6. Pain

Aidan's P.O.V.

I wake up to the sound of my alarm clock and groan in my bed. Fuck. It's the first day of classes. I get up and put some boxers on before heading to the kitchen. I see a piece of paper on the counter with some girls name and number on it. I guess the chick I hooked up with was name Angie. Whatever. It's not like I will ever see her again.

I walk into art first period with my sketch book and supplies. The professor is old and wrinkly. Professor M., or so they call him. He is supposed to be the most inspirational and testing professor in all of Europe and I am very excited to have him this year. It’s always strange when I tell people that I am an artist. Go figure, right? They always just assume I’m gay. Professor M. goes up to the chalkboard and writes ‘PAIN’ on it in big capital letters, underlining it.

“What is pain?” He asks. No one knows whether to answer or not. To be honest I am honored even to be in his presence and despite everything, Art is the one thing I look forward to. “No one?” He looks around the class. “Alright, I guess I will have to choose one of you myself then.” He says, looking over the attendance list. There aren’t many people in the class, maybe 50? And out of all of the possibilities, he says: “Mr. Benson” He says, looking around. I raise my hand slightly.

“Yes sir.” I say, trying to not stumble on my words.

“Mr. Benson, can you please tell me what pain means to you?” He twiddles his thumbs and looks over the top over his glasses.

“Pain is…” I am flooded with memories.

“When you are faced with you ultimate fear, and you have to be tortured by it, every day.” I think about it all, reliving it. All of the drinks, conversations and fights. The lights… the darkness; the pain. “It’s when something you love with every fibre of your body is taken from you forever. When you put every single fibre of your body into loving that thing, and all of a sudden it’s gone, than all you feel is hurt, and emptiness, and…well, pain.” I say, keeping my gaze down.

“I see. Interesting. And Mr. Benson, what is your greatest pain?” He asks. I raise my head, speechless. The people sitting in their seats turn to face me and I stumble, trying to find the words that I don’t even know myself.

“I don’t know, Professor.” I say quietly as I look down once more. I try to shake the images from my head but they are stuck.

“Yes you do, you just are afraid to face it.” He says, wisely using my own words against me. I know he is right.

“Letting go.” I say, breathing deeply. That’s all I know it as. I can’t let go, because of the things I hold on to. I don’t want to move on from that.

“Why?” The professor says, and points a finger at me. I think again, trying to use my words wisely.

“Because if I let go, then I may never get it back.” I don’t think I know how much I am letting out… to a room full of strangers and a professor that I have wanted since I was 5 years old. He nods.

“Very good, Mr. Benson.” He says and turns around, walking back to the front of the class. “Class, Mr. Benson has just given us an excellent example of both fear and pain. Many of us are afraid to face our fear, because we do not want to risk the chance of having pain. And once you are forced to face it, and get over it, you are afraid of letting it go because you feel that letting go is the only thing that is keeping you hanging by the thread.” He looks back at me. “Isn’t that right, Mr. Benson?” He has me absolutely speechless. He took the words right from deep inside the depths of what would be my heart, if I had one. I nod to him as he continues. “Very well then, your assignment will be on pain. I want you to take your biggest fear and face it. Embrace the pain and the suffering and get me into you position. I want to see what you are made of, and how much you hurt because of this fear.” He is staring right at me, like he is reading my mind and using my weaknesses against me.

For the rest of the class, I worked on my piece atop a large piece of charcoal paper. It was me in my apartment that night, when Kels came. The night I sent my ex best friend away from me. I was on the floor of my apartment with my arms out and strings attached to them. Above I draw the figure to the matching voice. It’s her voice. I draw her blonde hair and blue eyes. I have memorized every curve. She is wearing a white dress that is very large on her. She stands over me, screaming at me as she holds the ends of my strings; controlling me. Through my body, I emphasize the shape of my heart, and on one of the planks of hardwood, I lightly engrave ‘I couldn’t save you’. I shade it all with black and white charcoal, except my heart. I shade my heart with red and black charcoal. When I am done, I sign the bottom and put it up on the easel. I take a step back and look around me, where the entire class is gathered, including the professor, watching me work.

“You are very, very talented.” Professor M. says to me and nods in my direction. My breath is quick as I study my work, feeling pleased with myself. It’s all her, talking to me in my head. She is controlling me and I am still in love with her. Even in the afterlife, she controls me.

