My Monday morning seemed mundane enough as I grabbed my keys off the counter and dashed across the kitchen, cramming whatever I could into my mouth to keep my dad from launching into a full blown lecture about how breakfast was the most important meal of the day. I started the car and drove like a mad woman to StoneyBrook High. Again. Because I was running late to school. Again.
I glanced at my watch as I pulled over into the school parking lot.
I was so caught up in my own thoughts that I nearly rammed into one of the students. He had dropped all his books and was staring at me like a deer caught in headlights. I scrambled out of my Tesla, apologising profusely, while picking up his books. He shrugged and walked off, shaking his head and muttering something about pedestrian rights.
I watched as he made his way into the entrance. He was probably a new student. I hadn’t seen him around before. He had that hopeful, fresh faced look that everyone at StoneyBrook High had before it got crushed. After week 2.
At first glance, he didn't really look very handsome but on closer inspection, he had a great facial structure. His entire appearance screamed confidence : his soft looking hair which was a dark brown, almost black , fell into his eyes, oh his eyes, his cold,dark eyes that gleamed with mischief. His outfit was casual enough, a black V neck shirt , coal grey pants and black and white striped Vans but something about him made me wish I could see him again.
I watched him till he was less than a shadow in the crowd and I had this eerie feeling that we would become really close.
Chapter 1 A year later.
I stole a glance at Khas. He looked positively adorable in the black button-down shirt I bought him and a pair of snug jeans which is not something a friend - even less a close friend - would notice. He caught me looking at him and shot me a devious grin. A waiter hovered impatiently next to our table.
“ What would her highness like to eat?”, he playfully asked. “My treat. It is my 17th birthday after all”, he added.
I could scarcely believe that I was dining with Khas-U, less than a year after I nearly killed him.
I remember how he set his lunch tray beside mine that day and said “Hello, girl who nearly killed me”. He soon became the most popular guy in our year and threw me into the spotlight with him. I still consider myself lucky for meeting him because I was plain and never noticed before. We’ve been close friends ever since.
“ ‘Your Highness’? Isn’t it your birthday?”, I asked bashfully. “Also, you’re not paying a cent.” I turned to the waiter. “I would like -”
“One dragon carrot risotto with a side of a Caesar salad - low fat mayonnaise instead of Dijon mustard - and a virgin mojito. I’ll have the mushroom fricassee with a side of garlic bread and sparkling water. And we’ll split the bill”, he said,shooing the waiter away before I could object.
He turned back and saw me glaring at him.
“What? It’s what you did when I tried to treat you on your birthday. It’s only fair.” he said with wide, hurt, innocent puppy eyes.
He grinned mischievously when I didn’t stop glaring.I sighed and sunk into my chair. “Okay. You win.”, I said. He reclined, satisfied.
He always wins, I thought, frowning at him from across the table. He stared right back at me, the cocky, satisfied smile slowly fading from his face, replaced with a clouded, serious look. I don’t know how long we looked at each other like that, wordlessly, but I was glad when the waiter came with our food and drinks. When the waiter left, the awkward moment had passed and his cocky grin returned.
“So”, he said. “ How is it?”
“The same as the last hundred times I ate it.”,I said. “Then let’s do something else.”,he said with decided emphasis. I frowned at him, confused. He looked at me once more before grabbing my wrist and dragging me away from the table. He slapped a few notes on the table before impatiently dragging me away. I followed him unsure and helpless.
We dashed across the street and head back to his huge mansion. He led me up several flights of stairs until, finally we burst into the cool night air on his shackled roof. His grip tightened as he we stepped onto the gentle slope of the roof.
A bottle wrapped in paper lay haphazardly on the roof. It said ‘drink me’. “My mom,”, he began and broke of ,his voice choked. I breathed in sharply.
Khas’s mom died of cancer when he was six, he seldom spoke about her.
He swallowed and went on, “My mom named me after the Arabic word for special. She was Arabic. My dad was Caucasian. It was a classic conflict of love kind of tale”, he said as he swished around his drink in the bottle. “She used to get me up on this roof every day and tell me that I was special. Even on the days when she couldn’t she would leave a bottle of my favourite drink here with a message that said I was.
My dad leaves a bottle here every year on my birthday because he thinks it makes me feel better ”, he said. “It breaks my heart to even think about it but...”, he said and suddenly broke off.
I looked at him,surprised .I had never seen him like this, with a lost,pained far away look in his eyes.
His eyes met mine. He gently placed his hand on mine, “but when I’m with you, it feels like it never happened. Its funny, I want to be with you and cry about this but when I’m with you I’m so happy, I can’t cry. You make me feel special, just like she did.”, he said.
My heart was in my throat, a slight gurgle escaped from it as I tried to find something to say.
“Hey, now.”, he said, noticing this. “Let’s not make this more awkward then it is”, he said, shooting me his infamous cocky smile before breaking off eye contact.
A tear ran down my cheek. I wanted to hug him, to hold him, to tell him that I would be there for him no matter what happened, but I couldn’t get the words out, partially because he told me not to make it more awkward and partially because my throat was choked with a billion emotions. I quickly wiped my face and smiled at him, lacing my fingers through his. “She sounds wonderful.”, I said instead.
He smiled. It was a different smile, one that lit up his face and softened his hard, arrogant face. “She was.”, he said. “She really was.”
He lay down, and looked up at the stars, silent and unmoving. After a moment, I did the same. The sky was alive and beautiful. The stars were shining so brightly that in the moment I would’ve believed that they were just holes in the floor of heaven instead of giant balls of gas.
“It’s beautiful.”,I breathed. “It is.”, Khas said. I think it was only my imagination, but I felt his gaze on me as he spoke. I blushed at the thought. Of course he isn’t. We’re just friends, I thought. Thanking God that it was dark, I glanced at my watch. It was nearly eleven. “Oh my God,”I said sitting up. “I-I have to go. I’m sorry.” Khas looked at his own watch. “No, it’s okay. It really is late.”
