This bitch wasn’t getting on my nerves. She was trampling on them. Like a fly that wouldn’t stop bugging you, no matter how many times you swatted it away. It’d buzz in your ear, you’d try to move elsewhere, but it’d keep following you, until you either went crazy, or you killed it.
Summarily, I could confidently say that I hated her, and I barely knew her.
I exited the school building, going the opposite way of the gym. I headed straight for the Strip. My pace was fast, hasty.
Eric was following me, Evan and Harrian a few steps behind. They were closing in. “What are you even going to do?”
“I’ll find out when I get there,” I said, eyes forward.
“Then I shouldn’t have said anything. I’m not about to let you get hurt.”
“No one’s about to get hurt, and I can take her.”
“I’m not saying you can’t, just, Alexis-”
My arm was pulled back. I stopped.
Eric had me by the forearm. From the angle of the sun and where we were standing, I was cast in his shadow.
He looked where he was holding me, and immediately let go.
“Didn’t mean to do that, but I need your full attention,” he said. “Tell me exactly what you intend on doing.”
I came up with something on the fly. “Just gonna talk.”
“It doesn’t sound like that’s all you want to do.”
“If it goes there, and I’m not saying it will, but if it does, I can handle it. She’s nothing.”
Eric set his jaw square. He didn’t speak for some seconds. I quickly added a few more words before he could.
“You don’t have to come.”
I was speaking to all three of them. Others didn’t need to be around for this. Wasn’t necessary. I wasn’t even sure why Eric followed. Evan would go anywhere the other went, and Harrian was still a mystery to me.
Eventually, Eric spoke. “If she really was nothing, you wouldn’t be acting like this. Clearly, she’s pushed your buttons before.”
I looked at him, almost amazed. “You’re sharper than you look.”
He flashed a smile. “I get that a lot.”
While he was still in that mood, that headspace, I spun on my heels, and walked away.
“I’ll be okay on my own,” I said as I left.
“H-hey!” I heard from behind me. Eric.
They kept following me. By this point, I was beginning to get frustrated with them, too. I had already told them to buzz off.
For the final time, I spun back around. Eric stopped, with the other two right behind them.
I could feel the muscles of my face contort into an unfamiliar expression. Like a scowl. My lips set in a line, my eyes holding a strong, penetrating stare. If only I had a mirror.
“I’ll be fine on my own,” I said.
Eric started to open his mouth to argue, but he changed his mind, zipping it. He turned, and walked past Evan and Harrian.
“Let’s go,” was all he said.
I didn’t watch them go. Didn’t have to. My message was clear. I got through to them.
Now, it was time to get through to her.
Like I had said, I was only going to talk.
I made it to the Strip. Others were here, skating, or otherwise loitering around.
It wasn’t difficult in finding her. Even among her kind, the slackers and the stoners, she stuck out like a red, pulsating thumb, gushing with pus and other bodily juices.
She was standing in a circle, with others, her back to me. I recognized two of the girls that accompanied her during my date with Brandon. Somehow, I didn’t find it in me to be mad at them, my anger was too focused, too narrow.
I went straight for her.
“Jillian,” I said, trying to get her attention. She didn’t respond. Or maybe she wouldn’t. I knew she could hear me, and I was advancing closer.
I’d give her one thing. She had a knack for egging me on.
“Jillian,” I said again, stressing the three syllables that made up her name.
She finally looked my way, and her expression almost made me pause.
There was no sense of recognition, no look of acknowledgement. As if she was looking through me.
As if she hadn’t the faintest clue to who I was.
“Yes?” she asked, like she was talking to a child. A condescending tone. It grated.
I disregarded the nuance. “I need to speak with you, can we move somewhere else?”
Her expression didn’t change. No response.
Patience, she’s just testing you.
I tried again.
“I won’t take too much of your time, don’t want to humiliate you in front of your friends.”
There, poked the lion enough.
That got the attention of the others, and seemed to get a rise out of Jillian, too. She stepped forward, breaking away from the group.
“Move,” she said, dryly.
I moved, even though doing so made it seem like I was following her order, but I couldn’t be bothered to care. I wanted to be done with her as soon as humanly possible, and get back to my own life.
We went around a corner. I took the both of us to the back of the long building chaining together some of the businesses here. Nothing here besides some dumpsters. Fitting, I thought.
We positioned ourselves to face each other. Maybe I shouldn’t have led the way. My back was to the wall, and where Jillian stood prevented me from returning the way we came. I could just simply walk the other way, down the length of the building to get back, but that wasn’t necessary. It’d be a sign of weakness in front of her, too.
I set my bags down. My backpack, too. Time to get right into it. Compared with talking to someone like Benny, this was nothing. A walk in the park.
