The Monster of July

Damian's life changes when one of his professors turns out to be an acquaintance he had erased from his memory. Demons from the past will come haunting him again as their relationship evolves, dragging them both in a rollercoaster of drama, angst, and yes, sometimes a bit of joy.

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4. Back Door (part 2)

         This fiasco sobered me up a little. I kneeled in front of the toilet a minute, partly to rest, and partly to collect my thoughts. I was surprised by the state of cleanliness of this room. It also smelled unexpectedly nice. Had I wandered in the lady's room by mistake? I shrugged. Finally, I got up slowly, leaning against the panels of the cubicle, and walked carefully back to the main area of the club, stopping just outside. I saw Clara and her friends a bit farther, almost invisible among the crowd. I gazed at them for a short while. They were having fun, they were carefree, they were bright... they belonged here. A strange loneliness gripped me. Part of me wanted to be with these people, having fun. Another part of me knew that I'd feel even lonelier when I got there and realised I still felt alone. So why was I even here? I decided I'd had enough, searched for the back door and left.

            The night was cool, the crisp air soothed my burning face, and the stars distracted me from my misery. I wanted to walk for a bit. I thought I might just walk and walk and walk... and never go back. If the night could stretch on forever, maybe I'd never have to go back. But that wasn't possible, not tonight at least. Soon, the stars above my head started swirling, my legs became weak and I passed out on the pavement.

 

            The memories of that night had faded by the time I woke up in the morning. Therefore, I wasn't surprised to find myself lying down on a soft surface as I was regaining consciousness. It's only when I opened my eyes and realised I was lying on a couch I didn't know, in a living room that wasn't mine, that I started getting nervous. I ignored the pounding headache, pushed the sheets aside and sat up. I didn't recognise the apartment at all, but from what I could see outside the window, I was only a few kilometers away from my neighbourhood. I forced myself to remember last night's events. I deduced that after passing out, someone must have found me and brought me here. Unless I had followed them and forgotten about it. Both these options horrified me. Whose apartment was this? Why would anyone with a working brain bring some dead drunk student back home? As I was pondering this and that, the floor started creaking in the adjacent corridor. Someone was coming. I had the urge to just get up and rush out the door, but I reasoned that if nothing bad had happened to me yet, it wouldn't happen now. Saturday morning never sounded like a good time to commit murder anyway. And then, my host appeared in the living room.

            "Hi Damian, are you feeling better?"

            I just sat there with my mouth gaping open when I recognised Daniel's friendly voice and saw him wearing a t-shirt and pyjamas bottom.

            "D... Daniel? What am I doing here?" I could have put the pieces together myself with just a bit more thought, but my brain didn't feel up to it this morning.

            "I was driving back from a dinner with faculty members when I saw you fall on the sidewalk. I stopped right away to go see if you were alright. I almost called an ambulance, but then you regained consciousness a bit. It seemed like all you needed was to sleep it off, so I brought you here. You had a good time?"

            He was now standing in front of me, smiling without a trace of judgement or suspicion on his face. I expected him to inquire about how I had ended up taking a nap on the sidewalk, but he didn't ask anything further. He wasn't wearing his glasses and seeing him in casual clothes made him look slightly more familiar. It was as if the "professor" disguise had come off, revealing more of the person I might have known before... Still, I couldn't quite place him. 

            "Did you... "

            "I didn't call your mom."

            "Thank you," I sighed in relief.

            He smiled understandingly and walked to the kitchen, disappearing from my view. I thought I should leave now. I had already imposed enough and Daniel probably wanted his couch back. I prepared to rise when, all of a sudden, embarrassment flooded over me like a tsunami. I thought it might crush me to the ground. Of all the people who could have passed by me last night, it had to be him who found me. I think I would have preferred to die there. I was trying to get my head to stop pounding and my stomach to stop churning when he came back with a glass of water.

            "Drink a bit." As I did, something soft brushed against my ankle. I looked down and saw a grey cat. Was she trying to comfort me? Nice kitty. I scratched her head, and for a moment, I got lost in the softness of her fur. She purred, making me smile a little, and I started to feel better. It was a quiet morning, the dim rays of the sun permeated the living room soothingly.

            "I'm sorry I can't remember you," I heard myself say in a whisper, almost as if I was talking to the cat.

            "Excuse me?"

            I raised my head. Daniel was a few steps away from me, standing by the window that gave onto the balcony.

            "I'm sorry... for not remembering you."

            He seemed bewildered for a second, then he laughed a little.

            "I understand. You were young at the time and I was just some other grown-up, I guess. It's just... I thought that since I..." He didn't finish his sentence. He simply shook his head, smiling. I wanted to press him to complete his thought. I hesitated one moment too long, however, and suddenly it was too late.

            "Would you like some breakfast? I can make toasts..." his voice resonated in the quiet living room.

            Was he just being polite? Maybe I had misunderstood and he actually meant "Get out of here, you moron." Then, I thought something crazy, I'll just say "sure". In a flash, Clara's words from last night came back to me. And another thought followed: if he had proposed to eat broken glass together, I would still have been tempted to accept. My chest  felt tight and my cheeks burned. I looked down and was glad to see that Daniel misinterpreted my embarrassment. "Are you feeling ill?" He put the back of his slender hand on my forehead. Well, if I hadn't been feverish before that, I certainly was now.

            "Do you want to sleep a bit longer?" he said, removing his hand from my forehead, looking concerned.

            "No, thank you. I think I better go." I put the glass of water on the side table and got to my feet. "Sorry for the trouble..." The sudden movement made me dizzy and I wavered on the spot. I thought I might fall, but I felt two hands catch me by the shoulders. They were so warm, they seemed to burn through the sleeves of my shirt and into my skin. Daniel was holding me, and my head ended up resting on his chest for a moment as I regained my strength, his grip firm and comforting at the same time. "You don't have to rush," he said, "take your time." I pulled away a little and tried to smile convincingly, but I was still a little faint, "No, no... Thank you, I'm better now." He nodded and let his hands slide down my arms. He took my phone from the table and passed it to me. "If there's anything, don't hesitate to ask me." I looked up at him, then unlocked the screen and allowed him to write his number in my contacts. 

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