He walked me down and to my car. “See you tomorrow.”, I said, trying my best to smile. “See you,”,he said. As I drove away, I glanced at my rear mirror and saw him standing, watching, receding in the distance. I knew at that instant that everything would change. Whether it was for the better or for the worse was something only time would tell.
Chapter 2 I made my way to my locker at Stoney Brook high. It was nearly time for basketball practice. I grabbed my ankle support, Air Jordans, basketball shorts and a half eaten breakfast bar and shoved them into the tacky backpack my aunt had gifted me. It was supposed to be a good omen. Not that I believed in that sort of thing. I powered through the hallways all the way to Khas’s locker.
“Hey”, I said, slightly out of breath, “You coming?”, I asked as Khas stuffed his jersey in his duffle bag.
Basketball was one of the few things Khas and I had in common. He was the kind of deep, distant guy that saw beauty in the most mundane things, naturally he was a modern art lover. His room was adorned with paintings made by Renoir and Vincent Van Gogh and he even had a huge self portrait of his hung at the far end of his room. How he became the most popular guy in our grade will forever remain a mystery, something wrapped in enigma.
“Let's go”, he said, shooting me a quick smile as we walked to the court. Just as we entered the linoleum court, his gaze fell on my backpack and his eyes widened.He grabbed it from my hand and examined it closer.
“What is this?”, he demanded, his words accusatory and his tone acerbic.
I had never seen Khas like this. He never raised his voice, let alone screamed at me. “It was a gift from my aunt”, my voice trailed off as his face became red hot. “Why, what's wrong?”, I asked, my voice turning pointy.
The dark, angry look on his face passed and his cocky smile and slightly flirtatious nature returned “Nothing”, he said. “Let’s play some ball”
“Mom, I’m home”, I called as I walked in through the front door. “Oh, hi”, I said awkwardly to my aunt, who happened to be scrawled across the couch.
“Finally, I thought you’d never come. Sit here”, she gestured to a bean bag next to her. “Is this going to take long? I have a lot of homework and-”, I was cut off.
“It’ll take as long as it has to take”. After this, she launched into a story which sent shivers down my spine.
The inhabitant of a cosy, little cottage set high up in the Hartz mountains walked out her humble dwelling. She was a blue eyed,rosy cheeked docile creature from Norwegia who fell in love with a strange, charming German man. He was a very cunning man but he did win the hearts of almost everyone he met. The two made a very charming couple.
Unfortunately, this girl’s beloved betrothed was dying and she was miserable because of it. Her heart bled to think of her existence without her better half.
As he lay on his deathbed, speculating the afterlife, she looked tenderly at him and decided, impulsively, to do it. Just as he was drawing his final breaths, she plunged a scalpel into her heart and proclaimed that their spirits would unite and live in bliss. As both their spirits left their bodies and made their way to each other, his spirit jilted hers in the last moment to go off with another.
“Well, that was intense”, I said, unfrazzled. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a lot of homework to do”, I said as I raced up the stairs.
“Where do you think you’re going, young lady. Come back here right this second”, my cuckoo aunt demanded.
I grabbed my satchel from upstairs and bolted to the front door. I could not stand that woman. She thought of herself as a certified ‘psychic’. I don't mean any disrespect towards any psychics or anything but personally, I’m not a huge fan.
I decided to surprise Khas. I hadn’t seen him since after the breakdown at basketball practice. He lived in the heart of the city between other mansions and the occasional skyscraper. Although my family was well off, our house was nowhere as near as extravagant as Khas’s.
I drove for a bit and pulled over at Khas’s mansion.
I knocked on the front door and as I waited for someone to open the door, I pulled out my phone to look at myself. I was a mess. I was still in my dirty basketball jersey and terry cotton shorts and my hair was loosely hung back in a ponytail. Before I had a chance to straighten out my ponytail or smoothen down my shorts, a red faced, jolly looking man opened the door.
“Good evening , Khas’s dad”, I said politely. “Hi, there, please come in. Make yourself at home”, he said as he gestured towards the front room. “Thanks”, I said shyly. “Is Khas home?”, I asked meekly. For some reason, I always got jittery around Khas’s dad.
“He’s in his room”, he said. “Just go upstairs and surprise him, the boy has been very stressed lately”, he added before retiring to the couch.
I made my way up the stairs and towards Khas’s room. A huge Renoir painting hung on Khas’s room door. The door was slightly ajar so, I tiptoed in his room. I was about to call out his name when I noticed something strange on his bedside table. A book lay opened and a section of text was highlighted in it.
A blood curdling scream escaped my mouth and I watched as Khas’s eyes froze in horror when he saw me.
“Oh thank God. It's only you.”,Khas said, sounding relieved. “You scared the crap out of me. Don’t ever do that again.” he scolded. He looked at me and frowned.
“What is it? What's wrong?”, he asked, worried. I looked at my face in the mirror behind him. I was pale, my eyes wide and scared.
“N-Nothing.”, I said, now blushing and embarrassed.
He bent his head so his eyes were level with mine. “No.”,he said. “Something’s wrong. I’ve never seen you looked so scared.”
I didn’t answer.
“Hey,”,he said, tilting my head up by gently nudging at my chin so I was now looking into his eyes. “You trust me, right?”. I nodded.
“Then tell me.”,he said. He walked over to his bed and sat down. Hesitantly, I joined him.
“It really is nothing…”, I began and trailed off when I saw the concern on his face. “It's just that my aunt told me this really tragic, disturbing love story and… when I came here, I saw that you had highlighted the same story in your book.”, I took a deep breath to calm myself down. “It just… It freaked me out.”