I went first.
“I don’t know what the hell your problem is, but it stops now,” I said. “I don’t want you going around with my name in your mouth. It’s… freaking weird, and weird is not what I need more of at the moment.”
Again, standing there, no reaction. Was it her way of allowing me to continue?
I did, regardless.
“I’m willing to look past what you did on Sunday, at the paintball place. As fucked up as what you did was, I’ll look past it. I won’t even go one another date with your cousin, anymore. I’ve decided to cancel it. So there. I’ll cut my ties, leave him alone, and you can go do… whatever it is you want to do. I don’t care. I just don’t.”
Again, nothing, but I was about to wrap things up, anyways.
“I’ll leave you guys alone, all I’m asking is that you do the same for me. Okay? Just leave me alone, and we can go about our lives never seeing each other again.”
Jillian stood there, looking completely disinterested. It took a moment before she opened up to speak. Finally.
“No?” I repeated, turning the word into a question.
Loudly, Jillian exhaled, drawing out the sound until it became a low moan.
“You don’t really get it, do you? You can marry Brandon for all I care, I don’t give a shit.”
She spoke, but the words didn’t make sense to me.
“Why?” I asked, honestly perplexed. “Why are you doing any of this? Why waste the energy, the breath? You’ve done way more shit to me than I ever done to you at this point. It makes no sense.”
I was beginning to think she had some sick obsession with me, or at least a personal vendetta. If what she had just said was true, this would be going way past the point of reason. And I had to know why.
So much for making this quick.
I tried, one more time.
“I’m trying to be decent, here, and this is what is you give me?”
She made a face, like I was speaking in another language. Complete nonsense.
“Wow, how super of you. Do you want a prize?”
I clenched my fists.
Jillian shrugged, taking a moment before talking again. “Do you really want to know why? It’s because there’s something about you that’s off.”
In a second, I became confused, and concerned.
Did she know?
“And that something is?” I asked, worried about the answer.
Jillian answered. “I saw the look in your eyes, that day. I can’t explain it, but it scared me. Actually scared me. It was like looking into the eyes of an animal that was about to eat you alive. Eyes that looked at you like you were less than human. Like prey. For days, I couldn’t get it outta my head.”
I gulped. What was she going on about?
“And I fuckin’ hated it. I hate being looked down upon. Especially by someone as short as you. I don’t give a shit about what you do, because one day, I’m going to make you feel like how I did, that day. I’m going to make you feel small, I’ll look at you like you ain’t nothing but shit.”
She was that insecure. Over a look. How rattled was she over something I never even considered?
This much, apparently.
But I wasn’t going to let her damaged psyche push me around. Not today. Not ever.
I spoke. “And you want to bully me over your frail sense of self? I don’t think so. What else are you gonna do, stuff me in a locker, ambush me in a bathroom? You got lucky once, but I promise you that’s all you’re going to get. I was more than capable of dropping this entirely, but I’m not about to let you walk all over me just so you can reaffirm your place in the world. Fuck off, bitch.”
I picked up my bags, my backpack, and walked in her direction. I knew she would stand her ground, but I continued. We were going nowhere, talking like this, and I didn’t want to be in her presence any longer.
“Out of my way,” I said, sensing a threatening undercurrent in my words.
Finally, she did move, but not to make way for me. Instead, she rushed forward, to me.
Oh, yes yes yes.
My bags flopped on the ground. I let them go.
I stepped back to give me some space between me and her, and for me to evaluate what her move would be.
She swung her right arm. A wide swing, no technique or skill in her attack, just blind hope for it to connect.
I blocked. I reached out, and stopped her with my hand. Her arm was in my grip.
Fluid, with no delay, I pressed, tightening my hold. A similar trick from when I first encountered Jillian. Like that time, her eyes widened, fearing I might actually break it. I wouldn’t go that far, even if I felt like she deserved it.
I stepped back again, and pulled, throwing her off her balance and tugging her to me.
With my other hand, I guided her, pushing her past me as she fell. I let go. Jillian went into the ground. Using my momentum from pushing her, I returned to my bags and swept them up in one swift move.
It was that easy.
“There,” I said, “Back where you belong.”
I put my back to her, feeling sickly smug yet undeniably satisfied. I probably made it worse, but I had put her in her place. It felt good.
I started walking away. I’d have to deal with her again, but at least I had this over her. A win.
I heard a shuffling behind me, a patter of steps. Jillian had gotten up and started running to me again. I could applaud her tenacity, but that would require a level of respect that simply was not there.
Once more, I faced her, the weight of my bags swinging my arms slightly. I felt like taunting her.
“You not going to-”
My bags dropped again.
