“Morri been okay with you?”
“Yeah” I decided not to tell her about the book.
Tawny chattered away as we walked back to my house and I thought about what Morrigan had said. Tawny liked me, that much I knew, so perhaps she would tell me what Morrigan wouldn’t.
“Tawny” I said quietly.
“Today… I… well, is there something… different about you and Morrigan… and Ayumu?”
Tawny’s cheerful expression dissolved immediately.
“Come on, we’ve gotta get you home” she said and started walking faster.
“If there is something different about you guys I just want you to know; it doesn’t bother me”.
“Fang’s gonna tell you all you need to know when you need to know it”.
“Yeah, I know” I said with a sigh and caught up to Tawny.
We got back to the house, passing Nate on his late lunch break, and Tawny attached herself to the red armchair that sat in front of the kitchen. My house is just a generic house, almost identical to the several hundred other houses in Apollo’s Arrow. Whitewashed outer walls, black front door and a slate roof. Nothing particularly stood out about it but it was home. Tawny was seated in the makeshift dining room. I say makeshift because it was basically a coffee table and some mismatched chairs. The room was dimly lit since Tawny had closed the blinds but it let her take the sunglasses off. The skin around her eyes was red and slightly cracked. I disappeared into the kitchen and Tawny turned on the radio. She didn’t have it up very loud but I could hear her flicking through the stations. But, strangely enough, she settled on white noise. I poked my head through the doorway as the crackling sound immersed the room and Tawny smiled.
“White noise chills me out. I don’t know why but it does”.
I shook my head and went back into the kitchen. There was a note stuck to the fridge with Dad’s trademark pineapple magnet. Scribbled in his rushed handwriting was one simple message:
Coming home tonight. Pasta bake please.
I checked the freezer and luckily there was a pasta bake in there. Dad’s a pathologist but he gets sent to different hospitals. He’s normally at home about three times a month so when he comes home we normally do something big. It probably wont be so big tonight since he was only two cities across. Either way, I didn’t want Tawny in the house.
“Tawny, my dad’s coming home tonight”.
“I know. He’s a nice guy. He was totally cool with me hanging here so don’t worry about it” she said with a smile and turned off the radio.
I didn’t want to offend her so I didn’t say anything. Actually, I just went back into the kitchen to take Dad’s pasta bake out of the freezer. Tawny stayed in the dining room so I tiptoed past her upstairs. I keep Dad’s room exactly as he leaves it and only tidy it up the day he comes home. I guess he must have figured that out since it wasn’t that messy this time around. A messed up bed and a few shirts on the floor was about it. Or maybe he tidied up when he dropped in. Or maybe Tawny cleared it up, I don’t know. Either way, I cleared up what little mess there was and put Dad’s shirts in the wash basket.
“You do too much,” Tawny said from where she stood at the top of the stairs with her arms crossed, “You should be out having fun not cooped up doing housework”.
“But my dad”.
“He’ll understand. Trust me. Now, go out shopping or something. I can give Morri a call if you want”.
“No, I’ll… I’ll go on my own. I prefer it that way”.
Tawny smiled and led me downstairs and out of the front door once I’d grabbed some cash and my keys.
Three things I was absolutely and reluctantly sure of:
1. I was walking through an alley
2. It was pitch black
And 3. I was on my own.
It was once I’d realised these three things that I thanked every god I knew for giving me an ethereal step. I kept walking but the end of the alley didn’t seem to get any closer. I started panicking. My heart was thumping in my chest. So when I heard the set of footsteps behind me my instincts told me to run. And I sure as hell did. Isn’t it funny when it takes you twice as long to get somewhere even if you’re running? Needless to say, when I got to the brightly lit courtyard I fell onto my knees. But I could still hear those footsteps. And they were getting closer. Then, all of a sudden there was a hand on my shoulder.
“Need a hand?” a voice slightly deeper than Ayumu’s said.
The hand moved from my shoulder and caught my hand. It pulled me up and I saw the face it belonged to. He had black hair that was relatively shoulder length but styled like the emo kids at school. His eyes, though it could have been a trick of the light, were different colours. His left eye was brown like tree bark and his right eye – it was like looking into a sapphire. He wore a black trench coat, white shirt and a waistcoat. Quite frankly, he wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Western movie. He smiled and picked up my keys, which I’d dropped on the ground.
“You don’t want to lose these” he said and handed them to me. “So, what’s someone as pretty as you doing out on your own at this time?”
“Uh, just a bit of shopping. Were… this is going to sound so rude but were you following me?”
My heart skipped a beat. Why was some guy following me? At least he didn’t try and cover it up. What?! He was following me!
“You dropped this,” he said and passed me a book, “Romeo and Juliet novelised. It’s an interesting thought”.
“You like Shakespeare?”
“Well, I’ve only read some of his work. “But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?” “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more” “And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare-“.
“’As any she belied with false compare”. Sonnet 130. You seem to know more than you let on” I interrupted as we started walking through the square.
“Well, I’ve had a lot of time to memorise things I like”.
I nodded and said no more but felt strangely drawn to him. The same weird feeling I had around Tawny and Morrigan.
“Do you have a favourite play?” he asked, his coat billowing behind him as a gust of wind ran through the courtyard.
“Uh, no, not really”.
“I always thought Romeo and Juliet was the best. There’s just something realistic about it. Now, I’m picturing you as a Much Ado About Nothing fan. Am I right?”
“I guess so”.
Why was he talking to me about Shakespeare? Though I must admit, a guy in this day and age who actually knows Shakespeare’s work is pretty cool in my books.
“So, is there a Claudio for you?” he asked, inching his step closer to mine.
“Comparing me to Hero? That’s pretty bold isn’t it?”
He blushed. For some reason his face didn’t flash tomato red. It barely even managed a light pink.
“Well, it’s not really that bold unless I compare myself to Claudio” he said.
“And I’m guessing that was where you were headed next”.
He hung his head and blushed again.
“Yeah, that’s where I was headed”.
This guy was handsome, a total charmer and kind of mysterious but too old. He looked older than Tawny. Okay, so maybe only by a few years. Twenty-five at the oldest, I’d say.
“So, what is your name, fair Hero?” he asked.
“Hallie. But not like Halle Berry”.
“It was nice to meet you Hallie But-Not-Like-Halle-Berry. And please, don’t go walking around on your own at night. It’s not safe”.
He started to walk off, leaving me the nice dark walk through the woods.
“Hey, I don’t even know your name!” I shouted to him, hoping he’d pick up on the hint that I didn’t want to walk through the woods on my own.
“It’s Fletcher” he said without looking back and disappeared into the night. Just brilliant.