“Is that all?”,he asked. I nodded again.
“Why did I highlight the story? Well…”, he began. He turned away, but I still noticed his expression. It was shy and he was blushing. Khas was blushing. “I like… this girl. I think she likes me back but I’m not sure. I just wanted to remind myself of what could happen if I got too carried away.”
I should be feeling happy. Any normal friend would be if they heard that their friend had found someone. Yet, the first thing I felt was jealousy and an insanely strong urge to tell him that it was true that it was likely that she would hurt him. Instead, I poked and teased him until I found a legitimate excuse to leave. I ran out and got into my car after a hurried goodbye and drove away as fast as I could without getting into any major accidents.
When I was a little far away from his house, at the edge of the city, I pulled over and tried to calm myself down and figure out what had just happened. After successfully calming myself down, I drove home , with the windows rolled down to cool my hot face.
When I reached, I felt inexplicably tired. I told my mom I wasn’t hungry and went straight to bed, thanking God that it was a Friday so I could sleep in.
* I woke up at ten the next morning. As I dragged myself down for a cup of coffee, my mom spotted me and smiled.
“Finally.”,she said. “l was starting to think you’d never wake up.”
She looked me up and down and frowned. “Are you okay,sweetie? You look so tired even though you've been sleeping for so long.”
“I’m fine mom. I just need some coffee.”, I said.
“Well you're in luck. Dad went to Starbucks this morning and bought you your favourite”,she said, handing me the coffee. She picked up her own cup and smiled at me over the rim. Suddenly, she put the cup down and smacked her head.
“Oh my God. I almost forgot. Khas is waiting for you in the front room.”
I nearly spat my coffee out. I managed to force it down my throat and say, “What?”
“Yeah.”,she said. “I'm sorry I didn't say anything before. If there was an award for worst host, I would get it. What are you staring at me for? Go!”
I put my coffee down and went to the front room. It was only when I saw Khas that I realized that I probably looked a mess. By then, it was too late.
“Hey.”, he said, almost shyly. He was wearing a white button down shirt and blue jeans. His hair was tousled and fell into his eyes. Basically, he looked like every girl's dream guy.
“Hi.”, I said just as shyly. I caught sight of my reflection in the ornate mirror that my aunt insisted we kept to keep us safe from bad juju or some crap. My hair stuck out in a halo around my head but I looked far from angelic. I could feel myself blushing when I looked back at Khas. “What’s up?”
“I… Do you remember me telling you that I liked someone yesterday?”
It all came flooding back. Suddenly I felt weak. I leaned against the wall. With herculean effort I nodded.
“Well, I'm looking at her”,Khas said. He walked over to me and held my hands, which was a relief because I was two seconds away from fainting. “Will you go out with me?”
“Yes.”,I said, falling into his arms and hiding my red face in his neck.
I stole a quick glance at myself in the mirror. I wore a tight butter yellow blouse that accentuated my chest paired with some Citizens of Humanity jeans complete with my black converse high tops. I was going for the whole ‘not trying too hard but still cute’ look.
I brushed my hair vigorously and bunched my hair into a high ponytail. As a finishing touch, I smeared some shimmery lip gloss on my pasty lips and as an afterthought squirted a bit of ‘White Diamonds’ to set the mood.
I was very jittery about my date with Khas. What started out as a platonic friendship had morphed into something huge that was uncertain and that was scary.
As I reached the bottom tier of the staircase, my eyes fell on Khas. His hair was tousled and his clothes were wrinkled yet he still looked flawless. He wore one of his infamous black V neck shirts and coal grey pants and striped black and white Vans. I was a bit disappointed on seeing that he hadn’t made much of an effort into his appearance. I clutched my bag and dug my fingernails into my jeans, suddenly feeling overdressed.
Khas met my eyes and whistled appreciably. “For you”, he said as he handed me a black rose. His hopeful eyes looked back at me.
Khas and I loved the book ‘The black tulip’ by Alexander Dumas, we felt that the idea of a rose, traditionally used to portray love , being black in colour was a sign of a dangerous, forbidden kind of love. The kind of love that has mysterious embers dancing around it and the only thing that overcomes its danger is passion itself. In a way, it seemed to imply that our growing love would be taking this path.
“Bye, mom”, I said as I grabbed Khas’s hand and ran to the front porch.
“Have I told you how breathtaking you look in this outfit? Not that you don’t look breathtaking everyday”, he quickly added.
This was what I loved about Khas. Although, on the outside, Khas had the whole ‘I’m a Jock and I’m confident as hell’ look going on, beneath that cold, hard exterior lay a soft, insecure, young boy who was repressed by society. That is my favourite part about him, the fact that his eyes searched mine for approval when he said anything or the fact that he would feign indifference to what I would say but would actually hang on every word.
“Thank you so much, Khas. You’re not too bad yourself”, I said cheekily, and there I saw it, his wide smile spreading across his face, lighting up the entire street. “Let’s go”, he said.
He opened the car door for me and just as I slid in, pecked me on the cheek shyly and put my seatbelt on. “I hope it isn't too tight”, he said nervously. “It fits perfectly”, I said referring to more than just the seatbelt.
As we drove, we talked about everything possible. He told me about how nervous he was for this date and launched into a story about how he tried on a hundred different outfits at the mall and face timed his dad who disapproved of and critically analyzed, which is a nice way of saying roasted, every outfit Khas tried on. “My dad just told me to wear the Khas Classics because that's the boy you fell in love with, not some Burberry trench coat wearing stock broker looking guy”.
For a moment, a hushed silence fell over the car. The word “love” seemed to reverberate in the car. Khas sensed that he had overstepped his bounds but he didn't seem like he was going to take back what he said.