A piercing in my stomach, my lower abdomen. Sharp. Unexpected. Cold.
My lower lip trembled.
Jillian had stabbed me in the stomach.
You really did that.
Her body was pressed against mine, so I couldn’t see what she had thrusted into me, but the cold metal narrowed down my options.
A knife. She had pulled a knife on me.
Where did that come from? No, didn’t matter right now, because right now, it was in me.
I winced, water collecting in the corners of my eyes, the pain rushing through me. I couldn’t speak, say anything. My breaths were stunted.
So much for just talking.
I couldn’t speak, but I could move.
My hands immediately went for her shoulders, gripping tight. I saw her struggle, from both my strength and coming to terms with she had just done. Now wasn’t the time for second guessing.
I considered that for the both of us. No second guessing.
I pulled my head back, winding up, then I brought it forward, slamming my forehead into the bridge of her nose. I headbutted her.
The impact forced her back, and Jillian was falling again. I felt the blade slide out out my stomach, it’s uneven path slicing the roof of my intestines. Scrambling. I could vomit.
The weapon dropped out her hand, landing beside us. It was red. It was a knife.
Oh, no no no.
She had drawn blood from me, but I got her, too. Jillian’s nose was bleeding, flowing red. It smelled so good.
My hand went to her face, pressing into her mouth and nose. She tripped over herself, leaning back too far. She went to the ground again.
I looked at my hand, drenched in red. I moved to Jillian, looming over her. Blood had gotten into her eyes, and she was whimpering in pain, her hands to her face. She couldn’t see me.
“You’re officially a psychopath,” I said, noting the irony.
I licked my fingers.
Damn this taste.
I feel like I actually could get used to this. The clarity is addicting.
I brought a finger to my midriff, feeling around. Nothing. My stomach was already stitching itself up, healing, but the scene here was already a mess. Jillian was still bleeding, I had a hole in my shirt, streaked in red, and there was still the knife here to deal with. People might come to investigate soon, especially with the racket Jillian was raising.
Come up with something. Think.
I sprung into action. I bent down, opening up my sports bag, and took out a tall bottle of water. I popped the top off, and began spilling some of the water on the knife, washing away most of the blood. I made sure to conserve enough water, but I managed to clean it off. Any blood that was still here would be Jillian’s.
I spilt more of the water around us, around me, and I sat down next to my sport bag. Using the last of the water, I splashed it on my abdomen and shorts. I put the empty bottle back in the bag, and zipped it closed.
I let myself fall onto the ground, onto the wet cement. My clothes were wet, now, my hands too, and I wiped my mouth.
This should be convincing enough.
I screamed, and footsteps followed.
The place wasn’t hard to find. Getting there was the challenge.
The buildings here were tall, but they were office buildings, with brightly lit windows and people working. Someone could spot me if I wasn’t careful, even if it was this late into the night.
The city bustled below, cars sounding off, people just as loud. They had no idea.
I told myself I wouldn’t do this again, and yet, here I was.
I had everything on. Grey joggers, blue windbreaker, the mask. The wind was strong up here, serene, and it separated me from the noise below.
I checked the windows of the building across from me again. Everyone looked distracted enough. This was my chance.
It was an old building, quite a few floors, with a few windows on each floor really being an entrance to a balcony overlooking the street below. I was aiming for a balcony on the thirteenth floor, which was set lower than the building I was on. It was also one of the few windows that had no light shining through it.
Once I make the plunge, I thought, There’s no going back. You know that, right?
I asked myself that.
After a solid thud, I landed perfectly. I had crossed the street, successfully. I was sure of that. No use standing out in the open, though. Briskly, I walked to the window.
I wasn’t going to delude myself, I still didn’t want to do this, but she had opened my eyes. Jillian. There really was a fucked up world out there, full of people who had no business freely being around others. Capable of harm, capable of much more. I had seen a bit of it when I went against El Carruaje, but they were an organization, a group of people working towards something bigger. Too hard, too dangerous to tackle on my own, and I didn’t. I had help. I needed it.
But Jillian? She was one person, a psychotic individual. Her, I could handle. People like her.
If it wasn’t me, it would’ve been someone else. Jillian would’ve gotten to someone who didn’t have powers like I did, and they’d be seriously hurt, with lasting consequences. I’d make it my job, to stop people like that, before they got to anyone else. Because I could take it, whatever they threw at me.
Bring it on.
I got to the window, and found it hard to peek through. I knocked four times.
The seconds were tense. And after ten, the window clicked, and opened outward. I saw him.
He had the faintest expression of amusement. An ‘I told you so’ kind of look.
“I’m glad to see you again, and so soon,” he said.
“Likewise,” I said sarcastically.