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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7. Blackmail (part 1)

           The next Monday, I had my class with Daniel. I sat in the back, in the most remote seat I could find. Clara entered a few minutes after me. She searched for me at my usual spot, close to the front. Noting my absence, she started searching around a bit more and seemed surprised to find me at my current place.

            "What are you doing there?" she said as she walked up to me.

            "I hate this class and I want to sleep." This was true. Midterms were approaching, I had a bunch of lab reports and papers to hand in, my mom was pestering me about my grades, and I felt like life in general wasn't giving me its best shot.

            "I thought you loved this class," Clara retorted suggestively. She sat beside me. "Don't you like it anymore when Dr. Lewis smiles at you during class?"

            "Stop it. He's got a fiancee." I laid my head on the table. I should try sleeping now.

            "What? Haha, well, it was to be expected, a perfect guy like that. A young, good-looking genius, super nice and fit on top of it..." She blinked a couple of times, watching me closely. I thought I heard the flash of deduction resound from inside her brain. "Wait... I thought I was just kidding when I made those comments about you being into that guy, do you actually..."

            "If you speak any louder, I think I'll just shoot myself right here."

            "Alright, we'll talk about it later. We're still studying together at 5, right?"

            I nodded into the table. Sometimes, I couldn't tell if Clara was genuinely motivated by my well-being or if she just saw me as a natural source of drama.

            When Daniel arrived, I saw his glance linger on my usual seat. His expression didn't change after seeing the empty chair, but I noticed him looking around the classroom while the computer was turning on. Well, what good was there in noting those little things anymore? I rested my head on my arms and closed my eyes.

 

           

            I had a long break before my next class. The weather was cool, but I still preferred to go out to study. The ground in front of the school was almost deserted as I walked absentmindedly to a table. I heard footsteps behind me on the stone pathway, sounding as if they were trying to catch up with me. A sudden pat on my shoulder forced me to turn around. Two bulky guys were standing there, looking like a cross between a gorilla and a bulldozer.

            "We want to talk to you," one of them said. He was the one who had tapped me on the shoulder. He also looked like he might be the smarter one of the two, which wasn't saying much.

            "S... sure," I replied. I was mortified by my own stuttering, but they looked pleased with it. Somehow, I was having a bad feeling.

            "You know, there's that paper due for intro to neurobiology, but we're not going to write a word of it."

            "No?" was all I could think of replying. Their grins widened.

            "No, you are."

            I was? Did they mean they wanted me to write their paper for them? "I can't... It's just... I mean, what?"

            "You're going to write our papers."

            "But why would I?"

            "You're asking the right questions, I like that!" the leader said. His acolyte started laughing like a hyena with sleep apnea, although I couldn't find the humour in the comment. Mr. Boss took out his phone and showed me the screen. There was the picture of the balcony of an apartment, and through the window we could see...

            "Oh shit..."

            This was Daniel's window, on the morning I woke up in his living room. I was standing there and he was distinctly holding me by the shoulders. I knew that at the time, he was helping me gain my balance, but on this picture, it looked like something else entirely. "This isn't what it looks like!"

            "Who cares? We were smoking outside when we saw you stumbling out of the club like an idiot. We walked after you and then we saw the prof coming out of his car to pick you up. We couldn't pass that, so we followed him back to his apartment. We waited a while to get something juicy. I guess we missed the raciest stuff, but this is still good."

            "But n... nothing..." I stuttered.

            "Do you understand why you're going to write that paper?" It turns out the acolyte had a voice and it was scarier than I had imagined. "You write those papers for us, and we keep that picture to ourselves. You don't, and we post it anywhere we can, Twitter, Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram... Last I heard, this kind of student-professor relationship is against the school policies. It won't look good for him, he just started here and he's already getting in trouble. And what is his fiancee going to think? And then, what if we get that rumour going that you're actually in love with him? He won't be so chummy with you after that."

            I was frozen, without any words to get me out of this situation. How could I manage two extra papers in just about two weeks? However, the last thing I wanted was to cause Daniel any sort of problem. I nodded. I'd think of something later.

            "Good! And don't think you can just botch it, we're expecting at least A- on those papers!"

            They walked away laughing, leaving me standing there on the spot. The air grew chillier. What was I supposed to do now?

 

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