They pulled up in front of a large planetarium. I looked questioningly at Khas, “Is this the right place?”, I implored when he didn't get the message. “Oh yeah, do you remember the night of my birthday? The night we went up on that roof and looked up at the stars? We had some unfinished business there, don’t you think? “, he said.
I could feel my face getting red hot and all I could think about was it wasn't my imagination! There really was a frisson in the air that night!
“Yes, there was some unfinished business”, I said and grinned.
We payed for our tickets and sat comfortably on our seats. Khas put his arm around me and I put my head on his shoulder. We watched, transfixed as the ceiling glowed and put up a pretty display of colours. Khas looked me dead in the eye.
“Is something wrong?”, I asked apprehensively. He broke into a smile. “Even if hell froze over, nothing would be wrong if you’re by my side. Now, look carefully at the ceiling”, Khas said with a steely expression on his face.
I hesitantly looked up at the ceiling, unwilling to take my eyes off Khas. And there it was, a small, insignificant blurb that glowed brightly. It said: To the girl who almost killed me, I think I love you.
My face was flushed, my eyes were teary, I leaned into Khas and kissed him softly on his lips. The soft kiss morphed into something stronger. He pulled me into him and kissed me harder. My hands played with his soft hair and his strong arms held me in a tight embrace. Our eyes met in the middle and he flashed me his pearly white smile. We drew back, delighted by what had happened but a bit embarrassed all the same.
“Now that our unfinished business is complete, let’s begin with our date, milady”, he said. I giggled, “Sure, where to next”, I asked, excitedly. He linked his arms with mine and we strode to the car. We drove in silence for we were both wrapped up in our thoughts . My face was flushed the entire time and for some reason, a sort of painful expression adorned Khas’s.
We pulled to a stop at a fancy Italian hotel. The ambience was very sophisticated. In the marble lobby, fake grass waved gently,as if it was disturbed by breeze. Ivy crept around pillars and a huge Sistine Chapel replica was splashed on the ceiling.
“We’re all about ceilings today, are we now”, I joked.
His eyes locked with mine, “There's only one way to go and that’s up”, he said, strangely referring to more than just ceilings, his eyes glazed over and a devilish smile crept across his face.
“Um,okay”, I said awkwardly.
He snapped out of his trance and said, “Where are my manners? We have a table under the name Khas U for the restaurant .”, Khas said to the receptionist.
“Of course”, she said. “Follow me, sir”, she led us to a huge room with a huge, single, white table in the centre. It was piled high with all the food that I loved. I gaped openly and managed to stammered a ‘Thanks’ to the lady. “How did you do all this”, I asked, my thoughts combobulated. “I own this place, literally”, he said and guided me to the table. He pulled out the chair and gestured to it, “Milady”. He took the seat across me and smiled playfully.
“Don’t be overwhelmed. It is a bit much but my father insisted. He felt that it was the least he could do”, Khas said, suddenly embarrassed.
After a beat I said, “I love it”,and flashed a smile at him.
“I have something for you”, I said as I pulled out a bottle from my purse. “Your sticky, Arabic concoction is very difficult to find. I had to drive across town to find it.”, I said.
The bottle had a sticky note attached to it : “Drink me” it said.
Khas looked at me and then at the drink and then at me. “I really do love you. So much.”, he said. My face was flushed and my heart swollen with happiness. “I love you too, Khas U”.
The next day, I woke up with a huge, embarrassingly dopey grin on my face. I opened my eyes, stretched and went downstairs. My mom saw me and her eyes widened a bit.
“Hey mom.”, I said, cheerfully and grabbed some toast.
“Hi sweetie!”, she said. “You're up early. And in a very good mood. ” “Yeah” “So the date went well?”,she asked, her voice cheeky. “Yeah” At that moment, my phone rang, saving me from any more embarrassing questions from my mother. It was Khas. I excused myself and went to my room.
“Hi.”, I said, almost shyly.
“Hey, there.”,Khas said, his voice playful and soft with affection. A smile spread across my face. “Did I wake you up?”
“No. I was awake.”
“Good. There’s a surprise for you at your front door.”
“Khas! You shouldn't have.”, I said. I was going to lecture him about how he shouldn't be spoiling me so much, but my curiosity got the better of me. “What is it?”, I asked, running down the stairs. Khas laughed.
“Well it happens to be...”, he said as I pulled the door open. “Me.”, he finished.
I waited for a moment to make sure that it wasn’t a dream before leaning in to kiss him.
“Best surprise ever.”,I said, when we broke away. He laughed, pulling me close and kissing the top of my head.
“You wanna go somewhere?”
“Sure. Let me just grab my coat and maybe change out of my pyjamas.” He looked me up and down. “Unicorns”,he said, amused. “Cute.” I punched him in the arm. “Shut up.”He laughed.
I quickly changed into a skirt and a scoop neck t-shirt and threw my coat on.
“Okay. Let's go.”,I said.
* School couldn’t have been better than it was dating Khas Peters.
He would come and pick me up in his luxury Aston Martin everyday and greet me with a kiss and a smile that could light up the world and cure cancer Today was no different.
I was brushing out my hair when I heard the rev of Khas’s car in the driveway. I hurried downstairs and threw the door open. A cool breeze blew about, gently stirring my hair. I walked over to the car and opened the door.
“Hey gorgeous.”,Khas said as I settled down and fiddled with my seatbelt. He had a smile that was simultaneously soft and mischievous.
“Hey you.”, I said smiling. Khas leaned in and kissed me softly on the lips.
I reached up to touch his soft hair. Khas broke away and smiled. He reached out and brushed a stray hair away from my face. As he pulled his hand away, a dark look flitted across his face. He cupped my face his thumb gently brushing across my cheekbone. He leaned in again and began kissing me. This time, it was not the soft and gentle kisses I was accustomed to but a more urgent, hungry kiss. I wrapped my hands around his neck and pulled him closer, kissing him back. He broke away, smiling again and said, “I love you.”