I hear the professor dismiss us as we all head to our second class. I am about to put my work away in my portfolio locker when I hear: “Mr. Malik, leave it there.” From behind me.

“W-why?” I ask him. I don’t turn around.

“Because you know that you have waited a long time to let this out to the world. Now you can.” He says and walks out of the class room.

 I sigh and leave my work on the easel as I grab my things and head to Philosophy. Oh great, this should be fun. As I am about to walk in, I notice a familiar head of brown hair and petite figure. I laugh to myself. No way. She is not in this class. Oh, this is going to be too easy. I have a class with her. Pretend I am failing and need some help, get her home, fuck her, then ditch her. Yes. Finally I get this feisty one. I see her go to the second row of the class, so I got to the forth, sitting directly behind her. Ava, her name is. Pretty.

 Ava's P.O.V.

I sit down and get my things ready, waiting for the class to start. In photography all we did was talk about what course work we are going to be doing, class procedures, being late, due dates and deadlines, and all that shit that everyone already knows anyways. It's like in high school when you go into the first day of every class, and throughout the entire day you read the exact same package four or five times. The thing that excited me the most was the project that the professor talked about: 'Ten Thousand Words". She didn't go into detail of what the project was, but I am looking forward to it.

"Okay, welcome to Philosophy." She says, leaning up against the desk. "My name is Dr. Mclaine, but please, just call me Maggie. I don't do big shot titles." She smiles and a small chuckles spreads throughout the class. She has dark curly hair and is fairly pale, but has a joyful sort of glow to her. "Now, could you please take out a notebook or something and spend ten minutes writing your thoughts about luck and opportunity." She pauses. "Do you create your own opportunities? Or is it fate? Is there someone planning out everything that is supposed to happen to us?" She asks, and sits down and takes a large gulp of, what I assume is, coffee.

I start to write. 'You have to create your own opportunities. You can't just sit around all day and expect to get all of the best jobs. You have to work for what you want.' I start off, then think for a second. 'Yes, there are some times when you just happen to be in the right place, at the right time, but that doesn't always mean that you are going to be prosperous from it. If you work hard you entire life, and strive for what you want, then you will end up where you want.' I say, and I mean it. Maggie starts by asking a few random people about what they wrote before she lands on me. I read out what I wrote and most nod along with me. The next thing she says is: "And now, ummm, Mr. Benson, What did you write?" The voice that follows is basically the start to me new nightmare.

"No offence to you Maggs… but I don’t really care." Ironic, because both Maggie and I take a deep breath of irritation and turn to him, sending him a glare.

"And why is that, Mr. Benson." she says, and crosses her arms. This guy. The nerve he has.

"Well, you said that you have to work hard to be happy." He says, pointing at me.

"No, I said you have to work hard to get to where you want to be." I cut him off and try to contain myself enough.

"So, where has that gotten you? Huh? Are you happy? Now that you are here?" He says, being more sarcastic than needed. He continues. "I have all the opportunity in the world and guess what? My life is still shit and there isn't a damn thing I can do about it. So grow up princess and smell the poisoned flowers". He smirks and crosses his arms over his chest.

I ball my fists up, digging my nails into my palms.

"Alright everyone, let's get back to our lesson." Maggie says before I could get a word in, she is laughing a bit as she continues with the class, though I pay no attention what so ever. When we get out of here I am going to give that punk one huge piece of my mind. When the class is dismissed, I see Aidan take his bag, jacket, and sketch book in hand. I walk out behind him and grab his arm, turning him to face me. I see him clench his jaw as he glares down at me.

"What was that?" I say, right in his face. "You think just because you are such an asshole that you can make everyone else miserable too. It's not my fault that you messed up the lives of everyone around you. Hell, you probably deserved it all. But guess what? You can't walk around this place expecting a pity party around you when there are others who have got it ten times worse, so grow up and drop your fucking ego to the curb." He balls his fists up. We have a small crowd around us and we are chest to chest, glaring at each other in absolute disgust. He turns around without saying anything before walking away. It doesn't matter anyways; I have to go photograph things.

