I watched Jason’s back, from a bar stool, as he leaned over the stove. Something about seeing him cook was entertaining for some reason; but, that could probably just be because of the fact that he was extremely handsome.

Jason reached into the drawer next to him for a large, black, plastic spoon and started to hum something that sounded vaguely familiar. The sound of his voice created goose bumps on my arms and chest, and I closed my eyes to listen better.

He started singing a couple words here and there, but it mostly sounded like gibberish until he got to the chorus. He sang about lying down and forgetting the world. Jason started the song over from the beginning and I began to hum along with him, but quietly so that I could distinguish my voice from his.

I heard him press a button on the stove and then shut a cupboard door and lay two bowls on the counter in front of me with silverware. I opened my eyes to find him staring at me. “You like Snow Patrol.” It wasn’t really a question so I didn’t respond, but he continued to watch me with a strange look on his face.

He turned around, grabbed the Macaroni off of the stove, and then proceeded to evenly distribute it into our bowls. Something about his movements was off, and he suddenly looked uncomfortable as he strode towards the sink. I watched as he rinsed it out with hot water and a sponge, and I didn’t take a bite until he had washed his hands and was sitting next to me.

I pulled one of the bowls towards me and shoved a small forkful into my mouth. Compared to earlier on the couch, something felt wrong. Was Jason suddenly having second thoughts about letting me stay for dinner? I tried for a little bit of small talk, “This tastes really good.”

“Yeah, but that’s to be expected when all I have to do is boil some water and stir in the cheese sauce.” His retort made my cheeks burn and I set my fork down.

Something was definitely different about him. He was acting… I don’t even know how to describe the way he was acting, but I didn’t like it. Water pooled in my eyes and I turned away from him. “Where’s the bathroom?”

We both knew that I already knew where it was, but he answered me anyway, “Go into my bedroom, and it’s the door on your right.”

I pushed back and heard his fork scrape against his bowl when I stood up. “I’ll be right back.”

“I’ll be here,” he said nonchalantly.

A tear trailed down my cheek as I reached the bathroom, and then after I locked the door, the water works flowed freely. Mr. Botega was suddenly acting so distant, and it made me feel strange. I didn’t know how to react to his change of mood.

The doorbell rang and I froze. Was his sudden change due to the fact that he had company coming? And how were we supposed to explain me being here? I waited in front of the sink until I heard the door open, and then started to pat down my hair and clean up my face. What kind of people did Mr. Botega hang out with?

I couldn’t hear voices as I stepped out into his bedroom, so I decided to stay hidden for a little while longer. I took a glance around the small bedroom and found myself smiling. Everything was so simple and neat. It didn’t look like a place that a twenty-two-year-old man would call his own.

The front door opened and closed again so I decided to go out into the main room. I walked straight to my bowl of Macaroni, but Jason was nowhere to been seen. The apartment was eerily silent, and I couldn’t even hear anything coming from the rest of the building. It was like I was in my own little bubble.

I scooped up a large forkful of Macaroni and stuffed it into my mouth. I felt hungry now that I was alone, and decided to feed my face while Jason couldn’t see. I was a little worried about him, but his bowl was cleaned up and nothing seemed out of place. He couldn’t have been in any kind of trouble.

The bite of Macaroni slid down my throat just as the door knob twisted, and I coughed as it stuck for a moment. Jason walked in and I tried to smile at him, but he wasn’t paying attention; and, I quickly realized why. A beautiful woman strode in behind him. She didn’t look familiar to me. Her light, wavy hair – that wasn’t exactly blond or brunette – was piled sloppily onto the top of her head, and her skin was light without any visible blemishes. She had a defined nose, darkly rimmed, almond shaped, brown eyes, and full, pink lips.

She wore a white, short-sleeved shirt with strings crisscrossing in the front that she had tied loosely to show off the skin from her chest to her naval. Hanging low on her slim hips was a long, flowing, tan skirt that had slits up the sides to show off her defined legs, and on her feet were gladiator sandals. The whole outfit was mesmerizing on her tiny frame and I knew that if I tried to pull it off, it would only end up looking sloppy.

“I don’t care what you think. I’m sick of running from them.” Jason’s tone was clipped and angry, and it seemed that he was completely caught up in their conversation. I had never seen this side of him. It was kind of scary.

He turned to the woman when she put her hand on his upper arm, and then she hugged him. I couldn’t help but notice how perfectly their bodies seemed to mold together. Pressed up against each other, they almost looked like two halves of a whole. Jealousy began to bubble in the pit of my stomach.

I watched awkwardly from my seat as the woman pulled back slightly. They hadn’t seemed to have noticed me yet, and frankly, I wasn’t sure that they ever would.