“I love you too”, I said.
When we reached Stoney Brook high, we were greeted by our usual glares from juniors who were crushing on Khas and several “‘Sup man”s and back slaps from Khas’s fellow jocks. And of course the polite “Hi”s and “How are you?”s from them in my direction. Khas and I had been dating for a couple of months.It took a while, but I got used to being popular.
Khas dropped me off at my locker and gave me quick peck on the cheek. “I’ll see you soon,okay?”,he said.
“Okay, bye.”,I replied, giving him a quick kiss.
I made my way across the hallway to get to Trigonometry. It was on the other side of school and I had about five seconds to get there or I’d be late. I ran as fast as my feet would take me and ended up collided against a boy.
“I am so sorry”, I said playing anxiously with my bag strap. “I didn't mean to-”, I began but was cut off by him.
“That’s okay”, he said. “I’m Jeremy”,he began and trailed off. “We have French together, Jeremy. Plus, I sit behind you.”, I said. “Oh yeah, but truth be told I’m flattered you noticed me”, Jeremy said, his cheeks reddening.
“What’s that supposed to mean”, I asked sharply. “It's just that you’re a really popular girl and I’m a lowly junior, it feels nice to be noticed”, Jeremy said.
For a moment, I was stumped. I was the ‘Jeremy’ in Khas’s entourage. I was the outcast, flattered by the attention of any one who bothered to acknowledge my existence. “Oh.”,I said, not knowing what else to say. He stared at me for a moment, frowning. “What?”,I said. “Nothing.”,he said snapping out of his reverie. “I’m sorry. It’s just that I’ve never had any of you… popular people be so nice to me.
“You probably won’t believe me but I’ve been there. You wanna join me for lunch?”. “Um… Sure.”,he said. “Thanks. Okay I’ll see you then.”,he added shyly.
I walked out of French class with Jeremy by my side. We’d been friends for a while now. He was a great guy, he didn't really have many friends though which was probably why I found myself offering to go over to his house so we could brush up on the ‘Pronoms Tonique’.
“So, what are your plans for lunch”, Jeremy asked me as we made our way to the caféteria. “Well, I have an apple, some peanut butter and a smushed cookie”, I said, rooting through my bag.
“As appetizing as that sounds, I was planning on hitting Subway, wanna come with?”, Jeremy asked shyly.
I didn't really know what to say to him. He just looked so hopeful and kind that it would destroy me to say no to him. I was a teensy bit worried about how Khas would respond to this though.
“It’s cool if you don't want to”, he said, a sad look washing over his face.
“No, I want to go.”, I said quickly. I stuffed my phone into my bag and we made our way to Subway. Just as we got off campus, I saw Khas.
He was hanging out with a couple of his jock friends and at first looked pleased to see me but grimaced as soon as he spotted Jeremy.
“Hi there”, he said me, offering a little wave to me. “I was thinking we could grab some sushi?”. “My treat”, Khas said excitedly to me.
“Oh, actually I had plans with Jeremy. I’m really sorry, Khas.”, I said, I anxiously twisted my braid and bit my lip, preparing me for any onslaught of words. I watched as Khas’s face turned a shade of red hot anger and then back to his usual cool, calm and confident self.
“Of course”, Khas said, a tight smile adorning his face. “ I'll see you soon.”, he told me and promptly walked away.
It was a day after the ‘Subway’ incident and I still hadn’t heard from Khas. I lay curled up on my bed, cradling my phone in my hands.
No new messages flashed on my screen for the umpteenth time. I scrolled through my Instagram feed idly and checked my dms once more. I had about 19 unanswered dms but I didn't feel like responding to any of them.
Where was Khas, I thought.
I sighed and lay on my stomach, I flipped through my AP Biology book for some time when finally, my phone lit up. I lunged for it only to discover it was Jeremy. “Hey”, I said uninterested. “He still hasn't called, huh”, Jeremy asked. “Nope”, I said.
A beat passed and he said, “I'm sure he’ll call, you better focus on your big AP test tomorrow”.
“Yeah”, I said, annoyed. “I'll go prep some more, bye”, I told Jeremy and hung up. I didn't mean to be rude but Jeremy was part of the reason Khas was acting stern with me.
I sighed once more and opened my Snapchat. A tiny ray of hope enveloped me when I saw that Khas had storied something.
Maybe he sent me a snap, I thought excitedly.
I went to my chats only to discover that he hadn’t sent me a snap which made it official. I was being given the silent treatment.
* I walked out of my test centre with a dopey grin across my face. I was pretty sure that I aced that exam. Unfortunately, my joy was short lived. As I made my way across the parking lot, my phone began to ring. Jeremy, the caller ID flashed to reveal.
“Hey, Jeremy”! GUESS WHAT?”,I screamed into the phone.
“Um.”, he said, unsure of what to make of my outburst, “Your test went well?”, he asked apprehensively. “That’s the understatement of the century.”, I said and smirked. “Okay, okay. Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.”, he said. “Anyways, I called because I was heading over to the library to prep for French, if you aren't doing anything after your big lunch, maybe you could join me?”, Jeremy asked tentatively.
My heart dropped to my stomach. Khas was supposed to take me out for a celebratory lunch. The cause of celebration being completion of all my APs. But Khas hadn't texted, picked up my calls or bothered to acknowledge me these past two days. Was he just going to bail?
I fiddled with my bag strap and anxiously checked my phone, seeing no update from Khas, a fizzle of anger sparked through me and I practically screamed into the mouthpiece, “I’m coming there right now”.
I woke up with a jolt. It was another dreadful Monday morning. I dragged myself to my closet and rifled through my clothes.
