As I look around at our world, I’m in awe.
I slide my sleeves up to feel more of the sun. It licks my arm with gold warmth. Cold mountain whispers come next, lunging sweet wildflower scents as goosebumps come alive in its wake. I run my hand down my thigh to ease the chill and close my eyes, inhaling the air… It’s a stinging scent outside, tart like and sweet at the end. Like a gentle surprise.
Maybe this is why Emilian protects that table. He wants the view to himself, to feel nature’s beauty… alone.
“Hurry up.” Emilian growls at me.
I’m walking behind him, trying to keep up. This isn’t a tour at all. Emilian is walking fast and rattling off the names of things with no context. There’s no time to soak anything I’ve seen in.
After the placement test, I can explore the campus myself. I hope…
If I score a 300 on it, the university will waive my school fees, and I’d be in honors class for the first time. My studies would be harder if I do, but I’m sure I can manage. Plus, Inga teaches the honors class. She’s the nicest person I’ve met in Black Mountain so far.
“Seen enough yet?” Emilian asks while walking away.
I just want this over with.
I turn around, recognizing the dirty-blonde hair and dimples.
“How are you?” He plucks an orange flower from a patch of grass nearby and gives it to me. “I’ve been texting and calling.”
Over my shoulder, Emilian lingers in the distance, waiting.
I want to scream at Timothy.
When his card got declined on our first date, I had to pay for our dinner. Since he didn’t pay me back, I didn’t have enough to pay my school fees.
If I don’t score a 300 on my placement test, payment is due immediately… I start my new job in two weeks, but it would take two more before I could pay the fees. The university would kick me out before then, and I’ll miss my trip to Synestia this summer because I’d be in class to make up for missing this semester!
This stress is too much. It can’t end like this when I’m so close to finishing… I could resolve it now if I confront Timothy.
Say it Misa! Where’s my money? Use a profanity at the end, too.
“I’ve just been busy.” I tell him. More lies.
“When can I see you again?”
He takes my hand in his, kissing it with his gentle lips.
Good-looking guys like Timothy, with his charm, sexy cologne and hypnotic words make me nervous. Once those words take the shape of soft whispers and kisses, I’m done. Melted. Both heart and mind.
That’s the start of my relationships, conjured by men’s seductive word spells.
I imagine a secret society of them in a private forest wearing hooded robes and nothing on beneath, summoning all kinds of trouble beside a raging fire to manifest the woman or man they want.
Until the men get bored, and start to…
“Misa?” Timothy asks, halting my fantasy. “Did I do something wrong?”
“I–I don’t know…”
His hand slides up my arm, stroking it. I’m melting.
“You don’t know?” He looks past me. “Who’s this guy?”
I turn. Emilian is back, inching closer to us.
“No one. Got to go.”
“Hey…” Timothy pulls my arm. It’s gentle but stops me from leaving. “You didn’t answer me.”
“Maybe I don’t want to.”
“What’s wrong? Are you mad at me?”
“Let me go.”
Emilian moves behind me. He’s so close I can feel the front of his slacks against the back of my bare legs.
Timothy drops my arm. “I’ll text you, Misa.” He stares at Emilian for a long moment and leaves.
Ugh! Where does he get off grabbing me like that? Of all the people on this campus, I run into Timothy. And why didn’t I mention the money?!
I throw the flower away and see Emilian walking behind staring—probably just looking at my legs.
“Hey there, welcome back.” Instructor Inga says with her sing song voice. “Is everything okay?”
“Yes, ma’am.” I fake a smile.
Emilian says nothing as he bolts to his seat. That guy is weird. What did I do to make him hate me?
“Go on.” Inga says. “Sit beside Emilian.”
I grab my things and head over.
At Emilian’s beloved table, I pull the second chair out by the legs with my foot since he crushed my fingers last time. He scoots aside like I’m contagious when I sit.
“This doesn’t happen tomorrow,” he hisses.
I watch the volcano sitting beside me.
His eyes are bright brown behind his square glasses. His short black hair is wavy and parted to the right. He’s in a light blue dress shirt that’s rolled at the sleeves showing off his toned light brown arms scattered with thin, dark hair…
“You’re drooling,” he says.
I turn away embarrassed and look down at my hands, pretending I wasn’t staring at him like a weirdo.
One more hour of this torture and I’ll start fresh tomorrow. I’m gonna wear a hat and shades so Timothy can’t find me, getting a seat away from Emilian the evil, then straight to the library to study so I can ace the placement test.
I got this.