“Jason,” she purred his name, “I’m just worried about you.”

“I can take care of myself just fine Amalia.” His tone was gruff and suddenly I wasn’t so sure that I should be witnessing this intimate encounter. I decided to make my presence known by clearing my throat.

Both of their heads whipped in my direction. Amalia’s expression was one of shock and possible jealousy, while Jason had on a look of pure terror. I couldn’t take my eyes off of his while he had on that expression; something was off, and I wasn’t going to leave until I knew what it was.

“Hey Jason,” my voice sounded off, “What’s up?” Amalia scoffed in my direction and Jason cleared his throat.

“How could you bring a child over here?” The woman’s voice was high-pitched and I shrunk back in my chair. I couldn’t argue with Amalia’s description of me because, even though I was only a couple years younger than Mr. Botega, at that moment I felt exactly like an immature kid.

I kept my mouth shut, and watched as Jason turned to glare at her. His look must have been quite menacing because she snapped her jaw shut in record time. “Emily, may I have a word with you in the other room?” His sudden formality scared me. Why was he acting this way?

“Whatever you want to say, you can say in front of her. It seems that you two are close.” My words made me sound sure of myself, but I couldn’t even stand up from the bar stool without fear of falling over. My whole body was shaking, and my legs felt like jell-o.

Jason flared his nostrils as he let out a long sigh. Slowly he made his way towards me, but his eyes stayed on his feet. “We are going to be leaving.” His words made my breathing quicken. He was going to let me go with them?

“Where?” Amalia chuckled as if she found something funny about my question.

“Amalia and I,” my heart sank, “have to leave. Now I want you to listen to me.” I heard his voice, but none of the words he spoke registered in my mind. He was leaving me, with her?

It shouldn’t have surprised me, really. Amalia was beyond gorgeous and she looked closer to his age more than I did. I watched his mouth move, and then my eyes moved to her.

A look of pure joy was openly displayed on her face, but behind that joy was something else. Could she be afraid of something too?

“Do you understand me?” My eyes snapped back to Jason and he must have seen the confusion written all over my face. “I want you to wait for fifteen minutes before you leave my apartment. People will be watching, and I don’t want them to involve you.”

The idea of parting from him scared me more than the idea of some creepy stalkers. We didn’t know each other well enough and we certainly hadn’t had enough time together. I wanted to wrap my arms around him and never let go, but all I could do was nod my head.

Amalia walked up behind him, and put one of her skeletal arms around his shoulders. “It’s nothing against you,” she stopped as if she forgot what she was about to say, “Emma.” Of course she would have said the wrong name. Jason hadn’t seemed to have caught her mistake though, or he just didn’t care enough to correct her. “I’m sure you understand that this is for your own good.”

That was where she was completely wrong though. I didn’t understand anything. One moment Jason and I had been sharing romantic kisses and cuddling in front of the television, and now this woman and him were going to leave me alone. And, to add more salt into the wound, he was pretending that he barely knew me.

“I’m really sorry that I dragged you into this mess in the first place.” My eyes finally found Jason’s and I could see pain in them. Or what I had hoped to be pain. “It was all a big mistake. This should never have happened.”

It felt as though I had been stabbed right in the heart, and the shock must have shown on my face. I started to stand up, but my legs wouldn’t hold my weight, and all I succeeded in doing was almost falling on my face. But, Jason caught me. I felt numb and sad, and angrier than I had ever felt before. How could he do this to me? I had known that he was too good, and now my fears were being shoved in my face. He didn’t want me.

Not able to find my voice, my lips moved without sound until finally, a whimper escaped. The look on Jason’s face pained me, but it also gave me the courage that I needed to speak. “Why?”

He lifted me up into his arms, and carried me away from Amalia and my forgotten bowl of Macaroni. He shut his bedroom door behind us, and shushed me quietly. “Emily,” he started after setting me on the bed. He was sitting next to me. “I really do like you a lot, and someday – when this is all over – I hope that we will see each other again. But, for now we must part ways.”

He rubbed below my eyes, and I realized that I was crying when he wiped the wetness from his fingers. He held my face between his hands, and cradled my head as he leaned over me. I sniffled and tried my best to stop crying, but the tears wouldn’t quit. I felt like a child, and I wanted this to all just be a dream. Maybe I had fallen asleep in class again.

Jason’s lips found mine one last time, and then he traced my mouth with his thumb. “Goodbye Emily,” the smile didn’t reach his eyes as he stood up, and I wondered if I would ever see him again. Something told me that I wouldn’t if he walked out.

I regained the feeling my body when he left the room, and then as soon as the apartment door slammed, I was on my feet. He wasn’t going to be allowed to get away from me that easily. I was going to follow them.
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