“Too tight”, I said , holding up a pair of old jeans. “Too baggy”, I said , holding up a pair of saggy, washed up jeans. “Too skanky”, I said, holding a tight miniskirt.
“Oh my God, why don't I have any clothes”, I moaned out loud. I gave myself a once over in the mirror. On second thought, this isn't too bad, I thought to myself.
I grabbed my keys off the counter and dashed to my car and drove hastily to school. It was a rainy day, all my windows were fogged up and the roads were slippery. It was as though this was a premonition for something bad. When I finally reached the school’s parking lot, I saw a tired, mopey Khas waiting at the curb. I got out of the car and walked over to him. When he saw me approaching him, I could feel his gaze tighten, his pulse quicken and his fist clench. I offered him a weak smile.
“Where were you yesterday?”, he demanded. His eyes were bloodshot and he looked as though he was going to go into a murderous rage.
“I waited at that cafe for over two hours. I got you a bouquet of flowers and an apology letter. I reduced my time at the art studio just so I could meet you. And you know where you had been at that time? With your new lover boy, Jeremy”, he spat. As he said the word ‘Jeremy’, tears rushed down his cheeks. He turned on his heel and walked off furiously. I hurried after him, desperate to make amends.
“Khas, wait, I can explain.”, I said as tears flowed down my cheeks. I tried to swallow the huge lump in my throat but I couldn't. My head was throbbing and I felt as though I was falling into a deep abyss of despair.
The tears flowed down faster now. I wailed and let out a cry that attracted the attention of some students in the lot. Embarrassed, I collected myself and made my way back to my car. No way was I going to go to school today. I had to get away from here.
With teary eyes and jerky hands, I put the keys into ignition. I kept getting the feeling that someone was saying my name repeatedly but I couldn't see as my vision was all fogged up. I figured it was just my head acting up.
Just as I started the car and moved a bit ahead, the car lurched to a halt and hit something with a huge thud. I heard a groan and gasped when I realized that I had hit someone. When I took a closer look, I let out a blood curdling scream.
Funny how come the last time I would see him was in the same place I first saw him.
“No.” “ No.” “NOOOOOOO.”
I sat in the parking lot cradling his head. His dark blood was stained my hands. Tears blurred my eyes.
“Somebody call the ambulance .”,I begged the shocked crowd.
The next hour was a blur. An ambulance rushed in and carried him away to the hospital.
I had asked to come, but the medic said that I would be distracting and that I shouldn't leave my car in the school parking.
That's just a polite way of saying “We don’t want you bawling in the background”, I thought bitterly.
I got back into my car and cried there till I ran out of tears. My empty heart ached and I could feel it shattering bit by bit.
When I felt like I could drive without killing the someone else, I drove to Kaiser Hospital. I saw Khas’s dad there. His face was streaked with tears and his eyes were red and swollen.
Before I could tell him what happened, he hugged me and said in a voice that shattered my already broken heart, “I can't bear it. First Khas’s mom and now him. All I ever wanted was to see him happy. And now…”, he broke off, his voice choked with tears as he spoke.
I couldn't tell him what happened, what I had done. It was too much to comprehend. I didn't want to address that thought. I wanted to push that memory in a dark corner and pretend it never happened.
When he recovered, Khas’s dad said, “The nurses at the ER said that you were there. What happened?”
My heart was in my throat. I knew that I shouldn’t lie, but the words came to my lips as easily as breathing. “There was an accident. A car hit him and… when he fell his head hit the fire hydrant and…”, I broke off, unable to lie any longer to the poor, sweet broken-hearted man before me.
“Who was driving?”,he asked. His tone was sharp, anger singing through all the grief, like lightning among dark, thundering clouds
“I…”,I started, unable to think of something to say. A flurry of words I couldn’t bring myself to speak flashed through my head. I was. I did it. I may have killed your son.
“I don’t know. I didn’t see who it was.”, I said instead. “Can I… Can see him?”
Khas’s dad looked at me, anger fading from his eyes. “Of course. Of course.”,he said, softly. When I turned away, I heard him calling my name.
Almost impossibly, my broken heart broke again, tearing me apart. Only a miracle, one called Khas Peters , could save me now.
Chapter 8 I anxiously walked into the ICU. It was where Khas was being kept. I kept twisting my braid to keep my hands from shaking as I entered the room.
“Okay, so only two visitors are allowed to visit him at a time.”, said the nurse. “He’s stable for now but we don’t want to disrupt the healing process, do we?”, she said and left the room.
I sat on the stool beside Khas’s bed and watched him breath. He had a slow, steady breathing pattern. I watched as his strong diaphragm relaxed and contracted and I couldn't take it anymore. I ran out of the ICU, my eyes brimming with tears.
It was just so surreal to watch. I remember mentally vowing that I would hurt anyone who tried to hurt Khas. Funny thing is, this incident is killing me.
I tore through the hallways looking for the nurse I had seen in Khas’s room. When I saw her, I seized her and begged me to tell her if Khas was going to be okay.
She bit her lip and took a deep breath. “Look, honey, I’m going to be honest with you.He isn't going to make it. He has severe traumatic brain injury and lost a lot of blood. Best case scenario, he makes it through the week.”, she finished.
She offered me a weak smile as my entire world came crashing down. I left the hospital as soon as I could and made my way home which ironically was at the hospital.
The next morning I dreaded going to school. My head throbbed and my heart bled but my mom wasn't about to have any of that.
“Sweetheart, I know Khas was your dearest friend but you can't miss out on school just because of him. I'll let you visit him everyday if you go to school and be a tad bit mentally healthy.”, she said.
My dad handed me my bag and kissed me goodbye. “Don’t worry, we’ll catch the culprit”, he whispered into my ear.
This made my blood run cold but instead of saying anything I just nodded.