I sigh and go grab a tea from an on-campus shop before going through a small field close by. I photograph some flowers in the field, the playground there, and several other things. There is one that I particularly like of the swings. I don't know why, but I like it. I wonder of a bit more into the neighboring trees and look around, photographing a deer and a butterfly on a flower. I hear some water running and walk towards that. I look behind a large bush and see a small water fall and stream. On the rocks that build up the water fall, I see a man at the top. I look a bit closer before recognizing him. Aidan sits at the top of the rocks, drawing in his sketch book. I don't really understand him. It just doesn't match to me. I look at him, admiring him for a second. He looks between his sketch book and the scenery. His forehead scrunches up as he concentrates while his hand glides the pencil over his page, perfectly mimicking his scene, I assume.

I shake it off and go back to school for my last class. I am still pissed off by the time I leave the campus, so I decide to stop at a bakery and get something to eat. I sit down in the shop and look through my photos and before I know it, it's dark outside. Great. I put my hoodie on and pull the hood over my head, as I walk the dark streets of London, alone. I feel someone's eyes on me. I hold on to my bag, and take the turn. Only ten more minutes, I tell myself. I feel a hard grip on my arm as I am pulled around and down a small alley as my mouth is covered by a large, rough hand.

"Hey, look what we've got here." The middle-aged man says in my face. I can smell alcohol on him and I feel my eyes widen in fear. I start to shake as I shake my head. He tells me to be quiet. I try to scream as his hands touch my skin. I struggle beneath him as he tries to lift my shirt. All of a sudden, he is pushed from me to the ground and I sink down the cold brick wall, hiding my head in my hands. I feel someone grab me by my ankles and pull my down the concrete, leaving large holes in my jeans and scrapes down my arms and legs.

"Don't touch her." A voice says and the hands re pulled from me once again. I look back and see Aidan on top of the guy. I cover my mouth as I watch him send the guy away. He guys over to me and bends down. "Come here." He says, picking me up in his arms. He slings my bag over his shoulder. I don't hesitate. I can't do anything except let him do what he wants. I am fear stricken, and have no control what-so-ever of my movements. I lean my head on his shoulder and wrap my arm around his neck. He takes he into an apartment complex and puts me down to open his door before he leads me inside. It's nice in here, much like mine and Kelsey's apartment. I stay still as he disappears into the bed room for a second. He returns with some clothes. "Go into the bathroom and change into these." I don't fight him. I nod and take the clothes, heading into the bathroom to change. My appearance in the mirror is different. I am pale and I have several cuts and scrapes down my arms and legs. My jeans are destroyed and have blood on them. I take them off and put on a pair of sweatpants and a black Rolling Stones t-shirt that Aidan gave me. I walk out to the kitchen where he has a first aid kit out. He notices me and comes to me.

"Umm." He says, looking into my eyes. "Come, I have to clean your cuts." He says, grabbing my hand and leading me to the kitchen. I feel my heart rate speed up, but I shake it off. I sit on one of his kitchen stool as he hesitantly starts to clean my cuts. It stings a lot, but he only bandages the deep ones. This is like a new side of him, unrecognizable to the one from earlier today. I look at his face as he cares for me. His softened expression calms me. He finishes and looks up to my face, helping down from the counter.

"Are you okay?" His voice is hoarse, tender.

"Yeah. Umm, thanks." I say looking to his eyes. His eyes are warm.

"Okay, did he touch you?" He asks me, clenching his jaw.

"Yeah" I say, trying to conceal my tears.

"Okay." He says, wrapping his arms around me as he rests his head on my shoulder. I'm so surprised. Who is this guy right here? I pull my arms around his torso and hug him back. I turn my head outwards to avoid being too close to him and stay there for a moment before he lets go and sighs.

"I'll take you home." He says and grabs his car keys from the counter. I look at him and follow as he goes down to the car. We drive in silence until we get to my complex. He turns to me. "Okay. I'll, ugh see you around."

"Okay." I say blankly. He is back to his usual self. "Thank you." I look to him, though he just stares ahead and nods. I sigh and get out of the car. I walk up to my apartment and see Kelsey in the kitchen.

"Ava? What the hell happened? Why are you wearing a guy’s clothes?" She asks, gesturing to my outfit. I look to her with teary eyes and see her eyes go down to my legs and over my arms. She comes and wraps an arm around me and we go to the living room and I tell her everything.

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