always the only person to leave the bus at her stop.

Slowly, she lowered her hand back to her lap, and the black static formed shape into dread as he sat back down.

A delayed, putrid emotion like fear crawled up her chest as a terrifying possibility dawned on her.

Her stop passed and the bus drew away from her home. With a tense hand, she reached out again.

And he rose.

She retracted her arm instantly, her breath shaking in a sudden spike of panic. He was following her. She couldn't tell for sure but she felt it in her bones.

Her eyes pleaded with other passengers for help, but the mother averted her gaze while holding her children close, and other passengers sat too far back to see.

Suddenly, she saw the beckoning gesture of a wrinkled, arthritic hand and she bounded to her salvation. She almost fell into the old woman's seat as the bus lurched, and to her horror, when she turned around, she saw that the man had followed her, but had now resigned himself to a nearby seat.

The old woman slid to the outer seat, protectively covering April with her bony frame like a barricade.

"Thank you…" April whispered weakly.

The old lady nodded gravely, holding onto the railing with tan, liver spotted hands. She didn't appear to speak English but she understood.

The roads and buildings grew unfamiliar and April knew she was moving further and further away from home. She was getting lost and the longer she stayed, the harder it was going to get to return.

Fear shook her and her mind raced. She considered making a dash for it, but the possibility remained that he may follow. If she couldn't find somewhere safe, she'd be trapped. April didn't know how long the lady would stay there for. When she got off, she'd be alone again.

She saw her phone light up in her fingers and a desperate idea came to her. She didn't know what else to do. For the first time in her life, she called for help.

She counted the rings, begging and praying that he'd pick up.

"Hey April! What are you calling for?"

At the sound of his voice, her restraint broke and all the built up tension and fear escaped in a whimper. "Oh… my god…"


"J-Jake," she said in a strained whisper. "I need your help-"

"April? Are you okay?" he questioned, concerned. "What's happening? Are you crying?"

"I-I can't get off the bus-"

"Why can't you get off the bus?"

"I-I don't know. There's this man here and I think he's following me… Please help," she pleaded. "I'm scared. I don't know what to do."

"What the f*ck?" he cursed. "Where are you? Tell me!"

"I don't know!"

"Do you know where the bus is heading!?"

She looked up to the old lady with watery eyes. "W-where's this bus going?"

"Epping," she answered. "Go to Epping."

"I'm heading to Epping station I think…"

"Epping? I'm at a friend's place near there. Just wait for me at the station okay?" he commanded. "Don't move, I'm coming, and if he tries anything, start screaming!"

He hung up the phone and with a tight chest, April waited. She had nowhere else to go.

At each stop, more and more passengers came and went, but the man remained.

She gripped her phone and prayed, desperately hoping that Jake would make it before she was left to face the man alone. She could feel him waiting, watching her from his seat.

Finally, the bus slowed at the station. Her eyes scanned the streets but she couldn't see him, her heart fell as passengers lifted off their seats and shuffled to the doors.

Suddenly, her phone burst into noise as it rang. She turned her head and saw him right outside, his eyes burning with alarm as he held his phone to his ear.

The greatest sense of relief came to her as she ran off the bus and leapt into is arms, all her terror and dread washing away in his embrace. Her heart beat uncontrollably and she felt like she could almost burst into tears. He made it. He was there. Jake was there.

The man behind her faltered at the sight, his ratty face twisted into a dirty look at the rude shock.

Jake moved her away and shot him a filthy scowl and he shrunk under his glare, retreating and muttering under his breath as if that had been his intention all along.

"It was that f*cking asshole wasn't it?" he growled. "He didn't do anything right? He didn't touch you?"

"It's fine," she said as she held him tight. "It's okay now. I'm okay now."

For the first time in her life she had experienced danger, and it was so raw and real that it shook her to the core, but at the moment she was overwhelmed with relief.

She stepped back, but she held tight onto his arm.

"Thank you," she said.

He cupped her face in his hands and looked into her eyes. "You're okay right?"

April nodded.

He pressed his eyes shut and sighed with relief. He was out of breath and sweat glimmered on his skin.

"That's good," he said. "As long as you're okay."

April nodded and she leaned into his chest, pulling him into a gentle hug. "Thanks Jake."