I drove myself to school as cautiously as possible. I couldn't bare to park my car in the same parking lot I had destroyed Khas in. So, I parked my car all the way across the street and paid the parking meter a good amount.
I ran briskly to school, my hands in my pockets. As I entered the school, I could feel its appearance altered. It was gloomy and people kept offering me emphatic stares as I walked by.
“I am going to kill whoever messed with Khas. I swear it.”, some jock told me. His eyes were red and puffy. I slammed my locker door shut, ignoring all the condolences and sympathy from Khas’s jock friends. I hurried away, tears blurring my eyes and ran out onto the field.
Complete hopelessness seeped into my heart. Or whatever was left of it.
Everything around me lost its charm. The sweet chirping of the birds sounded like a blaring siren. Even the sweet fragrance of flowers seemed to have the foul, cloying smell of death clinging about it. School lost its excitement, home lost its comfort and life lost its meaning.
Everyone where I went without him was a struggle, I felt like I was trapped in a deep abyss of despair. I felt like a roller coaster only going down.
I no longer took delight in anything that I did. I hated talking to people. The feelings that I felt was incomprehensible , they were a dull ache that tried to fill the empty space where my heart once beat.
I knelt in the cool grass, and for the first time, I opened my eyes to my unchangeable fate. I tried to imagine a life without Khas in it.
All that came to mind was a vast emptiness of a life, a routine, an unending cycle of despair and self hatred that would go through, my mind from the moment I got up till I slept… only to have them follow me in my dreams.
The only thought that comforted me was that one day I would die. I would die and oblivion would envelope me. I would die, leaving behind a couple of ashes and many memories. I would die, and never dream again.
As I drove home from school, the guilt seemed to have consumed me even more. My thoughts were jumbled. I drove past a sketchy neighbourhood, a couple of convenience stores and a museum to get to the outskirts of town.
I got out of the car and looked around. The swiss knife that my father kept for protection on the floor. My mind was racing.
A tiny voice in my head spoke. “Just pick it up and put it through your heart. No more nightmares, no more guilt. Only the oblivion you crave.”
“Should I kill myself?”, asked my heart.
“Why would you kill yourself over a boy?”, retorted my rational mind.
“It's not just any boy, its the boy who gave my life meaning. The boy that I loved and who loved me.”, my heart responded.
“Well, then I'm pretty sure he wouldn't want you to kill yourself.”, my mind finished. “Pretty sure he didn't want to get run over by my car but here we are.”, my heart said.
Trying to ignore the tormenting voices in my head, I got back into my car and drove toward the hospital.
“Hi, I'm here to visit Khas.”, I told the receptionist.
“I'm sorry but we can't entertain any visitors for right now”, the receptionist said. I gaped at her. “Wh-Why?” “He’s in a critical condition right now. ”, she said and went back to typing on her computer. I waited in the waiting room. I flicked through magazines and came across an ad about razors.
“Razors would do the trick, I need to wax anyway.”, my heart said.
“Not this again. We are not killing ourselves over a boy. Also, how would you kill yourself using a razor”, my brain said, outraged.
“Well, its sharp. That's a start.”, my heart said.
“Sharp, huh? That makes two out of three of us.”, my brain said. “Haha,how original.”
The next day, I had to haul myself out of bed to shut the alarm on my phone and go to school.
My phone was going off all the time, condolences over Khas, cheery, positive texts from Jeremy telling me that it'll get better, calls from the school's counsellor who was concerned about my ‘mental health’.
The huge lump in my throat hadn't gone away and despair hung over me like a thunder cloud . My palms were sweaty, my head was pounding and my body was revolting. This was it. It was the day Khas dies.
Every fibre in my body could feel it. I spent every waking moment thinking about what I should do and it came to me. I fingered the Swiss knife that sat on my desk and put in in my bag.
I grabbed my car keys and drove to the hospital where Khas was being kept.
I ran past the lobby and ran around to find Khas's nurse. I grabbed her by her hand and asked her, “Is today the day?”.
She looked at me tenderly and took my hands in hers and nodded slowly.
“It's worsened. It could happen anytime now”., she said. She led me to the ICU where Khas was being kept.
I took a long, hard look at him. I took in his once tan and muscular body that had now turned pale and weak. I took in his once animated eyes that had now turned cheerless. I took in the cup of sorrowness that he now drank from. The nurse gave me some privacy when she left the room. I walked over to Khas and lightly ran my hand over his. “Hi, Khas. Remember me?” “You used to playfully call me the girl who almost killed you.”, I said as tears flowed down my sullen cheeks.
“The irony,huh.”, I remarked.
A beat passed.
“Well, remember that story you highlighted?”
“The story where the girl kills herself and the lovers souls meet in heaven”?, I ask in a futile attempt to get him to talk. Even though he was in a coma for about a week now. “Wasn't that your greatest fear when it came to love?”,I asked.
“Well, you don't have to worry. I'll be there. My soul will ride up with yours.”, I told him.
I sat there,holding his hand, waiting in that chair, waiting for Khas Peters to die, so that I could dive into oblivion as well.
I sat on the stool for hours, my mind a jumble of thoughts. I planned to send ‘I love you’ texts to my family and friends. I arranged it in such a way that all I had to do was press ‘send’ before my doing and it would reach everybody. I was gripping the gruesome scalpel that I planned on ending my life with, with all my might. I suddenly glanced at the vital signs monitor out of curiosity and that’s when it happened. His body temperature vital dropped sharply and an alarm started blaring, this was shortly accompanied by a flashing light on the monitor and the arrival of a nurse.
She looked at me helplessly. “He's dropping, it's the end.”, she said, solemnly.
“This is just the beginning.”, I said. I sent the mass text and closed my eyes. I plunged the Swiss Knife into my heart and felt a gush of blood followed by a pang of pain. My eyesight was dimming and the world around me was spinning. All I could see was the nurse , frantically moving her arms around and her voice, calling for help, steadily growing fainter.
My life flashed before my eyes. A series of memories made their way in my mind's eye: An image of a 4 year old me played in my head.
“Daddy,catch me.”, I said as I giggled and ran around my garden. I remembered that day vividly, it was my earliest recollection of my past. I had been immensely happy that day. My parents and I played in the garden and then they surprised me with tickets to Disney World.
Then an image of my first day of my school played in my head. I was bawling my eyes out and refusing to leave my parents. “I don't wanna go.”, I huffed and screamed(pretty impressive vocabulary for a 5 year old). I wailed and kicked and complained but I gave in and went grumpily.
Like a slideshow, the next clip played in my head. It was my 7th birthday party and I flashed a toothy grin at everyone because my milk tooth just fell out. I kept giggling and telling everyone about how ‘gruesome’ that experience was.
Then there was 13 year old me. It was day I first got dumped. I was crying that entire day in school and I remember how Jeff Day had ridiculed me saying that it was the first of many dumps , and my best friend at the time, Rosie had punched the lights out of him. I remember gleefully getting on the school bus that day.
The next memory was meeting Khas by nearly ramming into him. I involuntarily winced at the sight of him. My weak heart lurched. His face came into view and I saw myself in third person. I saw myself looking at him as he went into the school building.
After that, an image of Khas and I at the planetarium flashed in my head. The day of our first date, I thought miserably. I could still smell his cologne and feel his lips on mine and the softness of the tendrils of his hair.
The last, gruesome image that flashed before my eyes, the day I rammed my car into Khas Peters. The last day of fully functional Khas Peters.
And then nothing. Silence fell and darkness enveloped me. I’m coming Khas. I thought. My last thought. We’ll be together now.
The final chapter
The darkness and silence lasted only a few moments, accompanied by pain, the pain of my soul caged in my lifeless body. Then I felt a sort of painless disconnect. I watched with eerie calmness as I floated up to the top of the room while my body lay prostrate on the floor, surrounded by doctors and nurses.
“She’s gone.”,a doctor said, holding my limp wrist. “Call the time of death.” “Four-twenty.”,a nurse said, jotting it down. I didn’t stay to hear the rest. I was floating up and away. I floated through the ceiling, through the various rooms, through the roof. I was rising with increasing rapidity… until I burst through the clouds. A thick mist surrounded me. I began to feel lost. I looked around. Silence. For the first time since my death, I began to panic.
Suddenly a beam of blinding light cut through the mist. A familiar voice called out my name. Khas Peters stepped forward. “What happened? Why are you here?” “You died and I couldn't live on without you.”, I said.
His eyes widened. “So, what does that mean?”, he asked. He frowned at me. “Wait. Are you saying that you killed yourself because of me? Why would you do that?”
“What do you mean ‘Why would I do that?’?”. I was starting to lose my temper. “I did it so we could be together. You’re the love of my life.”
Just then a pretty girl, with big blue eyes and long hair approached us. “Khas!”,she screamed running towards us. “There you are.”. She didn’t seem to notice me. She put her arms around his neck and kissed him. Khas put his arms around her and kissed her back. I stood gaping at them. Khas seemed to have forgotten about me, staring tenderly into the girl’s eyes and gently brushing his thumb across her cheekbone.
Only then did he seem to notice me. He pulled himself from her grasp and looked at me, his face red with embarrassment. The girl squinted at me.
“Um… I...”,he started. “This is my girlfriend.”
I thought he was referring to me, but he was talking to me and gesturing towards the girl. “Hi!”,she said cheerfully. “I’m Stacy. Khas has told me a lot about you.” I turned to Khas. “Stacy, can you leave us alone? I want to talk to her.”,he said. “Okay.”,she said, giving Khas a quick peck on his cheek before leaving. “Your girlfriend?”,I said after she left. “Did you really throw our relationship away for someone you met an hour ago?”
“I-”.Khas took a deep breath. “I met her a month ago. Time works differently here. When I met her I realised that I wasn’t in love with you.
Don’t get me wrong.”,he added quickly. “I love you, just not in the way you think I do. You’re a wonderful friend.”
I was crying bitterly now. Every word cut through me like a knife. I felt like I was dying all over again. “But-But…”
“Listen. She’s my soulmate. You said it yourself. I was the love of your life, not your soulmate. There’s someone for you too, you’ll know when you see him, just like I did.”
And just like that he walked out of my life as quickly as he came into my life.
Epilogue The girl who almost killed me? Ironic much?
It all came to me at once, the day when khas overreacted on seeing the aunt my bag gave me as a good omen, the highlighted text of the Hartz mountain story. It hit me like a ton of bricks and my head was a whirlwind of thoughts. So much for plunging into oblivion.
I groped my way to a corner and sat over there for a long time and had a good cry. I felt my salty tears making their way down to my chin and my lips become a thin, straight line and collapsed into a trembling mass of unhappiness.
“What was the point of all this?”, I screamed.
At that point, I hated myself more than ever. I wanted to get as far away as possible from myself but the darkness in me always followed me in the form of my shadow. I looked at myself in a huge mirror. I had a good look at myself.
This vulnerable, confused girl who gave up. This imperfect creature that craved affection and love. Then why couldn't I just love myself?
Why can't we all just love ourselves?
So what if we aren't perfect? Isn't that what draws us to other people? Isn't that what drew me to Khas? The black rose?
Those stretch marks that our moms hate? Don't they remind them of the little miracle they made?
That tiny gap between your teeth? Doesn't that make your smile a little sweeter and lovable?
That quirk of yours that you positively hate? Doesn't that make playful banter among your friends?
Love yourself because if you don't love you, then who will?